RockNess - Clunes Farm, Dores, Fri 7 & Sat 8 Jun 2013
Part 1 of our RockNess review coverage features The Vaccines, Basement Jaxx and more
Having cooled on its ambitions to try and rival T in the Park for size and stature, RockNess has found a strong identity all of its own in recent years. It’s compact in size and layout (moving the campsite lochside behind the main stage this year is a nice improvement both visually and logistically), it’s well catered for by boutiquey food and drink vendors and it boasts a setting to rival any festival in the world in a lush natural amphitheatre at the head of the Great Glen. When the weather gods smile in RockNess’s favour – and by goodness is it taps aff this weekend, as the sun beats down – the view almost becomes a headliner in itself.
The actual bill-toppers are maybe a little underwhelming so far as big-name bookings go – Basement Jaxx, Example and Plan B respectively across the three days – but the line-up as a whole typically represents a decent cross-section of where the worlds of pop, rock and dance music collide. Placed back-to-back on the main stage on Friday evening, Jessie Ware and Ellie Goulding are a suitably shiny start to proceedings. The Vaccines’ fuzz and feedback torn guitar squall is met with such a rowdy sing-along reception as to suggest the lines between the rock and dance elements at RockNess are much more blurred than you might expect. In the insalubrious gloom of the Sub Club tent, Numbers collective DJ and dance music renaissance man Jackmaster nods to Prince on the Purple One’s 55th birthday by dropping ‘Uptown’ by into his party funk set. As one-time Glastonbury closers, Basement Jaxx are comfortably the most experienced of the three headliners, and steal a march on their rivals by presenting what feels like a proper, exuberant production – all tag-teaming guest singers in increasingly garish outfits, a marauding trumpeter, dancers doing wild booty shakes, and hits in abundance from ‘Romeo’ to ‘Where’s Your Head At’.
Saturday is the more dance-orientated day of the three – with a string of DJs on the main stage – though that really depends on what you want to make of it. A natural trajectory runs through American electro-house selector Steve Aoki (throwing a cream cake onto the front rows is an imaginative way of interacting with the crowd), through the rumbling bass music of Skream and Benga onto returning hero Fatboy Slim (effectively RockNess’s founder, after playing here as a one-off gig in 2006) and his old-school thumping four-on-the-floor and cheesy-visuals embellished rave-athon. And then finally the ravey pop of Example, who for all the grim disposability of his laddish fare, puts in some amount of legwork getting a crowd thronged particularly with the festival’s younger element bouncing.
But then, you could just as easily have had a mellower, more guitar-music orientated day under canvas in the Goldenvoice Arena – watching the likes of young art-pop ensemble Dog Is Dead, polite alt-folkie Benjamin Francis Leftwich, and a charming turn from adventurous indieists Bombay Bicycle Club. Or camped-out in the comedy tent all afternoon, for a quick-fire bill of Scottish stand-ups compered by Janey Godley. Much as the comedians’ location next to the Sub Club tent – the noisiest spot in a site that pulses with beats from every direction weekend long – presents its challenges. ‘Fucking SHUT UP,’ Godley screams in angry futility at the racket outside during one changeover. ‘Sorry,’ she apologises, ‘there’s a guy banging a tambourine out there.’
You can also check out our review of RockNess' Sunday line-up, featuring Lianne La Havas, Madness, Plan B and Camera Obscura.