aaamusic | On 22, Jun 2011
I’m always really exited when I’m travelling to festivals, and this year I had a whole 12 HOURS of excitement as we drove all the way to magical Loch Ness, full of charm and history and ONE HELL OF A FESTIVAL!!! – the gates to fun time are open, the batteries are charged and Rockness 2011 is about to go live.
This is my first visit to Rockness and from the instant vibe, I’m convinced this is going to be an awesome weekend – is it too early to say this is the best festival of the summer?, soon find out.
The site is well laid out with ‘no queue’ access from main roads to the festival parking and camping areas, and only a short walk from tent city to the arena, and the view is outstanding…. with the main stage right in the foreground of the Loch which disappears into the horizon (remembering ladies and gents that the main stage is no more than 400m from the start of the Loch!!!)
There are already a good number of punters set up and starting to party when we roll in at around midday on Friday, and we find out pitch and set up with no issues – i.e. no rain, no wind, pure blue over head and around 18degs. Although I’m well accustomed to the changeable weather conditions, but for the time being this is unbeatable and the 500 mile drive seems a small price to pay.
Once set up we head over to the main arena which is all ready to rock an roll, but the first bands are yet to burst forth, so to make the most of the sunshine we take a slow cruise around the stalls, bars and munchy places and settle down with some piping hot mac’n’cheese and a frosty beer. It has to be said, that the majority of mid size Scottish music festivals not only have great bands, great locations and great crowds but feature some of the best food you could hope to hang a fang on, and listen up Britain, cos Rockness has all of it, all nicely wrapped up in a family sized basket, nestled in the Highlands.
Around 3(ish) the main stage thumps into life and the masses ebb forward to greet the official festival kick off, we also get down front, but before we can photograph the band – we are accosted by groups of punters wanting their photo taken, and although I am happy to grab as many ‘half-cut shots’ as possible, there are a lot of requests and I have to break ranks and hustle my ass to the pits to grab a hand full of shots before my 3 song limit is reached. Achieved.
It seems as though all the stages and tents came to life at the same time, and after 30 mins or so a lot of the crowd were finding their feet and heading to see what was going on in the other venues, I head to the Jagermiester stage and stay for while soaking up the rock vibe which is quiet intense and reverberates so much my ribs tingle (nice). I see a large movement towards the big top tent and follow suit, just in time to see all fresh and bouncy Katy B burst forth and deliver a slice of pop to all the guys an gals. By now its mid afternoon and the atmosphere is really getting going.
The main arena although not needing any further attractions, plays host to a bungee cage thingy (with an ever so pleasant voice over repeating the same garbage over and over and over – actually the same for the entire weekend- nuff said), and a proper chariots of the gods Big Wheel, and as the name suggest – yes it certainly was sizable and a sheer pleasure to watch. A stones throw from said wheel we have the VIP area with tent, mushroom style seats, a big wicker horse (which most just had to sit on – and get promptly shouted at by security). It has to be said, I take my hat of to you – Mr. & Miss Rockness organizers for sorting out a seriously good VIP bit. The Dj’s, the acts, the party all fantastic, especially Sat – if you were their you would know – but next year folks, go that extra mile and get a VIP ticket.
Our headliner for Friday, is no other than the mighty, mighty Kasabian, and what a reception they did receive – everyone showed up as the band ripped into song and the crowd went slightly mental. The set is a good 90mins of power chords and well known anthems and I’m sure the locals loved every second – you lucky things, you.
Its rains a little on and off over the weekend, but nothing compared to the torrential blitz experienced at some other nameless festivals – so I guess we were lucky, but regardless I’m positive it would take a lot more than a bit of rain to put the brakes on this party, which started ever right’er on Saturday. I head forth to the main stage and have my ears accosted by Japanese Popstars happy bass and electronic combo – them boys sure do a mean tune, and do some mental jumping thing with hands and stuff. A bit trippy for first thing Saturday, but good to blow the cobwebs away from the previous evening. Throughout the day I catch Zane Lowe & Anne Mac bustin’ it on the decks. with a bit of Frightened Rabbit and Sons & Daughters for good mix. Everybody is waiting for this evenings headliners, oldy-foldy’s The Chemical Brothers. Yes, we all grew up with Tom & Ed and need a good bounce to get us going for Saturday night – and in anticipation we all group together in the pits to get some good photos…… but someone had other ideas, cos from where I (and a few unfortunate others) were standing all we could see was a bank of dry ice holding fast and covering everything. We were all very upset and had to grab a beer and bitch about it for a while.
Nevertheless, Sunday is here and we manage to get a table at the local pub (a short walk from the site) and are treated to a fine fry up – well done those men.
For my money, Sunday promises the best day, musically that is and I’m looking forward to it with gusto and beero. I hear the crackle of amps and guitars and seconds later (a band I hold in high regard) The Twightlight Sad, grace the stage, with as much excitement as a worn out horse in a glue factory. But this is how it is, and their set is amazing, but I’m really surprised at the 40 or so people who turned up to watch them – where are the masses??? this is one of Scotland’s finest bands getting the stage they deserve. I hope they weren’t too dismayed. But there seems to be a theme, as the crowd has buggered off just as The Boxer Rebellion get started. Another great band, minus punters – still their set was awesome and I’m loving Sunday to bits.
Rattling on, I’m back again for my old favs We Are Scientists (first seen in a cow shed in deepest Oxford), and now giving in Blast, with some blindin’ riffs and funky pieces. Leading us into Glasvegas (first seen in a small pub with about 20 people….. the point is these bands came from slim and are now going girthy), the vibe is mellowed, but the emotion is felt as the working class preachers break the hearts of those in the crowd with stories of loss, pain and hardship in that sincere 50’s style that stands them out from all other bands and genres.
I’m torn between main stage and tent as we near the end of Sunday and the last headline act – so, is it Paulo or Boys Noise and Simian Mobile Disco…… well, I must admit, dance won. And won in style, I’m not big into dance by any stretch but when it comes to a full on party with electro dance/ DJ then its a simple choice to make, and one that is always sure to live up to the hype.
No sooner has the night got into swing then the rain sets in as the crowd steps out and heads for their moist nylon igloo’s. I follow suit and get toasty, knowing full well what’s ahead. Morning comes all too quick (with more rain), and I pack up with a little bit of sadness in my heart, as it will be 1 more year before I can get back to this amazing place.
Go. Everyone should get to Rockness 2012 – it is an exception.
Thanks to Rosie and the team for arranging my stay – I loved every minute, and hope to be back next year.
Author & Photos: Dave Livingstone