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Doune the Rabbit Hole

Cardross Estate (Sunday 15th July 2018)

By • Aug 2nd, 2018 • Category: gig reviews

It’s summer in Port of Menteith. You can tell by the way the downpour has eased off to a drizzle. Though to be fair, this is rather dryer than previous years of Doune the Rabbit Hole, whose organisers have scheduled this year’s event a month earlier than usual, perhaps for meteorological reasons. And the hardy staff and punters have rather lucked out this year, with the Friday and Saturday nights coinciding with the best of the 2018 heatwave.

So perhaps the cooling rain will be welcome to some. Certatinly, with only one outdoor stage, most of the performers will be free from influenza come the end of the weekend.

Just as well for Carla J Easton. Having spent four weeks in isolation with viral meningitis, she’s just happy to be out at all. And she’s making up for lost time, both in terms of playing live again, and patter-wise. It’s almost as if she’s not had anyone to chat to for a month, which may well be the case. She’s also excited – since TeenCanteen went on something in of a hiatus, she’s filled the gap with co-writing ‘Best Friend’ with Belle and Sebastian, and recording her new album with Arcade Fire’s Howard Bilerman. Fortunately, it seems that her voice has had a good old rest and is now back to full power – previewing her forthcoming ‘Impossible Stuff’ long-player, with ‘Touch The Sky’ an epic standout.
“If I fall over, I’ll just get the band to carry on,” she laughs towards the end of an energetic set. A wee lie down is certainly well-deserved.

Perhaps in the Whistleblower tent. While the Baino is a dark indie club with music to match, the new stage is bright and airy, with music to match – Awkward Family Portraits playing a mix of skiffle to a crowd who seem to have huckled down for the duration in deckchairs, enjoying some decent-sounding reggae from Irie Yo Yo to follow.

For the brave and adventurous, there is the main Jabberwocky stage of course, where Broken Records are making an arena-filling racket. And with similarly epic-sounding acts like the Levellers and Big Country further up the bill, the five-piece are a hard act to follow. New album ‘What We Know’ is a self-confessed collection of driving songs, and the mix of Springsteen and Arcade Fire indeed powers its way across the countryside.

If we assume that Broken Records are either from New York or Toronto (er, Edinburgh, try again – Ed) then Cutty’s Gym must be… Dundonian? Or maybe Chicago? No, it appear that they’re a Glasgow combo, but the snarling guitar and vocals are straight out of the Fat Goth canon, while Steve Albini – a recent visitors to these shores to record Tayside combo Spare Snare – would have loved the sharding guitar and pounding rhythms, though we can’t be sure what he’d have made of the singer’s porn star ‘tache. They’re told to turn it down but the volume mysteriously seems to get louder, but then again, rock’n’roll is often 90% attitude.

Out blinking into the daylight again, where We Were Promised Jetpacks are back and on a stage befitting their status. Another band who have been absent of late, they have also new material to show for it. A whole new album is on the way later this year, and the quartet deliver some mighty tunes from it, interspersing now-classics like ‘Human Error’ with a clutch of songs from the forthcoming ‘The More I Sleep The Less I Dream’ including stunning lead track ‘Hanging In’.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (that’s enough, pigs) are a strange bunch, not just from their name. Back in the Baino, they are in the same vein as Cutty’s Gym musically – dark, echoey and shouty metal, as if Black Sabbath had grown up in Seattle and interned in Norway. However, the singer’s dressed for the beach (these Geordies clearly not having got the Scottish weather memo) bounding around in shorts and bare feet like Dancing Bloke Out Of Future Islands’ angry cousin.

Back at the Whistleblower, there’s not much movement in clientele, as the hippy-ish Harry and the Hendersons are performing a jiggy hoedown before delivering some dreamy indie.

However, the strains of The Mouse Outfit are drifting from the main stage. Three rappers and some expert musicians make for one of the day’s high points and a genuine discovery – the best bits of De La Soul and Michael Franti, sunny sounds to chase the rain away.

Probably of a suitable status to play the main arena are RM Hubbert and Aidan Moffat. However, they’re in a wee tent which is packed to the rafters (well, if tents had rafters). ‘Here Lies The Body’ is a release to rival either of their SAY-winning individual efforts, and with Siobhan Wilson in attendance it rounds out the performance fully – ‘Party On’s sambatastic rhythm’s get the toes tapping, ‘Zoltar Speaks’ is blessed with the comic timing of vintage Arab Strap, and ‘Cock Crow’ with Hubby’s percussive guitar a magnificent showstopper.

The organisers have this year made the controversial step of installing a jumbotron-style TV screen – not to sit behind the bands so that eager fans can see their heroes from five miles away – this isn’t quite Glastonbury. No, the Sunday coincides with the World Cup Final, so we’re able to see every dodgy VAR decision against Croatia in all its glory. Indeed, standing in the sweet spot we can see both the main stage and hear the sounds of Cosmic Dead warming up as well as keep an eye on the telly.

However, the game is also unexpectedly playing out behind the band in the Baino, which is not a popular move with the band. A straw poll on whether the game should be unplugged seems to come down in favour of music – well, there’s an even bigger telly 50 yards away after all, and the rain’s just abut off – but the band are instead forced to distract us from the match. They do so admirably, their searing psychedelic sounds combining with the smoke and stark lighting… boy, they’re LOUD and actually having the effect of driving some lesser punters out into the field again. Mission accomplished perhaps.

As ever, festivals are about discovering new acts, and new-to-me (and I assume, most in attendance) are Frankie Cosmos (band, not bloke). Surprisingly far up the bill perhaps – or maybe they’ve just arrived hot from NYC – they confess to being pretty jetlagged. However, their twee and slightly slacker persona isn’t affected (in the nicest possible way), all ragged indie-pop with nice chilled harmonies.

Much has been written about Man Of Moon, but on a brief hearing the jury’s out – there’s a Krautrock element to their music, sure, but also some more mainstream almost Britpop feel.

As we reach Big Country, I must confess my notes have drizzled and run, but they may well have done 1000 shows since forming in 1981. Though it could be the other way around. Either way, the veterans of the bagpipe rock (© all newspapers) are have still got it, a hit machine with so many tunes you’d forgotten about and despite the absence of Stuart Adamson delivering decent facsimiles of the vocals and guitars that make them such an enduring act

As the sun goes down, the tent is pitch black now, appropriately for Atari Teenage Riot. The name of their record label sums them up – Digital Hardcore combining electronic sound with both the (un)happy hardcore scene and good old fashioned punk rock. “Make some noise!” bellows Alex Empire before prowling among the front row of the audience. Actually, maybe not all that punk rock, but certainly hard core,’Delete Yourself’ and ‘Blood In My Eyes’ all part of the onslaught on the senses.

We catch a little of The Levellers, whose remarkably popular folk-punk seems to have got a mosh pit and conga going down the front, but we’re done. Tired, but dryer than last year. Roll on next July – or even June?


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