Opening day of Hydro Connect

The road and the miles to Connect lead the uninitiated on a journey through some of Scotland’s deepest woodland, past some of the most naturally beautiful scenery the land of haggis and porridge has to offer.

Where most festivals have you peering at your favourite band past 70,000 drunken wastrels, Connect seems to use the landscape as a subtle undercurrent to proceedings. The hills are alive, it seems, with the sound of some cutting edge music.

After a two mile traipse through a muddy pathway the Viet Cong would love to get their hands on, it was time for the music. On record, The Whip make diverting electro-rock, another Manchester band to fulfil the legacy of New Order. Live, however, they take on a whole new form with their music sounding visceral, fluid and above all danceable. They can turn the Hacienda into luxury flats it seems, but they can’t take that Acid House boogie out of Manchester.

A browse around the festival site reveals it to be full of hidden surprises. Small enough to get between stages without any need for marathon sprints, Connect crams a huge array of attractions into this small space. Even the food stalls are an attraction in themselves, boasting Caribbean, Chinese and Mexican flavours. No late night visits to the toilet after a dodgy kebab here, then.

Ladytron brought some icy charm to the Guitars And Other Machines stage, their antique synths pouring out some filthy electro. With little audience interaction the band relied on their songs to do the talking – just as well they’ve a damn good conversations worth, then.

Optimo curated the Unknown pleasures tent on Day One, and provided a typically eccentric bill. Exiled Fifers Findo Gask impressed with a set of assured art pop, before Crystal Castles took to the stage amid hushed rumour, chaotic noise and more dry ice than the Antarctic. With a stunning light show and songs that resemble a Commodore 64 being put in the microwave, this was one of the weekend’s top sets.

On the main stage Manic Street Preachers proved their worth with a set that drew on an acclaimed back catalogue. Finishing on an epic version of “A Design For Life”, the band lived up to their boast of finally enjoying festivals. Nicky Wire even looked pleased to be here, a mere decade after his demand for Glastonbury to be paved over.

Kasabian may be lippier than a post-op Leslie Ash, but nothing shouts ‘festival anthem’ quite like “Empire”. With Tom Meighan in full on ‘messiah of rock’ mode, the band were not to be messed with, providing a hit-laden set finishing with “Club Foot” to send the campers home happy. That is, if they didn’t indulge in some late night thrills with the Optimo crew…
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