Flaming Lips delivered a blissful ending to a perfect first day at RockNess last night. The true highlight had to be an unscheduled appearance - sunshine, backed by bright blue skies that lasted throughout the day.
[r-zone1]Set against undoubtedly the most spectacular backdrop of any festival in the UK (the serene waters of Loch Ness, bordered by its lush Highland valley) the stunning forecast-defying weather added to the upbeat holiday feel, as the masses pitched up to party.
The crowd, most of whom appeared to be in their early twenties sporting at least one dayglo item and wellies, were all clearly here for a single purpose – to have a great time. The majority of the 35,000 were to be found letting their hair down and their freaks out in the various sponsored dance arenas such as the Rizzla area (resembling a Highlands Ibiza complete with palm trees) and SoCo Lounge.
"T in the Park is over", one festival-goer told us, "RockNess is where it's at. People just want to come and have a good time."
[l-zone2]Those that ventured down to the main stage were first met by local heroes The Aliens who amplified the celebratory mood with a hypnotic, psychedelic dub rock explosion reminiscent of Kasabian and The Stone Roses. They dropped a direct tribute to Primal Scream with an apt few bars of the intro to Higher Than The Sun.
[r-zone3]The largest cheer of the day so far greeted Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyle as he strode on-stage shortly afterwards and proceeded to get hands-on, helping his bright orange construction-worker-suited roadies to build their elaborate set for the next half hour.
The resulting performance was typically dazzling from the outset when Coyle sailed out over the sea of fans in his inflatable ball. The band were flanked at either side by an army of dancing Teletubbies, waving flashlights. Tinky Winky, La La, Po and Dipsy were all represented, several times over. Later, they were accompanied by a giant glow-worm and sun character. The performance was a kaleidascopic myriad of colours – "a two year old's birthday party on acid", as one of our friends described it.
"I can see some animals in the crowd tonight", beamed the singer, pointing to some fans who had dressed up for the occasion, "If we all sing together, we may get some animals up on-stage". Moments later a large furry big-foot character stomped out and put Coyle up on its shoulders.
"When I was younger, I believed in UFO's and the Loch Ness Monster", Coyne confided, "But as I got older and these hoaxes were exposed, I grew to have doubts. But then last night when we arrived in-town we asked some people if they thought he was real and they looked at us like we were mad. 'Of course he's fucking real!' they told us. So tonight we're all going to go running out into the lake and make our own monster if we have to!"
The singer also incited a mass singalong of Happy Birthday for keyboardist/ guitarist Stephen Drozd, in honour of his fortieth the day before. Highlights of the two hour set included favourites Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, She Don't Use Jelly, a cover of Madonna's Borderline and spectacular encore Do You Realise.
As the sun finally set, just before midnight, the jubilent crowds set their minds once again to the serious business of having it in the 'Nesstival' Village until the small hours.
Around 10am this morning, they heralded their arrival once again with a colossal cheer that roared through the valley (the likes of which hadn't been heard since the Battle of Culloden in 1746) as the Village opened its gates in unison with the sun peeping out from the clouds. Despite a bit of rain in the night, the atmosphere hasn't dampened in the slightest.
Tulips have just opened the main stage, endearing themselves to the crowd immediately by confessing to a "massive hangover". Dizzee Rascal, Alabama 3, Super Furry Animals will perform tonight, with Basement Jaxx headlining. Stay posted for our full report of the action.