HIGHLANDERS of the world unite for the fifth incarnation of the UK’s number one indie-dance festival, Rockness. The organisers have proclaimed “This is the year of the Ness” and next weekend’s event promises to build on the colossal success of previous years. Kasabian, The Chemical Brothers and Paulo Nutini headline a gathering of monster acts.
Rockness has retained its dance roots, but has also expanded its horizons. These days, superstar DJs rub shoulders with rock gods, pop-stars, comedians, guest speakers and ceilidh players performing for a crowd of pleasure seekers from the UK and beyond. The mix creates an atmosphere which surpasses even festival leviathan T-in-the-Park.
Fears that local talent was being ignored following the omission of the Go North Stage have been allayed. Highland acts have been invited to join the show. The Filth DJs, Audiolife, Abraham Thunderwolfe and others are being given the chance to prove they can mix it with the best in the Howard’s End Pub.
Audiolife DJ, Alan MacPherson, will use Rockness as a soapbox to spread the word about talent from his hometown. He said: “Audiolife are delighted to be playing. After all the hard work we’ve put in to building a scene in Inverness, it’s great to see support from Rockness that makes our efforts worthwhile.”
Festival director, Jim King agreed: “We’ve got the cream of the Highland club scene to rock Howard’s End in to the early hours. Howard’s thinking of pulling out his dub step set so the guys had better be on top of their game.”
More traditional local talent is represented in the form of breakthrough Inverness group, James Mackenzie & The Aquascene who appear early on the main stage on Sunday.
Those looking for alternatives to the main stage at the UK’s fastest growing festival will discover brand new arenas including the Soma Arcadia Afterburner, the Sub Club Sound System and the Rock n Roll Circus.
2010 sensation, the Arcadia Afterburner, has been commandeered for 2011 by Glasgow electronic label, Soma Records. The record label celebrates twenty years in the industry by presenting their own artists alongside techno godfather Derrick Carter and mash-up wizard Erol Alkan. The 3a.m. licence will guarantee peak time for Rockness ravers.
Meanwhile in the new Sub Club Sound System tent, German jokers Modeselektor, Perth electro boys Clouds and Jamie XX from Brit Award winners The XX are but three of an impressive line-up gracing the Subbie.
Another new arena is the Rock n Roll Circus, situated in trees near the campsite. By day the Circus will showcase emerging talent from the indie/rock scene including folk minstrels, Smoke Fairies. At night the venue transforms into a club. On Friday, Oasis aftershow DJ Dan presents indie hits. Aberdeen’s legendary Snafu nightclub takes over on Saturday with electro minimalist Ivan Smagghe. Closing on Sunday evening are festival pranksters The Cuban Brothers.
These arenas add to the attraction of what is officially the world’s most beautiful festival. But it’s the genre defying line-up that makes Rockness essential to so many party people.
Friday sees hip-hop goliath DJ Shadow in the Goldenvoice arena making a rare UK appearance. His turntable skills providing an hour for the head nodding B-Boys. Goldenvoice also hosts Groove Armada and Mark Ronson to satisfy Radio One listeners in attendance. But the biggest draw on Friday will certainly be on the main stage where Kasabian tops off Friday. New material has been promised in a set that will sum up what Rockness is all about. Guitars and beats.
Saturday continues the eclectic theme with a splash of underground acts and MTV/radio friendly stars. Chart topper Example provides some pop-grime on the main stage. Pan Pot carries Arcadia Afterburners in to the wee, small hours with their own style of twisted house and techno. Rave megasaurs, The Chemical Brothers are the main course with a night time set made for dancing lochside.
Bleary eyed ravers will refuse to leave the dance tents on Sunday for fear of missing fidget techno kings Simian Mobile Disco at Goldenvoice or the uber eclectic, Optimo, at the Sub Club. However, it is the big name “real bands” that come to the fore throughout Sunday to end the festival. Thousands will be rooted at the main stage to follow a series of quality indie acts climaxing in sets from weegie wall-of-sounders Glasvegas and Paisley’s most famous crooner Paulo Nutini. Nutini is no rock-god nor dance guru but his boy-next-door style and human lyrics add up to a perfect ending for a Scottish festival – for many.
However, many others will carry on raving until the last records are played in the dance tents. In the words of Inverness DJ Ross Lyall of Filth: “We can’t think of anything better than playing our filthy beats in a field with that Rockness atmosphere. See you all there!”
Something for everyone then. This is the year of the Ness.
By Garry Maccartney