21st July 2019
The Doune The Rabbit Hole festival (Scotland's baby Glastonbury) celebrated it's tenth birthday this year, which seemed to me a good enough reason to drop in on the closing day (Sunday). Even if the weather forecast did look slightly less than auspicious.
Upon arrival I started with a preliminary amble around the site (within Cardross Estate, near Doune in Stirlingshire) to get my bearings. During which I learned that, in addition to listening to loads of music, one could have one's palm read, play hang-a-man for real (sort of) or have a chat with those awfully nice Extinction Rebellion people.
The more practical minded could enjoy a bash on a potter's wheel, join a forage for edible plants, or even make their own toothpaste. Whilst, for the less energetically inclined, there were yoga classes and massages available. No sniggering at the back, please.
|Your fortune predicted for a fiver by Madame Maggie. I saved my money for crepes.|
|The big blue tent housed Sasan-Gasana, wherein all manner of yoga, reiki and meditational stuff went on.|
|...and he's lost.|
|The exact nature of the emergency was never quite made plain, but I assumed it was in some way environmental.|
|Doune The Rabbit Hole - 2019|
|The sprawling white tented structure to the left was Baino, the second largest stage.|
|Whilst the main stage was The Jabberwocky.|
But for me it was all about the music, and I opened my day with And So I Watch You From Afar: a noisy instrumental quartet from Belfast. One could either place them at the heavy end of progressive rock, or the progressive end of heavy rock. I thought they were quite brave to have decided to do without a vocalist, but there was more than enough variety in their tunes not to miss one.
Their 45 minute set flew by, but I did wonder if I would be able to maintain my interest should I ever catch these guys at a full length gig. A deal of their stuff sounded to me what I imagine U2 may produce should they ever rid themselves of their annoying singer.
|And So I Watch You from Afar|
And So I.... had been performing on the main stage (called The Jabberwocky), and at the opposite end of the site could be found The Bandersnatch (which sounds ever so slightly rude), but was in fact a wooden gazebo-type structure generally given over to folky acts. The Local Honeys, I saw and enjoyed there. Three young ladies from Kentucky, their gentle bluegrass tunes were occasionally enlivened by some impassioned blues whoopings. Their eco-friendly tune Cigarette Trees was easily one of the high points of my day.
|The Local Honeys|
|The Bandersnatch running order|
'twas then back to Bandersnatch to catch Will Varley - but I discovered things appeared to be running late in the little hut, for a chap with the marvellous name of Isaac Ockenden was still performing. On another day I may have given him a go, but the rain had begun to pick up and I noted there was a rather too convenient beer tent a few muddy strides away.
|Isaac Ockenden in the rain.|
|Poppy's Bar to which I found myself inexorably drawn. Sorry, Isaac.|
|There was not a lot of mud although, slightly disconcertingly, the worst of it appeared to be in the vicinity of the portaloos.|
|Mind you, mud can have its attractions.|
It is rather odd the sort of things an old man can find sexually alluring.
By the time Will did arrive, the rain had upped the ante from an irritating drizzle to full blown Scottish downpour. With the perhaps understandable result, all but the most committed Varely-philes scurried for one or other of the undercover venues.
A lesser individual than Mr. V may have thrown a bit of a moodie at having travelled all the way up to Scotland to perform to a handful of sopping wet souls, but not a bit of it. Will bunched back at touch inside his gazebo, and invited as many of us as possible to squeeze in out of the rain, and cheerfully got on with things.
We got three new songs first, before he delighted the fat old bloke in the Car Seat Headrest baseball cap, by indulging his request to play This House. Will freely admitted he no longer knew the words to this one but, undaunted, called them up on his mobile phone, and gave it a bash.
|Will Varley at Doune The Rabbit Hole|
|Will attempting to read his own lyrics from his mobile, held by a helpful young lady.|
|WV in Bandersnatch|
|These wooden teepee type thingys offered a bit of rain shelter.|
|There were perhaps ten or so more folks crammed into the hut, |
but I would suggest this was probably the smallest audience Will had performed to for many years.
The highlight of the rest of his short set was undoubtedly Statues. Despite a really intriguing lyric (which Will did elucidate slightly this afternoon), I have always felt the studio recording of the song to be just a touch turgid. But shorn of the backing musicians, the rendition here was just beautiful.
Those precious minutes Will had spent fiddling on his phone (for my benefit) meant he ran out of time to complete his set. So, rather wonderfully, he decamped to the shelter of a tree a few metres away and delighted us all with an acoustic rendition of King for a King. How privileged did we all feel?
|The al fresco encore|
Will Varley set list
The Return of Venus
A Different Man
Innsbruck in the mist
To Build a Wall
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Seize the Night
We Don't Believe You
King for a King
Will running late meant I knew I would miss most of Hawkwind's set, so I hurried on (Sun) down to The Jabberwocky - but not before popping my head into The Whistleblower tent to gawp at the whirling dervishes enjoying the Psychegaelic Ceilidh. It did look fun, I have to say. But I was reminded of the words Iain Banks put into the mouth of one of his characters (Prentice McHoan, I think) that “the only way to glean any fun from dancing is by watching others make a fool of themselves doing it”. Or something along those lines.
|The Psychegaelic Ceilidh|
I caught just the final four tunes of Hawkwind's slot, and had I drawn up the set list myself, I do not think I would have chosen any different. For there were two from that amazing and astounding Quark, Strangeness and Charm album: Spirit of the Age and Damnation Alley. Another, a lengthy throbbing beast featuring pleasingly noodly keyboard solo.
And also <fanfare!> Silver Machine! I thought Dave Brock (rather like Jeff Beck with Hi Ho Silver Lining) had buried this one, never to exhume it. But here it was, up and lumbering about like a drunken Boris Karloff. Drummer Richard Chadwick did his best, but he came nowhere near replicating Lemmy's forty-a-day rasp on the original. But hey, who would? It was just wonderful, although did miss Stacia though...and the bubbles.
Of course Hawkwind are now, indeed have been since the early Eighties, one could argue, simply Dave Brock and a bunch of mates; although I later learned the aforementioned Richard Chadwick had been with the band since 1988.
From the Silver Generation of '72, Dik Mik and Lemmy are no longer with us, with Bob Calvert having preceded both at the shockingly young age of 43. Sax/flautist Nik Turner and keyboards man Del Dettmar reside in Wales and Canada respectively these days, whilst former drummer Simon King, according to one website, works (or at least worked, for he must be almost 70 now) as a binman.
|Hawkwind on the Jabberwocky stage|
|Hawkwind on the Jabberwocky stage|
|Silver Machine elicited all manner of reactions amongst the crowd. |
Including (bottom right) deciding to roll a psychedelic ciggie.
My sole trip to Baino (the second largest stage), was to see Shonen Knife. A trio of Japanese ladies of strangely indeterminate vintage, whose eclectic repertoire ranged from quirky pop to doom metal riffing of the sort which would probably give Tony Iommi a moderate boner.
What I could make out of their sung-in-English lyrics appeared oddly eccentric to say the least. A jaunty ditty entitled Capybara went along the lines:
South American animals.
Popular with all the people.
With front teeth that keep growing, always biting the grass
Round black body
Two black eyes
Always seem to be, looking into the distance.
Musically this was one of the girls' lighter tunes; most being punky type thrashes. I was not even remotely surprised to learn subsequently, the band had released an album of Ramones' covers in 2011.
|Naoko Yamano formed Shonen Knife in 1981 !|
The Raptors were next: a four piece all-girl heavy metal outfit. Not quite my taste in music, but the vocalist could certainly sing a bit, and was able to pick out a pleasingly fuzzy sound from her guitar during her solos.
From there it was back to The Jabberwocky to catch the day's headline act: The Wailers. Although I did sort of wonder beforehand, just how many original Wailers I was going to get for my money. Clearly none of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh or Bunny Wailer were going to pitch up, not any of the I Three backing ladies. But we did get bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who had been an integral part of the Seventies' breakthrough period. Guitarist Donald Kinsey was, in fact, the only other bona fide heyday Wailer - even if he had only briefly stepped out with the band back in 1976.
Aston certainly lived up to his nickname, for I noted it was Aston's son Aston Jnr. playing the drums, and his cousin Josh who did the Bob Marley lookalike/soundalike bit.
And, I have to say, the band were very good. And if one screwed up one's eyes or, in my case simply took off my glasses to wipe the drizzle off, one could quite easily be watching the real thing. But, it was all just a touch too slick, and one really could have been just listening to the originam recordings. And I also found the Jah-praising natter between songs more than a little tiresome.
|Aston “Family Man” Barrett - the one real link back to the Bob Marley days.|
|The Wailers at Doune The Rabbit Hole|
So halfway through their set I wandered back up to the Beat-Root Cafe, where a real (i.e. still alive) musical legend was about to perform. I shall point you in the direction of an earlier blog page for a bit more info on The Rise and Fall of Rise Kagone
But suffice to say, this evening a former Bhundu Boy was getting out to play.
Accompanied solely by a percussion player, Rise commenced his set to no more than a dozen or so folks (four of which were The Raptors who had clearly stayed on to enjoy the fun). But as his chiming jit-jive guitar floated out across the site, more and more curious heads popped in to investigate. With the result, by the end of his set there were around a hundred gleefully jigging folks. One of whom raised a little cheer, when he yelled “Fuck the Wailers”.
A fine, fine way to end what really had been a fine, fine day. In all aspects other than weather wise.