WHILE tens of thousands descended on Strathallan Castle for T in the Park, a sizeable minority decided to head in a different direction last weekend. The Loch Lomond Boat Party sold out last Saturday, proving to be a resounding success in spite of the miserable Scottish weather.

Everything about this annual festival is strictly unconventional, including the choice of venue: this year’s 10-hour event was held on the old paddle steamer the Maid of the Loch, which is being restored in Balloch.

Other features of the festival included en-masse face-painting, an on-stage barber and sporadic fire alarms (the latter of course not planned).

There were no Aviciis or Noel Gallaghers to tint the day’s vast line-up, but punters were treated to an array of different genres including techno, house, hip hop, funk, punk, reggae and ska.

The variety on show not only demonstrated the depth of Scottish talent in these various underground scenes but also the sense of community among them.

James Balchin, trumpet player for digital roots reggae outfit Ska Ya Man, echoed these sentiments before their barnstorming set, praising the “amazing vibe of the event.”

He said: “These small festivals actually prove to be the best place to see live reggae in Scotland. Everyone’s so chilled and up for a good time, regardless of what they’re here for.”

The Galloway sextet proved to be an early highlight. Their signature off-beat guitar and heavy bass reggae grooves naturally got the crowd moving, but it was Balchin’s colourful trumpet sounds that gave them an edge.

In fact, the majority of main stage acts provided plenty of exuberance – with the possible exception of slow-burning bass merchants Machines in Heaven.

Edinburgh band Victorian Trout Conspiracy were perhaps the most riotous, with a playful ska sound that would occasionally give way to intense rock breakdowns.

Funk-rockers Mickey 9s were similarly eccentric, as their David Byrne-esque vocalist leapt around the stage in a carnival mask. Their performance was frolicsome but the music was tight, justifying their “Best Live Band tag” at last year’s SAY Awards.

Elsewhere, scuzzy punk duo The Twistettes inspired the first moshpit of the day. Wielding only a bass guitar and a small drum kit, the sister duo made up for their lack of a guitarist through, it seemed, sheer willpower – that, and Jo D’arc’s wild vocal proclamations such as “I’m a bitch, I’m a whore.”

Outwith the main stage, the audience was no less communal in its vibe.

The “Swither room” played host to hip hop old and new: Glasgow veteran Damaged Goodz’s old-school boom bap presented Scottish hip hop at its finest, respected Hector Bizerk collaborator Erin Friel interspersed vocals, spoken word and rapping throughout her hard-hitting set; while community-led youth project Volition were a solid unit of energy and passion.

There was even a techno-themed room to rival T’s famous Slam Tent, with hour-long sets from techno and deep house producers such as Speedy Action, Corky and Medhat. Seasoned techno guru Da General worked up such a frenzy with his slow-burning drops that the rave spilled over into the bar next door.

This type of atmosphere manifested itself again and again throughout the day.

This was best exemplified during acoustic-rap combo Rory O’b and Ciaran Mac’s impromptu unplugged set on the main stage. Heedless of the stage being dismantled around them, a mini-congregation defiantly bellowed back the signature tracks of the two emcees.

The group’s crossover style in itself summed up the cross-community vibe that has contributed to the event’s success.

If this is a festival for outsiders, then they’re definitely proud of it. O’b himself summed up the event’s appeal when he said: “The boat party audience are incredible. You can pretty much have an in-depth chat with anybody, see amazing acts and meet amazing people for a 10th of the price of bigger festivals. It has everything T in the Park offers and more.”