The lateness of this review can be excused by my discovery shortly after Rockness I had broken a metatarsal just over a week earlier at Primavera, and as a result has become somewhat of a major inconvenience in my life. While this discovery provides little consolation to those who awkwardly stared as I limped around the Rockness festival site, it did not stop me from attending the event located in the higher reaches of the Scottish Highlands, beautifully positioned on the edge of Loch Ness. Having never experienced Rockness before, or had any friends who had made the trip north before either, I went into the festival with a very open mind. The initial coach journey over to the festival site suggested I may have inadvertently walked into a smaller Scottish take on Leeds Festival, but upon arrival my concern of bolshie and ignorant teenagers was dismissed, and instead I was greeted by an entirely jovial and friendly atmosphere. A short walk from the entrance to the campsite meant an easy set up of our tent, and an almost instant journey into the main festival site. A relatively compact site, Rockness has clearly had several years of experience in honing their attention to detail and organisation. The main stage was situated at the bottom of a surrounding rise in the land, creating an almost auditorium-like situation, allowing for a clear view for every festival go-er and near perfect sound for every act that took to the stage. The non-musical aspects of the festival were spot on too, with the festival allowing for a large range of food stalls, most of which appeared up to a high standard, and the location of the post-apocalyptic Arcadia feature added a wonderful dose of mysterious character and allowed for an area of late night DJs.
The line up of the festival was by no means revolutionary or brimming with new musical talent, however anyone who claims this as a slight on Rockness would have no foundation for their argument as the festival never claims that it is such an event. Instead Rockness tailored a line up which focused on more main stream acts which have not only achieved a great deal of success, but would have the most widespread appeal. Now while the cynics amongst us would say this is primarily for ticket sales, and they may be right, I couldn't help but feel the line up Rockness had assembled had a great deal of influence on the fantastic atmosphere present throughout the whole weekend. Friday began with The Internet performing a fantastic set on a much larger stage than they will have regularly performed on before hand, before I managed to nip out and catch Scottish act Admiral Fallow equally step up to the mark and perform a stirring and entertaining set as the opening act on the main stage. The main stage was to be my centre of activity for most of the day and night, apart from another quick visit into the Goldenvoice Arena to catch the ever-brilliant Hudson Mohawke. Mystery Jets were arguable one of the most refined and polished acts of the weekend, performing a great deal of their new material from Radlands while also treating the crowd to some of their much loved older material. The Drums appeared to get a good response, however personally I feel their time in the limelight should have well and truly passed, as while their old material still stirs some fond memories in my mind, they've not really surpassed their previous heights. Noah and the Whale will no doubt go down in British pop history as one of the great acts, alongside their main stage counterparts Mumford and Sons, both of whom put on brilliant performances which demonstrated why they've reached, and maintained their lofty heights. I know what I've just said will provoke disagreement amongst many people, however Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons are undeniably two acts who are both professional and have a knack of writing songs which appeal to the largest of audiences.
Saturday saw a turn towards more dance and electronic orientated music, other than the presence The View and The Pigeon Detectives. I'm afraid to say I couldn't bring myself to watch either of these bands, for reasons I hope are apparently obvious, however if you are a fan of them I'm sure there are plenty of other reviews that will have witnessed their performances. Instead I took the opportunity to catch the small contingent of new music that was on show at Rockness, and this included stellar performances by Bastille and Broken Hands, two acts that impressed me during their performances at Live at Leeds festival in April. Later in the evening the likes of Deadmau5 and Justice lit up the evening with vivid lighting and visuals, along with their trademark electronic jams that sent both sets of audiences into raptures. Awakening on Sunday morning I really began to appreciate the near by availability of the famed 'Breakfast Bus', and I'd like to make a special mention for the team that ran this operation as they provided both quality food at reasonable festival prices, along with an unfaltering service. No doubt they'll be at more festivals across the summer, and I'd highly advise you to check them out. The Egg and Chorizo burrito is a must try too. Back onto the music, Sunday provided my greatest set of highlights, with Errors performing a blistering set on the Clash Arena, juxtaposed with Chic who's performance was more jovial than blistering, but nonetheless they managed to thoroughly entertain the crowd and made themselves a festival favourite. The night was concluded by a thoroughly energetic performance by Friendly Fires, who continue to develop their reputation of a fantastic live band, managing to capture the sound of their recorded music while being able to engage with all types of audiences. However the largest dollop of praise must be reserved for Biffy Clyro, who provided the perfect ending to Rockness. With a very impressive visual stage set up, the band drew the largest crowd of the event (after all, Mumford and Sons overlapped with Ed Sheeran), and produced a fine balance between their softer, more melodic tracks and their thrashing rock anthems.
As a first experience, Rockness festival was a complete success. While the line up was clearly catered for a more mainstream audience, this audience was thoroughly entertained for the whole weekend, with the logistical achievements matched by the open, accessible, and buoyant atmosphere that transcended the festival.
Blistering Texas heat packed with over 90,000 concert-goers makes for one exhausting weekend. In only its fourth year, FPSF has officially become one of the largest events in Houston … and that's a lot to take in. [read more]