RockNess 2009 @ Dores, 12-13 June

Being introduced to <b>RockNess</b> 2009 with the sight of Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne ‘sphering’ around the audience with the glorious backdrop of Loch Ness framing the main stage majestically was certainly one of the more auspicious beginnings possible to a festival. In selecting their weekend acts, the organisers did veer towards leaning on the tried and tested, but that’s not to say there weren’t some interesting newcomers on display hoping to make a good impression.

Feature by Nicol J. Craig | 24 Jun 2009


It’s only seven o’clock on Friday evening of RockNess, so it’s obviously far too early to start dishing out the award for “Best Set Of The Weekend”, but good lord, The Revenge is throwing down his entry right now. The sun beats down on the open top, terrace style stage and the crowd goes wild for an amazing disco and house set. Astonishingly good. [cd]

Lars Sandberg, otherwise known as Funk D’Void, left Scotland for Spain some while ago. He looks delighted to be back, grinning from ear to ear for most of his set. The Slam controlled Bollywood tent swells to near capacity as Lars allows the volume to rise, fiercely competing with the strong basslines coming from the stage next door. Ferocious techno expertly mixed, little wonder Soma are still going so strong. [cd]

Headlining a somewhat scaled-down opening night are Oklahoma's finest, The Flaming Lips. Confetti spews out, signalling the band's arrival, and from here on in, it just gets bigger, better and weirder. From Wayne Coyne's introductory crowd surf inside a giant inflatable ball, to the cast of dancing teletubbies and countless streamers, this is a visually spectacular way to kick off the weekends proceedings. The momentum is kept fairly solid throughout until the encore rendition of Do You Realize? really blows the figurative roof off the place bringing the show in all its excessive glory, to a brilliant close. [rd]


As the campsite gradually recovers from it's inevitably drunken stupor, there is a considerably smaller contingent present in the main arena by early saturday afternoon. Though only small pockets of the crowd make it to the Go North Stage by this point, Glasgow trio, Hey Enemy don't really seem to care. A blistering set soon ensues, riddled with noise and digireedos and guitarist Chris Cusack making the most of the space in the tent by hopping the barrier and going for a wander. The more punctual audience members here are rewarded with this unusual but all the more entertaining performance. [rd]
Embodying the spirit of New Oleans, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band bring provide a funky soundtrack to the debauched dancing of a packed out Soco Social. The volume in these tight surroundings is simply pounding, amplifying the energy and sheer musical talent of these six southern gentlemen. Featuring perhaps some of the oldest participants over the whole festival, their collective energy and grinning demeanour simply exudes good vibes, and with the drink flowing like water and nearly everyone partaking in the gimmicks of masks, whistles and glow-sticks, this is a party all round. [rd]
Blood Red Shoes can be forgiven for not being entirely enthused by the major lack of attendance this evening in the Fat Sam's tent. However, the gradual trickling masses that do decide to check out the brighton-based two piece aren't exactly treated to anything spectacular. Though drummer Steven seems intent on beating the living shit out his skins, guitarist Laura-mary seems like she couldn't be anywhere worse, staring at her shoes for the majority of the set. The upside however is that the band sound flawless, so fingers crossed this is just an off day. [rd]
Though drummer Grant Hutchison is absent due to illness, the burgeoning Fat Sam's crowd are no less rowdy, singing damn near every word back to the Selkirk/Glasgow-based four-piece. Frightened Rabbit deliver a solid set with singer Scott dancing and screaming himself hoarse, grinning from ear to ear at the highland response. By the end of the set, the tent is rammed to the hilt, allowing the soaring closing sing-along of Keep Yourself Warm new meaning as the sweaty mass prepare to brace the unexpected downpour outside. Main stage next year anyone? [rd]
London MC Dizzee Rascal has seen his popularity and success soar exponentially, and most recent single Bonkers has been nothing short of a monster hit. Every tent, every stage, car and radio -pretty much any outlet with musical facilities can be heard blasting this song full-blast over the course of the weekend, so when it's finally heard fronted by 'the country's number one MC' himself, some people may struggle to see the excitement, or so you would think. But, in reality it tears the main stage apart with it's dirty bass-line spearheading a confident and almost implausibly danceable set. [rd]

The Mario theme tune, Tetris, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air...DJ Yoda's turntable wizardry is focused on family-friendly fun. As the bagpipes of the Scottish National Anthem kick in, you know you're dealing with an experienced festival DJ, tapping into that rich source of guaranteed crowd-pleasing: unbridled, unashamed patriotism. There's some expertly mixed classic hip-hop in there, but nothing manages to beat the opening remix of the Family Ness theme tune.  [RosieD]

For anyone familiar with their super bouncy electro-house remixes, today Italian duo Crookers were out to get serious. Following Annie Mac's electro heavy crowd pleasers and DJ Yoda's cut and paste frolics, the crowd had to work hard for their hits. Remixes of dubstep gems like Proxy's Raven and Blaqstarr's Get Off, teased out between heavy bass and pounding Baltimore rhythms, were a more than satisfactory reward.  [RosieD]

Unfortunately, Liverpudlian synth-pop setup Wave Machines will have to wait for a further opportunity to do just that. In theory, they should have been an ideal mid-afternoon banker to get the party started on a sunny afternoon, but that was part of the problem, it was quite sunny, and catching rays, and not waves seemed the priority. Frontman Tim Bruzon and cohorts made a valiant effort to create an atmosphere, with seemingly every track building to a squalling, syncopated and ridiculously falsettoed crescendo, which works on tracks such as I Go I Go I Go and Carry Me Back To My Home, but not on much else. [pm]

Newcastle’s Detroit Social Club boast an eminently likeable frontman in David Burn, who gets the crowd laughing when he bounds on stage and asks us to ‘put your hands up if you’re on drugs’. Some comply, the rest look too fucked to do so. The band clearly draw their influences from cohorts Oasis, Primal Scream, Stone Roses and Kasabian, but the end result is really something of a cut and paste of the aforementioned and is generally a little bland (Sunshine People being a prime offender). [pm]

It proves to be an unfortunate night for Alex Metric, new star of Adam Freeland’s Marine Parade label. Not only does his set clash with Dizzee Rascal, Orbital and Bassment Jaxx; the power in the Soco Social dies half an hour into his set. Luckily he seems in good spirits and comes to the front to talk to some loyalists. A ten-minute interruption should have provided enough of a breather but Metric absolutely exhausts his audience with a concoction of his back catalogue of electro breaks. One word should suffice, filthy. [nc]

The cosy Go North tent proved to be the most intriguing place to hear fresh new Scottish music, and French Wives certainly fit that category. That said, it can be a little difficult to dispel the notion that this Glaswegian five-piece are going to strike up a version of Arcade Fire’s Wake Up at any moment. Still, after a slightly hesitant start, the quintet hit their rhythm building to a fantastically energetic version of pop gem Me vs. Me. [pm]

If you've seen Orbital before, nothing much has changed. This isn't a bad thing. When Heaven Is A Place On Earth seeped in, a classic Orbital festival trick, the crowd hit breaking point as it blended with the trippy vocals of Halycon. Satan is as threatening as ever, Belfast as epic as it always was and Chime, as an orange sunrise silhouetted the brothers, took you back to your first rave.  [RosieD]

French hip-hop gets blended with the well-known Ed Banger hits as DJ Mehdi takes control of the turntables for the penultimate slot of the evening. Mud splattered shiny leggings rush to the front as the records that have sound tracked the past summers get re-rinsed yet again.  Nothing ground-breaking in the track selection and the mixing needs improvement but it delivers exactly what the crowd expects and wants. [cd]

What begins as a ruckus set from Ed Banger Records owner, Busy P, ends with the stage being invaded by Annie Mac, DJ Mehdi and Krazy Baldhead, as all four battle for control of the decks. Opening with Vampire Weekend the tent transforms into a single-minded bouncing organism, hollering and whooping at the arrival of each track. The inevitable chant begins, as the masses demand one more tune before the lights go out. [cd]

Generally, the Super Furry Animals would get a four star review just for turning up. In truth however, on this occasion, they seemed more than a little exhausted from recent globetrotting efforts. The decision to play latest release Dark Days / Light Years in it’s entirety saw a sizeable proportion of the crowd slink elsewhere during the set. This is a shame, as that album is a worthy addition to the Welsh legends’ impressive canon and album closer Pric, as performed live, was one of the most exhilarating psychedelic epics I have ever seen performed live. The mandatory crowd pleasing closing set was quite truncated, and the impeccable Slow Life aside, it just seemed like the Furries needed their beds. [pm]


That goNorth tent was bristling first thing Sunday morning with a boisterous and lairy crowd, many of whom were obviously still continuing from the night before. The appearance of The Ray Summers band on stage fuelled the level of revelry, with hyperkinetic frontman Andy Ure encouraging a high-octane bop-along from the get-go. Needless to say, within twenty minutes, he had danced everyone into submission. The Ray Summers channel everyone from Ram Jam, via the Specials, the Small Faces and latterly, even the Coral. Distinctly retro, but extremely good fun. [pm]

The 1.30pm Sunday slot is never any DJ's favourite. But despite having the kind of neon electro-clash sound that suits an evening slot, Kissy Sell Out is weighed down by the Radio One DJ tag, especially up against heavyweights like Orbital and Erol Alkan. The result? Prime time dance hits of festivals past. Belting out The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers, perhaps understandably, he lacks the usual up-all-night attitude which marks his live sets.  [RosieD]

It must have been a beezer of a day for Boom Monk Ben. After playing the one o’clock slot at the Bollywood tent to only a handful of people - Zane Lowe decided he was too ill to handle RockNess - Ben stepped in playing to an almost capacity Sunday Best tent. The Glasgow favourite shied away from his usual eclectic mixing style preferring to keep the beat up-tempo; big bass was on the menu and the mass responded with conviction. [nc]

Ayrshire quartet Trapped In Kansas highlight an early-afternoon spell of sunshine with their intricate guitar-play and shimmering harmonies. Taking time to build on delicate atmospheres, the band have grown in confidence since their inception and now boast a super-tight rhythm section and have expanded on their sound, occasionally treading harder territory. This goes a treat for the most part, but again, the early start unfortunately hinders any chance of a bloated attendance. [rd]
Since winning the Orange Unsigned competition, Tommy Reilly has evaded subsequent reality show obscurity and is fast establishing himself as somewhat of a scottish golden boy. The crowd is fairly rammed considering the mid-afternoon slot, and the chants of 'Tommy, Tommy, Tommy Fuckin' Reilly' more than solidify his place in the hearts of today's attendees. Though not the most exciting performance by any means, Mr. Reilly can't stop smiling in disbelief and proceeds to deliver a confident and fairly solid set. This will undoubtedly not be the last we hear of him this year. [rd]

Already placed on the dangerous pedestal of 'the Scottish Nirvana', St Deluxe now have an unnecessary mountain to climb to exceed or even reach these expectations. In actual fact the band sound a bit more like poppier Sonic Youth and harbour an interesting and exciting energy that deserves to be seen by so much more than the 20 or so people trying to secure their position in the pit for Biffy. [rd]

Billed as co-headliners, the immensely popular trio - particularly here in the highlands, a territory they claimed many years ago - are responsible for one of the biggest crowds of the whole weekend. Biffy Clyro relish the opportunity to assert their position as guitar-rock heavyweights, the band are collectively on fire this evening, coaxing monster sing-alongs spanning their mostly Puzzle-era set. New song That Golden Rule, boasting a frankly monstrous riff, tantalises the sprawling crowd, arousing interests to what might come next with the band's upcoming album. This could easily be a fitting end in itself, but alas, there's more to come. [rd]

No doubt these guys work hard. Making the trip up to the loch to spin a set before packing up and racing down the A9 to do it all over again in the Subby at eleven. Optimo’ll do themselves a mischief one day. JG Wilkes begins, expertly mixing the records that they’ve made famous over the years before JD Twitch takes over, incorporating Ableton into a performance that creates more excitement than ay other day time slot over the weekend. Far too much fun for a Sunday afternoon. [cd]

Those white suits must be familiar to most of us by now. Appearing as Soulwax for the first time at RockNess, their electro-pop hits - and they are 'hits' - such as E Talking and NY Excuse are as enjoyable as they ever were, but covers of Robot Rock and Phantom Part II are so reminiscent of a wedding covers band, you can't help wondering if that's where they'll be in 10 years' time. [RosieD]

With a sea of E.R.O.L t-shirts before him, Erol Alkan stands atop his decks, hands covering his ears, as a mind-twisting electro tune shrieks to its climax. A moment of silence before the drop confirms it; the superstar DJ legacy is not dead. As if to cement it, Alkan offered a serious set of atmospheric, haunting, punishing electro, only finally letting up with an epic Blue Monday mash-up to finish.  [RosieD]

Placebo’s Brian Molko pretty much opened his set with ‘Some fucking twat has just thrown a pair of scissors at me. My safety cannot be guaranteed’. Well, if a gig is to be cut short, that’s one hell of a metaphorically apt way to get it done. In fairness, the chorus of booing that rang out as the band filed out was surely reserved for the moronic offender. So, the interval came quite early, but 5 minutes later he was back, and to his credit, delivered a very solid set, albeit minus obvious hits such as Pure Morning, Taste in Men and the Bitter End. [pm]

So we’ve reached the finish line, and behold, a challenger enters. After a heavenly performance from The Revenge on Friday, the boys of LCD Soundsystem lay out their finest disco rarities. Playing to a sinfully small crowd (The Prodigy are about to go on) the pair unleash a fantastic set that has even the biggest wallflowers breaking out moves like it ain’t no thing. As their set continues until every other stage is empty, the tent finally fills up and the rest of Rockness realise what they were missing. [cd]

This is the one seemingly everyone that isn't a fan of Placebo has been waiting for. From the moment The Prodigy cut loose, the intense light show provides the perfect backdrop for a fired-up double-barrelled performance from Keith Flint and Maxim - though slightly hoarse after download, when he belts out his love for his 'Scottish Warriors' the words don't quite harbour the same intensity but no one seems to care. Unleashing more or less a greatest hits set, obviously riddled with cuts from Invaders Must Die, the abrupt end doesn't kill the blistering energy that will no doubt resonate far into the week ahead. [rd]