There are certain inevitabilities that you can pretty much count on at any Scottish music festival.
No doubt the rain will make an appearance at some point, allowing you to revel in that feeling of invincibility that can only be evoked through the donning of an impenetrable poncho and wellies combination. Naturally, the Scots will refuse to rely solely on the scheduled performers for musical entertainment. Instead, they will sacrifice their own larynges just to soundtrack your weekend by regularly chanting the official Scottish festival anthem of “Here we, here we, here we fuckin go”, usually every hour, on the hour. It is also likely that you will experience that conscious moment of awe when you find yourself watching an astounding performance of musical genius against a backdrop of some of the best work that Mother Nature ever did; and she surely broke the mould with Loch Ness.
Well, last month’s Rock Ness delivered on all accounts during a real monster of a weekend. It was considerate of the organisers to kindly schedule the obligatory downpour to come on Sunday morning so that we all could refuel with a lie-in, and there were only half as many ‘Here we fuckin go’s as you’d hear at T In The Park. They certainly came up trumps with the festival site too, with the main stage nestled snugly in the base of a valley, with the Scottish Highlands disappearing beneath the murky waters of the loch in the background.
Contrary to what the name might suggest, when Rock Ness was first launched as a single day event in 2006 with a bill topped by Fat Boy Slim and Carl Cox, 20,000 people gathered to party at what was primarily intended to become a Scottish stomping ground for DJs and electronic acts. The following year saw Nessie get 35,000 neighbours for an entire weekend and on a particularly blustery day, and whispers of Daft Punk’s legendary performance can still be heard blowing through the glens.
This year, though, Rock Ness celebrated its fifth anniversary by slightly altering their mission statement to appeal to a far more diverse audience. For the first time, the line-up included comedy by way of Howard Marks’ very own shebeen. While the addition of a gigantic ferris wheel was also warmly welcomed, allowing festival goers the chance to see the sights from another level.
The rock and indie crowd were, in particular, much better catered for this year. We got The Maccabees, Doves and Vampire Weekend, though The Strokes were the stand out on this front. They came to thrill when they closed the main stage, mainly by ripping through their powerhouse of a back catalogue before exploding to an end with the help of some fireworks and ‘Take It Or Leave It’.
But Rock Ness has far from left its dance roots behind. The interests of the more electronically inclined were well represented, with euphoric sets from Dave Clark, Vitalic and Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 amongst my personal favourites. Aphex Twin brought a fully loaded show to the Clash Arena, with his trademark intensity and pupil dilating lasers sending us somewhere far away from a muddy field near Inverness. Though, try as they might, no one could touch Leftfield who were received evangelically. It was clear that ten years of down time had done Barnes & Co no harm whatsoever. Their lyric, “You’re original, don’t ever change” resounded deeper than ever before that night. MB