Rock Ness brings together the biggest dance heavyweights but it's the Strokes that steal the show in Scotland, writes Rhian Daly.
Overall - 8/10
Around these parts, the attention might normally be on what’s lurking beneath the water that sits serenely behind the main stage but, for one weekend only, that attention’s been diverted. The Nesstival Arena holds something for everyone, from the French band ‘- Oui-France!’ - showcase in the Bollywood tent, to the Toddla T, Hot Chip and Grandmaster Flash curated Rizla Invisible Players area, as well as all the action going on in the other tents and stages.
The festival might be called Rock Ness but, in truth, it’s more dance-orientated with the first two days packed with beats and bleeps from the likes of South Central, Soulwax and the mighty headliners Fatboy Slim and Leftfield. The main stage gets a sonic makeover on the last day, with boys with guitars replacing those behind the decks. Reams of people brave the rain for The Maccabees, and Doves provide the perfect soundtrack for sunset, but it’s the comeback of The Strokes that pulls the biggest crowd, with no inch of grass left visible through the throng of eager fans.
This is a festival that knows how to party and party well. Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig puts it best when he says Rock Ness is the festival to beat this summer and we couldn’t agree more. It’s going to take a lot for anyone to even come close.
Getting There and Back - 5/10
Loch Ness isn’t exactly the most accessible point of the UK, so kudos to Rock Ness for trying to make it that bit easier for all involved. If you’re coming from elsewhere in Scotland shuttle buses direct to the festival are laid on for your convenience (but also at your cost, ranging from £10 return from Inverness city centre to more substantial amounts like near £50 return from Glasgow).
Travelling from outside of Scotland is when it gets trickier and thus more expensive. As with most things, the earlier you book the better deal you get but if you’re looking for a last minute route, the cheapest option is via a National Express coach. It’s also the longest and probably most uncomfortable way too, but at least you’ve not spent extortionate amounts before you’ve even left the house.
Atmosphere - 8/10
Everyone knows the Scottish like a good party, so it’s no surprise to find a great atmosphere no matter who you’re watching - even when the rains are trying their best to dampen spirits. There is a real mix of people at the event, from old school ravers to young teens experiencing their first big festival, which only adds to the colourful and friendly vibe. Away from the festival arena there’s no tension in the campsites with revellers happy to chat to those in the same area or even just those passing on the way to the toilets and food stands. Unlike at some festivals, the last night is one big party with no hint of violence.
Music - 7/10
Heavy on the beats, Rock Ness is the place to get those limbs moving. Aphex Twin plays a blinder (almost literally, with those strobes) whilst both Fatboy Slim and Leftfield prove worthy of their headliner positions. Sunday sees a shift in gear, more true to the festival’s name with local boys Dananananaykroyd and Twin Atlantic both providing big hooks and meaty guitars to get the crowds warmed up for the big guns like Vampire Weekend and The Strokes.
Blondie - 9/10
She might be getting on a bit now but Debbie Harry is still the magnetic front woman she always was. Airing classics like ‘Atomic’ and ‘Call Me’, the legendary first lady of punk works the crowd as only she can, looking effortlessly nonchalant and cool throughout. And most surprisingly, even the new songs that litter the set are far from disappointing.
The Strokes - 9/10
One of their first gigs in four years, our favourite NYC boys are back, looking nearly exactly the same as they did back in 2006 save for some smarter threads and Julian’s new found love for the glam rock look. There’s no sign of any new songs but when the likes of ‘New York City Cops’ and ‘Under Control’ sound this great, there’s not much room for complaints.
The Maccabees - 9/10
Rumour has it The Maccabees only agreed to play the festival if they could play on the same day as The Strokes. We’re glad the organisers agreed as the South Londoners prove to be one of the highlights of the weekend. From the gloriously heartbreaking opener ‘William Powers’ to the very last note of a jaw-achingly jubilant ‘Love You Better’, it’s hard not to imagine these five boys competing with their heroes for headline slots in a couple of albums time.
Aphex Twin - 8/10
Bringing what is the greatest light show of the entire festival, Cornwall’s Aphex Twin spends the entirety of his set in the shadows, focusing all light on the audience. Flipping between electro house and techno, it’s a dream set from the enigmatic DJ, even showing off some new cuts. Even though it’s been a hell of a long time since his last record, he’s still got the good stuff.
Fatboy Slim - 7/10
Entering to ‘Right Here, Right Now’, it doesn’t take long for Norman Cook to get the Scottish crowd whipped up into a frenzy. Nor does his two hour set seem to last longer than five minutes, as he creates the perfect end to a great start to the weekend, raising his arms to the crowd as he cuts all the classics with some fresh remixes.
Hip Parade - 3/10
A young local band they might be, but someone should really tell them a) writing the word ‘hip’ on your guitars makes you anything but, b) saying ‘fuck’ every other word does not make you seem more rock and roll, and c) post-Arctic Monkeys leather-jacket-and-telecaster drudgery isn’t going to make them the stars they so obviously want to be.
Crystal Castles - 4/10
Performance-wise, it’s as riotous as always with officials stepping in after the first song in attempts to calm the crowd down. What’s not so great is Alice Glass’ reaction when said official mentions the need to get an injured person out of the crowd, making no attempts to help the situation - in fact, quite the opposite.
Cuban Brothers - 2/10
“Hey, let’s start a band, put on comedy ‘exotic’ accents and write novelty songs about sex!” Funny for five minutes, painfully tedious after ten. Please, just go away.
Killa Kela - 1/10
Watching a man make noises into a mic (aka beatbox) for an hour is possibly one of the most soul-destroying and mind-numbingly things you could ever do. So don’t.
Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip - 6/10
Le Sac vs Pip are anything but bad, but we’re talking about downers here and playing songs about suicide and murder are hardly going to get you feeling like you’re on top of the world.
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