Live review: Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival, 26-29/8/13

DTRH2013-012The Cardross Estate, folded neatly into the lolling green hills of Stirlingshire, is one that is normally associated with tranquillity and even antiquity, but this year the estate has shooed off its sheep and rolled in the portaloos for Doune The Rabbit Hole

The family friendly festival is considerably smaller than its lary-er Scottish counterparts such as T and Rockness, but is instead closer in stature and structure to Insider Festival with both festivals favouring local acts.

This in part lends the festival its famously relaxed atmosphere that is still just as tangible this year, carried by the breeze through the long grass.

The Thursday officially opened the festival with a handful of bands including The Fast Camels, Garden of Elks and Orkestra Del Sol whose lively theatrics and honky brass performance gets the festival off to a bouncy start.

By Friday the site has filled considerably and despite the threat of mild drizzle the sun holds its ground as music and the smell of chai wafts from all corners of the field.

At one end, on the Inspire stage, The Girobabies aurally strip the grass off the hills while just a few metres away, Meursault carves beautifully tender tones into the afternoon air with tracks such as ‘Lament For A Teenage Millionaire’ as a relaxed yet reverent crowd lounge on the grass.

At the upper end of the field, serving as a perfect example of the festival’s brilliantly wonky line up, Black Lantern Music’s Asthmatic Astronaut in collaboration with Tokamak and Lipsync For A Lullaby electronically lift the crowd to the next plane consciousness.

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As the sun begins to sink Rick Redbeard interrupts his raw and rusty strumming to lament a couple who, having met at the previous year’s Doune, had just got engaged that very evening.

To fall in line with the impending darkness the music takes on a more aggressive edge, kick started with a hypnotising stomp by Arboretum’s fuzzy stoner rock.

Their spell was only just broken by PAWS, who throw their twangy yet abrasive punk into the crowds’ faces, forcing them to bounce along with favourites such as ‘Jellyfish’ alongside furious Minor Threat covers.

Their set may not be quite as polished as some of the day’s previous artists but they make up for it in excitement, energy and simply, fun.

With everyone suitably riled The John Lanagan Band don’t have to do much to thrill, the up tempo folk has everyone swinging each other arm in arm with such ferocity it threatens to turn the grass to mulch even though the weather had remained mostly dry.

Despite being initially billed on a smaller stage Miaoux Miaoux is seemingly been upgraded to the Jabberwocky main stage to wrap up the evenings proceedings.

The trio waste no time launching into their synthy, afro-poppy melodies, which ring out into the clear air, pulling the crowd in from every corner.

This results in a mass dance breakout with everyone from shoeless greybeards to young folk in denim jackets, flailing rhythmically in the field.

As the last notes wash over the crowd a palpable excitement is still brewing and as the ubiquitous ‘WAN MARE CHOON’ is thrown up to deaf ears the members of the crowds who aren’t yet ready for bed follow the beat to the Low End stage.

The hip hop/dance tent that had been had been wrapped in UV wool forming mesmerising patterns on the ceiling vibrates with the bass from DJ Rebecca Vasmant’s house set.

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With very little room to breathe you have no option but to dance, or at least sway with the crowd.

As the Saturdayblearily rolled around the campsite begins to swell and the field becomes mottled with recovering revellers.

Thankfully Washington Irving gives the afternoon a pleasantly accented indie soundtrack for disseminating Friday’s headache.

This is followed by Machines in Heaven on the Baino stage, who bathe the early evening audience in gloriously idiosyncratic electronic waves delivered with tight execution and intriguing.

As the day continues the Baino stage keeps delivering with the aptly named Stealing Sheep who pack the tent so much that many have to watch from the side-lines.

The Liverpudlian trio deliver harmoniously melodic folk rock with the clear stand out being ‘Circles’, which channels the 70s and captures the very spirit of Doune.

Later, in the same tent, but at the other end of the musical spectrum, Bombskare certainly know how to bring the party and they just about tear the tent down with the sheer amount of skanking.

To close the main stage The Pastels jangle out bittersweet indie-pop, which included old favourites and brand new future hits including ‘Check My Heart’.

This is followed by a slightly sinister surgery- masked Clinic who douses the evening in dark psych-rock hues.

By Sunday the field may seem quiet but The Cosmic Dead sure aren’t as they emit relentless streams of hypnotic, multi-faceted psych grooves that make you feel simultaneously connected to the earth and like you’re floating three inches above it.

DTRH2013-284Just over the field, a more terrestrial Hector Bizerk, having also played the Friday, returns for a second assault keeping it lively by rattling and rhyming off favourites such as ‘Bury The Hatchet’.

Horndog Brass Band also refused to let the Sunday blues knock them off their horny stride and deliver an energising, fun filled set.

This is closely followed by Venetian Snares, who despite being recently musically under the radar, cut his syncopated beats and menacing sequences to deliver devastatingly powerful but still delicate slices, reaffirming the hairy Canadian’s place in electronic music.

As the festival drew to a close Japanese noise merchants Bo Ningen play a set of swirling, screechy post punk to the stars, leaving Cineplexx and the Line of Best Fit DJs to close the main arena and hand the baton to the low end techno peddlers to burn the party into the wee hours.

Even as everyone packs up and slowly slumps off site, there is still a tingle in the air albeit not quite as strong as the one that hung above the field throughout the weekend, but one that is indicative of genuinely great experience both physically and spiritually.

more photos

Words: Catriona Reilly
Photos: Ann-Margaret Campbell

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