Entertaining and irresitable Basement Jaxx crown the night at Rock Ness

Rock Ness 2009 Review

published: Thu 18th Jun 2009

Basement Jaxx

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th June 2009
Loch Ness, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£139 3-days with camping, £130 without camping (pay later options available)
last updated: Thu 28th May 2009

around the festival site (3)
After the morning rain and a quick trip to fetch my raincoat and wellies, I make my way to arena for the inaugural acts. Opening the main stage on Saturday are Party Horse. The former Tiny Dancers frontman DK taking a swift detour from mellow, harmonious, pop to a more rock 'n' rollicking party electronica sound with Dutch beats n keys specialist Ursula. With a crowd of pygmy proportions on hand to witness their set, they still manage to have a bouncing collective at the barrier to hear their songs about partying and ex-boy/girlfriends. However, there is nothing about this act that feels like they belong on this stage.

There's very little audible bass, leaving the skeletal framework of beats, which feel like they are lifted straight from the presets on Ursula's keyboard and distorted guitars, making their performance feel like a bush-league pub version of Andrew W.K. They may have 'wowed' at Russian fashion week, but this bare bones set did nothing to leave a lasting positive impression.

Following on the main stage are Chew Lips, who live up to their namesake by playing an altered-state inspired electronica that is truly an amalgamation of 80's pop and 90's dance acts such as Fischerspooner and Moloko. Despite claiming to be suffering from a self-inflicted illness as a result of partying until the wee hours of the previous night, singer Tigs' vocals are strong, Will and James are dead on with their knob twiddling and bass playing respectively. With some high profile shows as well tours under their belt, 2009 may be a good year for the London trio.

Jumping over to the Fat Sam's Tent to see stoner four piece, Bear Hands, I am shocked to see just how few people are actually here at one o'clock on the Saturday afternoon. It occurs to me that part of this is that there is very little marquee value to many of the acts playing through the day as opposed to last year. It could be that The Isle of Wight and Download are factors in this and that coupled with 2009 feeling, at least to my ears, a weak year for new acts are stopping punters from venturing from the campsite this early. Maybe Bear Hands feel let down by the numbers or they're just too high all the time to seem like they care, but phoned-in would be fair to say with regard to their set. I can understand flying all the way from Brooklyn to play to sixty or so people sitting on the grass would be dejecting but I fear that without the strength of songs like, 'Golden' or, 'Vietnam Eli Janney', that I may as well have been watching cynical and ego-centric, one time battle of the bands winners on the Go North Stage, not that you should acquire my opinion of the Go North Stage from that in particular.

Blood Red Shoes
With a bigger buzz and of course, a bigger crowd, Blood Red Shoes almost fill the Fat Sam's tent a mere hour later. It feels like it's Shoe-gaze Saturday in here! With a loyal troupe of fans singing every word you cannot deny that there's a plethora of good things to come for the Brighton duo. 'I Wish I Was Someone Better', is an obvious highlight for this short set where both drummer Steven Ansell and guitarist Laura-Mary Carter exhibit the incredible synergy that has developed between them, staying so on pulse and working together for the betterment of the song, it's quite a heartwarming performance, even though it's distorted, gritty, twisted descendants of Pixes ripping through the P.A.

To really enjoy a performer, like Cagedbaby, in all his eccentric glory, you have to keep you're eye fixated on him. Even if you're dancing, you have to keep you're eye squarely on him. How must you feel, at a festival, when you're watching a DJ, you look away. Just for a second, Then, when you look back, he has a dolphins head. You turn round to you're friend and say, "Dude, do you...?" You look back and all of a sudden, he's just a regular guy. Well, I say regular. It's exactly what Rock Ness is about. quirky, fun, filled, smile-athons to great tunes played by a charismatic, if somewhat strange, electro-funk DJ.

Frightened Rabbit
Travelling a mere 200 miles from Selkirk, in the north end of the Borders, Frightened Rabbit, come to the Fat Sam's tent in front of a relatively large crowd to bring us their brand of Scottish accented Emo-indie to the 'Ness. With two albums under their belt and a lot of talk regarding this act in the Scottish fanzines, it's difficult to want to criticise them, but, as with every act, if the songs aren't there- the songs aren't there. Each tune feels like emo-by-munbers. A beat from a Jimmy Eat World song, a guitar part from Far, a Biffy Clyro/Idlewild accent and boiling water and you got yourself a cardboard flavour Pot Emo. With a new album in the wings, there may be a niche Frightened Rabbit have to carve, though it certainly wasn't apparent from this set.

Disappointed, I wander round the arena trying to find something to eat and settle (sorry vegetarians) on a buffalo burger, and wow. I have to say, that, was happiness in a bun! So concerned with my munchie am I, that I completely forget that festival favourites Alabama 3 are on back at Fat Sam's. Getting back over in time to hear, 'U Don't Dance 2 Techno Anymore', which has the tent shaking the supports in unison to it's classic chorus. It looks like Alabama 3 delivered another great festival set to a hugely responsive audience, so I disappear to the main stage, for will be the main talking point of Saturday's non-headliner line-up.

Dizzee Rascal
Opening with his live lounge cover favourite, 'That's Not My Name', Dizzee Rascal makes one of the smartest decisions he's ever made. If you've ever seen a crowd transmute from ice to putty in a matter of seconds, you'll understand what Dizzee did to the main stage crowd. From the pit to the hill and beyond, are dancing, smiling, Rockness faithfuls. All of a sudden, if you don't want to fade into Saturdays melange, Dizzee is who you are upstaging.

Hoping Super Furry Animals will be able to do just that, it's back to Fat Sam's. During soundcheck, I can still see from the tent, that Dizzee has the main stage in complete submission. When Super Furries come on, they are plague by technical issues, a terrible sound which drowns out the lush harmonies and lead vocals, a piercing feedback from Gruff Rhys' acoustic and a guitar amp that doesn't function. Top that with a set beginning with most of new album, 'Dark Days/Light Years' and for a while it looks like the set might just be a festival write off. That is, until the engineers get it together and we can actually hear that the new material is expansive and well conceived, even more psychedelic and experimental than previous offerings, 'Dark Days/Light Years', is something to mark on your calender. Rounding off with hits, 'Rings Around the World', and, 'Juxtapozed With U', Super Furry Animals pull off a good set that falls only short of great because of goddamn machines.

Basement Jaxx
Brixton's finest, Basement Jaxx, take Saturday, roll it in a ball and place it in their back pocket. 'Good Luck', sounds massive. In fact it's borderline dance/metal. Not a single foot near that stage can resist the chorus. The soundscape is filled with percussion, chunky bass, crunching guitars, and pitch perfect vocals. Each song, rolling quickly into the next, has a costume change for duetting lead vocalists, and flawless performances from the unnamed session players that complement the duo's perfect modern pop tunes.

After The Flaming Lips and their awe inspiring performance, it was hard to imagine anyone taking the 'Band of the Weekend' title away from them. That is, if you completely forgot about Basement Jaxx. Few acts can claim such cohesion to the idea behind Rockness and as such Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton are the perfect fit. Entertaining, exciting and above all irresitable, Basement Jaxx sit on Saturday's throne, content that no-one could even touch them.

around the festival site (4)
review by: Ross Gilchrist

photos by: Louise Henderson / Tommy Jackson

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th June 2009
Loch Ness, Scotland, Scotland MAP
£139 3-days with camping, £130 without camping (pay later options available)
last updated: Thu 28th May 2009

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