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Doune the Rabbit Hole

Cardross Estate, Stirlingshire (Saturday August 20th)

By • Jul 27th, 2019 • Category: Gig review

It’s Doune Day 2, and we’re back at the Baino. To kick the day off and blow the night’s excesses away with an energetic set, it’s Savage Mansion.

savage mansion 2

The quintet onstage are on Pictish Trail’s Lost Map label and they show the diversity of that imprint in the same way that Mr Lynch’s output has gone from Anstruther alt.folk to encompass rocking electro. The five-piece onstage, led by Craig Angus, are alt.rock rather than alt.folk, but share great poppy hooks and chantalong choruses, like a modern take on The Fall or Pere Ubu. Or closest still, Pavement – you might say that ‘Older and Wiser’ is no ‘Shady Lane’, but then, what is? Still excellent.

Following last night’s late-night Beak> set, the Baino has, it seems, become an impromptu chillout area, MCed by Chris (to his mum) Duncan. The band are, kind of ‘C Duncan‘, fleshing out what would, in a smaller setting, be just ‘C’ on his own, but it’s great to hear his music in an expanded form. The Mercury-nominated singer-songwriter’s stage presence is understated (there is shrubbery to compensate), nothing too raucous for those supping a hair of the dog and looking for some dreamy, vaguely psychedelic pop to ease them into the day. And standout ‘Salt’ and electro-ish ‘Talk Talk Talk’ do just that.

and to day 3…

c duncan

As ever, there are hidden gems from Scotland’s indie underground to catch, if one moves quickly enough, and isn’t stymied by lineup changes and scheduling issues, Thus, we catch a couple of Chrissy Barnacle‘s nice songs sung with a distinctive voice, but miss Faith Eliott, St Martiins, and Romeo Taylor (as well ca catching a “thank-you and goodnight from Mono”)

Chuchoter open the new Warren stage on Saturday afternoon – a duo from Edinburgh, Emily and Owen play in which can only be described as a secret glade, with a great soundsystem and (at the time), no rain or midges. BM did not catch many of the track names and the music on Soundcloud is a few years old so not sure what they are currently promoting, but it sounded fab. Emily’s enthusiasm and dancing win over the crowd and Owen’s glitchy and eccentric keyboard backing is interesting, embellishing the melodies – with the right people behind them this lot could break into the mainstream, but for now it’s just a very special 20 minutes or so in the secret glade. (BM)

alex rex 3-4

Saturday main stage openers Alex Rex may well be a Scots folk-prog supergroup. A four-piece choir kick off proceedings with a beautiful, vaguely African chant before the five-strong band (plus Simon of Trembling Bells fame on tambourine) embark on a folk-prog odyssey. Led by singing drummer Alex Neilson – of Scatter and others – and with Audrey out of Rev Magnetic on bass, the overall effect is tuneful enough for a sunny main stage slot which seems to hold the attention of the early arrivals.

Martin John Henry opens his Whistleblower slot with ‘Spectres’, a brave move for a solo act in front of a largely unfamiliar crowd, but it works well before he flits in and out of his band’s back catalogue. Co-conspirator Gillian Fleetwood is in the crowd and yes, she is invited up for an airing of a new tune for Olive Grove’s ‘Archipelago’ 12″ split EP series. She remains for closing number, De Rosa staple ‘The Engineer’, adding value to one of the finest tunes from one of Scotland’s most underrated songwriters.

Tom McGuire and the Brassholes offer what has to be classed as bluesey rock with a hint of funk. I’m sorry, but there it is. There’s a hint of Stevie Wonder but with Jamiroquai in equal measure – it’s a fine balance. The crowd are reasonably content with the toe-tapping tunes but one feels that Col. Mustard might have been a more worthy occupant of this early afternoon slot.

broken chanter

Broken Chanter are, in understated description, a side project from Kid Canaveral’s singer David Macgregor. However, today, with his host of collaborators, it’s basically a Scottish indie supergroup. Audrey Tait, formerly of Hector Bizerk, is rightly garnering a reputation as one of Scotland’s finest percussionists, and Jill O’Sullivan is already an integral part of the Chanter experience, adding fulsome harmonies to Macgregor’s heartfelt delivery. And Gav Prentice of Ultras fame fills in on bass as well as offering vocal on ‘Cheering in the Distance’, adding another dimension to the album. However, it may be that it’s the pure pop songwriting that is of most significance – ‘Don’t Go To Denmark’ and ‘Wholesale’ crafted tunes which in a just musical world will see notable exposure and commercial success.

JCC

John Cooper Clarke is as much radio personality as national treasure as punk poet as he is stand-up comic nowadays – what sometimes seems like a stream of consciousness flow of gags that links together poetry from his 40-odd-year career. The packed tent is mercifully quiet as the Mancinian legend chucks in gags on failing health and Alzheimers, his humour going all over the shop while lobbing some Rogers and Hart tunes into the mix. ‘Beasley Street’ becomes ‘Beasley Boulevard’ as he shows that 40 years on he’s still as relevant as ever.

Asian Dub Foundation, for the uninitiated… actually, their name acts as a handy summary – pounding bass and a mix of rap, dub and eastern-tinged dancehall. They’re also highly political, having formed two decades ago when Britpop was prostating itself at the feet of Cool Britannia. With a bassist in a Crass tee, and searing guitar that recalls Cabaret Voltaire, they dip into their work on live soundtrack music, including a selection from George Lucas’ ‘THX 1138’. But in all it’s great big bassy beats that win over the sun-drenched crowd, with a message that hopefully doesn’t go over their heads.

The Whistleblower tent has not had its troubles to seek – run by Chay Woodman, even his experience at the Wickerman festival’s Solus stage can’t save the running order which has been somewhat knocked out of kilter due to the heavy rain flooding the arena during the night. You’d imagine a sellout crowd would be something of a boon, but Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 have outgrown their roots it seems. Consensus from the locked-out punters is that their sound has smoothed out a little – a little more polished, but the after-set opinion is that they are as much fun as ever. Point of interest: the last time I saw a tent with punters 20 deep outside pointlessly trying to catch a glimpse of a an upcoming band inside was T in the Park in 2002. The band that day? Coldplay.

bmx band

If it wasn’t for Col. Mustard on the bill, you might describe BMX Bandits as the ideal festival band. Not due to an audience out of their nuts on warm cider navigating a sea of mud to see their heroes, no. Instead, Duglas and co are pure, unadulterated fun, with a warmth that extends across the natural ampitheatre that surrounds the Jabberwocky stage. Nowadays, of course, they’re less the shambling C86-ers and more the elder statesmen of pop, writing tunes that stand up beside Olivia Newton John’s ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ (yes, they did it, and yes, without (much) irony). Of course, this can’t compare to closing ‘E102’ which has even their new friends singing along with gusto.

The Skids offer what can only be described as a weird set. Ok, it could be described as a barnstorming hour of punk invective, with Richard Jobson encouraging the crowd to chant “Boris is a wanker”. It seems – as the singer remarks more than once – that every song in their set, although most are drawn from the early 80s, is for these times. ‘Working For The Yankee Dollar’ would be a particularly hard one to argue against. With such a back catalogue, ‘The Saints Are Coming’ – a chart-topper in its Green Day / U2 charity form – is wheeled out early doors, while ‘Woman in Winter’, still an underrated classic, sees the singer enlist the crowd for choir duties, while for ‘Circus Games’ Jobbo bounces around like the proverbial Duracell bunny. ‘Scared To Dance’ is played as an eulogy to Stuart Adamson, who wrote lyrics for that one as well as the tune. Bruce Watson is merely playing the late guitarist’s parts, but he shows his technical excellence in reproducing the work of his former Big Country bandmate.

skids jobbo

Then things get a bit odd – Jobson gets into a spat with someone who interrupts his Top of the Pops / Jimmy Savile anecdote, and then another crowd member asks for, presumably, a track from ‘Joy’ and is berated for choosing one of their worst tracks from their back catalogue. “That wasn’t really the Skids” Jobson points out and is met with a (fairly good-natured) “aye, you and your mates,” from one of his current bandmates. Instead, we’re treated to a proper classic, ‘TV Stars’ – Boris J gets it in the neck again (if only) in the roll call for an audience who’d take Albert Tatlock as PM chant along.

Weirdly a trio of truncated punk classics is completed by ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘What Do I Get’ dedicated to Pete Shelley, before a mini stage invader appears and roadies attempt to change a broken bass drum. It may be that ‘Into The Valley is an encore – things have by this point become a rather glorious blur.

To see Bell Lungs we have to for the first time venture over a sea of mud and across an access road – according to Gav out of Raza it’s as far away as you can get without actually leaving the festival. There’s two tents here, the Bandersnatch (!) is actually an open-air gazebo-cum-bandstand, where Bell Lungs – nominally a one-woman band, she’s joined today on atmospheric guitar by Oscar Leyens, as Ms Lungs builds delicate soundscapes and loops, only to bring these crashing down with some concerted Lene Lovich-style screaming.

peter cat

Peter Cat is a recent arrival on the scene – having home-recorded his current album ‘Plays Well With Others’ it’s actually just him, largely, with electronic backing but still making an catchy artschool noise in the vein of Franz or anyone else from the GSA Class of 2004. He’s joined on guitar by ‘Shards of Glass’, which may not be his real name – he’s perhaps dubbed this due to a previous “incident”. Anyway, this fleshes out the sound which suggests the new album will be well worth a listen.

Back at the bandstand, You Tell Me finally get going, and are well worth the wait – Field Music’s Peter Brewiss and Sarah Hayes out of Admiral Fallow’s current collaboration having resulted in a fine album last year and which brings some genuinely lovely interplay between the two, their voices a perfect match. There’s even a cover of Kate Bush’s ‘And Dream of Sheep’ at the tail end of the set, which works perfectly.

Steve Ignorant also graces the Bandersnatch stage with his considerable presence around Saturday teatime. The Crass mainman, a veteran of the punk era, gives an impassioned performance with his acoustic guitar player and pianist. There’s a couple of Crass songs (‘Do They Owe Us A Living’ and ‘Banned From The Roxy’) but the majority of the songs come from his ‘Slice of Life’ project and very good they are too. This guy still has an immense amount of fire in his belly and it’s a true privilege to witness him in such intimate circumstances. His voice and general nous are very much of the moment, no heritage act is Steve and BM would recommend his next foray into wherever you are, readers… (BM)

john grant

Knowing your audience – or knowing someone else’s – is the trick every festival act needs. Happily, John Grant’s latest album ‘Love Is Magic’ covers all bases – full of hi-NRG stompers, it’s largely gone down well with his fanbase who are perhaps more used to his intensely-crooned ballads. So a throbbing ‘Mothers Hips’ gets the party moving alongside ‘Preppy Boy’s in-your-face groove. Grant apologises to the many kids present (pointing out that they will eventually feel the same angst that he does) before a monumental ‘GMF’. ‘Queen of Denmark’ seems to end the set with an apocalyptic noise breakdown with Grant playing synths using a couple of Godzilla action figures, before disco banger ‘Metamorphosis’ – driven, as it turns out, by a factory-fresh Budgie on drums – almost gets the party started all over again.

sister sledge 3 sisters

Following the popularity of the glitter-infused stomp of Jabberwocky predecessor John Grant, Sister Sledge prove that again the bookers of Scotland’s best festival know their audience. With night gathering, the excitable and well-fuelled crowd are ready for a boogie, and the Philly disco legends are just the act to provide it. Again, the track list is something of a blur – ‘Thinking Of You’ certainly makes an early appearance, but it seems like ‘Lost In Music’ possibly envelops the entire set, with endless reprises, as the family act – who are down to just original sisters Debbie and Kim but with an endless supply of daughters and nephews joining the clan onstage. The megamix continues as the band appropriate, Nile Rogers-style, various vaguely-related tunes – ‘Good Times with a bekilted bassist taking on the Bernie Edwards role, leads into ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and almost becomes ‘White Lines’ at some point. There’s even a take on the Isley’s ’Shout’ before another nephew takes on a Jacksons tune and we’re, finally, ‘Lost In Music’ once again.

Doune the Rabbit Hole, Saturday

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