Home > News & Reviews > Rockness

Rockness Festival - Loch Ness, Inverness - 8th, 9th, 10th June 2012 (Live Review)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012 Written by Jonny Rimmer
Rockness Festival 2012 - Loch Ness, Inverness - 8th, 9th, 10th June 2012 (Live Review)

Idyllically positioned at the tip of Scotland's world famous Loch Ness, the colour and noise that is the Rock Ness festival almost looks out of place in the utterly beautiful landscape. And when you factor in the notorious enthusiasm of Scottish crowds, it's no wonder that NME have named it 'Best Small Festival' for the second year running. If you didn't go to this year's festival, the chances are you still heard about it on the news. The View caused such a ruckus during their closing Sunday set that the tent they were playing in actually collapsed. I can't think of any view related puns just now, but hey, I didn't see it. Sorry, a terrible one slipped in there...

ImageSadly, there was drama this year for more sombre reasons as well, as a 19-year-old student died on the Saturday after taking a legal high. This compounded the already sad news that a driver and passenger had died following a crash with a shuttle transporting festival goers. I won't stir up a debate in this particular review about what could have been done to prevent drug-related death, but the reader can speculate what use sniffer dogs are when “Benzo Fury” and methadone were the more dangerous narcotics at the festival.

It would be unfair to label Rock Ness a drugs fest, because by and large, most people were just there for a good time. On the whole, having now frequented both, I'd argue that Rock Ness has even more of a party atmosphere than its Scottish counterpart T in the Park, partly helped by the sheer magnitude of organised 'raves', and the centrality of the “Soma Afterburner”, whatever that was supposed to be (it was marketed as being somewhere between a tower and UFO). There was certainly a measured diversity in the acts on show, with comedy in particular playing almost as central a role as the music throughout the three days. Unless you're a connoisseur on dance music as a whole, which I am certainly not, this weekend struck me as being more about the experience than seeing twenty-odd bands per day. If that's your thing, there are plenty of quality smaller festivals in the UK to check out (2000 Trees, Y Not, Kendal Calling to name a few), but by sticking its fingers in so many pies, Rock Ness just about manages to entertain the majority of campers. Here was the Stereoboard experience of the weekend:

Friday 8th June 2012

Even though Rock Ness has built its reputation on electronic music, this year there was a substantial increase in more acoustic-based acts, starting with Scottish collective Admiral Fallow. My Friday plans were sadly rather scuppered very early, meaning I missed chatting with them and their actual set. In my bus drivers' defence, he drove all the way around the loch because he'd never been to Scotland before. Indeed. I did catch The Correspondents (6/10), a group who bizarrely mix 30s swing and modern hip hop and make it work (kinda).

After graciously avoiding The Drums, or whatever hyped post-punk band were on the main stage, I headed to the outdoor Red Bull Studios stage, where Glaswegian DJ Hudson Mohawke (6/10), most famous for his Warp-approved dubstep, worked up the crowd with a hip hop set. The results? Mixed, although the already inebriated crowd reacted positively to the euphoric braggadocio of tracks like 'N*ggas in Paris'. I was less convinced by his attempts to fuse crunk and dubstep – there is only so much filth I can take on the first night of the festival.

I did briefly pop to see Ed Sheeran (5/10) with a group of mates. The proclaimed ginger superstar filled the Goldenvoice Arena from front to back, a fact that just mystifies me. I get that he's nice or whatever; that is absolutely dandy. I just don't understand why he in particular deserves the spotlight over about a million similar pleasant, sing-song, plays-guitar-to-get-girls strummers that play open mics in pubs every week. He really cannot rap either. The crowd seemed transfixed, and maybe my rating is a tad unfair considering we departed a while before the set is over. I did catch all of Mumford & Sons' (7/10) headline performance. In a similar manner to bands like The Levellers, the folk-pop quartet could build their career on festivals, such is the effortless sing-along to their arm-waving tunes. The decision to play three new tracks held the set back from being breathless, even though it nicely broke up their well trodden 'hit single' formula of a picked guitar intro, crescendos of sustained wailing and a bit of banjo to augment the whole thing. Nevertheless, the night finished in an uplifting manner.

Saturday 9th June 2012

The infectious, young Daniel Sloss (7/10) was the first comedian I saw of the weekend, and though by no means the finished article, he kept the young crowd laughing throughout. Shortly after, Tim Minchin (8/10) kept his “piano and jokes” routine captivating for the whole hour, displaying the rare skill to be hilarious and thought-provoking without causing offence. His song about the Pope was a particular highlight, managing to label the religious leader a “f*cking motherf*cker”, admit that “[he'll] be a religious apologist on other f*cking days” and then declare that any man who protects “kiddy-f*ckers” is as “evil as the rapist” - all this with a sing-along hook over a honky-tonk piano line. Impressive.

Oddly enough, Minchin might lay claim to being the most technically gifted musician of the weekend. He was certainly more riveting than the dull Sound of Guns (3/10), the next in a long line of Oasis tribute bands. Whether they were attempting Strokes-esque garage rock or Killers-esque stadium rock, it all just came across as very bland and contrived, and the nasal vocals (which were much too loud) sent me fleeing out of the Clash arena. I took this opportunity to taste the outdoor entertainment – if I say two drunken Scotsman, masked as Barack Obama and Osama Bin Laden, wrestling in fat suits in front of a hundred people, you can still only imagine my bemusement. Obama won in three rounds by the way.

Lucy Rose (8/10) was the first musical highlight of the day, and might just be my new indie crush. Her tremoring voice silenced the crowd in the best possible way, especially as she had to battle against the blaring ragga bass from a stage outside. There are plenty of female songwriters in the UK, but Rose seems to stand out, and her voice was particularly accented by the picking and percussion of her accomplished backing band. Consequently, the comedy tent felt like a change in tone afterwards, but its popularity was undeniable – I think there must have been queues to get in every single time I walked past. The pros and cons of Scottish comedy became apparent after the third blunt, ironic Glaswegian in a row. Some of the jokes probably only worked because I understood them, but there were a few corkers that even the numerous campers from England could appreciate, particularly the banter from MCs Billy Kirkwood and Scott Agnew.

DJ Fresh (7/10) effectively kicked off the party well and truly with his live band. There were a smattering of mainstream songs in the mix that let it down, and I could do without the average-at-best MC who worked better as a ringleader than a rapper. The stunning re-invention of Dead Prez's classic 'Bigger than Hip-Hop' was one of the highlights of the weekend, however. Annie Mac (6/10) kept spirits high but lacked punch considering her pedigree. I think I prefer her taste to her ability as a DJ; the set lacked flow, even if the songs were fine.

Then there was Justice (9/10), who stole the weekend with their gloriously overblown French house. The religious imagery and dazzling lights might have got the crowds' attention, but their set was always going to be hard to muck up – Justice want you to dance, and Rock Ness wanted to dance. What made Justice better than any other dance act on the bill? Despite the diversity of their influences, their tracks were sequenced so well together that you were always on your toes for the next hook or the next drop. Deadmau5 (8/10) does not do this quite as well, but he is intoxicating nonetheless, making use of the massive crowd dramatically. Even before I heard the music, the aesthetic was striking – the masked DJ stood aloft a raised stage, surrounded by dazzling lasers and ready to project in front of the stunning loch behind. Despite the occasional delve into dubstep, a pattern over the weekend as a whole, it was his older “progressive” songs that had the biggest pay-off. As the night came to a close, techno boffin James Holden (8/10) closed proceedings with a riveting set that proved that he's one of the most underrated DJs in the country right now. He also closed off a magnificent peak – mainstream dance, sure, but these guys are the top dogs at it.

Sunday 10th June

The Draymin (4/10) started Stereoboard's Sunday with a sizzling Benny Benassi synth line, which they layered guitars over quite tastefully. What followed was possibly the biggest anti-climax of the weekend, as they shrugged their way through a dull set that was just about on par with Sound of Guns' the day before. Seriously fellas, learn a fourth chord. Little Comets (6/10) were better over on the main stage. They certainly seem to have a knack for off-beat guitar melodies – their single 'Worry' is the best example, but also an illustration of why some are just labelling them a British Vampire Weekend.

Due to clashes, I wasn't going to be able to check out Metronomy, so I took the chance to check out their bassist's DJ set. Olugbenga (7/10) seemed to enjoy the slot as much as anyone, selecting a myriad of classic anthems and “indie floorfillers”. Errors (8/10) are a band I've been meaning to check out after hearing some of their latest record Have Some Faith in Magic, and they were scintillating, performing the type of music that works as well live as it does on record. They've been penned by critics as being “chillwave”, but this is stuff that'll make you move; cracking musicianship under crisp textures and dynamic synths that don't do what you're used to hearing.

Chic (8/10) were probably the surprise of the weekend. If you're too young to know a disco group that your parents probably used to dance to, I don't blame you, but by God, I must have known half their set. The hooks and funky basslines of 'Le Freak' and 'Everybody Dance' have been wonderfully revived by acts like Daft Punk and Justice in recent years, but it sounded just as fresh from Nile Rodgers and co. The set also caused one of the biggest synchronised can-cans I've ever seen – it was brilliant fun. Friendly Fires (7/10) are another band with funk on their minds. Ed MacFarlane wins the prize for best dance-moves of the weekend by a country mile, and he knew it as he grooved his way through lyrics like 'I can feel in my body, Chains on me are breaking loose” ('Hurting'). For all that Pala is one of my favourite summer albums in recent years, however, their overall live sound needs tweaking. The guitarist sounded flat, and their pads are set up in a way that prevents the synths from knocking you off your feet, which is a shame because their performance was fabulous.

Knife Party (7/10) and Biffy Clyro (8/10) closed the weekend. The former were the act with the surprisingly more enthusiastic crowd. Whether that is a measure of how far Knife Party (the one act of the weekend that incorporated dubstep well) have come or how far Biffy's crowd has changed, you can judge. Biffy's set was certainly impressive in the same sort of way you'd enjoy a stadium show – awesome effects and passionate playing by the trio (plus live guitarist Mike Vennart). It was also sequenced in a way that we got everything from classic older tunes that only a handful of us knew, the flavorless newer tunes that everyone knew and yet-to-be-released tunes that were somewhere between the two. The festival ended on fireworks as Biffy finished their set, which was fitting considering the drama that the three nights brought. The Rock Ness party formula seems to be working though and I don't forsee any grand changes next year. If you have a few bob, check it out, but don't expect a maelstrom of innovative acts – be prepared to dance.

We don't run any advertising! Our editorial content is solely funded by lovely people like yourself using Stereoboard's listings when buying tickets for live events. To keep supporting us, next time you're looking for concert, festival, sport or theatre tickets, please search for "Stereoboard". It costs you nothing, you may find a better price than the usual outlets, and save yourself from waiting in an endless queue on Friday mornings as we list ALL available sellers!

Let Us Know Your Thoughts

Related News

No related news to show
< Prev   Next >