Work commitments cause us to miss the start of this year at Doune, with things kicking off at around 4pm on the Friday and us unable to get up and set up until around three hours later; this means unfortunately we miss the ever entertaining Stanley Odd, who no doubt set proceedings off with a bang.
Still, after my first experience in a few years of having to set up a tent goes much smoother than expected, I manage to hit the arena in time to catch what on record was one of the best acts of last year, Happy Meals at the Whistleblower stage, the festival’s smallest of four.
The stage is quaint, but ever so restricted in set up, as one of the supports for the tent-come-stage comes across the very centre of the stage itself; still it’s charming with little whistles hanging from the canvas front and Happy Meals give off a good impression, despite not being as lively as they can be.
There’s loads of pounding beats and the addictive vocals of Suzanne Rodden are always a delight, while Lewis Cook’s vintage synth tones soar in the early evening chilled vibes; you can’t help thinking this set could have done with being a touch later in the evening, but still it’s a pleasant start from one of the most exciting acts in Scotland right now.
We wander over to the festival’s main stage, Jackerwocky, in time to see Fatherson, keen to see how their music will go down at a festival like Doune, as they’ve become accustomed to playing in front of a loyal fanbase of younger fans rather than the family demographic this festival attracts, however the band’s presence soon encourages a large audience to form as they play a number of melodic and heartfelt hits from their most recent album, I Am an Island, which the crowd seem to be thoroughly enjoying; well except one kid who walks past us with his fingers in his ears in apparent pain.
Entering the Baino Tent for the first time there is an overwhelming scent of weed, still that’s to be expected from a festival like Doune – there’s a very laid back vibe that surrounds the whole place and an eclectic mixture of people as there’s as much to enjoy for the kids as there is for there parents; the music on offer is diverse enough that anyone will find something to enjoy, however it must be said the line up in the generally loud Baino Tent is generally catered towards the more grown up end of the festival.
Indeed, The Ex are veterans at making a noise and the Dutch impro punks deliver a set laden with groves and post punk attitude that sets things off for a night of raucous activity in potentially the festival’s loudest corner.
Back to the main stage it’s the turn of the ever unpredictable and unconventional Deerhoof, and from the moment they take the stage they work hard to ensure the crowd is having a good time; they don’t need to work hard though as Satomi Matsuzaki’s cute bubbly personality, alongside guitarist’s John Dieterich’s and Ed Rodriguez energetic stage presence, leaves you grinning from ear to ear.
Deerhoof’s style is both minimalistic and loud with a number of intense noise rock sections held together by the extremely talented Greg Saunier who’s ability to control the band surreal nature helps gives their song’s direction, while also acting as a go between dry comic figure as the band set up between songs, quipping things like “the drummer of Deerhoof would like to register a complaint that we’ve been here all day and have not been offered a pair of rabbit ears,” after noticing a number of them in the crowd.
They close their set with the infectious ‘Panda Panda Panda’, which Matsuzaki turns into a sing-a-long with the repetitive vocal line “panda panda panda” and ending with words like “China!” and “bamboo!”.
Even through the song’s lyrics seem simple enough its loping irregular beat is harder to master, however the crowd give their best shot as Matsuzaki continues to bounce joyously round the stage.
I can’t believe we’ve got this far in the review and not mentioned the one thing that seems to set Doune the Rabbit Hole apart from most festivals; the dogs!
Everywhere you look at this festival there are dogs running around enjoying themselves just as much as the people, indeed the lovely weather we’ve been having helps, but over the course of the weekend the amount of joy brought by simply clapping a dog bring becomes as good a hangover cure as the first time of the day; hair of the dog indeed.
A place it’s probably best not to bring you dogs however is the enticing boom of the Baino Tent and potentially the loudest act of the whole bill are on next in The Cosmic Dead; the somewhat Rabbit Hole regulars come not shrouded in as much smoke as they generally do, but the general wall of hair is still there as in the formidable sound the builds and builds through captivating, yet ear bursting psychedelic power, all backed by hypnotic rhythms that reverberate throughout the tent creating an all out spacy cacophony.
They may not be for the faint hearted, but this is high octane stuff, and it looks like the kid playing air guitar next to me agrees; and as guitarist James McKay jeers “give it to me baby” before asking their pals down the front before sneering “and then he gave me it,” you’re more than convinced that this is a band that have taken this festival to heart and will surely be regulars for years to come.
Then it’s Golden Teacher time; things might be getting a little hazy by now, but this is the hour when these guys thrive, the early morning set dawns with a few minutes of experimental beats and expressive dancing before full on exploding into what could easily be the most fun set of the weekend.
GT are masters of stirring a club slot crowd into a full on sea of dancing bodies and the hefty disco beats just keep giving, as the set delivers the crowd that adrenalin injection needed to keep their feet moving after a long day, and from the amount of buzzing, sweaty bodies piling out of the tent at 2am it would appear they’ve done their excelled themselves.
Words: Iain Dawson/Jess Lavin
Photos: Michael Gallacher