After last years successful one-day ‘taster’ with Fat Boy Slim – Rockness this year opened its stride by doubling the days, doubling the capacity and expanding its range of music on offer to please both festival rocker and festival raver.
Clash were proudly brought on board to host the second stage – a tent which was to play home to headliners Groove Armada and Daft Punk on the Saturday and Sunday respectively, both days culminating in huge queues at the side of the heaving 10k capacity arena as kids clambered to see their headline heroes.
Several festival sites lay claim to possessing the most beautiful locations – The Secret Garden, Skye, Oban and Dunstaffage, and of course the ley-lined stone circled Glastonbury greenfelds – but Rockness, especially on a day as cloud free and ideally tempered as last Saturday, would give any of these a run for their money as its valley gently lopes towards the lapping edges of Loch Ness with all its promise of myth and monster.
The line up itself wasn’t short of monsters (or relentless punning onstage by banterful bands) and one couldn’t help presume that the Automatic were drafted in for their one ‘Monster’ song alone after last year’s coup-de-grace from Norman Cook as he dropped their anthem into his bottomless mix. Whether such depths would yield any other elusive beasts of euphoria this year remained the stuff of delightful speculation, with most of the smart money being on the Clash tent’s anthemic gallic climax on Sunday night.
Saturday was borne straight into four to the floor sunshine and the largely Scottish crowd wasted little time in soaking it up, and the loch side view, and all manner of free flowing festival treats. The Clash stage opened up with the pounding Freeform Five and the crowds were in full effect and up for immediate carnage as they bounced to every track. As the afternoon progressed sets by the XX Teens, Elektrons, DJ Yoda and Caged Baby pushed the sweaty tent to capacity before Groove Armada caused somewhat of a kerfuffle as fans found themselves embargoed by the fuzz as demand outstripped dancing space all through their gleefully received set.
On the open and long grassed hill which sloped perfectly down to the main stage, Saturday afternoon’s flailers were treated to a much more diverse programme than the inaugural year of dance. The perfectly billed Kelis rubbed shoulders with the Charlatans, whilst The Cuban Brothers hilarious antics was a perfect light-hearted remedy for clouded minds and sun baked bodies.
The highlight of the Saturday was always going to be the Chemical Brothers, and they certainly turned up. Fans who were expecting hit after hit would have been disappointed, but revellers after a more underground mix up as Tom and Ed threw in samples and bastardised mash-ups to bridge their chart moments, lapped up the amazing performance and equally impressive light show rapturously.
The second day started much slower with slightly less characters populating the shores of the Loch. One desirable festival suspect noticeably absent was the sun, which obviously chose to stay in his tent all day meaning the once dripping hill was slightly less body-strewn as the Draytones doled out their indie anthems and Pull Tiger Tail did their best to fire up a growing crowd with a multitude of Tiger masks.
Evening on the main stage constituted of The Feeling, The Automatic and The Manic Street Preachers, with the Clash stage purveying Soulwax and Daft Punk, and thus the site was cleaved into dance versus rock.
Unfortunately for those wanting to see Daft Punk – the queues started four hours ahead of their set with the equally tempting Mark Ronson and Soulwax live sets only compounding the popularity. Thankfully the sides of the tent were eventually rolled up so that many more could enjoy.
The French electro heroes did make their crowd wait, but when they did appear you knew it would be worth the delay. Immediately launching into a thunderous version of Robot Rock, they effortlessly sailed through re-edits and live versions of all their classics, One More Time, Da Funk, Around The World all being received particularly evangelically. Their sound was interesting throughout, the light show was again integral to the show, and the crowd absolutely loved it, as the masters of dance music once again proved that when it comes to rocking a festival tent, dance music is very much alive and kicking. In fact they knocked the spots off the Manics, who came out of their massive double backstage VIP tipi to deliver a strong set, but one lacking the euphoric atmosphere and the hair raising punch of the Clash Arena’s finale.
An awesome weekend, where summer truly arrived upon our loch side shores.