Entering its third year, the Rock Ness festival on the banks of Loch Ness boasted Fatboy Slim and Razorlight as headliners. Over 30,000 people turned up to enjoy quite agreeable weather and a mix of indie, dance and electronica.
On Saturday the dance acts took to the main stage with the indie bands in the Clash arena. Kid Harpoon played a solo show that showcases his slightly eccentric music, occasionally tinged with flamenco rhythms. However playing in such a big tent to a small crowd means that the sound can often feel a little too isolated to make a real impact. Nice moustache though.
Meanwhile on the main stage New Yorkers Hercules & Love Affair play to a respectable crowd for the time of day. There’s no Antony Hegarty today and although Terra Naomi’s vocals aren’t nearly as distinctive, ‘Blind’ still shines through as a solid gold pop song. Mind you, it’s a real shame that there’s nothing that quite as instantly recognisable as a great single as the aforementioned hit.
Former Adam Green support Noah & The Whale impress the Clash arena with their stripped back Arcade Fire-esque indie-folk. They’re unlikely to ever make the main stages like their counterparts; their reasonably unassuming matter means that they’re unlikely to have any real crossover success.
Blah Blah Blah are the complete opposite. Extremely charismatic and energetic yet generic sounding and deathly dull in the end. Many choose to head to the main stage to see Mylo play a DJ set, during which he proves that he is one of Scotlands best dance artists. Dropping the likes of Foals between his own material such as ‘Drop The Pressure’ get the whole crowd dancing and may mean that album number two from the producer may well have been worth the long wait.
Mystery Jets are very much a band of the moment and their move to Rick Astley era synth-pop was very much a surprise move. ‘Two Doors Down’ gets a massive reception and although ‘Young Love’ sounds muddy, a driven ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’ indicates that although their sound may have changed, Blaine Harrison’s songwriting ability is as insistent as ever. Nice Aztec Camera cover too.
Having seen one of the best electronic acts in the country earlier in Mylo, the main stage sees Calvin Harris playing third from top. Where Mylo manages to mix nostalgia and a fairly retro sound with some level of innovation, Harris relies on cliché and cheese. His only palatable effort, ‘Colours’ is as such because it’s the one song where he does not have any real delusions of being an electronica producer but merely that of a throwaway pop writer.
To round the day off veteran DJ Fatboy Slim plays a set to easily the biggest crowd of the day. Where his relevance has taken a nosedive he proves that he can still create a party atmosphere, starting out with the intro to ‘Praise You’, followed by a good hour and three quarters of new material, old material and remixes.
There is definitely something fairly enigmatic about Norman Cook, his stage persona overshadowing the three huge video screens that surround him despite looking something like a wedding DJ these days. Rounding up with a genuinely incredible remix of ‘No Cars Go’ by Arcade Fire and an unremixed rendition of ‘Love Is In The Air’, the crowd are certainly appreciative on a set that, omitting the Arcade Fire remix, has the feelings of Norman Cook by numbers – not that the capacity crowd seems to mind.
Another day of glorious sunshine and another day of music await – this time with the indie music taking to the main stage. Jyrojets are the ones to open the stage overlooked by Loch Ness itself, and they have a slightly larger turnout than expected. They’re musically very tight if nothing groundbreaking, but are unlikely to have any mainstream success – their sound is reminiscent of early Feeder. This may have seen some success, however this has come at a time when Feeder themselves have reportedly gone back to the sound that they started out with.
The brilliant sunshine sees plenty of people taking to the shade inside some of the surrounding tents with DJs, which may explain the minute crowd that Red Light Company played too. Having said that, their run-of-the-mill indie or complete lack of personality may also explain why nobody really stayed around to watch their set.
Another poser – with such a complete lack of depth to their music, why do Does It Offend You, Yeah? enjoy such popularity? Their set in the Skins arena answers the question emphatically, all four members of the band throwing themselves like madmen and playing with absolute passion result in them having one of the most raucous crowds of the weekend, particularly to electro-rock workouts such as ‘We Are Rockstars’ and ‘Let’s Make Out’. Still wouldn’t want to buy any of their records mind you.
‘Attack Decay Sustain Release’ was for my money the best dance album of the past couple of years and the Clash arena for their late-afternoon set is absolutely packed. James Ford is one of the great brains of the scene at the minute and where the likes of ‘It’s The Beat’ and ‘Sleep Deprivation’ are sonically devastatingly good, the light of the day in the open-sided tent does take something away. Perhaps a headlining slot in one of the smaller tents would have been far better suited to them.
Competing with them on the main stage are The Dykeenies, and they show themselves to be an incredibly obnoxious bunch of people. Wittering on about Wiley, trying to get the crowd to chant ‘Dy-keen-ies’ and even sinking to the levels of seemingly trying to persuade someone in the crowd to “get their tits out” mean that they aren’t worth the time of day, even taking out of consideration the new material which somehow sounds even worse than their usual sub-Fratellis/Killers dirge.
On another note, what’s happened to the Cribs? Normally passionate, spiky and angry they are extraordinarily sloppy. ‘Our Bovine Public’ fails to keep its fiery momentum to even halfway through, the band look completely disinterested and ‘Be Safe’ sounds half-baked. Boredom sets in as a result, so CSS in the Clash arena are immediately the more appealing.
Opening with the fantastic ‘Rat Is Dead’, it’s quite difficult to tell if their new album (monikered ‘Donkey’) is taking itself a little too seriously and lacks the playful fun of their self-titled debut. Lovefoxxx is a star as ever but it’s the singles that people are here for, and there’s little to suggest that the album material offers the punch of ‘Alala’ or ‘Off The Hook’.
On the whole, despite the lovely weather and hidden gems of sets in the tents Rock Ness certainly suffered from many of the major acts they booked either phoning in sets or having little to offer in a live festival environment. For every Noah & The Whale or Mylo, there’s a Calvin Harris or Dykeenies to drag the enjoyment down.
Reports are that work has already begun on next years festival, so hopefully more consideration will be taken to ensure that the big acts that draw people out are of a high pedigree. Until then, Rock Ness will always have a slightly disappointing feel to it on the musical side, no matter how many inflatable wedding chapels are added to the arena.