RockNess festival goers could hardly believe their luck in the week preceding the 8th birthday of the Dores party weekend with weather forecasts set at a scorching 19 degrees upwards. With Scottish festivals becoming synonymous with wearing wellies and ponchos, the journey up to the picturesque Clunes Farm, site of the 3 day festival since 2006, was one filled with glee rather than the usual resigned feeling of impending mud and sogginess. Bags were packed with sun-cream, tiny hot pants and crop tops – not all for the best – and waterproofs were replaced by straw hats and sunglasses.
The first thing to be noticed about Rock Ness this year was the drastic change in site size – the drop in the economy has hit the festival world hard, and this seems apparent in the layout this year. With a much smaller arena, a change to the camping layout to place some happy campers right by the lochside and the noticeably smaller Arcadia area, the hot topic of Friday afternoon was how small everything looked in comparison to previous years.
There was a feeling of general confusion on entering the Box Office area – badly placed signposting meant many ticket waiting in long queues, under the scorching sun only to be told they were in the wrong place, and had to wait again in another, just as long, queue. It’s hardly surprising one fatigued camper seemed to faint under the heat – no water and a long standing time is hardly conducive to a good start to the weekend. Yet once in the camping area – bags and crates of booze lugged in on everything from shopping trollies to wheelie bins – with the tents pitched and folding chairs out, there was a sense of joyful disbelief as the smell of suntan lotion and beer wafted through the cool breeze.
Festivals are traditionally places where happiness spreads like wildfire – but a festival with sun, in Scotland seemed to lift spirits higher than seen before. But with sun comes drinking, and lots of it. Those lucky enough to arrive early enough on Friday had time to sit with a drink or three in the afternoon before meandering – or staggering – down to the arena itself.
Once there they were greeted by the ever familiar Main Stage – positioned pride of place at the opening of the Loch, as always highlighting just why Rock Ness is billed as one of the most beautiful festivals we have here in the UK. And with the sun glimmering on the water and not a cloud to be seen, there was hardly a nicer sight to behold. The GoldenVoice Arena was flanking the left of the main stage, while the other stage areas, Sub Club Soundsystem/Red Bull Studios Takeover, Soma Arcadia Armadillo Arena and Black Isle Pub lay over the hill, amidst food, drink and general festival goods stalls. Noticeably missing this year was the inflatable church (no festival weddings this year!), and Arcadia seemed less imposing than years previous. However, it's refreshing to attend a festival where the whole area can be covered in around 20 minutes, making it easy to see a variety of acts without too much trouble.
First up on Friday were Daily Record competition winners, Fridge Magnets on the main stage. The four-strong band mixed indie band style with DJ worthy dance beats, bringing the party to a proper start as the crowd milled down to the stage to lazily dance along, or just sit in the sun enjoying a cold(ish) pint. Catchy 'She Don't Dance (With The Sun No More)' proved that even a relatively unknown band could get the crowd chanting along.
Over in the GoldenVoice Arena soulful Jessie Ware played a chilled out set for those revellers happy to get a bit of a shade from the still scorching sun. Fresh faced and loud, the crowd seemed mesmerised by the singer-songwriter’s fresh soul sound, with hit 'If You're Never Gonna Move' proving popular.
Ellie Goulding was always going to be a big crowd puller, and proved deserving of the main stage spot. Looking fresh faced and full of energy, she played a popular hit list including older songs 'Your Song' and 'Starry Eyed' as well as recent chart topper 'I Need Your Love' and 'Anything Could Happen', all while happily bashing on drums alongside her band. With vocals as sweet as chocolate she proved a great choice to bring in the first evening.
While Rock Ness has always traditionally been a dance festival, in recent years the amount of bands appearing on the bill has increased meaning there has been a rockier, more indie feel to the festival. The Vaccines kept up the rock side of the bargain for the evening, with the quartet playing a high energy set getting the crowd bouncing to their best known track 'If You Wanna'. However, the indie-rock guys seemed an unusual choice of warm up to Friday headliners Basement Jaxx.
The production duo of Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton last played Rock Ness in 2009 and it was a very welcome return to the Inverness shores as they performed a string of hits including 'Where’s Your Head At?', 'Oh My Gosh' and firm crowd favourite 'Red Alert', stage full of colour and the crowd shouting along at every opportunity. 'Good Luck' turned the crowd into a giant chorus of united vocals, dancing groups reaching far up the hill.
Once the stage lights dimmed on the main stage and the GoldenVoice Arena, it was time to either head back home (or to the tents) or keep the party going up at the Sub Club Sound System tent where Kerri Chandler kept the party firmly going into the early hours of the morning with his jazz inspired deep house beats, sealing the deal on Friday night nicely. It was, however, with disappointment that many partiers searched – fruitlessly – for the fabled silent disco. And for those lucky enough to have upgraded to VIP a wander into that bar also proved futile with it closing earlier than advertised due to it being quieter than anticipated. And so it was that the tent doors zipped shut on the first night, ready to wake up to bright skies and more frivolity.
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Rock Ness 2013 review
Rock Ness 2013 review
Rock Ness 2013 review