Hydro Connect, Inveraray Castle, Argyll

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The Independent Culture

"Last year at T in the Park," hollered Beth Ditto, during The Gossip's Saturday night set at the Connect festival, "we got five bottles of urine thrown on stage. So come on – where's the urine?" "You're no' at T in the Park," yelled back a crowd-member in defence of T's smaller, more scenic boutique sister festival, "it's civilised here."

This much might not have been apparent to many who looked at the bill beforehand. After last year's inaugural triumph, which featured mature talents such as Björk, LCD Soundsystem and the Jesus and Mary Chain, 2008's vintage seemed decidedly interchangeable with every other big festival of the summer. Regulation crowd-pleasers Kasabian, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, young artists with adult-orientated appeal such as Duffy, Paolo Nutini and Amy Macdonald, and vintage acts including Manic Street Preachers, The Levellers and Gomez conspired to overshadow the more esoteric names on the bill, giving the festival an initially more pedestrian, middle-aged feel.

Once again, the beautiful castle-grounds setting between a loch and a hillside forest, the mini food festival created by local suppliers, a bill which truly had something for everyone and good old-fashioned Dunkirk spirit in adversity made this a festival unlike any other.

Most of the artists who might have been considered passé rose to the occasion admirably, although those who questioned the decision to relegate Nick Cave's excellent Grinderman to a slot below Nutini – an artist whose tendency to sing live like a septuagenarian is disconcerting to say the least – were correct to.

The Gossip were Saturday's headlining highlight, with Ditto in particularly lairy mood, while Sunday gave a tat-free run of Elbow, Goldfrapp, Sigur Rós and Franz Ferdinand. However, the carefully conceived fringe elements of this festival were just as important as the headliners. Comedian Phil Kay haranguing a crowd in the Speakeasy tent, the chance to see such rising stars as Friendly Fires, Santogold and Crystal Castles, and late-night Scottish clubs such as Optimo, Vegas! and Club Noir in the Unknown Pleasures tent were all welcome thrills. The news that it will happen all over again next year should be well-received.

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