Rock Ness' eclectic selection of bands proves a winning formula

Rock Ness 2009 Review

published: Thu 18th Jun 2009

The Prodigy (2)

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

With the clouds replaced by a scorching heat and there being a half hour delay getting into the main arena for no apparent reason, Sunday is hungover. Sunday is tired. It is only 12 o'clock after all. Ironically, when the gates open, I don't even head for the main stage.
The Ray Summers
Rather, I make for the Go North Stage to check out Falkirk 6-piece The Ray Summers. The east coast of Scotland seems to having a hell of a lot more fun than the west. While the west is stuck lamenting who will be the next Biffy Clyro, the east quite frankly, doesn't care. The Ray Summers are proof of that. In a set indicative of the name on the marquee, they manage to pack out the stage with a loyal following as well as scouts and curious attendees. I doubt there was anyone that regretted coming to see this act. Furious good fun. Singer, Andy Ure, is Jim Morrison's, son. I'm sure of it. He will deny it, but he is. Yet, he is not the only member of the band who has charisma. Each member is entertaining to watch, in particular, bassist Billy Kay has a natural groove and an affinity for his position missing from peers of his chosen instrument. It's good time pup-rock, the jukebox at your local, amalgamated into a tight n' tidy package. Look them up.

On the main stage afterwards, Baddies, bring some Devo-laced rock 'n' roll to about 30 people at the barrier and a passive couple of hundred on the hill. Dressed uniformly in sky blue shirts and literally busting their balls on stage to an unresponsive crowd, I can't help but feel that Rockness booking this year is a little schizophrenic. It doesn't do a band like Baddies any favours to play to what is, an essentially, dance orientated audience who are completely unfamiliar with their material. That said, the band are hardly at fault, trying to stir the masses as much as humanly possible, 'Holler For My Holiday', being a considerable highlight.

Tommy Reilly
Orange Unsigned winner Tommy Reilly, is backed by two sessions players on the main stage, mid afternoon. There is no denying that T.V. exposure has the spotlight on this young gentleman, he is adored by Rock Ness. His songs touch in the way that a Robert Smith song does. An unerring sense of innocence and youth permeate every line sung. Admittedly it's difficult to make out the lyrics, but hey, I'm not over 40! I can deal with that! Seriously though, it's difficult to imagine that a song like, 'Gimme A Call', will not cement Reilly as a real contender. With an audience so desperately behind him, there is a great future for this young man.

I have no problem with tribute acts. Especially when they are better live than the original act. I do have an issue with putting a tribute act on a main stage when the industry is saturated to flooding point. Right, that's the negative out of the way.

The positive - it's The Complete Stone Roses, who are as perfect as can be. Singer John McKenzie puts Ian Brown to shame. If you don't believe me or you never got to see Stone Roses live, go watch Stone Roses at Blackpool Tower. They batter through the classics with an anal attention to detail and musical precision pretty much unrivalled by any tribute band. I'm not saying that they don't deserve to be on the main stage at all, I'm just saying that the booking feels like a cheat.

Our Lunar Activities
On the last night of their tour Our Lunar Activities play the brimming Go North Stage with a local following on hand to send them off on holiday. Vocalist Charlie Clark, would make you swear he was American and Brian Molko's brother. It's alternative rock, with the tempo sensibilities of emo, a time capsule from the nineties. When bands like My Vitriol (remember them?) were tipped to be the next big thing. There's a twist though, the song writing is very modern, with influences ranging from the guitars of Pixies, to the harmonies of Jimmy Eat World and Idlewild, mixed with a chordal sensibility that most bands lack. Google them!

Back to the main stage and it's time for the strangest booking of the weekend. Biffy Clyro. It's such an odd choice for this festival, especially considering the 'brutal' direction of their new material and that Marmaduke Duke (who doubtlessly would have been better suited to Rock Ness) are such a runaway success. Regardless, as one gentleman standing next to me said, "Ye cannae beat a bit o' Biffy", there are plenty of Biff-ites in attendance to make a huge arena moment when they almost crush '57' under the wheels of their speeding metal juggernaut.

Having had a little taste of Placebo (who are simultaneously playing at the Clash tent) with Our Lunar Activities, I decide to viddy the real thing before I loose my chance, at the risk of spreading myself too thin. The Clash tent is completely packed out. Filled with fans, wandering drunks, and a legion of photographers cramming the pit. Molko and crew enter to massive applause and start playing through more tent sound issues. The bass is so overwhelming for the rest of the band that it's nigh on impossible to hear Molko's dark ventures. The violin on 'Battle For The Sun' is completely lost, though the vocals are brought up halfway through the first verse, and how exciting the new material actually is gets lost in the fog of distortion and sub bass.

The Prodigy (2)
Dejected, I venture back to the main stage to check out the last contender for 'Band of the Weekend', The Prodigy. The smoke, the intense strobes, the bass that confuses whales. My god. They should have a warning before Liam Howlett unleashes his evil beasts on an audience, akin to what they have before the craziest of video games. From the very first kick of the set there is not a seated individual left in Loch Ness. 'Breathe', with it's reverse build up is a highlight. Maxim Reality leads much of the proceedings with shouts of, 'Oh my party people, oh my Scottish people! The 'lock' is on fire!' while Keith Flint does a Tigger impression, spitting the odd phrase into the mic. It's an assault of subs and tweeters that even the cops with their LRAD's could rival. If there is a revolution, Howlett is on our advanced non-lethal weapons crew.

I suppose the act of the weekend comes down to one choice. A taste test. If you prefer your dance grandiose, fun and a little more laid back, you'll go for Basement Jaxx. If you're more into a hardcore, pull no punches, balls to the wall approach, the pick is The Prodigy. Though, it has to be said that with so many acts on the bill, including Orbital, whom I feel guilty for not having gone to see, that the real discussion of, "Who won the hearts of Rock Ness?" is a moot argument.

More to the point, it's a case of where you're taste lies. With a more eclectic selection of bands than in previous years, it's hard not to wonder if the festival owners are looking to increase the size of the festival to challenge T in the Park or if they are trying maintain the spirit and size of the festival, whilst still mixing it up a little. With many preferring Rock Ness over 'T', because of it's size, location and line-ups, I hope the festival continues to be the most beautiful festival on earth rather than the pee-flooded behemoth that T has become.

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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