Saturday, 7 September 2013

Doune The Rabbit Hole - Review

Review by Bobby Motherwell


hen asked if we would like to attend the annual Doune The Rabbit Hole festival for Scottish Fiction, both myself and Peter had no hesitation.  As someone who is not known for festival going – a one day visit to T in the Park during the Strathclyde Park years being my only foray – I was delighted to sacrifice my festival virginity for such an interesting line up.

And so it was that I set off on Friday morning to take in Friday afternoon’s festivities on my own, to be joined later in the day by my wife Arlene and son Louie, and on Saturday by Peter.  Having decided to pitch the tent in the family section in the hope that a more peaceful sleep would be assured, I set off to catch the first act of the day and settle into the cosy, laid back zone that this quirky festival creates.

With my programme in hand and a time slot allocated to each act – which I’m led to believe is a welcome structure new to DTRH – I grabbed my beer, fended off the wasps and sat down to take in Lori McTear.  Lori is a Glsgow singer songwriter who creates some fine melodies and crafted lyrics and was not in the least fazed by the dubious honour of opening the main Jabberwocky stage, even managing to engage the small afternoon audience in some lyrical participation.

Next on the main stage were Garden of Elks, a wonderful 3 piece from Glasgow who really stepped up the tempo with their brand of indie/pop and offset conflicting harmonies.  By this stage the sun began to make and appearance and I was settling into my new surroundings just fine.

In the Baino stage, The Skarsoles were pumping out their very own mix of ska and balloon modelling, yes you read that correctly, balloon modelling.  A talent which is not only unique, but one which went down well with one young chap who wielded a balloon sword for the duration of the gig.

Back to the Main Stage to catch We Are The Physics.  And very glad I was too that I did.  Announcing in advance that they would like to “apologise for the racket” and that they were “so sorry”, they then produced a magical pop set which reminded me of a Devo for the modern age.  Brilliant pop/punk mixed with great chat, energy and at times hilarious lyrics blended into songs which so gloriously de-constructed themselves, the band went on to announce that the Beatles were the third best band.  Then they burst into Goran Ivanisovitch. Lovely stuff!

During the course of the day, I managed to flit between stages trying to take in as much as I could and managed to catch some of No Island, Man Get Out and Haight Ashbury before settling myself down to catch the four big fish I had been waiting for: Rick Redbeard, Meursault, PAWS and Miaoux Miaoux.

Rick Redbeard, returning to DTRH this year but without the rest of The Phantom Band which he fronts as his day job, opened his set to an almost empty Baino stage.  The notes rang out from his guitar finger-picking around the grassy spaces and within seconds the tent had filled up.  Rick proceeded to enthral us with his beautifully crafted tunes and lyrics from his 2013 album No Selfish Heart – a stick on contender for album of the year.  With tunes like Old Blue and Any Way I Can, this was by far the best of the festival so far. Excellent stuff.

Meursault, in the meantime began their set at the Jabberwocky tent, so a quick shift across the field was required, stopping only to pick up a beer from the beer tent.  It has been some time since I last saw Meursault – a Jonnie Commons gig at the old Captains Rest when the Deskjob album was released - and much water has passed under the bridge as they say.  Now quite comfortably steeping up to the festival mark and out of the dank cellar venues, Meursault performed a stellar set with Lament for a Teenage Millionaire a stand out, received and responded to by the adoring audience.

PAWS. What can you say about a PAWS set?  It rocked and bucked and threatened to obliterate all that encroached upon it.  A fabulous riot of a sound which complimented the ensuing darkness outside.  With critical acclaim received around the release of their 2012 album Cokefloat, PAWS are undoubtedly a band on a mission and with the creativity and kick ass attitude to execute said mission with some aplomb.  A raucous set which was topped with a fabulous rendition of Meursault's William Henry Miller, PAWS are now a 'must see' on any gig list.  A quick chat with Phillip after the gig revealed that he was waiting for a lift from Rick Redbeard to head straight to the airport, Stuttgart the destination, for some gigs.  I’m sure it went well.

Miauox Miaoux closed the day on the main stage and by this time the excitement of the day and the far too close proximity of bar to stage, was taking its toll on me.  A more perfect end to a festival day you could not wish for.  Julian Corrie was in the company of a festival crowd who were ready to dance and sing their socks off.  And they did.  An utterly stunning set, culminating in the mesmeric Hey Sound, the crowd begged for more before the sound dispersed and the troglodyte retiral to the canvas cave beckoned.  It did for me.  Arlene, Louie and I headed to the tent.  My first festival day over, and another two to go.  It was going to be a long and wonderful weekend!


As I said before, Peter joined me on Saturday.  Highlights of Saturday for me were Panda Su and John Knox Sex Club.  I was gutted to have missed Beerjacket, Washington Irving, and Shambles Miller.  Some due to conflicting time slots, some due to a simple inability due to indulgence.

Taking the stage on the Fruitstand tent early on Saturday, Hailey Beavis played a lovely set with an intriguing mix of melodies juxtaposed by lyrics which have a weighty harder edge.  An artist who has evolved into a talented singer songwriter, Norwich born but Edinburgh based, Hailey is going into the studio to record her first full length album which she hopes to have out around Christmas, one to look forward to and definitely an artist for the future.

What can be said about Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five?  They just might be the perfect small festival Saturday night band!  This lot would not have been out of place on the main stage but only once all of the kids are safely tucked up in bed.  Their blend of crowd pleasing comedy lyrics with music played with genuine talent had the Baino tent audience bouncing and crowd surfing.  Songs like Ginger Girl and How Many Manys Are Too Many Manys, were belted out by their uber confident front man who, whilst wearing half a disco ball as a hat, had the revellers clasped firmly in his grip as he worked them up into a frenzy.  Ok they are never going to win the Mercury music prize but would I book them for a festival?  Absolutely!

One of the highlights of the weekend as already mentioned, were John Knox Sex Club who played a storming set in the Baino tent.  Their songs have beautiful folk music structures twisted to give them a contemporary edge that layers complex melodies driven hard by angst ridden lyrics.  This was the first time I had seen them and I was blown away!  Their singer is the perfect front man who fires out his lyrics with feeling and paints pictures of anger and bitterness whilst engaging the crowd and giving out hugs. I urge to check out their album Raise Ravens and lose yourself in folky perfection.


Given a mid afternoon main stage slot on Sunday, Jo Mango played a beautifully compelling set which highlighted her wonderful voice and perfectly crafted songs. The Doune The Rabbit Hole setting was perfect for Jo who treated an adoring crowd to tracks from her recent Murmarations album with The Black Sun, a personal highlight.  If anything her set could only be improved by moving it into the more serene and atmospheric marquee of the Baino tent where her voice would have carried wonderfully!

Up and coming songbird Soibhan Wilson was showcased in the Fruitstand and Takeover tent on early Sunday evening.  Although perhaps not yet a house hold name it is surely only a matter of time before more punters are flocking to watch her shows.  Cutting a diminutive figure alone on stage with her electric guitar Siobhan‘s breathy voice complemented her songs which have undertones of jazz and country and western with All Dressed Up highlighting this perfectly.  Unperturbed by a short power cut Siobhan picked up her acoustic guitar and walked amongst an attentive audience treating them to a fantastic rendition of Bet Orton’s If I’d Never Seen The Sunshine.  A lovely moment from a lovely singer.

There is not a lot that can be said about Rachel Sermanni that hasn’t been said already.  This folk stalwart from Carrbridge in the Highlands is flying high at the moment on the back of her debut album Under Mountains, and her non-stop touring schedule.  Her strangely situated set in the Fruitstand and Takeover tent (surely a main stage act!) was the highlight of my festival and well worth waiting until Sunday night for.  A hugely engaging talent she conversed with the audience and was happy to play tracks requested of her (she played Eggshells for me!)  Lyrically her songs are a joy and her voice is beautiful.

And with that my weekend was done.  Doune The Rabbit Hole was my first weekend festival, needless to say, it has been my best.  And I will go back! 

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