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Doune the Rabbit Hole (Friday)

Cardross Estate (Friday 18th - Saturday August 19th)

By • Aug 26th, 2017 • Category: gig reviews

I’m at the entrance to Cardross Estate and already Doune the Rabbit Hole is shaping up to be a weekend of firsts. Well, I’ve never had my car pushed INTO a festival car park before.

That doesn’t bode well for my footwear, but I must make fast progress through the timely tribute to Passchendaele that the Stirlingshire location has become.

This is the eighth incarnation of this event, and its ever-changing site has welcomed some new stages. I arrive at The Lodge where Fallope and Friends seem to have got the memo about fancy dress. They’re an all-girl combo, which means that comparisons may lean towards the Kleenex / Bikini Kill end of the Bumper Book of Rock Cliche, although their attire – planets? flowers? Peter Gabriel? is hard to focus on due to the enormous inflatable squid writhing stage left. “We don’t do table service” they scream, while other subjects covered include “self love” (well, there are children present). It’s an engaging shambles, with the multiple instrument swaps distracting from the Slits-like bassy throb, with tendencies more towards free jazz than dub. Entertaining though, which is all we can ask.

Adam Torres , like any American at a right (left)-thinking festival, wants to apologise for his “fucked-up country”. ‘Dreamers In America’ may not save the world, but with his fine falsetto augmented by plaintive fiddle means that his slow contemplative songs can make things a little better.

The theme to ‘The Good The Bad And The Ugly’ booms out, welcoming BMX Bandits to the main stage. Duglas T Stewart – the ‘T’ standing for “Troubled teenager” – is presumably the “Good” in that scenario, having kept the Scots indie legends going for 30 years. He gamely swallows down the fruity prop during opener ‘The Road Of Love Is Paved With Banana Sins’ before relating how a previous banana had gone bad – but refusing to spit it out as “we’re not the Sex Pistols”. It’s this cosy swampside chat that makes a Bandits show as much as the matching melodies – ‘Way of the Wolf’ surely a future Eurovision winner. Sidekick Chloe is gamely dressed for ‘Disco Boy’, braving the elements in a silver leotard as the wind bites and the only option is to join Duglas in a Brotherhood of Man-style hand hive to keep warm.

One thing you’ll quickly notice about Doune the Rabbit hole is how it is massively pitched at kids and dogs. Entire families attend, presumably generations of festival-goers past, present and future being the target market. You might imagine that children might complain about the conditions, but in fact it’s the parents who cower under the various trees, while their offspring wallow in the mini-Somme that comprises the main thoroughfare, lost shoes and wellies littering what was once a path. It puts the Green Day Bellahoustoun fiasco into perspective, though as I try to make notes on a sodden phone, I must defer to fellow scribe Fiona McKinlay’s viewpoint following her Mugstock experience (basically, bring everything indoors).

Happily, The Amphetameanies are in a tent, and the either less hardy, or simply ska-loving youngsters are forming some sort of skank pit down the front. Like most of the acts on the bill, Scotland’s godfathers/mothers of ska adapt their schtick to suit i.e. cut down on the swearing and turn it up. There’s a soul tune (or as they describe it, an “on-beat ska number) but in the main it’s joyous, bouncing party music that gets the tent going. As they mention at the end of a sweaty set, they’re available for kids’ parties as well as the usual birthdays and weddings, though they could probably brighten up the most depressing of wakes too.

Laps – another all-girl act, like that matters – are residing in The Lodge (could it be named after Twin Peaks, I wonder?) Certainly with the duo sporting fine soulful vocals and an electro backing – think Grace Jones meets Throbbing Gristle – they’d not go out of place on a David Lynch production. The subterranean bass just adds to the experience, and sees them take the first encore of the day.

Sadly, no encores for main stage headliners Liars. Making a pounding racket, it’s not entirely clear if they should be more… well, musical – hints of their punk-funk past coming to the fore while an unearthly sound – like a demonic autotune – fights for space in the mix. Whatever it is sends kids and parents alike scurrying for cover, though the schedule means that there’s no alternative act to take in.

Which would have been handy – with the hard-core fans down the front alerting frontman Angus that his vocals are non-existent, the trio depart and a succession of roadies point, exchange mics, and shrug. Eventually we get another couple of minutes of industrial-strength ESG-ish stylings, sans vox of course, before they troop off into the night.

That means that Steve Davis, perhaps, is the unlikely headliner (yes, that Steve Davis, thought to the uninitiated, the Northern Irish footballer might be just as likely. However, snooker’s most interesting star is just that, given his love of all things prog and in this setting, Kraut. Sadly, what should be a charming stroll down a balmy country lane to the stage is instead a setting for ‘Thrillseekers’, starring Bear Grils and Phil Mitchell off of Eastenders. The aforementioned kids would have loved gliding down the mudslide, but sadly they’re all in bed now, as their parents take advantage of the snookerstar DJ’s availability during the 10 minutes of Neu’s ‘Hallogallo’ to snap some selfies. We squelch off into the night.

(onto Saturday’s review)

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