Send one DiS writer to the first-ever Connect festival? We think not. Here, three intrepid festival-goers – Jordan Dowling, Dom Gourlay and Dave Kerr – bring us their experiences of three days that can only be summarised as: a muddy festival in Inveraray, Scotland. With some ace bands, as it happened…
The day kicks off with a downpour, something that would be a regular occurrence throughout the weekend, turning the virgin festival ground from pastures green to a battlefield.Make Model do little to lift the spirits with their homely adaptation on the Arcade Fire songbook. They walk a road travelled more frequently by the day, and seem a little afraid to take a detour.
CSS begin the main field’s transformation into a mud pit with their 354th festival appearance this year. They have catchy dance licks by the barrowful, but very little beyond a colourful stage show and buckets of enthusiasm is gluing them together. Their polar opposite act could well be Aereogramme. Here, playing their final show, the four-piece are full of emotion and genuine, savage genius. ‘Shouting For Joey is a breathtaking finale but it’s during the anthem ‘Barriers’ that the band hit their highpoint, with frontman Craig B’s vocals floating across the loch and surrounding mountains with ease, guided by thousands of echoes.
And it takes not just a great band but an iconic one to top that. Thankfully, The Jesus And Mary Chain are certainly that. Here highlights are a moot point; the strength of their performance lies in its consistency, with not one dull spot evident in a setlist spanning (relatively) recent tracks through to the b-side of the band’s first single. The band are as relevant now as they have ever been, and their classic distortion-washed pop seems fresher than ever.
The JAMC leave Super Furry Animals to close the day with a greatest hits set, something that the Welsh demi-legends do better than anyone else. From ‘Rings Around The World’ to closer ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’, the band don’t set a foot wrong and lead the crowd singing into the night.
Insects and slugs are flicked off bodies and surrounding beer cans in the early morning, just in time to miss an unannounced set from ex-Delgados singer Emma Pollock. Fun instead comes in the form of easy-riding country rockers Found and the heirs to Dirty Three’s throne Early Songs. The first are akin to an early My Morning Jacket baptised in un-heavy electricity, whilst the latter spin yarns of meditate instrumental folk-rock. Both offer pleasing soundtracks to brief glimpses of sunshine. Dark clouds are further beaten away by Bat For Lashes, whose holistic hymns to Mother Earth cleanse the soul whilst maintaining enough pop sensibilities to wade away from all-out hippie waters. ‘Prescilla’ showcases the band at their finest: wrapped in myth and mystery, yet so wrought with emotion that its impossible not to take them to heart.
The gloom soon consumes events again, however, as Nathan Fake takes over at the Manufactured Noise stage. His beats hit like candy hearts made from steel, beautiful but delivered at a vicious velocity. A parallel truth for Mogwai, whose expertly crafted post-rock laments burst ear drums and tear ducts with ease. Live, ‘Helicon 1’ is simply majestic, and it’s all some can do to hug friends and hold back more personal downpours. Primal Scream close the day, but the less said about their cocky, half-arsed excuse for a headline set the better.
And so the last day of the festival begins, slightly late due to a risk assessment. And not for nothing: by now much of the site is sans grass and bathed in several inches of water after a half day of rain. A lacklustre performance from Patrick Wolf doesn’t help matters. Yet saviour has an unlikely name, and that name is Aqualung, who from nowhere have created a batch of dulcet indie-rock gems much more impressive than those that built their fifteen minutes of fame. Think Mew growing up in the highlands and bullied in school for listening to early U2 and you won’t be far wrong.
Danish five-piece The Kissaway Trail follow on with a joyous blend of space rock and wide-eyed pop. Young at heart yet far beyond their years musically, the Bella Union-signed outfit are definitely a prospect for a future. A cheese and onion toastie (this writer’s menu for the weekend) from a nearby café later and it’s time for Tilly And The Wall’s eternal sunshine. Sometimes they seem a little short on substantial (and original) ideas, but they reach (and warrant) such unequivocal levels of happiness that it is hard to be critical.
And this joyousness remains, somehow, for the rest of the day. Jack Butler‘s angsty take on Foals’ math-dance workouts has fans jumping around in the mud and singing along to every word, while further on M.I.A. storms the main stage with a riotous live performance of her politically charged hip-hop calls to arms. She is joined onstage by hundreds of fans, her set cut short by flailing arms and legs swiping at monitors and microphone leads, but she emerges triumphant at the end of it all.
Which leaves main stage should’ve-been-headliner Björk to pick up the pieces. Being overshadowed is not a thing that happens to the Icelandic singer, and she strikes up a storm with a mix of older tracks and material taken from her latest album, Volta. From this latest collection, set closer ‘Declare Independence’ is a clear highlight. A plea for a country to sever ties with a ruling foreign government (especially apt giving the location of the festival), live the song is potent enough to destroy entire continents, with the hyperspace rave beats and frenetic drumming of Chris Corsano taking it far beyond its recorded form. Decades on from her first forays into music she is still one of the, if not simply the, most enticing live performer on the planet.
And it’s tempting to leave it there. Nothing can come close to matching that, right? Wrong. For me to tell you that a band playing the festival’s smallest stage came within inches of one-upping the Icelandic starlet would seem incredulous, but this is exactly what happens when The Twilight Sad take to the stage. Theirs is a performance of an almost unimaginable intensity; a 1,000% proof cocktail of post-rock and classic storytelling told in a thick Scottish accent. No question about it, The Twilight Sad are one of the most thrilling bands in the UK, if not on the planet.
As the festival draws to a close with a set from Idlewild, which itself doesn’t fall far from the quality of the previous two acts, especially during ‘Modern Way, the rain begins to clear. Yet the havoc it has caused is all too evident. A 15-minute walk takes an hour as the ground consumes those walking across it like quicksand. A negative point to end a weekend stacked full of memorable performances, but one that in the end casts a very long shadow. A trip to next year’s Connect comes highly recommended for its strong bill, relaxed atmosphere, helpful staff and foodstuffs. However, it might be best to travel by canal boat and stock up on a few suitcases’ worth of wet-weather clothes.
It’s a long way to Inveraray… 357 miles, to be exact, from Robin Hood country. But weather apart, the very first Connect Festival gets a lofty thumbs up from me.
Sure there were always going to be teething problems, and although the Manicured Noise tent and Guitars and Other Machines (2nd stage) stages seemed well designed for any natural intrusion of the wet variety, the (main) Oyster Stage’s steep incline was always going to result in several inches of mud, sweat and tears – strictly in that order – should the heavens open at any point.
The first half of Friday felt more akin to a journey of exploration as some girl warbling a Fleetwood Mac cover is quickly exchanged for a swift pint of Kopparberg until the first highlight of the day, Make Model, take to the stage. With harmonies that are equal parts Delgados and Los Campasinos!, and tunes lifted from the back pages of Stephen Pastel’s epiphany, the likes of ‘Just Another Folk Song’ and ‘Glasgow’s Number One Most Wanted’ go down a treat, and even the clouds hold back the wet stuff to watch in awe, for a few minutes at least.
Another festival, another appearance by Lovefoxxx et al. While there is no denying the Brazilians’ enthusiasm and popularity, their set is becoming as regular as clockwork at these kind of events and today they sound jaded. A swift hop to the Manicured Noise tent for Vector Lovers and their Mancunian-flavoured techno does the trick…
…Until the arrival of Jarvis Cocker, that is. Having missed his original flight from Paris and almost not made it here, the skinny one regales us with his in-between song tales of dolphins, dolphins and… more dolphins. Oh, and he plays some songs too, not least an impressive ‘Fat Children’ to open the set and a poignant ‘Sooner Or Later’, which he’d initially written for Lee Hazelwood to record before his sad passing a few weeks back.
Nostalgia is a dirty word around some quarters and the fact The Jesus And Mary Chain are about to play their first show on these isles for nigh on a decade is met with both anticipation and trepidation in equal measures. It takes literally 30 seconds of a storming ‘Never Understand’ to clear any lingering doubts, as initial fears are quickly engulfed by a feeling that this just might be one of the best sets of the whole weekend. Now essentially just the Reid brothers plus three session musos, The JAMC sound as visceral and enthralling as ever and, more importantly, they play a set that spans their whole career, culminating in a rousing ‘Rollercoaster’ that just about encapsulates Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s entire repertoire in three minutes flat.
Hopefully the Beastie Boys can do the same, and an opening salvo of ‘Time For Living’, ‘Root Down’ and ‘Sure Shot’ suggests we’re onto another winner. Sadly, self-indulgence takes over and two instrumentals off their recent long player later I’m off in search of another pop fix, courtesy of the Super Furry Animals.
SFA are one of those bands it’s impossible to dislike, and although they could have included more songs from Fuzzy Logic and Radiator in tonight’s set rather than the more pedestrian later period stuff, there is no more perfect way to bring the curtain down on the first day then the almighty thunderstorm that is ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’.
It’s been raining all night and the slugs have gathered en masse, attaching themselves to our stash of Morinov and Fosters. And my socks. Euuurghh. Not good, then, but at least it gives me an excuse to visit the Oyster Stage earlier than planned.
Thankfully it was a wise move, too, as another of this weekend’s revivalist ensembles, Edinburgh’s The Fire Engines, deliver a short but shambolic set – the perfect tonic to wipe away any lasting visions of thickset slimy creatures clinging to one’s instep.
From the old school of post-punk to its (supposedly) more literate new, The Low Miffs appearance on the Your Sound bandstand is less than enthusiastic and slightly jittery as head Miff Leo Condie stops one song halfway through due to the audience’s lacklustre response, only to start it again seconds later. Too late pal, we’ve already moved on…
Bat For Lashes are an intriguing combination. Natasha Khan sings with the voice of an angel at times – albeit one conceived within Newsom and Gudmundsdottir’s kooky-toned stable – and the instrumentation is nothing short of exotic, if strictly organic. Most of the songs do sound very samey though, and it takes ‘Sarah’ and a closing ‘Prescilla’ to lift Ms Khan and co.’s set from out of the ordinary.
Sound problems render Glasgow’s Frightened Rabbit an almost silent replica of their name, which is a shame as their Sing The Greys long-player promises to be one of 2007’s best homegrown debuts. Teenage Fanclub on the other hand sound as delightful and laconic as they did almost two decades ago, Gerry Love and Norman Blake’s luscious harmonies illuminating the likes of ‘Star Sign’ and ‘Mellow Doubt’ within an inch of dazzling perfection. Blake even manages to leave the stage halfway through the set to pick up a pizza… or is it a xylophone? Who cares, we don’t, we’re just lost in music, you see…
Or maybe just waiting for Mogwai? Whatever, messrs Braithwaite and co. sound as dynamic and pulsatingly loud as you’d expect them to. So why would anyone want to leave after only six songs? Easy answer, We Are The Physics are about to play just across the way.
Possibly the most exciting new band in the country – for today at least – they’ve drawn the short straw being pared off against the rock beasts of Mogwai but half an hour later, having increased the size of the watching crowd by several hundred, We Are The Physics are a puzzling entity that can switch between Devo-esque funk-rock (‘This Is Vanity’) to Descendents-style thrash (‘Less Than Three’) with the mere blink of an eye, resulting in the first bonafide stage invasion of the weekend.
One would expect nothing less than a near-perfect set from Primal Scream to end what has been another fantastic day of quality music. Playing to their home – and easily the biggest so far this weekend – crowd, what can possibly go wrong? Their choice of setlist for starters. While ‘Riot City Blues’ may be a return to the band’s late ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll roots, the songs just don’t stand up to 99 per cent of the Scream’s impressive back catalogue, and with a set top-heavy with the likes of ‘Country Girl’ et al, people leave in droves. ‘Loaded’ is wheeled out during the encore but by then it’s too late for even that gem to make an impact. A wasted opportunity then.
The Kissaway Trail are a swoonsome experience. ‘La La Song’ is like the Arcade Fire being corrupted by Interpol, while ‘So Far Away’ is an exercise in verse-chorus-take off that recalls Verve in stormier waters. Surprisingly majestic.
Just across the way, a young Liverpudlian girl is interrupting the banging techno of Octogen for something for more subtle and sophisticated. Whisper it if you may, but Candie Payne’s set proves to be one of the highlights of the weekend, mixing ‘60s pop (think Petula Clark, Nancy Sinatra) with cinematic arrangements (John Barry would be an accurate - if obvious - comparison) culminating in the sumptuous ‘Little White Lie’ which raises goose pimples throughout the Manicured Noise tent.
Finally, the sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play. Tilly And The Wall’s appearance brings with it the first rays of the weekend, and while their songs do seem to go on a bit about love and freedom like hippies on a day outing, the tap dancing of Jamie Williams coupled with Kianna Alarid’s alluring presence makes them unmissable for one afternoon at least.
As is Jack Butler on the Your Sound bandstand, whose !!! meets Orange Juice (post)punk/dance hybrid is invigorating and impossible to keep still to, even if the mud in front of the stage has now reached ankle level, making the dancing throng look like poor imitations of the Abominable Snowman.
Hotfooting it to the main stage - more to ensure a good spot for Björk’s set, I must confess – coincides with the weekend’s most pleasant surprise. Having never really found M.I.A. that exciting on record, her show here was a frenzied melee of heavy bass and 1,000 words per minute (or at least it seemed that way) scattershot rhyming. Her invitation to all and sundry to get on stage and “tear the place up” didn’t go unheeded either, and by the close of the set monitors were kicked over, wires split and mic stands broken in two by the several hundred revellers only too keen to join the onstage party.
For Björk, UK appearances have been few and far between in recent years and mostly reserved for occasions such as this, so for Connect to get someone of her stature to headline the final day represents something of a coup. Except she isn’t topping the bill – some fat bloke from New York is instead. Despite that travesty, her set is as perfect a finale as you’re likely to witness at any open air event this year. Complete with a Björkestra that includes a couple of key punchers, several horn-playing dancers and the unmistakeable figure of Chris Corsano on drums, her set is heavy on Volta and Vespertine material, but still manages to cross every boundary on the musical spectrum. The rapturous finale of ‘Declare Independence’, complete with flags and ticker-tape galore, feels like the communal hymn of Connect 2007 as the campsite is still ringing to it deep into the early hours of Monday morning.
Some would have called it a day after such an awe-inspiring show as that, and indeed many did, but that would have been their loss as The Twilight Sad’s set on the Your Sound bandstand confirmed what all the hype has been about for the last few months about Scotland’s (and possibly Britain’s) best new band. Not since Ian Curtis first trod the boards in pre-Thatcher era Manchester could there have been a more intimidating or intense frontman than James Graham. Behind him, the other three members create a mesmerising wall of noise that recalls My Bloody Valentine at their peak while the singer stares impassively, occasionally taking sips from a can of McEwans when not venomously spitting out lyrics furiously. It’s impossible to take your eyes from the stage for even a split second; The Twilight Sad are even more incredible in the flesh than their Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters opus could suggest. Several main stages await in 2008, trust me.
With the festival almost at an end, Idlewild play a mixture of greatest hits and songs from last year’s Make Another World record, and although the older tunes are lapped up incredulously, every song is greeted like an older brother returning from the Far East. ‘A Film For The Future’ sounds as fresh as it did back in 1998, and despite rumours that their impending tour later this year may be their last, Idlewild live are still an exciting prospect. Nevertheless, with an eight hour drive ahead, DiS is shattered and retires to bed, safe in the knowledge that the first Connect experience has been as memorable and enjoyable a festival experience as we’ve had all summer despite the weather. Roll on 2008…
To those of us who point blank refuse to be mugged off with e-coli inducing cuisine, unaffordable bare necessities and bills riddled with homogenic dross for any further a summer, the word ‘boutique’ suffixed with ‘festival’ could prove to be something of a winning combo.
So up to Inveraray castle we rock, in search of a little something to restore faith in that great tradition of the British festival. Lured by the promise of oysters (lord why?), a stellar bill for the discerning music lover and hopefully the smallest ever contingent of rambunctious tent-slashing dickheads, how could DiS possibly refuse?
With 'Conscious Life For Coma Boy' ringing out across the campsite, pitching a tent and quickly guzzling a Red Stripe is no fun when you know you’re missing the visual drama of Aereogramme’s last ever gig. As the soothing sounds of ‘Post-Tour, Pre-Judgment’ and ‘Yes’ echo out, the job of sliding along the already deteriorating path toward the main grounds to the Oyster stage proves fruitless; it’s too late and Craig B shrugs a simple “this is it” before battering in the last nail with a sharp shot of ‘Shouting for Joey’.
Consoling myself with the first of many ciders, Jarvis Cocker – today peeling a leaf out of the book of Cash by declaring himself “the Man in Brown, because the world is shit” – lightens the mood on the Oyster stage with equal doses of sarcasm and sincerity. ‘Cunts are Still Running the World’, he reassures us before changing tack to more local issues by offering a tribute to “anybody here from Dunfermline” with a sneering crack at The Skids’ ‘Into the Valley’.
Wandering off to see where the other stages are hidden, Cocker’s tribute proves to unwittingly pre-empt up a double whammy of songs in the key of Fife as we stumble upon Beta Band alum The Aliens in the middle of their space-pop odyssey in the Manicured Noise tent. Appropriate as the moniker is, the tunes are off the wall but still powerful enough to rouse a rabble. “Goan see ma brother Kenny,” suggests Gordon Anderson while the famous synthesized coda from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind closes the show.
Of course, we take his advice and see that Kenny - more commonly known as Fence collective’s grand poobah King Creosote – is staying true to his folksy, experimental blend on the Guitars and Other Machines stage. Flanked by his right hand man, Johnny Lynch (AKA The Pictish Trail – this is after all Anstruther’s own Wu Tang equivalent to the Wu Tang dynasty), KC dips into his nap sack of psychedelic treats and gets busy with the pump-organ while casting out the sublime melancholy of ‘Not One Bit Ashamed’. “It’s no good enough,” he croons. The few hundred folk here lucky enough to find this second stage tucked away behind a cluster of trees might disagree.
Back in the amassing throng of the Oyster stage, The Jesus And Mary Chain amp up for their first gig on home soil since they reunited. Stood in smoke, motionless to the point of inertia - as they were when DiS caught them at Coachella earlier this year - the Reid brothers dismiss the small talk and converse via understated classics. They remind us that they might be around for while more too, unveiling nuggets of new material as they go. The Mary Chain might have just reclaimed their throne as Scottish post-punkers de rigeur in the grounds of Inveraray Castle, but Mike D of the Beastie Boys has other ideas about whose running the show.
“Tonight, duke, it’s my muthafuckin’ castle,” he menaces. The Beasties put their moolah where their cake hole is and turn out a greatest hits set with the raucous punk of ‘Heart Attack Man’ and ‘Tough Guy’ vying for elbow room with hip-hop perennials ‘Root Down’ and ‘3 Mcs and 1 DJ’. To boot, Mixmaster Mike knocks out a solid mid-set mash-up, pitting Led Zeppelin against KRS-One amongst other ill-fitting oddities, and Money Mark brings his keys and gymnastics to the second half of the set, peppering them across new instrumental ditties ‘B For My Name’ and ‘Suco De Tangerina’. Of course, ‘Sabotage’ brings down the curtain on Friday and nigh on 20,000 revellers roar the chorus like this was the last show on earth. Not a word of hyperbole: phenomenal.
Note to self: never will a mere packet of Frazzles counteract a night of drinking. Then again, judging by the revolting mess left outside one of the tents of our crew, sucking on some oysters really isn’t the best tactic to lace the stomach either.
Dunking our heads in a sink of cold water and skiing through the ever-thickening mousse to the Oyster stage, Edinburgh’s Fire Engines quite literally scare away the blues with their shambolic firebrand ‘Hungry Beat’. “I’m still in tune!” marvels Murray Slade; “That disnae matter,” retorts Davy Henderson. And there we have a shotgun summary of their entire career.
From the jarring riffs and incessant clatter of the Fire Engines’ post-punk sensibilities to the inventive folk pop fun of fellow - but far more contemporary - Midlothian outfit, Found at the Manicure Noise tent. The quintessential DIY quintet dole out their uplifting vibes and juxtapose quite strangely with the foreboding idiosyncrasies of Bat For Lashes, who have apparently snuck in through the same medieval time portal as Joanna Newsom. BFL’s songs are bewitching at times and suitably evoke the feel of some kind of wiccan ceremony. With titles like ‘Sarah’ and ‘Prescilla’ - who must surely have both fallen foul of their coven - singer Natasha Khan intensifies the climax by beating a gigantic stick off the stage. Strangely, somehow, it all fits into place.
Stuck in another era, Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady - complete with their wired blue-collar rock vignettes - rock it up quite the thing back at the Oyster stage. Making good on the disappointment of their forced-guerrilla set at T in the Park, they present energised songs from their sleeper breakthrough LP as though they had locked Springsteen in the studio to rerecord parts of Born to Run with a bunch of marbles in his gob.
Rilo Kiley, however, are looking and sounding more like a countrified Fleetwood Mac by the record; Jenny Lewis struts on in hot pants, rattles a cow bell and wraps her silky voice around the trudging chimes of new tunes ‘Breakin’ Up’ and ‘Close Call’, which, bar the vice-drenched lyrics, are such day time MOR radio-fodder that it takes the smell from the stovie stand to keep us awake - time for a return to indigenous pleasures.
“We’ve got two songs left, you got any more biscuits?” Some loons are pelting Glasgow band Frightened Rabbit with bits of shortcake and custard creams on the Your Sound bandstand. But, never mind the bourbons; this lot are coming from the same school of thought as Idlewild at their best or Big Country in their heyday, the Rabbit hold onto the R while their folk rock sound holds such weight that the bullish sense of jingoism that is guilty of singularly limiting many a contemporary Scottish band’s sound is firmly set in their rear view.
By comparison, Sons & Daughters are much more of a crossbreed, tonight choosing to serve their kind of stomping ‘Rama Lama’ rockabilly with bruising riffs and a danceable cover of Adamski and Seal’s classic floor filler, ‘Killer’ that comes from nowhere. But, shaking ass is obviously no kind of preparation for Mogwai, who take the second to headline slot on the Oyster stage with a dynamic set that peaks in all the right places. There is rarely a finer ambience all weekend than that set by a stage filled with smoke and dim blue lights while ‘We’re No Here’ is pumped out over the PA, framed perfectly by the colossal hill and watch tower in the background.
From a big sound to a big mess with big hair; Echo and the Bunnymen – or rather Ian McCulloch – turns their repertoire into a shambles on the second stage. “I sound like a dog, d’you know what I mean? I don’t like pink either…” He makes little sense, sings out of key and generally winds up the crowd any which way he can. “Up against your will,” he fittingly warbles as ‘The Killing Moon’ gets wrecked. Modest Mouse were robbed of a headlining slot tonight.
Awakening in what now looks like a battlefield full of trenches and ravaged soldiers, an Idlewild sound check lifts some of the post-Bunnymen fug from the skull.
Soon enough, the ubiquitous Seasick Steve’s distinct, bluesy three-string slide guitar takes a lunchtime slot, leading neatly into Scott Matthews and his band who produce a more regular brand of the same, albeit rife with a Jeff Buckley-esque vocal timbre and enough sludgy riffs to suggest that somebody likes to pump Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger on the car stereo every now and again.
Darting across the site to catch some indie folk, Tilly & The Wall style, the clouds finally part for one of the longest spells of the weekend and the job of cracking a few hard faces becomes all the easier for this enthusiastic hit and miss troupe of percussive tap dancers. The site of a security guard running away from a dragonfly shortly after Tilly finish, however, is solid gold.
A solo performance from Regina Spektor follows shortly after. “Wow, I just made my finger bleed… that’s how much I care,” she giggles, before bringing some more colour to the afternoon with her candid song about ‘That Time’ and rattling the hell out of her chair on the stage in the name of experimental percussion.
Staying camped out at the Oyster stage, M.I.A.’s flashy, in-your-face, electro heavy performance goes down a treat as choice numbers from Arular and Kala are mixed in with Pixies lyrics and Eurythmics samples, setting the tone for the rest of the night. But, when the Sri Lankan anarchist decides she’d like to ‘Pull up the People’ quite literally, the chaotic stage invasion that ensues cuts the show short by half an hour. Clever.
“It’s almost dark… almost.” The second from top billing behind LCD Soundsystem seemed like lunacy for a minute there, but seeing Björk getting stuck right into revamped versions of ‘Hunter’ and ‘Hyperballad’ in this twilight soon proves to be a stroke of genius. From a twilight set to The Twilight Sad, the trajectory for this Kilsyth quartet continues to climb high. This open air headlining slot on the Your Sound stage sees the band fighting with almost everything at its disposal and the wall of noise they construct from the tiny bandstand is breathtaking. James Graham grips his mic like a lifeline and leans on his stand as though it were a crutch before he occasionally takes his mouth away from it to let out a primal roar that you can still here above the cacophony at the back of the pitch. “I’m putting up with your constant whine and I won’t last too long,” he later fibs during ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’. Nobody here looks like they’re complaining because tonight, from a tiny stage, it feels like it was the underdogs who truly conquered the castle.
Uppers: Björk; The Twilight Sad almost stealing Björk’s thunder; Cottage Restaurant food; Conversations with the Duke of Argyll; Surroundings - absolutely breathtaking. Downers: Site flooding - almost ruinous by the last night, more than knee deep in some places; DJ sets - pretty much new (nu?) rave throughout, despite the eclectic line-up; Primal Scream - dreadful after first three songs; Area layout - parking over a mile from the campsite/main arena; Merchandise - virtually no change from £20 for any festival/band t-shirt. Anthems:Björk, ‘Declare Independence’; Aereogramme, ‘Barriers’; Bats For Lashes, ‘Prescilla’; Super Furry Animals, ‘Rings Around The World’; Idlewild, ‘A Modern Way Of Letting Go’
Uppers: Björk (need I say more?); The Cottage Café on Main Street: the best breakfasts in town; Being spotted by a fellow Tricky Tree thanks to my ‘Doughty Out’ t-shirt – spread the word bro’; The first half of Mogwai’s DJ set in the Rizla tent on Friday night; The friendliest, least intimidating atmosphere at a UK Festival since ATP, really. Downers: The weather; Slugs; Primal Scream; Having to dispose of my beloved but mud-sodden Converse trainers; No Virgin Mobile network coverage – Scotland is in the UK too, Branson. Anthems: Björk, ‘Declare Independence’ (the highlight of the weekend: politically appropriate to those north of the border, and a technobassheavyslogantastic call for unity to the rest of us); Super Furry Animals, ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ (13 years old now, but its defiant message remains as vitriolic yet joyful as ever); The Jesus And Mary Chain, ‘Vegetable Man’ (a Syd Barrett cover and old b-side providing a flashback to those early gigs where JAMC’s riotous nature outshone the music, just); M.I.A., ‘Bucky Done Gun’ (the moment where all genres and their subsets collided headed on and danced as though their lives depended on it); Happy Mondays, ‘Wrote For Luck’ (okay, so they didn’t play the festival, but when Stuart Braithwaite spun this tune at about 12.30am Saturday morning sheer pandemonium broke out in the Rizla tent, not to mention the odd Bez prototype too).
Uppers: The notable lack of common loutish festival fuckwittery that, y’know, tends to ruin the whole thing for everybody; The Beasties repaying the duke’s kind hospitality by overthrowing him in his own Castle – if only he had a Volkswagen; Björk’s general mentalist demeanour; The trash man who gave out rubbish bags to sit on when the ground beside the Oyster stage became an apocalyptic wasteland; The stovie stand – genius. Downers: Missing Aereogramme; Seeing Echo and the Bunnymen – sheer masochism; The Mud – resistance was futile; The minority of tent-slashing bandits - may they be shat upon by seagulls until the end of time; Oysters – pretty self explanatory really. Anthems: Beastie Boys, ‘No Sleep Til Brooklyn’; Mogwai, ‘We’re No Here’; The Twilight Sad, ‘Talking With Fireworks / Here It Never Snowed’; Björk, ‘Declare Independence’; King Creosote, ‘Not One Bit Ashamed’.
All photography by Lucy Johnston. From top: M.I.A., The Jesus And Mary Chain, Tilly And The Wall, Björk, Jarvis Cocker, Bat For Lashes, Primal Scream, M.I.A., Jarvis Cocker, Rilo Kiley, Mogwai, Regina Spektor, Björk