Tuesday 15 June 2010

Go North and Rock Ness 2010

Well I have just about recovered from 5-days of music and fun. From Thursday through to Sunday I was up at GoNorth and Rock Ness and last night I was in Brel for a special show with Miaoux Miaoux and Futuristic Retro Champions. I'll blog separately about the Brel show. So here goes with what I can remember from the weekend….

Thursday 10th June   
Lynn and I left the house around 10.15am for the drive north to Inverness, soundtracked by Blondie, Vampire Weekend and The Strokes. The sun was shining and we arrived in good time to check into the excellent Redcliffe Hotel just before 2pm.

We dumped our stuff and headed into town to pick up our pre-booked bus tickets to Rock Ness for the weekend. Citylinking were providing shuttle buses to and from the site and they proved to be excellent. Lynn decided it was a bit colder than anticipated and went back to the hotel to change while I nipped into the Ramada for a GoNorth session on music management featuring the managers of Primal Scream, Wet Wet Wet (and Texas), Stevie Wonder and The View. It proved to be a very useful session with some entertaining stories involving Mani and Bobby G.

I caught up with Lynn and we then headed to the excellent Castle Tavern to meet Julian (aka Miaoux Miaoux) and his brother Ben who were tucking into some very tasty looking food. We joined them for a beer and then decided to head back into the Town Centre for a 5.30pm meeting outside the Mad Hatters with the Detour team. http://www.myspace.com/detourscotland is a multi-media extravaganza that started late in 2009. It is led by two guys with energy, passion, ideas and a love of music and fun. They run a podcast, kidnap bands and take them to play in strange locations and have progressed from a monthly night in Glasgow to monthly tours taking in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.

For GoNorth they decided to run a magical mystery tour to an Island in the middle of the River Ness, so armed with cans of beer and led by haribo's and the promise of Jaffa Cakes at the destination - as well as a live performance by Bronto Skylift - we set off. Also making the journey was author, journalist, musician and DJ John Robb (Goldblade) who has written the fantastic book 'The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop'. Being a huge Roses fan I took the time to chat to John and he was very friendly and keen to chat. I introduced him to my friend Craig who is currently working on an excellent project in Manchester called Orange Rockcorps where people volunteer their time and are rewarded with amazing gigs and club nights in return. John was very interested in the project and offered to help in whatever way he could - what a nice guy!

The sun was splitting the sky as we waked along the river, crossing a bridge on to a small leafy island. Our hosts led us to a small ampitheatre with Bronto Skylift in the middle with a small dumkit, mic and a couple of amps. After the jaffa cakes appeared and a beer was cracked, Bronto Skylift burst into life with some ferocious tunes, clearly enjoying the setting and the chance to play to some people who had probably never heard of them before - let alone heard their music. Their short sharp 20-minute set wasn't to everyone's liking judging by the lack of interest in the cd's they were selling afterwards, but the crowd gave them a good cheer for their efforts.

We headed back into town and Lynn and I went to dinner with Craig, while Julian and Ben went to get the equipment for the night. After some much needed food our energy was restored for the night ahead and we wandered over to Mad Hatters (above Hootanny's) to check in. Miaoux Miaoux came on at 8.30pm sharp. At 8.25pm I was a little worried that there were only 5 people in the room, but such is the nature of multi-venue events that at 8.30pm on the dot people started to arrive from nearby venues and by the end of the first song there was a crowd of 30 plus.

I did have issues with the sound guy who really didn't seem to know what he was doing, it should have been a lot louder and I think he took even more stick from Ben. Meanwhile Miaoux Miaoux was charming the crowd with a mix of tracks off his debut album 'Rainbow Bubbles' and his EP 'Blooms' and the room didn't seem to mind the volume. Miaoux Miaoux's ability to move between creating beats, melodies, guitar riffs and beautiful vocals is always a joy to watch and it was great to watch the response in the room.

The sound kicked in towards the end of the set and new track 'Knitted' got feet moving and heads nodding before the stunning 'Snow' with brought the set to a close. The gradual progression from a guitar riff and lopped piano into the start of the song is one of the best things I have heard in a while and it only gets better with the verse leading to a 'woah-oh' before the refrain of 'I know I can't be my own best friend, I know I can't be my own best friend'. Check it out at www.myspace.com/miaouxmiaoux

After packing up we came back down to find a very interesting looking band called Mothercoat setting up on stage. Coming from Japan this was quite a trip for them and it was pleasing to see that the Miaoux Miaoux crowd hung around and were joined by quite a few more. The band had their own sound engineer and the difference was notable. Shame that GoNorth had such an inexperience sound engineer for other bands - you never know who is going to be watching you so it is important to get the sound right.

Enough of my moaning - Mothercoat rocked Inverness. Their punk pop vibe, cool look, music and songs went down a treat. I imagine that a lot of the crowd had been drinking most of the evening, so to come on at 9.30pm with energetic and eclectic music was perfect timing. The crowd lapped it up and the band were suitably charged as a result, racing through a briliant set, only pausing to speak in broken English and thank the crowd for coming. The front guy played synths and guitar and was wiry and looked like he might explode with excitement, the cute girl bass player sang a couple of tunes and kept the groove going along with the drummer, while the lead guitarist threw poses that wouldn't have looked out of place at Hampden.

It's always exciting to catch a new band and be in the right place at the right time - this was definitely one of them.

In need of fresh air, we went out on to the street to decide where to go next. My memory escapes me but I think we went across the road to see The Law, deciding to leave almost as soona s we arrived. Heading down the street we popped into the City Bar and caught a bit of Kitty The Lion's set. The band (complete with double bass) were crammed into a space at the front of the pub at floor level and this seemed to help with the atmosphere. I think the later you go on at GoNorth - the better.

We left as the band finished to hot foot across town to try to catch Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers and just caught their last two songs while ordering drinks at the bar. By this stage people were openly wandering around the streets with beer and wine glasses, so we joined them and attempted to catch the end of Meursalt, only to fail and head to the closing party at the Ironworks.

The first act on LED were clearly influenced by Daft Punk in terms of visual content (dressed in black suits and masks but with dayglo edges) and music - no bad thing. Everyone was in the mood to party and these guys got the party started. Sadly it all went a little flat after that when a Scottish hip hop act came on that were terrible.

So with that we headed off to our hotel and crashed out.

Friday 11th June
We set the alarm for 9am so we could head down for breakfast before the 9.30am curfew. We met Craig and Leeanne who looked as rough as us and we all tucked into a Scottish breakfast and discussed our plans for the day. Craig was dj-ing at the Strongbow tent so was heading to the site early, while I wanted to attend a couple of GoNorth workshops while Lynn wandered around the shops.

I met Julian at the Ramada at noon and we had a good chat before heading to a PRS and PPL workshop and Making Money From Music - both were very good. I then met Lynn and we headed to get the 4pm bus to Rock Ness with Julian saying he would wait for his brother to finish some work and get us in there.

The bus only took 20-minutes to get to the site and we picked up our passes for the weekend. Upon entering the site we were amazed at how 'up for it' the crowd were, with the outdoor Rizla arena resembling a scene from Ibiza. We headed straight to the Strongbow tent and bumped into our friend Andrew who told us that Nevada Base were playing the Wisemans tent at the back of 5pm. So we promptly headed over there and also met Laura and Kirsten from Pooch and enjoyed a good chat before settling down to enjoy Nevada Base do what they do in somewhat strange surroundings. They played their usual cool set, electro/house/disco combining to create something quite special - think DFA and LCD Soundsystem and you are on the right track.

Crystal Castles were the first band on the main stage and we wandered down to see them. There was a big crowd there and they came on to a great ovation with the singer Alice Glass seemingly intent on living the rock star dream by walking on swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. They made a lot of noise without staring a song and created a big surge at the front, resulting in security coming on and asking everyone to calm down and take 3 steps back. This didn't seem to matter to Glass who jumped on the drum riser and proceeded to smash at cymbols with her mic and come back down the front and attempt to jump in the crowd. By this stage we lost interest and went back to the Strongbow tent.

As we gradually topped up the previous nights alcohol levels, we wandered around the site and after hanging out at the Strongbow tent again (something that would prove to be a regular occurrence over the weekend) we headed to the Main Stage for Friendly Fires. The festival site slopes down into a natural arena with a lovely view of Loch Ness, the stage perched in front, a cracking setting for a festival/gig.

The sound proved to be a little disappointing however, despite the band brining in a horn section for the occasion. Ed MacFarlane shimmied around the stage, but in all honesty he doesn't have the presence or charisma of a Bobby Gillespe, Ian Brown or Tim Burgess. He didn't exactly give the audience confidence when he said things like 'we'll get going yet' or 'we're just getting started' more than halfway through the bands set. 'Skeleton Boy' did liftt things, but this wasn't a great set.

After a quick wander we were back at the main stage for Fatboy Slim in his 'spiritual home' and things started promisingly when he came on stage to 'Praise You' only for the set to develop into a rather heavy and hard hitting one that went down well with the majority of the crowd, but not with me and Lynn so we opted for an early bus back to the hotel and a good nights kip. Party animals that we are, but it really wasn't our type of music.

Saturday 12th June
Exhausted after 2-days/nights drinking and socialising we opted to miss breakfast and lay in bed until after 11am. It was nice to have a shower and wander into town to get some food from a brilliant Hog Roast stall before getting the bus back to the site. We got in in time to see Craig McGee dj-ing at the Strongbow Tent and he got the crowd going by playing New Order, Stone Roses, LCD Soundsystem and Happy Mondays - as well as some banging tunes the party people.

My memory is a little hazy but we caught Any Colour Black later that afternoon in the Strongbow Tent as well as Brian from Spectrum dj-ing. ACB played really well and the Strongbow tent must be congratulated for putting on so many unsigned bands from Scotland alongside some great dj's.

Either before or just after that we caught Mothercoat playing the GoNorth tent and they drew a good crowd following the buzz performance from GoNorth. They were very excited again and ended the set with all of them up on the drum riser banging everything in sight.

The sun came out from behind a cloud and we caught Plan B on the main stage. I recognised a couple of his recent hits and his band were very tight, all in all not a bad set.

Next up was 2 Many DJ's. One of the best nights I have ever had out clubbing was when Too Many DJ's played the Arches in Glasgow, cutting and pasting their way through music of many genres, dropping 'Seven Nation Army' by the White Stripes several times to a rapturous reception.

Around this time I spotted the singer from Mothercoat on someone's shoulders bouncing around like a loony. The guy then proceeded to get his cock out with the rest of Mothercoat looking on and taking pictures - welcome to Scotland!

They didn't disappoint the Rock Ness crowd, playing an incredible mix and showcasing their fantastic taste in music and their mixing abilities. One of many highlights was MGMT's 'Kids' and when they dropped in several songs with Money in the title - including Abba and Pink Floyd - with the graphic in the background  displaying the sleeves, they ended cutting them up too.

Feeling good, we headed to the GoNorth tent to meet Julian before his set. Being on at the same time as Ian Brown and Aphex Twin wasn't ideal, but Miaoux Miaoux played a brilliant set to a small but ever growing crowd (Ian Brown was awful).

'Pixellated' stood out immediately, but in truth it was all good, with 'Knitted' and 'Snow' again saved for last and again receiving a great response. If a positive response is people coming up to buy cd's at the end - then Miaoux Miaoux received one. The mix of electronica and pop leaving people with smiles on their faces.

After bidding Julian, Ben and Anneleise goodbye (they were heading back to Glasgow), Lynn and I managed to catch the end of Ian Brown's set with Murray and Diane - we wished we hadn't bothered.

As someone who is a huge Stone Roses fan it saddens me to hear Ian Brown live. His voice has got progressively worse over the years to the extent where many people simply turned and walked away towards Aphex Twin or Miaoux Miaoux.

When asked to support The Rolling Stones in 1990, Ian Brown said 'it's a shame they don't have any friends honest enough to tell them to give it up.' Although Brown has produced moments of genuine quality in his solo career, someone close to him needs to mention that singing lessons might be a good idea, otherwise even the most loyal follower (and Brown has many) will start to desert his live gigs.

Saturday night ended on a high note with an absolutely outstanding performance by Leftfield. The bass rumbled, the beats were crystal clear, the musicians were tight and the guest vocals were euphoric. 'Original' came in early on but the real highlight was 'Rythm and Stealth' with the singer really working the crowd before and after.

'Leftism' is an album I will be digging out again this week, from the response of the crowd it is an album that holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Sunday 13th June
We made it for breakfast and met a very hungover Leeanne. Craig was enthusing about Leftfield from the night before and I am still pretty blown away by the performance. Eager to get rid of our hangovers, Lynn and I walked into town after a full Scottish breakfast and I bought some Wellies as it was a little damp after some decent weather to date - the odd burst of pure sunshine - but dry throughout.

After a power nap we were back on the road to Rock Ness and arrived at the Strongbow Tent for 2.30pm to watch Admiral Fallow a band I had thoroughly enjoyed watching at the Buff Club in Glasgow a couple of weeks before. The rain probably meant that they got a bigger crowd than expected and to be honest Rock Ness wasn't the right setting for their style of music, something that lead singer Louis Abbot freely admitted on stage. Still they played well and got a good response to songs like 'Subbuteo'.

We then headed for a wander and the sun came out for a bit before we headed back to the Strongbow Tent to watch Vendor Defender. I know the band and their manager and I knew this was a big moment for them, particularly as the band had been through an emotional time lately.
So it was great to see such a large crowd gather for them (again the rain may have helped but they genuinely had a lot of people there who knew the words to some songs) and they tore through the first song 'Passing Time'. Drummer Fraser and bass player Suse locked into grooves and Zak sang his heart out, ending with a glorious 'Golden Shivers'.

Sunday was the day with the best line-up (at least for our musical tastes) and the rest of the day was pretty much spent at the main stage watching the excellent line-up of Blondie, Doves, Vampire Weekend and The Strokes. Impressive by any festivals standards.

Blondie kicked things off to an expectant crowd. Debbie Harry strode on to a huge cheer in a peroxide wig. The band disappointed a little by playing a new song/old song set. So although they could have played more hits, the likes of 'Atomic' and 'Heart of Glass' generated an amazing response. They probably drew the biggest crowd of the weekend. 

Doves reminded me what a great band they are and I vowed to dig out my old cd's and vinyl on my return home. Jim Goodwin's melancholic vocals and the bands ability to lift songs to higher places meant that 'Catch The Sun', 'Pounding', 'Kingdom of Rust', 'Black & White Town' and a euphoric 'There Goes The Fear' suited the time of day and crowd perfectly. A brilliant band, Doves back catalogue must stand up against the best of them. 

I enjoyed catching Vampire Weekend a couple of years ago at the Barrowlands and they didn't disappoint at Rock Ness. Their warm humour and energy meant an instant rapport with the crowd. Mixing songs from both album, their clever melodies and lyrics, full of hooks and memorable riffs, went down well with the crowd.

The Strokes took to the stage just before dark and tore into 'Take It Or Leave It', with the vast majority of the crowd choosing to take it. They ripped through songs from their debut album, throwing in a few from the second for good measure. 'Last Night' may well have got the biggest cheer of the weekend. 

Phew - I'm shattered. Great weekend in a stunning location, lots of good bands and dj's, a very friendly atmosphere and a very up for it crowd.

Some photos may follow when I have the time and energy!

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