Doune the Rabbit Hole

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Cardross Estate, Port of Menteith,

Stirling

21st-22nd August

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We were all working late so it was 20.30 before we were able to set off towards our destination from Edinburgh to – Up Doune!  We were thoroughly amusing ourselves with the prospect of setting our tents up in the dark. Sure enough, it was pitch black when we arrived but we managed to fathom out the practical side of creating our weekend shelters.  We had a slight difficulty in collecting our tickets when we first arrived on site, as the box office was closed for the evening, so the man at the gate told us we would have to wait until the morning before we would be admitted to the festival itself.  However, after parking up, we headed over and asked the lovely volunteers at the entrance of the Rabbit Hole , who were most obliging and offered us a temporary wrist band each so we could enjoy the welcoming opening evening.

Doune - Painted signs

The air is warm and the smiles flood past us, as we meander past colourful hand painted signs and fantastically decorated stalls. Fairy lights draw us in like moths as we migrate towards the sound of music, coming from the first stage at the Whistleblower tent. This ground level tented stage sits opposite a grass dance area, situated in front of a cocktail bar which sits under a large gazebo style tent, sheltering shabby chic tables and chairs; which at night looks like a fancy restaurant, picked up from a European beach front and plopped in a field. Alongside is an open fronted yurt, containing a comfy chilling zone with hammocks, a sofa and wooden bench seats.

Doune the rabbit hole faye in tree (1)

The layout of the entire festival is compact but suitably spaced, so noise doesn’t interfere between each tent/stage. The map of the grounds has a horse shoe direction to it. Before the Wistleblower stage, on the right, is the Casa Caliente tent, hosting all of the festivals spoken word events, as well as beat poetry, rap and some music too. On the curve of the shoe is where we find the Jabberwokky stage, which is essentially the main stage; it elevates the artists to chest height, completely outdoor, with a large dancing green in front.

doune dream machineFacing this stage, you can find the Dream Machine tent snuggled in the left corner, which is an intimate yurt warmed inside with carpets and beanbags, plus a projector, small platform holding three of four massive speakers and small library behind a curtain! On the right of the Jabberwokky stage, and set back slightly from narrow hollow tree, is the Baino stage.The Baino pumps out most of the harder and more alternative artists of the weekend. Following the horse shoe to its dead end, will bring you to the Tweedledee – Tweedledum tent, which provides all the dub and reggae for the weekend.

The atmosphere is overwhelming friendly and welcoming. Glittery happy dancing people everywhere! The cross section of cultures is outstanding. Children and dogs run among party goers freely and help to create the family love vibe which is perpetually dissolving boundaries between friends and what used to be regarded as strangers. Ironically, it is our mutual strangeness which seems to draw us into each other.

Photo - David Blair

doune the rabbit hole tapastry

By 09.00am on Saturday, we are washed, dressed and ready for food! As we re-enter the rabbit hole from the well spaced and conveniently close campsite, the smell of warm food and coffee welcomes our hungry stomachs, just like Nana’s house does after a heavy night on the juice.

We nom down the first taste of delicious and exceptionally well priced grub, which is on offer from every food vender all weekend. Breakfast consisted of a cracking bacon and cheese toasty with homemade chilli jam, served with a smile and banter from a cool as beans restored and refurbished Citron van man. I also noticed a favourite for other rabbits trying to silence the morning tummy rumbles, seemed to be the busy crepe stall, who were wrapping tasty goodness up in between the Whistleblower stage and chill zone.

Doune the rabbit hole childrenBy 10.00am the officials are back to their stations. After collecting the wrist bands we needed for the rest of the weekend, we stroll back in to check out what is lined up for the early birds. Children are already busy at work in the Spinning Jenny’s Shenanigans area, located opposite the first aid tent, on the right hand side of the first tree found on entering the Rabbit Hole. A cul-de-sac of tents, filled with a plethora of exciting activities for kids of all ages; a tree swing, stilts, juggling, hula hoops and much more cirque style games and arts and crafts, keep a company of highly important fun business, ticking over in shifts all weekend.

Saturday shed much light on the variety brought to us by the wonderful local businesses and crafts people, who came and set up stall at Doune for this superb little gathering. Clothes stalls such as; Monkey Temple from Edinburgh, Scarfpixie and also Buttons, Butterflies and Beads who are a business run by a lovely couple from Dundee; whom recycle, upcycle and craft gorgeous retro clothing and jewellery are placed between music and grub.

It is impossible to see everyone, on account of so many magical events taking place, and also because there are so many beautiful wonderful people to make friends with.

Photo - David Blair

We get a chance to meet a few of the artists such as; Alex Frew and Dr Andy Flemming who are performers individually as well as representing Frobisher & Gleason as a duo. Also we chat with Genesee whom is a Kenyan born singer songwriter from Dunfries and Galloway living and regularly performing in Glasgow; all of whom are performing under Failbetter, organised by Lorna, which is a spoken word and music collaboration, an event bringing together entertaining and political misfits, usually found at McCools in Glasgow. Performances on feminism, immigration, anti-Fracking and Palestine Fundrasing can all be expected from this crew.

As the evening starts to draw in, people who had too much fun on Friday night start to reappear.
The Phantom Band, a Scottish sextet, really kick things off for me, and we were lucky enough to get an interview with the guys.

doune the phantom band

We speak to Rick, Lead Guitar and Vocals

Bobbi
What steps do you take to prepare mentally for doing a festival & is it different when playing for a local crowd, compared to when you are touring abroad?

Rick
Yes, it definitely is different. We have played at Doune before, we really love this festival. Local crowds are more willing to cut loose and show a greater support, I guess because they know who we are. Sometimes if we play Glasto we can end up with an afternoon slot, when people are half way in between relaxing and getting back in the mood for a dance.

Bobbi
Some crazy phrases have been thrown around to try and capture your sound, how would you describe it yourselves?

Rick
I guess it is slightly left field rock music. Someone once said we sound like a wardrobe full of coathangers rolling down a hill! I’ll go with that!

Bobbi
I felt like I could detect some traditional Indian undertones throughout some of the tracks, was that intentional?

Rick
Really? Wow, no, not really. I suppose we have some Ethiopian jazz fans in the band, so maybe some of that has come through the power of subconscious osmosis while we are creating.

Bobbi

If you were to create a metaphor of your sound by using the analogy of a drink, what would your ingredients be?

Rick
Whisky, Bitters, O.J, Grass, Rosemary (that smells nice), milk and loads of bicarbonate soda so it fizzes up all over the place. You’d have to serve it with 6 straws and a little red bird dancing on the edge of the glass.

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Photo - David Blair

The tunes are banging in all areas and the Dream Machine offers a perfect refuge for dancing and chatting, sitting nicely in between the vibes of the main stages tents and chill out zones. We really let our hair down and partied on until the sun rises again and takes us down to the bonfire for songs, stories and even a brief rain dance. We head off for some sleep, a large quantity of coconut water, and a bite to eat, so we can recharge for Sunday. As we crawl out of our sweaty little tent, we realise that today is going to be a good day. The Yellow Movement are on full march, people are looking spiritually balanced again, and the tunes are taking us to our special places.

The sun is beating on us and evaporating all the sadness from our world. Bubble tea is saving us again. But not as much as Dr Cosmos Tape Lab. What a performance! Absolute fruit cakes, the lot of them! Loved it!

We are even witnessing performers finishing their set sharp so they too can enjoy another act. By now, the performers and the audience really feel like one family. You lose this in a big festival for sure. What an emotional day it is turning out to be. People are lying around feeling the love, and the kids are showing us up with their boundless energy. Note to future self; do a somersault with your children at least once a day. We get geared up for Tantz next, and again, we were grateful to have a chance for a little chat with the sextet from Leeds, who play a medley of Klezmer, Bulkan jazz and dub groove.

Ben, guitarist, gives us his banter.

Bobbi
Where did the name Tantz come from?

Ben

It actually means ‘dance’ in Yiddish.

Bobbi
Are any of you guys Jewish or from the Balkan regions?

Ben
Yeah, I am Jewish, and although we are all from Leeds, myself and Matt, the Violinist have roots in Russia and Poland, and Dwayne the Percussionist is Roman Gypsy.

Bobbi
When did you guys come together?

Ben
About five years ago, although there have been various line ups since then. We have been in our current set up for nearly three years. We create original music as well as rearranging Klezmer tunes between all of us.

Bobbi
If you could describe your sound as a drink, what would the ingredients be?

Ben
Coffee, tequila, hummus, bagels, cream cheese, gherkins, acid, smoke, fennel seeds and malden salt, all blended into a Tantz cocktail!

Photo - David Blair

The warm evening brings the perfect end to a glorious experience. If you haven’t been to Doune the Rabbit Hole before, get yourself involved! It is the perfect introduction into an underappreciated way of life, and is certainly part of a movement we should all be acquainted with. This trip you can take regardless of your past journeys.  A place that will do stuff to your soul.

Reviewer : Bobbi Mckenzie

Bobbi is on the left

Bobbi is the cute girl on the left

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