Ladies and gentlemen - the festival season has officially started! RockNess almost blew Nessie out of the water last weekend and 35,000 happy festival revellers sure got down and dirty enjoying a weekend that proved once again just why Scottish festivals are now well and truly where it's at.
Although the event is just a mere babe in festival terms (it's only four - bless!) RockNess has already proved itself a festival to be reckoned with - it's up there, it's out there and if you missed this event we'd suggest you zap it on your shopping list for next year's 'things I really must do'
The first thing that grabs you about RockNess is the stunning venue. It's not the well trodden urban sprawl, nor post apocalyptic industrial complex, nor the muddy field where we all like to pretend we're 'getting away from it all' for the discerning RockNess crowd - no, we're talking about stunning beauty here, the kind of environment that simply takes your breath away. It defies you to try and describe what you see, to express what you feel in words, it's possible, of course it is, but the reality is that the kind of beauty you get to be part of here leaves you a bubbling and inarticulate wreck, all you want to do is keep it to yourself - it's like getting a big fat environmental cuddle. This is where you can be about as close to nature as it gets and yet the dichotomy here is that while taking in the fact that you've been transported to an other worldly place you are simultaneously realising that you're also actually at a major music event. Does it get any better than this..?
Well, actually - yes it does. As you prepare to trudge your way to your camp area you realise that you're there, right where you want to be, without having given the matter much thought. You've been so busy taking in the scenery you haven't quite come to terms with the fact that things have been rather well thought out. As a festival goer you're used to the discomfort associated with getting there, parked, in and settled - but RockNess have thought this one through, and the reality is that they've made it easy for us, really easy, by bringing the campsite within a stone's throw of the festival site. Is that right? I mean isn't it de rigour at a festival to have that instant feeling of exhaustion before you start, taking an hour or two of lying prostrate next to your tent once you've carted all your gear to where it needs to be? Well, clearly not for RockNess - you get there, you get sorted, and you’re ready to party - easy!
Once you get over the fact that you're already where you want to be you're in for your next big shock; this is one mother of a friendly festival, how you imagine festivals should be. It's really rather special and this permeates every aspect of your weekend, you're not just at any old festival you're at RockNess, you're as far north as it gets* and you've just landed in paradise. You'll find yourself having strange and wonderful conversations with likeminded folk and folk from the absolute opposite end of the spectrum. Welcome to a Scottish festival, you'd better get used to it. Meanwhile, with all this atmospheric gloriousness going on I can't help but wonder whether Nessie herself will put in an appearance as the sun goes down... but just for me though... we don't want anyone else catching a glimpse... With all this stunning beauty, overly friendly crowd, easy security, sumptuous food and everything so far going swimmingly well it makes me wonder - should I opt for a swim in the loch later? How cold could it be?
* OK, other parts of the country may be available more north
The main stage looks awesome, set in a natural amphitheatre with Loch Ness as its backdrop - if ever there was a venue to die for, this is it. Still - enough of all this fawning over the site, what about the music?
Friday begins in gentle sun shiny manner for this eclectic festival until the main stage openers, The Aliens, frenetically strutting their stuff in the sunshine and encouraging those that are there to get down and dirty and active. They might not have attracted the biggest ever festival crowd but they certainly made a heroic attempt to own that stage for the duration.
The night truly belonged to Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips who arrived as a crowd surfing hamster - who says there shouldn't be crowd surfing eh? He loved it, we loved it and of course it provided the best photo opportunity with the press pack all vying with each other to see who could capture the essence of Wayne and his impressively large ball... Who else but the Flaming Lips can bring an instant, full blown carnival to a festival, with a stage full of Teletubbies? The man is quite off the wall, which is perfect in this setting, had there have been a roof it would have been lifted clean away as they finished with 'Do You Realize'. Did they gain new fans? I would like to think so, certainly a talking point and a fitting conclusion to the main stage festivities which left us with the DJs to party away the rest of the night for those that had the energy!
Saturday dawns and brings with it a familiar but unwanted guest - a deluge of rain. It's what we've come to expect from our UK festivals these days, but it doesn't it dampen our spirits (just our clothes). The stunning setting is transformed from yesterday's sunny vistas to dark, ominous and brooding skies, and yet still very, very beautiful, It does nothing to detract from the fact that you're over the moon to actually be here and still really glad that you spent all those hours travelling to be part of the RockNess experience.
Caged Baby did his stuff, a strange DJ but one who is worthy of note because he just gets you and you get him - all very odd. Frightened Rabbit, a rather interesting Scottish band, drew quite an impressive crowd to Fat Sam's tent with their take on Emo-Indie. Sneaky Sound System put on a great performance, if you've not seen them yet you're in for a treat! As for festival favourites Alabama 3, what can we say, the audience loved them and they rocked Fat Sam's to such an extent that we thought the tent might blow away! Technical difficulties marred the Super Furry Animals set, we know not what happened, we just know that it didn't make for their finest hour all things considered.
Dizzee Rascal, on the main stage, started as he meant to go on, opening with his own take on the Ting Tings 'That's Not My Name' and with others including a top rendition of 'Dance Wiv Me' and of course this year's anthem 'Bonkers' completing a set that simply blew RockNess away.
Basement Jaxx filled the main stage arena and beyond, with more changes of clothes than the RockNess audience themselves - this was Basement Jaxx doing what they do with style and panache. The music was as schizophrenic as it was vibrant, a carnival of beats defying you to stay still - impossible, just impossible.
The Clash Arena was, as always, busting at the seams, RockNess was in full swing and Orbital were doing what they do best. The finest torch based headgear wearing dance music ambassadors in the country were on form; they don't need to prove anything but they just can't help it can they? Immense, just immense.
All too soon it was Sunday, no time for messing, this was it the last full on day at the 'beautiful' festival ... we still hadn't seen Nessie though - although to be honest as the sun goes down (very late here) there may have been something stirring in the water. Or it was a late night reveller?
The Whip, Magistrates and Tommy Reilly followed by a touch of the Scratch Perverts kept everyone gainfully occupied. Placebo and Biffy Clyro all drew appreciative RockNess crowds and all were part of the great big melting pot of eclectic, diverse and frankly insane musical madness that encapsulates a teeny tiny bit of what RockNess is all about.
But the truth is that Sunday was owned by The Prodigy. These masters know a thing or two about how to deliver a set that maximises the crazy, intense, wild and wonderful madness that is The Prodigy. Not only do they do that with flare but they draw you in, and by draw you in I mean EVERYBODY. You cannot ignore the Prodigy, nor should you.
So that was it then, the beautiful Scottish festival to rival any other - a festival that gets under your skin and worms its way into your heart. Well run, well organised and with a great line-up, RockNess is out there and short of organising an appearance from Nessie there is little else that could have been added (the organisers may have to work a bit harder at that next time). Until now RockNess has been a bit of a well kept secret, but it is well and truly out of the bag. We can't wait for next year for another taste of paradise.
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