RockNess 2011 - strong, substantial and euphoric...
In a scene straight from the lid of shortbread tin, the Sun shines on the waters of Loch Ness and the grass is a fantastic psychedelic green. The anomaly in this perfect scene is the cavernous opening of the main stage that could be the huge mouth of Nessie herself.
This is the first day of the sixth Rockness Festival. It hardly seems 5 minutes since Fatboy Slim transported his beach party up north to this beauty spot on the banks of Loch Ness in 2006. And as the awesome line-up suggests Rockness continues to bask in its dance heritage.
This is what Rockness fans dream of - a warm balmy night (by Scottish
standards anyway) and a great rock band they can flip out too.
Friday’s fine weather brought fans out early to the main stage. Morning Parade opened the proceedings with tracks from their début album, followed by Two Door Cinema Club highlighting the excellent Northern Ireland music scene. Meanwhile in the Goldenvoice Arena a strong line up - Skrillex, Nero, and DJ Yoda - kept the dance fans more than happy.
Fab and glamorous Katy B punctuated the night with a great set before retuning to the DJs Mark Ronson and DJ Shadow, and his mix of west side Hip Hop and mind-altering visual display. Not your cuppa? A short stomp up to the Rock n Roll Circus stage had D/R/U/G/S aka Callum Wright in the mix with his brand of euphoric and hypnotic electronic music to chill to.
Traditional rock n roll band saw us off to bed. The Main Stage had Kasabian, up from the Midlands, to showcase their forthcoming album. This is what Rockness fans dream of - a warm balmy night (by Scottish standards anyway) and a great rock band they can flip out too. And so they did as Kasabian launched their hits into the throng and time after time and after the final song was done and the lights had dimmed there was still a fantastic buzz in the air to see us home.
No Sooner had we staggered back to the festival site on Saturday, had our cholesterol fix washed down with a cup of instant coffee, than Miss Dynamite hit the main stage with a burst of energy that was contagious in its outburst. In a brilliant white outfit and gold bling she produced a dazzling performance that helped banish what was a very dull and overcast day.
Japanese Pop stars from Northern Ireland worked hard to banish the clouds and light drizzle. They don’t really look Japanese and to be honest nor do they look like pop stars but the threesome with their mix of synth and sampling produce a complex driving sound taking you to the edge and with a slight hesitation a crunching bass takes your ears off - dispersing even the worst of any hangovers.
On into the afternoon and The Chapel Club puts the Goldenvoice arena into orbit. With the dry ice swirling and a great lighting set they produced a rocket-fuelled, atmospheric performance. As the fans where baying for more only the sound of guitar feedback was left hanging in the swirling fog of dry ice.
In the Roc N Roll Circus tent Jamie Woon was doing his thing although to label his music is tricky. With his dubstep roots his last CD outing, Mirroring, was clearly more R&B/pop. And tonight with Woon's looped rich vocals and a strong synthe/stings resonance he certainly produces a slick product - but with his signature track "Night Air" still his line in the sand his musical direction will keep us guessing for a while yet.
As before any great event there is always tension in the air and so it was before the Chemical Bros set. The air was electric although that may have been coming from Tom and Ed's Stage set which was quite awesome. With no holes barred, the monster set that is the Chemical Bros was let loose here at Rockness. The crowd were lifted up time and again on waves of euphoria as each track ramped up the energy levels ever higher. At the end your senses where trashed and you could only stand, slack-jawed at the empty stage.
You had to feel sorry for The Cribs whose appearance in the Goldenvoice Arena coincided with the Chemical Bros. Their crowd consisted of faithful Cribs fans and the many trashed folk, incapable of staggering down to the main stage. With a blood red back drop and lighting The Cribs struck a defiant and reinvigorated note showing they are still a force to be reckoned with despite the departure of Johnny Marr.
As ever the Sunday weather kept us guessing starting off with a traditional Scottish harr, then the sun burst through in time for some serious main stage action with our own home grown band, Twilight Sad.
“Aye time to put the ear defenders on Hamish”
They showcased some new songs from their forthcoming album with the all the dials turned up to max. Mirroring the darker side of life they actually never get you on a downer especially when the sun is blasting down and warming your bones.
With the sun bleaching our retinas the Lucozade stand came to the rescue dishing out gaudy orange-framed sunglass. So when sun kissed, American, Lissie came on stage also wearing some Lucashades they suddenly became the most wanted fashion accessory on the Rockness site. As soon as Lissie set foot on stage she was welcomed like a long lost friend from the ever-expanding main stage crowd. I’m sure sales of her debut album Catching a Tiger will skyrocket as her new-found fans at Rockness hit the download stores.
With the energy levels rising into the afternoon enter the Wombats with some Scouse power to get the crowd well into the festival groove and with Tord leaping around as only he can they slammed their way through an impressive song list of old classics and new offerings.
And so with an all Scottish finale Glassvegas dazzled us as front man James, wearing a brilliant white outfit, looked about as Vegas as you can get! Although they belted out their most popular anthems there was really only one thing on the ever-swelling crowds mind, his Paoloness!
Then the crowd got their wish and as only he can do he dished out lashings of the best that is Paolo Nuttini and the whole set as ever turned into a mass sing-along. You think Paulo is up on a stage? Nah! He’s right there standing next you arms around, shoulder-to-shoulder singing along and that’s how the old Paolo magic works.
So as the stage lights dim for the last time and the fireworks seem to be lighting up most of Scotland - you are left wondering where did the time go and your count down to the next Rockness begins.