Penicuik’s annual BOB Fest is ten years old this summer!

It’s a well-known fact amongst those familiar with the live UK music scene that small festivals and yearly events have come up along with the big boys in recent years. New yearly events spring up all the time. As well as applying to most genres, it also applies to most regions. Scotland is no different, giving fans the option of almost year round metal entertainment, with repeating events which are a little something more than just another gig.
One such event, and one of the longest running north of the border, is BOB Fest. Based in Penicuik, Midlothian, it has been running every year since 2006, operating an open air format when weather permits. Valkyrian music caught up with organiser Luke James – who also plays for Dog Tired and Torn Face – to interrogate him about the projects ins, outs, ups and downs.

Luke James

Valkyrian Music: Hey Luke, how are you doing today?
Luke James: Alright man, doing away

VM: Thanks for taking time to talk about BOB Fest!
LJ: No worries, happy to!

VM: I guess the first and foremost question is ‘Why?’. What made you want to start BOB Fest all those years ago?
LJ: We started putting on our own gigs in Penicuik all those years ago because there was absolutely nothing happening with live music. The first few we put on were a success so we thought we would ramp it up and make the all-dayer, BOB FEST!

VM: We? So you don’t run it alone – there’s a team?
LJ: I run it alone but back in the first BOB we were all total broke. Fresh out of school and no job in sight. The Penicuik Town hall were thieving goons, and demanded a ridiculous price for the hall, so the only way we managed to book the gig was if all the bands chipped in for the price of the hall, and we would pay everyone back at the end. That’s why there was a ‘We’; because there was no way I could have started this without the other bands help. Once I got a job and rationed my beer money, by BOB fest 2 I footed the bills myself. Been doing so ever since. I will give credit to Barry (Buchanan) from Dog Tired, too, though. He has helped out ever since he started in DT.

VM: It’s good to acknowledge your roots!
LJ: Definitely!

VM: What is the ethos of the event? How do you pick the line-up?
LJ: The ethos from day one is that it’s a festival built for having fun! BOB FEST is always full of people wanting to have a great time. Since BOB FEST 1 there has always been a friendly, drunken, family atmosphere, where people pit and worship Heavy Metal. I like to think that the bands that play let go and really enjoy themselves. At BOB there’s nothing to prove. It’s just a group of like-minded people partying. A lot of the bands that have played in past Bobs I had seen live, playing alongside them over the years in Dog Tired and Torn Face. This doesn’t mean that it’s just mates that play; if people are interested in playing, message the Bob fest page and I’ll get back to them.

VM: Quite a community spirit, then.
LJ: Definitely! Penicuik has a unique Metal community and spirit. They will burst out laughing reading that. Somehow, this scaffy wee town in Midlothian has always had a belting metal scene.

VM: What do you think has been the hardest thing about running BOB Fest?
LJ: Bands not showing and cancelling either on the day, or the night before. That sucks major balls. The main challenge is the weather. In 2012 I put Bob Fest 6 out in the green for an open air experience. It was an incredible day, sun blazing and the smell of beer and spew in the air! What was also great was the fact that the whole town heard it! Tonnes of complaints naturally flooded The Craigiebield after, and the police arrived, but it was a day I will never forget. I planned to do this in 8 and 9 but the Penicuik weather system had another agenda. It rained so much 2 days before, that – on both occasions – the grass was actually flooded. There was not even a chance of putting up a gazebo, unless a band were happy sinking into the ground during the solo. The amount of effort that goes into organising an open air gig for it to rain last minute is extremely frustrating. Perhaps in the future I’ll give it another shot, but not this year.

VM: Do you have any favourite moments that still stick out in your mind?
LJ: Too many! Where to begin? Adam Poustie from Edgeville Hellride’s victory speech after the cake eating competition was legendary. The faces of the poor folk that got involved in the chilli eating competition will never be forgotten, either. I think people nearly died that day.

LJ: There have been so many great bands that have played that I couldn’t mention all the highlights I remember. Having crowd pleasers Certain Death, epic tyrants Firebrand Super Rock, Achren and Man of the Hour definitely ruled though. Back in BOB 1 it was bring your own booze! Many ridiculous moments then. 10 years on, its still going strong, with a growing fan-base.

VM: Ten years is a long time! Have you ever felt like packing it in?
LJ: It is a long time. I’ve thought about, maybe, in the far future, passing it down to someone. I would love to be wheeled into BOB FEST 30 as an old man. It is that one day of the year that people from all over join friends and family, and party listening to metal. I don’t think there is any need to stop that.

VM: Are you happy, then, with where the show is now, or do you have ambitions to take it somewhere new?
LJ: I’m always looking to make BOB FEST bigger and better every year. Whether that be the annual eating competition, or the bands I am booking. This year will also be Dog Tired’s 10th anniversary, so I’m planning to make it huge.

BOB Fest 10 - BOBSTOCK

VM: Sounds like it’ll be a huge blow out, then! You guys party hard!
LJ: Penicuik parties hard!

VM: Indeed! Well, that about wraps it up. Thank you again for your time! Do you have any closing advice for those thinking of taking on a similar event?
LJ: Thanks man. For advice I’d say go for it! If you want to make your own night/alldayer/festival’ it can be done! Get all the essentials booked in place well before the event. Things like backline/P.A/stage, if needed. Then promote it! A Facebook event page won’t do. Poster the surrounding area, and get friends to help with flyering. Be kind to all bands that are playing, and make sure you compensate bands that travelled from further afield. We all love metal, but we’ve all got to make ends meet.

by Paul Macmillan

BOB FEST 10 takes place on Saturday the 18th of July at the Craigiebield House Hotel In Penicuik. Tickets will be available at the door. The event page and the bands will be announced soon.

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