If ticket sales are anything to go by, the inaugural Howlin’ Fling festival on the remote Isle of Eigg is a contender for Scotland’s most highly anticipated music event of the summer.
Organised by Lost Map Records founder Johnny Lynch (AKA The Pictish Trail), Howlin’ Fling is the natural successor to the now disbanded Fence Records’ Away Game, which was also held on the island.
Lynch spoke to Alex Watson about how plans for the new festival are progressing.
“Because we’ve changed the name of the label we thought: ‘Right, time for a fresh start’,” the singer-songwriter explains on the phone from Eigg – Lynch is speaking from his upstairs windowsill, the only place he can get a signal. “That’s why we changed the name, but it’s pretty much the same event.”
The unusual name for the festival comes from a tradition that began in Lynch’s Fence days, with the 2011 Guy Fawkes event, Flamin’ Hott Loggz. From that point on, each subsequent show required a title more ridiculous than the last, although Howlin’ Fling was not the organiser’s initial choice.
“It was called something really crap for ages. I was gonna call it ‘Get Lost’, you know, because the label is Lost Map. Everyone told me it was a crap name,” he cheerfully admits.
Over the last six months, Lynch has been busy establishing Lost Map Records whilst simultaneously organising the label’s first music festival. Howlin’ Fling will take place on Lynch’s adopted island over the weekend of July 18-20.
With the final batch of tickets selling out in just three hours, Lynch can now breathe a humble sigh of gratitude.
“It’s such a relief because it’s a high ticket price,” he reveals. “[It] is a really nice feeling to know that people want it to happen and that they’re prepared to pay that amount. All that money’s going into creating the best event possible. We’ve already got some really great headline acts booked, and it will definitely be the biggest thing we’ve done on Eigg.”
While he can’t give much away about the festival’s final line-up – aside from the less-than-shocking revelation that The Pictish Trail will appear – Lynch confirmed that all of the artists on the Lost Map label are due to perform at Howlin’ Fling. These include Kid Canaveral, Eagleowl and Monoganon.
The musician also confided that the festival’s main headlining acts are two of the biggest bookings Lost Map or Fence has ever had.
Don’t worry, though, they haven’t sold out quite yet. Although he has nothing against bigger music festivals like T in the Park or RockNess, Lynch enjoys organising events that are a little more offbeat.
“I quite like going and getting lost in massive festivals,” he says. ” I just think what we do is something quite different, and there’s not really enough of it. I always book things that I think people won’t have heard before, in addition to the stuff that they will have heard.”
Howlin’ Fling’s unique location is certainly something that makes it stand out from the crowded summer calendar. Lynch, who has previously lived in both Edinburgh and Fife, moved to Eigg soon after his first visit.
“The scenery and the lifestyle and the people are just amazing, and I was completely and utterly in love with it. I’ve not wanted to leave, really. It’s such a beautiful, remote place.”
Arranging music festivals on the island seemed like the next logical step for Lynch and the labels he represented. Away Game took place in 2010 and 2012, with Howlin’ Fling picking up the baton in 2014. Lynch is confident that similar festivals will continue every two years for the foreseeable future, if not annually.
It also helps that Eigg’s islanders have reportedly welcomed the events, and the influx of music fans, with open arms. Locals have volunteered to help with everything from building stages to manning bars and supplying wood for campfires.
“It’s a definite community effort, which is an amazing thing,” Lynch says. “You feel less like you’re imposing on people’s lives, because they want to be part of it and they see it as a good thing.”
Howlin’ Fling will be structured in a way that encourages the audience to explore Eigg’s picturesque landscape.
“This year, we’re planning on doing a few extra little performances around the campfire, as well as a few hidden performances that will feature on walks around the island, so people have to discover it a little bit more,” Lynch explains.
With so much thought going into Howlin’ Fling and the new label, has the Lost Map boss been neglecting his own music career?
According to Lynch, after a busy six months, he is now finding the time to concentrate on The Pictish Trail once again. With help from – believe it or not – an Eigg-based metal band called The Cave Massacre, the singer-songwriter has begun the process of writing and rehearsing songs for his next record.
“Once I’ve got my tax return out of the way, I’ll be able to concentrate more on getting some new Pictish Trail material together,” laughs the ever-sensible Lynch.
For those fans who have already missed out on Howlin’ Fling tickets, Lynch has reassuring news that plans for other Lost Map festivals are already underway.
“Fence wouldn’t have been what it was if we hadn’t had the events,” Lynch admits, “Arguably, it was the events that made Fence a name, to be honest, and that’s what I’ve tried to carry through with Lost Map. From the very first Home Game I organised, it was the spirit – not just between the audience members – but also amongst the bands. It was just a really nice atmosphere, and it didn’t feel like it was excluding anyone. Just maintaining that is an important thing, I think.”
For more info on Howlin’ Fling, visit the Lost Map website.
Main image: Johnny Lynch performing as The Pictish Trail – picture: David P Scott
Like this? Try this: