A round up of the best acts from Rockness

There aren’t many festival venues in the world that can compete with the idyllic surroundings of Rockness.

Add two days of glorious sunshine to the mix and you’d be hard pressed to find much to grumble about, apart from the epic trek from car park to campsite or the clueless stewards, who seemed to rejoice in sending campers hiking across random lush green fields. But at least the toilets were left lemony fresh every hour.

Those minor grumbles aside Rockness tries to be all things to all men, with the promoters unafraid to take on the tough task of negotiating the perilous ground that straddles dance heads and those who prefer to rock! It’s a big ask to keep such a diverse crowd of 35,000 happy, but with the sun beating down Rockness delivered in a major way this year.

Having conquered mountains, ticket allocation and camp sites to get there, the sun was starting to set on Rockness as Belgium brothers David and Stephen Dewaele swapped their role as hosts to perform at the Radio Soulwax Presents Arena. It doesn't happen very often, but it is nice to see hardened clubbers and devoted gig-lovers shaking their butts in agreement. But then few bands spark such universal excitement as Soulwax. One of Europe's most innovative art-rock acts, the siblings are the epitome of Rockness and deliver a razor sharp set before cutting some shapes on the decks - playing as 2ManyDJs. It's 100% accurate to say they are the best things to have come out of Belgium since Tintin and Leffe.

Sandwiched in-between an appreciation of Belgium come Clash Arena headliners The View, who seemed to have half of their hometown in tow, rattling through a raucous set that offered fans a first listen to new material. Seven new songs from their forthcoming album were given a public airing, although much of the capacity crowd appeared to be puzzled by its content. Having been away from the live scene for some time the boys can be forgiven for a bit of rustiness but fans of the diminutive rockers will be pleased to hear new material hasn’t seen them make a major departure from the tried and tested formula of debut ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’.There’s not a concept album coming out of Dundee just yet, with ‘4 Rebeccas’ sounding like a single in waiting.

Exiting The View with weary legs Fatboy Slim was in full flow on the main stage, whipping the dance heads into a heaving frenzy, with his box of records featuring his own hits Praise You and Right Here Right Now. But possibly the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for his version of The Automatic’s Monster, his penultimate tune. The day’s sunshine may have been playing tricks, but many were still waiting for a £100,000 lightshow long after his set ended!

Waking on Sunday morning to sauna like conditions in the sprawling tented village, the main stage offered sun worshippers interesting sets from Red Light Company and Team Water Polo. Interesting in the sense that you couldn’t quite decide if RLC frontman Richard Frenneaux was American, English or American? But their Arcade Fire inspired choruses were quite appealing and they did deliver a rousing rendition of the anthemic ‘With Lights Out.’ Following them were Preston’s Team Water Polo, who startled the sunbathers into life with their opening mix of air raid siren, thrash guitar, scratching and white-boy rap. Despite suffering a dose of schizophrenia for the first few songs they showed flashes of melodic brilliance to suggest an early arrival for their support slot with Black Kids next month.

CSS took to a balloon infested stage armed with songs from the eagerly anticipated follow-up album, ‘Donkey’. It’s more polished than what’s come before, but then so is Lovefoxx’s grasp of English and songs like ‘Reggae All Night’ and ‘Rat Is Dead’ prove to be floorfillers in the same way as ‘Alala’ and ‘Off The Hook’.

With the sun starting to disappear over Loch Ness the Clash Arena reached boiling point as Underworld rounded off the weekend, having been together in various guises for over 25 years, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have been at Underworld’s helm for longer than many of the crowd have been born. Many were there to hear only one song and the sunburn radiating off many was hotter than the initial reaction to Karl and Rick’s distinct brand of electronica. Fortunately, Karl Hyde’s maniacal stage persona - phenomenal for man of 51 – is contagious, whipping the crowd into frenzy before an epic version of ‘Born Slippy’ sends everyone delirious.

It’s a fitting end to Rockness as it continues to gather pace and popularity, its balancing act between dance and rock still intact. It may not be the strongest line-up in this year’s saturated festival market, but in years to come its unique location and desire to be different might be the key to its longevity.
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