RockNess - Dores, Loch Ness, 10-12 Jun 2011
Chemical Brothers, Paulo Nutini and Erol Alkan among highlights of festival
As T in the Park’s younger, ravey-er and arguably more affable sibling, the first 'biggie' of the Scottish music festival season kicked into gear on Friday under a cloudless cobalt sky.
Situated near sleepy Dores on the banks of Loch Ness - the veritable jewel in the crown of the Scottish Highlands - much is often made about the stunning scenery of RockNess’ surroundings - and rightly so. But this year, it was also the quality and variety of the line-up and the new stages that really had the festival-goers talking.
Highlights from sun-drenched Friday night included the dulcet tones and throbbing-bass-combo of rising dubstep star Katy B. Backed by a full live band, Katy’s vocals were flawless as usual, and current single Easy Please Me and uber hit Katy on a Mission both had the Golden Voice arena jumping in unison.
Over on the main stage, rock'n'roll heavyweights Kasabian did what they do best, enthralling fans with a familiar setlist including crowd-pleasers Shoot the Runner, Empire and LSF along with a few songs from the soon to be released Velociraptor album. They may not have re-invented the wheel on Friday night, but with swagger in spades the Kasabian boys definitely know how to get indie boys and girls singing along.
The standout act of the night however was undoubtedly Erol Alkan, who helped Glasgow’s Soma Records celebrate their 20th birthday with a blistering set on the impressive Arcadia Afterburner stage. Less of a stage, more of a satanic, Mad Max-esque lookout tower, the master of electro beats stood on a platform atop the construction, manning the decks of the insane party which ensued, spilling over into the campsites and raging until dawn.
Day two saw bleary-eyed festival-goers head to the new Rock'n'Roll Circus arena for the soothing, soulful sounds of Jamie Woon, who impressed fans with tracks from debut album Mirrorwriting, including the hypnotic Night Air which brought out a mystical, magical quality in the darkness of the tent despite the encroaching drizzle outside.
Over in the Golden Voice arena, Scottish favourites Frightened Rabbit had their legions of fans in the palm of their hand, bounding through tune after tune with their trademark poignant lyrics being chanted back at them at any and every lull in the music whilst modest frontman Scott Hutchison remained seemingly coy at the rapturous reception.
Later in the evening, after pausing to marvel at the Loch and enjoy a venison burger or two, it was all about headliners the Chemical Brothers and their hugely-anticipated set, which pulled in the largest crowd of the weekend. Churning out massive dancefloor classics like Block Rockin’ Beats, Hey Boy Hey Girl and Galvanise at breakneck speed, the duo’s juggernaut performance seemed to fly past in an instant - perhaps due to the impressive and pleasingly-distracting background visuals which helped fill out the vast expanse of the main stage.
Day three, and despite the ever-changeable weather (where would we be without novelty plastic ponchos?), festival-goers remained pumped for the last day of revelry and were not disappointed. Despite some confusion over last minute line-up changes at the Rock'n'Roll Circus arena, English five-piece Hoodlums eventually emerged and served up an enjoyably unique brand of indie pop/rock, thanks mainly to flamboyant frontman Lou Vainglorious, who has more than a touch of Mika about him - in a good way!
With many other amazing acts, including Boys Noize, DJ Shadow and We Are Scientists (who seemed confused as to their exact location, “Loch Invernessie-shire?), Beardyman, Glasvegas and Laidback Luke to name a few, this year’s festival was brought to a close by everybody’s favourite Paisley-born crooner Paolo Nutini. The 24-year-old seemed genuinely moved at the enthralled crowd’s reaction, especially to songs from his debut album These Streets whose emotive guitar-lead melodies peppered an otherwise frantic set of songs from 2009’s Sunny Side Up including Candy and Pencil Full of Lead.
With the last few notes of Last Request still lingering in the air, the fireworks marking the close of this year’s RockNess festival exploded into the leaden sky above Loch Ness, leaving few doubting that the 2001 edition of Scottish festival - with a reputation for being one of the most beautiful in the world - lived up to the hype.