Rock Ness Festival, Inverness

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The Independent Culture

Now in its fifth year, this three-day festival set amid stunning scenery on the bank of Loch Ness at last deserves promotion into the premiership of UK music weekenders. The 35,000-capacity event has achieved the kind of reputation that allows it to book one of The Strokes' two UK festival dates this summer.

Not quite reforming but not entirely going about business as usual, given the New York quintet's recent overtures towards recording a fourth album, Julian Casablancas and his band proceeded to remind us why they're one of the last 10 years' most essential and exciting groups, albeit largely on the strength of their debut album Is This It. The set's most urgent moments, including "New York City Cops", "The Modern Age", "Hard to Explain" and "Last Nite", were torn from it, with only "Reptilia" equalling their fire. Hopefully, this lesson will be learned during the current sessions.

While a fine balance was set between new and established acts elsewhere over the weekend, the upper limits of the main stage bill were dedicated to big names of the recent past. For example, Friday night's returning former headliner was Fatboy Slim, while Saturday played out to the sound of Leftfield, or at least the former duo's prime mover Neil Barnes alongside guest rappers, singers and musicians. The latter is well suited to the big stage treatment, with Barnes buried under a blazing backdrop of graphic animations during a set of extended hits, including "Afro-Left", "Original" and the crunching "Phat Planet".

Despite the presence of Ian Brown, Doves and Vampire Weekend, Rock Ness is also characterised by a tendency towards dance music. Both Annie Mac and Soulwax curated tents over the three days, the sound of new drum'n'bass was represented by Pendulum and Chase & Status, and Aphex Twin performed his own live show. A rare event, this latter set also illustrated the fact that Rock Ness has sights and sounds that few other festivals can offer.

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