Connect Festival returned to The Royal Highland Centre and delivered a weekend of exceptional performances. Our two writers, Grace Richardson and Shannon Daly attended the festival this year. 

Friday 25th August 

House Gospel Choir kicked off this year’s festival with their performance on The Grand Parade main stage. The London based vocal group debuted in 2014 at Glastonbury Festival, and since then have been doing some impressive work. Their choir combines two distinct genres – house music and gospel – and makes something new. We were very impressed by their performance. 

Confidence Man are an Australian indie electro pop band, who the crowd loved, as they danced and sang with the biggest smiles on their faces. No wonder, their infectious sound and energetic stage presence had us all reeling. Dance hits like ‘Does It Make You Feel Good?’ and ‘Holiday’ were a real stand-out as the band gave a nod to sounds of the past, giving them a new life. 

Friday’s headliners were famous Scottish rock band Primal Scream, who played their hit album ‘Screamdelica’ in full to celebrate 30 years of this iconic record. Frontman Bobby Gillespie donned his famous album inspired Screamdelica suit as he commanded the stage. Fans from all ages flocked to this headline set as Primal Scream provided the weekend with its Legends Headliner. Backed by House Gospel Choir, they added a new fuller feel to these already classic live hits. Opening their set with fan favourite ‘Movin’ on Up’ made it clear that the band were going to give us a treat. And they certainly did, performing songs like ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’ and Loaded’, reminding fans why this album is celebrated as one of Scotland’s finest from the last 30 years. 

The Friday hosted an impressive array of acts and relaxed us into the excitement of the weekend ahead.

Saturday 26th August 

Jessica Smyth, known by the stage name Biig Piig, brought such infectious energy to the Grand Parade stage. As the sun started to shine, her electric, hip-hop tracks had the crowd dancing and singing along. Biig Piig is definitely one to watch, we can’t wait to see what she does next!

MUNA were a definite stand out of the day, bringing their ‘queer revolution’ to the Grand Parade stage. Creating an excellent mix of upbeat, dance songs with mellower, heartfelt lyrics this was the perfect set for a Saturday afternoon. The band were even joined by Stacey, the inflatable horse, who was thrown around the audience as they performed their hit single ‘Anything but Me’.

TAALIAH is a DJ and producer from Glasgow who made her name in the underground queer scenes of Berlin and Glasgow. Throughout ‘Angelica’, the producer details a range of autobiographical experiences that have come to shape her as a person and an artist: from embracing her trans identity (Brave), to coming from a working-class background (Bourgeoisie); from breaking up (Tears) to falling in love (Freefalling). TAALIAH seeks to represent and bring visibility to her community, whilst also conveying universal messages of power, acceptance and bravery, whilst also having a lot of fun. This was the perfect set for Saturday night, as we felt the freedom and fun that TAALIAH represents.

Young Fathers graced their hometown stage to a crowd that was as excited to see them, as the band were to see them. The Scottish trio, fresh from their recent album release, Heavy Heavy, are renowned for their dazzling, raw live performances. And as a Mercury Prize-winning band from just over the way, there’s a fierce pride for the Edinburgh boys amongst the audience tonight. Playing tunes like Queen Is Dead, to Shame, Toy, Low and In My View – the audience mosh, chant every lyric back and shout with the band as their show is a dance party, a spiritual experience, and a protest at the same time!

The atmosphere of the festival was completely changed this day, with the arrival of Fred Again fans. The festival got busier, louder, and younger, as the anticipation was building for his set. One thing for sure, he did not disappoint. With 14 million monthly Spotify streams, the young DJ can credibly claim to be one of the breakout stars of British music, and the buzz around him is immense. Playing sets on smaller stages in the Scottish Islands just a few months ago, he has proven he can command a crowd, no matter how big or small the stage is. On Connect’s big stage he’s an infectious live performer, singing a little, blazing guest features across the big screens and working the crowd into a frenzy as tracks like Danielle (smile on my face) and Delilah (pull me out of this) trigger massive reactions across the park.

The Saturday’s acts definitely impressed us and left us buzzin that we still had another day of acts to enjoy!

Sunday 27th August

Sunday was the final day of Connect Festival 2023, with headliners Boygenius and Loyle Carner bringing an incredible weekend to a close. Day 3 of the festival boasted an impressive line-up on all stages across the day. Gardener’s Cottage, the Tiny Changes stage kicked off with the rock group Former Champ playing a more stripped back set with vocalist Claire McKay accompanied by Andrew MacPherson on guitar. The Unknown Pleasures stage began with the electronic sounds of Frankie Elyse, and the main stage opened with LA singer/songwriter Christian Lee Hutson. 

 Christian Lee Hutson serenaded with his soft and emotive sounds and storytelling. He received a warm response from the audience, and even provided the fans with a surprise, as he was joined by labelmate and 1/3 of headliners Boygenius, Phoebe Bridgers. Their voices blended so well to create enticing harmonies and such a soft, peaceful moment on the main stage. They also performed their song from previous collaboration project Better Oblivion Community Centre, a 2020 band which featured both Phoebe and Christian.

Rock band Lightning Seeds also played the main stage on Sunday, having reunited after a 13-year break and coming back to release a new album and tour. The Liverpudlian band impressed on the main stage as they played a variety of old classics and some new songs and received a warm welcome from old and new fans alike. They were succeeded by Public Service Broadcasting, the talented live band who sample old public broadcasts as their on-stage visuals to create a unique and immersive performance. They even featured a very cool spaceman playing the saxophone effortlessly, as part of their large and energetic performance.

Next up was the independent artist and critically acclaimed songwriter Raye, who was a welcome fun edition to the main stage line-up, though not without its tender moments for both the performer and the crowd. Raye wowed by playing new songs from her self published album out this year, as well as playing a mix of popular hits such as ,, which got the crowd dancing and singing along. As affirmed by Raye herself, she certainly brings lots of flavours to her live sets with incredible vocals, hard-hitting lyrics, a funky bass line, groovy sax and plenty of infectious moves, as she encourages the crowd to feel the music and vibe along with her throughout.

 Now, to Boygenius. Our personal highlight of the festival, and a dream seeing this trio play together on Scottish soil. It was the US based supergroup featuring members Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus who delivered our favourite performance of the festival. All are incredible individual talents, who when combined are unstoppable. Their song writing and craft is only propelled as they wowed thousands of adorning fans when they co headlined the Sunday. Playing songs from their debut album ‘The Record’, released this year, alongside songs from their 2018 self-titled EP, they were met by an engrossed crowd full of Boygenius t-shirts and ‘Always an Angel, Never a God’ hoodies, it was clear they were most peoples must see act of the weekend. As a live band they are so impressive, with songs like ‘$20’ and ‘Satanist’ showing off their rock influences, whilst ‘Emily, I’m Sorry’ and ‘Cool About It’ provide a quieter, but equally as powerful moment. Ending their set with ‘Salt in the Wound’, from their debut EP, the band always take this opportunity to let loose as they joined the crowd, high fived the barrier, and had a wee winch between pals on stage. We were left completely in awe of Boygenius, waiting at the barrier for 8 hours was so worth it! 

Scottish band Arab Strap performed an electric set on the Guitars & Other Machines Stage to an audience of enthusiastic fans, before Loyle Carner closed the festival on the main stage. Off the back of a successful performance at Reading and Leeds festival, Mercury Prize nominee Loyle Carner brought his introspective hip-hop style to the Showgrounds. As we were leaving the Boygenius barrier, a team of young girls were very excited that we gave them their chance to now see their favourite artist up close. Carner clearly has a lot of excitement surrounding him as they weren’t the only ones rushing to get to the front. Carner ended the festival on a unique note, spurred on by the crowd he returned to recite a poem he had written about his son. This provided a unique moment of peace and quiet, for the crowd to reflect on the weekend and wonder how life will be when they return from such a stellar festival. 

Overall, we couldn’t rate Connect Festival highly enough. Everything was crafted perfectly, from the line-up to the camping, the food stalls to the wellness area. The organisers had clearly thought of everything, and it worked. We would definitely return and can’t wait to see what Connect will bring next year! 

Grace Richardson & Shannon Daly