Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival, Cardross Estate Stirlingshire 13-15th 2018 A Review

Set in the stunning location of Cardross Estate in Stirlingshire with a nice family friendly vibe and an eclectic line up of bands, Doune the rabbit hole has been one of my favourite festivals for a few years now. The organisers surpassed themselves with the line up this year so I was as chuffed as that multi-purpose four letter word when I was asked to review it. After getting all the tenty stuff out the way we headed down to the festival site to catch some of Dreadzone’s set on the Jabberwocky stage. Their Dub infused electronica is just what the doctor ordered, the perfect start to a festival.

After getting some food and banter back at the campsite it’s time to go see Bombskare in the Whistleblower tent. They do their usual bouncy sing-a-long-a- ska thing and the tent is absolutely rammed. They play a tight passionate set filled with all the usual favourites and when they do their version of Toxic by Britney Spears the place goes absolutely mental. After Bombskare, my daughter and I go and check out Stonefield in the Baino tent. Comprised of four sisters, Stonefield are a Doomy, Psychedelic hard rock band from America who come across like a hybrid of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Fleetwood Mac. The songs are sung by a Drummer who sings like Jinx Dawson from Coven and plays the drums like Bill Ward and they all look cool as into the bargain.

With both daughter and I suitably happy and inspired we then head back round to the Whistleblower stage to catch the Orielles do their jangly indie thing. With catchy songs stuffed to the brim with funky basslines and reverb drenched guitar, the band has a packed Whistleblower tent eating out of their hands. The best part of the set however is when a wee boy at the front of the crowd with the biggest ear defenders in human history asks the guitarist to play the Star Wars theme, the guitar player just laughed and said sorry, I don’t know it. So there you have it, The Orielles are not a band who will bend to the whims of their audience.

Akala is up next on the Jabberwocky stage, and let me tell you, he doesn’t disappoint. Hard hitting thought provoking hip hop all delivered with passion and style. While introducing his classic song Shakespeare from 2005 he makes the observation that most of the audience probably weren’t even born when he recorded it. This is definitely the case for the front row anyway which is mostly comprised of my daughters and their pals. Last band of the evening were a wildcard that I took a chance on that ended up being one of the highlights of the weekend. Rapid Tan are a four piece post punk band from Glasgow. All jagged riffs, stop start time changes, crazy bursts of speed and genuinely feral vocals, this lot aren’t into taking prisoners and aren’t afraid to rock the boat either, even at the risk of alienating your audience, as berating all the white crusties with dreadlocks for cultural appropriation shows.  Get them checked out. You’ll not be disappointed.

The first band that I see on Saturday are the Shiverin’ Shieks in the Whistleblower tent. Fronted by a guy dressed like Hank Williams but with a voice like Buddy Holly who trade in a neat line of bittersweet 50’s style Rock ‘n Roll & Doo Wop, the perfect start to a sunny Saturday. Next up is the Beat in the Baino tent, who we nearly miss because they are playing earlier than billed. They are quite simply stunning, Churning out all the hits and some of the newer material which sounds great. Ranking Roger looks great and is in fine voice (confirming my belief that he’s some kind of rude boy vampire) and the tent is absolutely jumping and fit to burst.

The Orb in the Baino tent is one of the first truly mind blowing moments of the festival. There are times during their set when I genuinely travel to places in my mind. I don’t care how hippy dippy this sounds, the combination of sound and visuals was truly transcendental. All the classics like Blue Room, Little Fluffy Clouds and a truly amazing version of Towers Of Dub get an airing alongside lesser known tracks. The last band of the night on the Jabberwocky stage is Temples, who’s glossy NME Indie doesn’t really do it for me. They’re good at what they do and the singer has a really good voice its just a bit anti climatic after the mind altering experience of the Orb.

Woke up genuinely excited on Sunday.  Last days are usually a killer at festivals but the weathers been great, the company’s been fantastic and the bands have been superb so I was in an uncharacteristically good mood. After dossing about in the tent for ages (well, it is the day of rest) we head down to check out the bands. By the time we reach the Jabberwocky stage just as the Mouse Outfit are starting. This lot are the perfect start to the day. Jazzy, funky golden age style Hip Hop from Manchester. All 3 MC’s have incredible flows with some real high-speed spitting going on and have good banter with the crowd. They also have an amazing drummer with an even more amazing singing voice. I’m definitely going to have to check out more of their stuff because I thoroughly enjoyed their set.

Shit got real after the Mouse Outfits set because it was time for the Cosmic Dead’s set in the Baino tent. I somehow managed to miss Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs play, which understandably pisses me off, but at least I have the Cosmic Dead to save the day. Playing in front of a screen showing the world cup final (yeah, it would appear that there’s no escape from it, even in a field in Stirlingshire.) The band are on fire from the start. The addition of Tommy Duffin on drums has really made a difference and they sound a lot tighter than the last time I saw them, it’s the same Doom laden Hawkwindy space rock it just seems to be less loose and more focused now. All the ingredients that make them great (volume and repetition) are here in spades and for the second time this weekend I get totally immersed in the music and go into an almost trance like state.

After food and a wee trip to one of the Jam tents where festival goers get the chance to show off their chops, and incidentally, where a lot of really interesting stuff happens over the weekend it’s time for Aiden Moffat and R.M. Hubbert’s set in the Baino tent. The tent is jammed to bursting point with a lot of people sitting on the ground (They are gently berated by Aiden Moffat for leaving us poor folks that can’t get into the tent out in the rain). The set is pretty much comprised of songs from the Here lies the body lp. And, a couple of technical issues aside, they work really well in a live setting (especially the ones with Siobhan Wilsons fantastic vocals on them. The best moment of the entire set is when Aiden Moffat has to restart one of the songs because his daughter put him off and made him forget the words, it adds to the intimate feel of the set and it seems like we could just be in their living room rather than a field in Scotland. A definite highlight of the weekend.

Watch Frankie Cosmos do her shambling lo-fi indie thing on the Jabberwocky stage. I like her stuff and her and her band play a really good set, it just all seems to get a bit lost on the main stage, reckon she’d have been better in a tent. After Frankie Cosmos it’s time for the main reason that I’m at this festival to begin. Atari Teenage Riot are about to start the Riot in the Baino tent. As soon as the band start playing the place erupts into a mass of flailing limbs as everyone starts dancing frantically to the wall of noise that the band unleashes. A healthy mix of classics and new tunes ae blasted out with passion and ATR prove without a shadow of a doubt that their incendiary blend of Techno, Punk and Anarchism is not only still relevant, but absolutely necessary. They also prove with both Alec Empire, and Nic Endo that only Anarchists are pretty This band may be extreme but we live in extreme times. Leaving the tent after they played with my daughter Sophie and my good friend Lesley’s minds suitably blown it hard not to feel that everything after is just not gonna measure up.

We’re nearly at an end of the festival (well, the bands anyway, lots more felonious, debauched and immoral practices occur after the music stops, but it’s probably best if we don’t get into that.) Big Country on the Jabberwocky are ok. Was never really a big fan but as they blast their way through this greatest hits set I realise just how many of their songs  I know. Never gonna be a huge fan, but They play an enjoyable enough set. Finally we get to headliners the Levellers. What can I say about the Levellers that hasn’t already been said. They are without a doubt the perfect festival band (they were born out of the festival scene) and they don’t disappoint tonight. All the classics are played with passion and aplomb and the band look like they are having a blast and there really is no other way to finish a festival than a mass drunken singalong in a field.

I’ve covered the music side of the festival, but as anyone who’s ever attended one knows. Festival’s are about much more than just music. They are family gatherings, an opportunity to meet up with friends, a place to get completely wasted and escape the grind of modern life, an opportunity to convene with nature. In fact, festivals can be about anything you want them to be, and Doune is one of the best that I have ever been to for catering for other needs. The estate is stunning so there are plenty opportunities to disappear for some quiet time. There is also a brilliant kids area with lots of activities to keep your wee horrors happy and the food stalls are always good. Well done to the Doune the rabbit hole crew for getting it spectacularly right again. See you’s next year for more shenanigans.

Words by Baz / Photos By Beth