Doune the Rabbit Hole is a small 3000 capacity family, and dog-friendly festival held in the Cardross Estate near Stirling (and Doune). We arrived on Friday evening and were lucky to get a break in the rain whilst we set up and headed in.
The Damned were first to greet us on the main ‘Jabberwocky’ stage playing punk and goth rock. The band, who formed in 1976, and includes Captain Sensible and Dave Varian proved they can still deliver played from their back catalogue including latest album Evil Spirits released in 2018. A rendition of Sensible’s Happy Talk at the end of the set was a enjoyable addition.
They were one of a few old punk bands playing over the weekend, which featured Hawkwind, The Skids and The Cosmic Dead and added to a varied line up curated for the festival. Later that evening we bizarrely saw ex-snooker player turned DJ Steve Davis back to back with Kavus Torabi of the Cardiacs and Knifeworld playing downbeat electronica at the farthest away hidden part of the site, ‘The Warren’.
Scottish artists were also well represented over the weekend with The Vaselines, BMX Bandits and C Duncan all on the bill. Up and coming artists were also given a platform across the festival at the ‘Bandersnatch’ stage, ‘Whistleblower’ tent and in the Love Music Hate Racism sponsored ‘Beetroot Café’.
On the way back to the campsite we found ourselves drawn into the ‘Sketchy Beats Café’, where a jazz jam session was underway and various performers were dipping in and out playing jazz funk to a packed wee tent. The café was run by the Edinburgh institution, Sketchy Beats and attendees invited to get involved with the many instruments available and sketching materials to play or draw along if you wanted.
On Saturday we were treated to a brighter day with some sun giving respite from the rain. Glasgow band, Tom McGuire and the Brassholes brought some early funk fun to the ‘Jabberwocky’. Their tune Ric Flair in honour of the wrestler was a highlight of the set.
Kids were also well catered for over the weekend with a plethora of fun things to do with games, shows, hula hooping and a couple of sets courtesy of Mr Boom. There were a vast array of interesting workshops available for both young and old, including pottery making, yoga, drumming, dance classes and talks and debates to get involved with in the ‘Douniversity’.
Moving into the evening on the Saturday over at the ‘Baino’ stage, John Cooper Clarke delivered his blend of social and cultural commentary punk alt-poetry to a large crowd filling the tent. And John Grant delivered an atmospheric set at the ‘Jabberwocky’ with his distinct vocals, statement eye mask and instantly catchy lyrics. Then it was the turn of headliner Sister Sledge (still including two of the original sisters) to find “the greatest dancer” with their flurry of hits.
Much later in the ‘Baino’, Bristolians Beak>’s wonky electronic, krautrock vibe was a goer, as the band performed a set, that hit the right notes for the appreciative crowd. They’ve defined a sound, which is truly theirs and recent single Life Goes On as well as Brean Down from their latest album, >>>, accentuated this. Following them were Islanders, Niteworks, playing their fusion of electronic and traditional Scottish complete with bagpipes to keep the party going, which rounded off the night rather suitably for me.
First up on the Sunday in ‘The Warren’ were the Kakatsitsi Drummers from Ghana in the Warren bringing some intoxicating African music to a carefree crowd dancing in the anticipated Scottish weather. They set the scene for a great final day. The award-winning singer/songwriter, Kathryn Joseph, with her acclaimed back-catalogue of music hypnotised many at the ‘Jabberwocky’ with the stripped down eerie vocals and haunting piano.
Headliners for the final night were The Wailers and a celebration of Bob Marley’s music from the band he founded playing for almost two hours. Fronted by Joshua David Barratt, their set included hits Could You be Loved, Rastaman Vibration and I Shot The Sheriff along with rarer tracks by the reggae legend. This was a fitting way to close the ‘Jabberwocky’ stage and left the Doune audience happy and feeling ‘irie’(Jamaican for delightful).
There was however time for one last dance in the ‘Baino’ where experimental US band Battles were performing. Their debut single, Atlas, was a real treat, going down tremendously well with their crowd.
All in all this was a well-organised, chilled out festival with a very relaxed atmosphere throughout the weekend. Commemorating ten years of Doune the Rabbit Hole, there was a warmth, slightly hippy feel to the festival with some bare-footed, embracing the mud. Kids, dogs and adults all walked away from the Cardross Estate bearing smiles.