The sun was shining as my backpack and I crested the last hill and I gained my first view of RockNess 2009. Surely no other festival on earth can claim as stunning a setting. The main stage framed perfectly by the Great Glen, with the waters of Loch Ness glistening into the far distance. So it was with a smile on my face that I lurched on towards the campsite. There was a lot to be looked forward to after all!
Tent erected, sleeping bag unfurled and beer stowed, I headed straight for the main arena. This year for the first time RockNess opened with acts playing on the Friday providing the perfect warm up to the weekend. The shorter Friday session also hosted my personal favourite act of the festival, The Flaming Lips. The show began with singer Wayne Coyne surfing the crowd in a giant hamster ball, before being hoisted onto the shoulders of a werewolf to complete the first half of the set. A small army of Teletubbies joined the band on stage as they gave a stellar rendition of Do You Realise, stirring the crowd to a state of delirium. Even if you don’t like their music, it would be impossible not to enjoy their trademark idiosyncratic performance.
Back at the campsite, things were in full swing. Still full of energy after the evening’s acts, the campers made merry in classic festival style.
Saturday afternoon saw the friendliest festival crowd ever return to the arena for another day of revelry. The Highlands of Scotland is famous for its hospitality, and even in festival form this holds true as not one hint of bad feeling was to be found. Even the short downpour of rain couldn’t dampen the carnival atmosphere! Later in the evening the big acts of the day started up. Dizzee Rascal gave a charismatic performance on the main stage. Exuding the presence only he possess, he held the crowd in the palm of his hand through an entertaining set. Elsewhere, perhaps knowing they were up against Basement Jaxx and Orbital, Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals arrived dejectedly on stage to put on a professional but lacklustre performance at Fat Sam’s.
Second stage headliners Orbital have recently returned to the scene after a five-year hiatus, so it was an eager crowd that awaited their performance in the Clash Area. The sense of occasion was equalled only by the virtuosity of the performance. Surrounded by a wall of synths emanating a dark intoxicating sound, the pair wowed their audience with anthems like Satan. Competing for attention at the main stage, Basement Jaxx put on one of the most extravagant shows of the weekend. An unimaginable light show and more costume changes that you could shake a stick at complemented their flawless performance. The feel-good tunes and amazing atmosphere left Saturday’s crowd happy to trek through the mud back to the campsite.
The forecast-defying sunshine continued on Sunday and I spent some time investigating the offerings of the various side stalls, which sold everything from t-shirts and sunglasses to tattoos and haircuts. The Schue Welly Exchange, where you could swap you old shoes for a brand new pair of welly boots, was a particularly nice addition. My favourite side show though was the inflatable church, returning for its second year complete with priests, DJs and real weddings!
Though far removed from the festival’s dance roots, headliners Placebo drew a large crowd to the Clash Arena and kicked their set off with the first four tracks from new album Battle For The Sun. The band delighted the audience with a good mix of older material. There was disappointment for some fans though with the notable omissions of Nancy Boy and Pure Morning, and the “no encore” signal from Molko that brought the second stage to a close.
The Prodigy, arguably the biggest act of the festival, arrived on the main stage to a torrent of cheers and applause. The potent combination of threatening skies and the darker tone of music made for an electric atmosphere in the crowd. Vocalists Keith Flint and Maxim Reality commanded the stage with confidence and power, belting out a great mix of new music, popular classics and remixes from their back catalogue in a typically stunning performance. Not one member of the audience left without a smile on their face and a feeling of exhilaration. The most anticipated band of the weekend had a lot to live up to satisfy the assembled throng, and they did not disappoint!
The only thing that could have made this weekend better would be an appearance by Nessie himself!
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