Surrounded almost entirely by endless fields of sheep, you’d never guess that the independent non-profit music festival, Doune the Rabbit Hole, took place just half an hour from Glasgow. A small collective of artists, hippies, toddlers and music-lovers assembled at Duncarron Medieval fort last weekend for some stellar performances in Scottish music and general good times.
With just 400 attendees (half of which seemed to be either performing or volunteering), the 3 day event had an intimate family vibe, with toddlers sloshing about in the mud and grownups getting sloshed on Thistly Cross Cider. Even at the main venue, the Jabberwocky stage, artists were within spitting distance of their adoring fans, which resulted in some hilarious requests, dedications and interactive antics.
We arrived on Friday afternoon to a laid-back group of happy campers and chilled acoustic music, punctuated by a couple of rollicking rock bands such as The Stagger Rats and the squealy fun of The Lovely Eggs. Wee ones caught raindrops at the Toddler’s Hangout or had a go at moulding clay at the Pottery Caravan while dreadlocked mums and dads chatted to musicians they’d see later onstage. Young folk were busy getting jolly and stumbling over tree-trunks or munching on some of the local nosh on offer- including steamy mugs of tea and hummus wraps from Glasgow’s very own Tchai-Ovna.
The atmosphere couldn’t have been less pressured; we wandered from stage to stage, guesstimating when acts might play as there were no set times. As the night picked up, Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells took to the Jabberwocky and performed their lady-melting magic, winding down their set with a cover of Cruel Summer and proving that Moffat’s smooth talking can transform even Bananarama into heart-wrenching introspective beauty.
A few steps up the muddy slope at the Tenement TV stage, the LaFontaines were giving us the very best of Scottish rap, even managing to get a merry-mini-moshpit going with what was probably the rowdiest crowd of the weekend.
We headed back to the mainstage for the ambient excellence of The Phantom Band, whose stage included more instruments than I have fingers (a banjo, xylophone and 5 keyboards, to name a few), a bassist with a blonde wig, and an old film projection of everything from swaying leaves to the karate kid. Their brilliant set marked the end of the evening for us as we headed down the dark and lonely roads back to Glasgow, but we were all geared up for our return on Saturday night.
Everyone was in full festival swing on the second evening of the festival but the vibe was still as mellow as ever. The afternoon’s torrential rains seemed to have left little else to do but drink, and soaked punters staggered happily around the site as we arrived. At the mainstage, King Creosote showed us that after 19 years of music-making he’s still got it, and his sublime folkie sound even got one (ahem, male) audience member to go taps aff for playing a favourite song. A little later at the Fruitstand stage, Alex Turner soundalike Kieran Fisher of The Good Daze had a small crowd dancing like it was going out of style, even through a power cut which left him mic-less and in the dark. The sweet birdsong of Sparrow and the Workshop drew us towards the Inspire tent and kept us there in awe of her incredible vocals and catchy tunes. The last act of the night for us was Bwani Junction, whose upbeat african-inspired melodies echo Vampire Weekend while their gritty lyrics of suburban adolescence draw from the likes of the Libertines. Their set was one of the highlights of the festival, and included a hybrid mashup of The Pogues’ ‘Dirty Old Town’ and Orchestre Super Mazembe’s Shauri Yako which worked remarkably well.
As the evening was just getting started for some riotous campers, we said goodbye to the bunnies and embarked on our journey back to Glasgow. We couldn’t help but feel lucky to have been part of such a special weekend as we rested our sleepy heads on the train home. As a non-profit event, it was obvious that everyone at Doune the Rabbit Hole was there to appreciate good music and good company, and there was certainly no shortage of either.
Words: Tess Hokin