31 August 2012

Doune The Rabbit Hole Review Pt. 1

I hate camping. I fucking hate it. You're always surrounded by midges and grass and trees and fresh air and everything else that's wrong with the world. I have twice endured festival camping in my short lifetime. One time was Connect in 2007, where, for some daft reason, we pitched the tent on a hill. When it came time to get some shut-eye (sleeping at a festival, eh? I'm wild, me...), I experienced this recurring, unsettling feeling of slowly sliding downwards headfirst every time I neared sleep. I thought we were going to career head first into the next tent on the hill - a scary prospect: its occupants were an Italian couple who shagged each other relentlessly and without mercy every night and well into the morning. Literally all night, every night. Not a wink of sleep was had between both our tents but they were certainly enjoying themselves so fair play. 

The other time I camped at a festival was the year previous at T In The Park. On the Saturday morning, my pal (and Doune The Rabbit Hole companion) Wullie spewed in the tent and ruined life. I'm not even going to go into details other than to say that we'd both eaten Cornish pasties the day before and, by the look of things that morning, his definitely had more carrot. After those occasions, I vowed to camp never again. Never again unless I absolutely, unquestionably had to. Of course, this would mean no more festivals.

So when Dear Leader Peenko got in touch to say he'd quite like me to review Doune The Rabbit Hole I jumped up and down and ran around the room screaming with joy (figuratively). And not just because the line-up looked pretty good, but because Doune The Rabbit Hole had this year been moved to a site only a few miles away from my house, well within driving distance. Or, to put it another way, within showering and sleeping-in-a-warm-bed distance. So while you may now feel the first two paragraphs you just read were a largely unnecessary preamble to this one, they were written with the intention of providing enough juxtaposition to allow you to discern just how overjoyed I was to be able to go to a festival and go home at night for a shite in my own house.

Wullie and myself arrived to find the place swarming with hippies. Dreadlocks and tie dye everywhere, children being pushed around in wheelbarrows and wearing dungarees made of felt. It was hell. 

Actually, it really wasn't. It was all very pleasant, but just a bit disorganised. The volunteers were exceptionally friendly but most of the ones we encountered didn't really have much of a clue. For instance, on arrival we were issued with our wristbands and told to go to the production office for press passes. Four hippies later we were directed to the artist check-in caravan as this was where the press passes apparently were, not the production office. Thankfully the very helpful Lucy actually knew what was going on and informed us that the wristbands we had initially received sufficed as press passes too. We were in. Yay! Not that we would have needed a wristband right enough seeing as it wasn't checked once all weekend. 

We managed to get hold of a programme which normally would allow you to plan out the stuff you'd like to see, right? WRONG! The programme didn't actually publish times of bands, only the order they were due on stage. The 'timetable' included the disclaimer, “Time is an illusion, fesitval time doubly so. These listings are provided only as an approximate outline of concurrent stage happenings.” Which to me translates as “we're too lazy to do this properly”. Couple this laziness with the fact that bands were chopping and changing all over the place, things got a bit chaotic, and nobody really seemed to know what was going on or who the bands currently on stage were etc. It probably wouldn't be much of a problem to most people there just to enjoy themselves but to a reviewer who kinda needs to know exactly where and when bands are on, it's a little bothersome. 

But now for the important part. The first band I saw on the main stage were possibly called The Woven Tents though I can't be all that sure because they weren't listed in the programme as playing at that time. Whoever they were, I'd place them in the avant-garde sub-genre of Carnival-Circus-Pop. It was all thoroughly enjoyable and rather eccentric, swinging between utter mentalness and atmospheric soundscapes in an instant. Definitely one for fans of Animal Collective.

Behold, The Old Bear (Photo by Wullie Crainey)
Staying at the main stage, we have Behold, The Old Bear up next. It's the first time I've heard them live and they're fantastic. Much like it is in Mitchell Museum, frontman Raindeer's voice is pushed to breaking point at the top of his register to great effect, giving a really strained but passionate vocal sound. It's more straight up than Mitchell Museum, something like a more outwardly rocky Spinto Band. They're great to watch too, evidently having a lot of fun on stage. 

We decided it might be time for some scran, but on the way we stopped into the Baino Tent to be confronted by Pumajaw. Pinkie Maclure is such a good singer there are few superlatives to describe her. She has this deep, rich voice - not unlike Sarah Vaughan or even some of Grace Jones' work. It's a pity it's wasted here though, because their music is pretentious, self-indulgent and dull. After them it's up the hill for some excellent Doune The Rabbit Stew from Wild Rover Food, followed shortly afterwards by the best (only) churros and chocolate I've ever had.

Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells (Photo by Wullie Crainey)
One thing I notice about Doune The Rabbit Hole is just how family friendly it is. There's loads of children here, enjoying the mud and music, running around like wee dafties and generally having a brilliant time. “I'm meeting him tomorrow, and I plan to suck him dry, and she pulled back up her knickers and she kissed my cock goodbye” drawls Mr Moffat of Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells during Glasgow Jubilee, as children dance atop of daddy's shoulders. They're a class act, and live their award-winning album is really brought to life. The Copper Top is the highlight though. It's one of those strange songs that's a bit haunting and harrowing, yet inviting at the same time. It's like being sat down on a comfy armchair beside a roaring fire one freezing January night only to be told of a loved one's imminent demise. Live, they don't tend to embellish the material from Everything's Getting Older. There's no need, it's beautiful as it is.

The Phantom Band (Photo by Wullie Crainey)
And finally on Friday we have The Phantom Band. I'm a huge fan and have seen them many times but this is by far the best they've ever sounded. There was often a real danger of some songs sounding weedy in the past if the sound wasn't too great but they've beefed up their live sound here to great effect. Folk Song Oblivion was one of those songs but tonight it sounds huge and heavy, like a good boot to the chest. Also sounding excellent was the material from The Wants, in particular A Glamour and Mr Natural. Rounding things off with a triumphant Crocodile was a nice touch. A rather superb way to finish the first day.

(end of part one...)

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