Review: Let's Rock Scotland/Sunday Sessions, Dalkeith Country Park
You really can't get a better location for a music festival.
Dalkeith Country Park is a ten-minute walk from town, bus links take you from the capital to the door for a couple of quid, and the setting was pretty much spot on for two days of fabulous live music.
Two very different audiences too for Saturday’ Let’s Rock Scotland and then the Sunday Sessions – but, collectively, the organisers must be delighted at how it went.
The sun shone, the crowds rolled up, and the bars were pretty much drunk dry come chucking out time.
Rewind may be the king of the retro festivals, but the Let’s Rock banner is clearly giving it a run for its money.
Saturday’s event in Dalkeith was one of a host of gigs around the UK with the acts mixed and matched to meet their schedules.
There were some surreal sights as 22,0000 people pretty much booked out the Midlothian Babysitters’ Association for the day, packed the Prosecco, and went to have a party.
And they did.
It was a like wandering into a school reunion disco where fancy dress was compulsory – yellowcoats from Hi-De-Hi seemed strangely popular this year – and everyone went slightly doo-lally as soon as the DJ cued up some Hazell Dean.
It may also have been a secret bid to set a new world record for the most fold away chairs in a field at one time – we watched the first few acts from what felt like the adjoining field so it was rather hard to figure out where Nik Heyward ended and Nik Kershaw took over.
The huge swarm of wee beasties which flew above our heads clearly didn’t care much for the sounds of either – or maybe they knew it was Black Lace up next and didn’t fancy hanging around for their pineapple pushing dance routines. Can’t blame ‘em.
Black Lace were one of a number of bands to add in some truly risible cover versions.
They wrestled both Tom Jones and Neil Diamond to the floor while Go West took on Kings Of Leon’s Sex On Fire. They lost.
The incongruity of shifting straight from the banality of Black Lace to Heaven 17 storming straight into We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang summed up the 80s in one set change.
Heaven 17 turned in a smashing set too, reminding us just how good songs such as Temptation really were.
While they have stood the test of time, others from the 80s – the decade where things were better as every second t-shirt reminded us – sounded pretty ropey.
Midge Ure scored a winner with Vienna and a run through the best of Ultravox and his solo career, and also kick-started the run in which saw great sets true 80s icons, including Marc Almond, ABC - as slick as ever - the ever popular Tony Hadley who just about got away with taking on Queen’s Someone To Love, and and Billy Ocean, a trouper who gave the fans what they wanted
Even those stuck in a fold away chair hundreds of yards from the stage - where even the big screens were about the size of my telly.
I grew up in the 80s. None of this was my soundtrack, but it’s kinda hard to even dent the feel-good factor retro festivals bring.
It was interesting to contrast it with the Sunday Sessions just 24 hours later – a much rockier line-up, but also an attendance of maybe half the size?
The fold away chairs were shoved to either side of the stage too which was a good move, but there were still plenty of place to pick a good spot well into the afternoon.
The Lorelei were great openers, while the Sugar Hill Gang wound back the clock to deliver some of hip hop’s finest moments and had more arms in the air than at a mass Zumba workout.
I doubt they ever envisaged one day standing in a field in Dalkeith belting out a bit of Bon Jovi.
The Happy Mondays probably didn’t either – there agin, they probably didn’t expect to survive long enough to becomne a retro act either.
But, on a glorious sunny day their anthems were the perfect crowd pleasers.
And then Pete Doherty wandered on stage with a canine companion.
True, he missed ‘Take Your Dog To Work’ Day’ by 48 hours, but the canine link summed up a set that was an absolute dog’s dinner.
Any buzz which heralded his arrival on stage melted faster than the ice in my cup as he doodled about on his guitar and let songs drift into oblivion note by endless note until he found something else to start.
While the faithful willed him on, cheering every song, the majority were static. Some found their their smartphones more interesting, others headed to the bar, the DJ tent, or the second stage. The dog was also nowhere to be seen.
With hindsight, the organisers should have punted Doherty – and his dug – to the smaller stage and promoted Peter Hook and The Lightning Seeds.
Hooky’s set of New Order and Joy Division songs was utterly joyous – and the big crowd lapped it up - while The Lightning Seeds were simply smashing.
But, according to the host DJ, Sunday was all about headliners, the Kaiser Chiefs, which was a bit disingenious.
Still, Ricky Wilson relit the fuse Doherty blew out and had the place bouncing to make sure this Sunday Sessions went out on the highest note possible.