Could Doune The Rabbit Hole Be One Of The Best Music Festivals?

Glastonbury in miniature is the feel of glitter-faced, nature-loving Doune The Rabbit Hole. Glasto’s a festival I haven’t attended yet (see you next year. This time I promise!) but to me it embodies everything great about festivals – people, love, hippiness and incredibly bad taste in colourful, mismatched, fun clothes. It’s the dream festival ticket…if it wasn’t hundreds of miles away or because it’s hundreds of miles away.

DTRH, on the other hand, is only a forty minute drive from Glasgow and the journey traverses through a beautiful rural backdrop of rolling hills, miles of fields as far as the eye can see and lush greenery in abundance in Doune, Stirlingshire.

The festival, celebrating its 10th year, has everything a great music event can offer except, thankfully, lots of drunken space cadets caked in make-up and mud, flashing their wares and pi**ing on the fence next to the toilets as you walk by.

DRH is more chilled out than most festivals with five gig tents and one main stage area showcasing some of the best bands around from reggae, pop, hard rock, blues, punk, Irish folk music and ballads. The big hitters, as always, headlining late in the evening though many nuggets of musical talent scattered throughout the day.

Everything feels more au naturel though thankfully not au naturist (an altogether different event) at this event, from the car parking stewards waving their hairy armpits freely as they gesticulate where to park my pollutant-run vehicle to the yoga workshops and massage tables offering a destress to the maximum.

Cinemor77 is screening, fittingly, Alice in Wonderland to stick with the DTRH theme as well as secret Cinema – animations and shorts from around the world and Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision of Paradise (sadly I missed this but there’s always next year) and other non-mainstream films.

There’s a separate kids tent stage area as this is a very family friendly event where docile family pet dogs are also welcomed (didn’t hear any growling and all dogs were kept on leads) . The place isn’t overrun with kids and dogs and both are kept entertained though now and again an eight year old mud-covered waif-looking child can be seen running amok barefoot with no parent in sight. It’s clearly an altogether freer feeling festival!

I’m informed Douniversity is new to DTRH and offers talks on Extinction Rebellion (very current (and imminent) thanks to activists like David Attenborough and young Greta Thonberg), Singing in a Choir to Help Homelessness, a talk from a former MI5 intelligent officer turned whistleblower and the one I attended by Tom Binns – Glasgow Piano City – Embedding Playfulness into Public Space. Tom and his colleague give some old donated pianos a new lease of life with a bit of tlc and tuning, decorate them and then place them in public places like the Queen Elizabeth Hospital foyer or Glasgow City centre where anyone can feel special or escape with a tinkering of the ivories. It’s therapeutic and amazingly Tom says though he’s placed pianos throughout Glasgow over the years none have been destroyed. Whoever needed more proof of music spreading love and compassion?

There’s the usual bars and stalls selling crepes, bubble tea, chai tea, kombucha ( a fermented, slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea that I think looks like snot but is apparently very good for you. Though I can’t help feel my trachea narrow when I think of pouring snot-looking tea down my throat) and chips and cheese (with rosemary and sea salt, I’ll have you know) but also Woodland Trust stalls, Serene Sense, Crafty mermaids stall, an RSPB stall and a corner shop selling camper essentials like baked beans to never, ever share in a tent!

There was music from all corners of the festival.

Post Punk Rock’n’Roll duo Run Into The Night’s Christina Cassette & Ellie May from Glasgow were amazing. Shame their set at The Whistleblower was on so early in the afternoon where revellers from the night before and any festival goers arriving fresh on Saturday might not have quite made their set. One on vocals playing electric guitar and the other on drums (it’s a fifty fifty guess). The girls could easily have graced the main stage loudly and confidently. Catchy, punchy beats and playful lyrics like Bad Girls’, ‘I’m a bad girl but I’m too good for you, My Scooby Doo’ kept the few of us who attended, mesmerised by their captivating presence. We were informed ‘the drummer’s got mild concussion after walking into a wall having only drunk one glass of wine’ (was that the ‘Drink Me’ Alice and Wonderland measure?!) Big tick for the girls. Run Into The Night are a band I’ll definitely be looking out for.

Established English electronica band, Asian Dub Foundation played the main stage. And how! Their rapcore, dub, ragga, South Asian music style had fans bouncing and dancing in a trance (there’s no bad dancing at a festival I’ve been told (which is why I’m there)). There was some clarinet playing and guitar heavy beats and I waited for my favourite Buzzin’. God they sounded incredible. The years have been kind to their voices with a bit of a bhangra feel and that brilliant fast rapping that they’re so well know for. As the boys sing and the crowd chant, ‘It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land’ they’re sic beats and instrumentals had everyone dancing in a frenzy.

Big shout out to Samson Sounds at The Warren stage (love this area – more of a club in the mud feel to it) bringing some mellow reggae and a soca Caribbean dance vibe.

The Highlight of the day was, without a doubt, Sister Sledge. The Seventies floodied onto the DTRH Jabberwocky main stage with disco beat big hits like ‘Frankie’, ‘Greatest Lover’, Good Times’, ‘Lost in Music’, ‘Freak Out’ and of course the big finale with We Are Family, one of the best disco sounds of the Seventies, I’m told. Kim and sister Debbie Sledge are touring this year with sister Joni’s son Thadius. Joni, who made up the original trio, passed away a number of years ago.

Great to see teenagers, twenty-somethings and forty somethings belting out the lyrics while snaking their disco hips (thirty somethings, I’ll be having a word with you!).

Go on, let yourself go and feel good

Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival – Happy 10th Birthday and see you next year!

review by Susie Daniels