RockNess, Dores, near Inverness
Thursday 16 June 2011
"This is the official start to the festival season," announced London rapper Example from the main stage of the Scottish Highlands' flagship music festival, "and you're the type of crowd I like to see. The further north I go, the crazier you get." He has a point. The weekend's most well-received acts will struggle to repeat the response they enjoyed here this summer.
RockNess enjoyed some cosmetic changes for its sixth year, as the usual pair of large secondary tented stages had been replaced by one huge under-canvas arena, its sides open to allow audience overspill for a lineup of mainly dance artists. Despite the name, one of the festival's attractions is its focus on cutting edge electronic producers and DJs, and such acts were given equal prominence to more traditional guitar bands. Sunday in the second tent was curated by Rob Da Bank, for example, and featured riotous sets from Simian Mobile Disco, Fake Blood and Beardyman, the latter a huge draw for his beatboxing mash-up style. Elsewhere in the camp, young dance artists like Katy B, Jamie Smith of The xx and D/R/U/G/S appeared alongside the established likes of DJ Shadow, Andrew Weatherall and Erol Alkan.
Balanced against this was an equally well-chosen array of indie outfits, with Friday night's headliners Kasabian leading the way in riotous style. Saturday's second stage was an exclusively guitar-based line-up, including a winningly raw set of trashy rock from Glasgow's Sons & Daughters and some folk-tinged anthems from Edinburgh-based Frightened Rabbit, although sadly for final band The Cribs, almost everyone seemed to be flowing towards the main stage and the banks of Loch Ness for headliners the Chemical Brothers. Aided by a spectacular lightshow and an incredible soundsystem, the pair's apocalyptic mix of crunching electro and Big Beat revivalism was crowd-pleasing.
Next to this, Sunday's double header of local heroes Glasvegas and Paolo Nutini was positively sedate, although the former's anthemic sound is well suited to the larger stage and the latter is an artist transformed, a bona fide star following the success of his last album Sunny Side Up, with an impressive backing band and a nice line in covers (including Hot Chip's "Over & Over" and MGMT's "Time to Pretend"). It left us with a flavour of what has fast become one of the UK's most musically open-minded and well programmed mainstream festivals.
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