Live Review: Rockness

Dores, Scotland, June 10th-12th

Tom Martin/NME
Pic: Tom Martin/NME
There’s a surprising amount of belly laughs to be had at a music festival in the Highlands, but the biggest of the weekend comes when Australian comedian Ro Campbell describes his adopted home as “like Israel for the miserable”. And if Scotland is the promised land of the wittily dour, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison is the Brian Blessed-bearded Moses leading them down the Great Glen of gloom at the UK’s most eye-wateringly gorgeous festival site. FR could hardly fail here, though the likes of ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ reach far beyond mere national sentiment.

Bombay Bicycle Club demonstrate later on Saturday, though, that you don’t need to actually be from Scotland to wring out this crowd like a tear-soaked towel. The first taste of their new album comes with ‘Bad Timing’, as writ-large grandiose as any Arcade Fire or National track, Jack Steadman headbanging furiously between feverish confessionals into the mic.

The rolling, almost Wild Beasts-ish groove of the fluid ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’, meanwhile, gets an immediate reaction from the crowd as longtime foil Lucy Rose joins on beautifully light backing vocals. The shoot-for-the-moon ‘Leave It’ too is greeted like a new old friend, but most impressive is ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’, which rolls ringing guitar, a hip-shaking rhythm and Steadman’s heartsick voice into something quite enchanting.

It’s not all messy emotion; Scots also love a good bosh, and Katy B on Friday will not be satisfied until everyone’s peaked too soon, relentlessly and charmingly bullying the crowd into utterly losing their shit to the mighty ‘Witches Brew’. The title of the chest-puffed, strutting, big-beaty ‘Velociraptor!’ sums up Kasabian’s hefty headline slot perfectly: boyishly enthusiastic, fast, fierce, and very silly.

On Sunday, we discover that it’s pretty hard to keep hating The Wombats when you’re watching Murph sing for his life as his ridiculous mad professor barnet wilts in the rain and Tord flings himself around like a terrier worrying his guitar. Then they play ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ and suddenly we’d smilingly drown a kennelful of terriers in the loch to make it stop. Just back from their US tour, Glasvegas have played better, but the cascading slow-build of ‘Lots Sometimes’ nails the mood perfectly as the sun begins to set over the dark hills.

It’s left to housewives’ favourite Paolo Nutini to sign off, and he’s not messing around, striding on like a dog with two dicks and a paisley shirt to ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’. It’s a more riotous, raucous live experience than you might expect, Nutini’s gravelly old-man growl and dirty, skiffling rhythms on the likes of ‘New Shoes’ whirling everyone into one last sweaty mess. Israel for the miserable, perhaps, but also a utopia for the euphoric. What a shame there’s always a Monday morning back in the real world.

Emily Mackay

The Wombats Perform 'Anti D' Live - Video
Video: The Wombats Perform 'Anti D' Live - Video

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