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Doune the Rabbit Hole (Saturday)

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

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

So, you know that bit in the final Blackadder where the fields of Flanders are deserted and some poppies finally bloom from the desolation?

That, except there’ll be nothing growing here for a while. The odd intrepid music fan wanders around, though for the first full day of a music festival it’s eerily quiet. But we’re all here, as Aberfeldy are opening the main stage at noon – a decidedly odd piece of scheduling given that they are the only band on the bill, save Roddy Woomble, to have a top 60 hit single. Perhaps they have another event to be at later in the day, we muse.

Time passes, we wait for some compere to tell us to, perhaps, “make some noise”. Nowt. Eventually an official – in charge of the toilets as far as we can make out – informs us that there’s been a “fatal communication error” betwixt band and organisers. Shame, there must be hundreds of bands who would have jumped at the chance to stand in.

This ‘fluid’ approach to organisation reminds us of a festival from a bygone age – no health and safety on the site, no officious types stopping food coming in (although they are bag-searching for alcohol, a new development). And the mud… reminiscent of Glastonbury circa 2005.

So, a 90 or so minute ‘opportunity’ to take in the various other tents. There’s Poppy’s gin and prosecco tent, a sure sign that gentrification is on the way, and I’m reminded of the vastly contrasting festival of the previous weekend, Party at the Palace. Putting aside the bad luck with the underfoot conditions, the contrast is stark, a hyper-efficient money-making machine which has Dodgy and Bjorn Again on the main stage. Swings and roundabouts. Speaking of which, no Big Wheels here. I could get a Swedish massage, some healing crystals, a tie-dye shirt. or what might well be a noseflute.

The punters might be sparse at this early hour, but the kids zone is buzzing, with puppetry, the Monkey Temple, and the Imaginary World Tent (Aberfeldy have been confirmed to headline there next year).

What would a band called Deliberate Crumbs sound like? It’s gone 1pm and frankly I’ll listen to anything. Sadly, they’re a no-show too. Ah well, maybe for the best.

Finally, some music. Chrissy Barnacle is playing in the tent vacated by Steve Davis. It’s a strange mix, deliberately (?) atonal acoustic guitar, and some entertaining chatter and themes, including a tune inspired by the West End’s equivalent of a spirit run, except rather than peyote being fuelled by Tesco cornettos.

Maybe it is my desperation, two hours in, but Ninth Wave are a pleasant surprise. On record they’re straight outta 1982, and yes, they have a New Romantic vibe to them, all eyeliner and combed-back hair. However, musically they’re an improvement – grittier sound, with less synth, and more guitar. Let’s face it, anyone (surely?) who likes Duran Duran now does so for the tunes, not the clothes, and Ninth Wave have a few more songs like ‘Reformation’. So if, god help us, there’s an 80s revival, they are more than capable of spearheading it.

Emerging from the Baino Tent, the rain’s on again, but head to the main stage we must. And what better act than Babe to push the sky away?
A dizzying mix of synthpop with some jit guitar thrown in, plus Gerard’s soaraway falsetto, the fact that they’re not performing in the Hydro is a sign that there is no god (see above), as the band even throw in a Meghan Traynor cover (I think) and invite anyone who gets it right to invade the stage.

I demur and instead head down the hill to catch the tail end of Misc. Meat, possibly the best-named combo of the weekend. Maybe my tardiness upsets the band, there’s clearly something lurking singer Amelia, though it’s face-care regimen and creepy dudes that are the main target of their ire, delivered with maximum energy, volume and swears. Though given the threat of “Piss me off I’ll write a song about you” we make our excuses and leave.

Raza are anotherhappy surprise. The work of Gav ‘grnr’ Thompson has always been worth a listen, whether with Findo Gask, or the Bathgate Brass Band (he combines these two core skills, playing one-handed trumpet and keys simultaneously). Single ‘Futuramayana’ was a bit too disco for these ears, but live they’re a different prospect entirely – drum-heavy thanks to the percussion half of the duo, Bertrand. Influences ranging from African and jazz via prog and the inevitable Krautrock are all chucked into the duo’s musical blender. The overriding feel is pacey space rock, with shifting rhythms, the soundtrack to a ride through the asteroid belt followed by a particularly bumpy moon landing.

Another danceable duo are Sage Francis and B Dolan. are just two men with a laptop, but their backing tracks are big and brassy, maybe closest to anything as Public Enemy. However, at least on this occasion, the comparison ends there as not one cuss-word comes from either mouth, despite their little bit of politics – a banjo-driven version of ‘This Land Is Our Land’ which they declare to be their new national anthem. Another singalong, for the more delicate youngsters in the crowd goes “you fudged up, dummy” just as the sun comes out and a small army of people dressed as giant bananas hand out fruit to the crowd, and we head off in an unsuccessful hunt for Duglas T Stewart.

Did I mention the sun was out? Cosmic Druid Collective are intent on removing the light from the sky and enveloping us in their fog of bleakness. The black-clad behooded quartet’s dubby beats and throwing shapes seem more suited to a late night club, but we make a mental note to check the December gig listings.

The Lodge has, it occurs to me, seen a few all-grrl lineups over the weekend, but Bratacus may be the shoutiest – hopefully nodules are not on the menu for either of the two sisters from somewhere up north. Short, snappy and political, their tunes include (I think) a Crass cover which sets out their stall nicely.

Though if Bratakus are shoutiest, Breakfast Muff take the sweariest crown. In the lower field, as Ted and Ralph might refer to the dodgily-drained stage location, the three-piece tear it up with some highly-charged punk rock closing with ‘RU A Femininst’s tirade, which hopefully hits no targets among those present.

Vegan Leather continue the 80s revival – decent in a club at XpoNorth in Inverness, they still grab the attention from the big stage with their slithery Talking Heads-style rhythms, but it all goes a bit belly up with a uberfunky Al Jarreau-style instrumental which goes on forever.

Snapped Ankles have come dressed as shrubbery, and woodland creatures, or possibly relatives of Cousin Itt out of The Munsters. Musically… well, there’s elements of the Cosmic Dead’s spacerock in there… they might well be a Cosmic Dead side project as far as I can tell from the costumes. No bad thing, I hasten to add.

With the main stage lineup changes – Songhoy Blues may be the first musical victim of Brexit as their visas were apparently refused – so in the Baino stage we have an an unannounced trio who for some reason I take to be French, repeating the refrain “show the love” to a strummed backing for several minutes – way better than that sounds, it’s slightly hypnotic. A succession of Scottish rappers then take to the stage freestyling with the possibly-not-French-after-all trio.

It’s all fine, but a rather more recognisable combo are on the main stage – and although the music across the festival runs will the wee sma’ hours, they’re technically our headliner – Spinning Coin. Consisting of various Glasgow scene luminaries, most notably former Yawns frontman Sean Armstrong, that act gives them quite something to live up to. And in single ‘Albany’ it’s in the style of their mentors The Pastels while in a weird left/right split, tunes sung by the two stage right (including Cal out of Breakfast Muff) have more of a rocky, American slacker feel. Either way, it’s perhaps in keeping with the festival’s ethos that such a band should be pushed up the running order.

Although the site hasn’t seen rain for a few hours, the walk to the car is still a little perilous, but we make it to the vehicle and onto the road out of Cardross Estate. As we go through the gate, we note a sign asking us to note the new dates next year. Summer perhaps? Though with so much great music on the bill once again, we will inevitably be back – rain or shine.

(Back to Friday’s review)

(See also Betty Mayonnaise’s top 5 acts from Doune the Rabbit Hole 2017)

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