A review of Friday at Rockness 2012 by Frank Finlayson.

Admiral Fallow

Rockness kicked of with intent. Opening act, Admiral Fallow, gathered a decent crowd for their event opener on the main stage. Bringing both a band and a crowd who are up for it to the same place is always a clever move. It also set the tone for the rest of the day. When many are seeking to get orientated, this proved a more than worthwhile distraction.

In terms of orientation and site layout, the Rockness Arena has tightened up from last year. The layout is more compact and gives the festival a busier feel. Gone is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus tent, a good idea, but just in the wrong place, detached from the festival and the minds of the festival goers. Local bands have now been placed in the Howard’s End tent, an improvement on the horrible orange canopy of last year, but Friday night gave tough slots for the acts as they competed with the headliners. The Goldenvoice Arena has lost its open sides, a good move in terms of atmosphere.

Ed Sheeran (with Wretch 32)

Once my bearings had been found, first assignment was Wretch 32, and it appeared by the packed out tent that there was great anticipation building. A number of false glimpses of the man, led to loud teenage screaming, but the band’s soundcheck turned towards the opening for the first song, pumping out a driving platform onto which Wretch 32 would step. And when he did, the tent erupted. Rockness had truly arrived. Drawing from his album, Black and White, Wretch gave everything that was asked of him. As the set developed, the tent was filling to near capacity, unusual for a band not headlining at Rockness. That may have been a little to do with his next single release, ‘Hush Little Baby’, a venture with Ed Sheeran. Not unexpectedly, Ed appeared and the already bouncing audience leapt further. Ed’s brief encounter was to be reciprocated later, even if it were in a blink and you’ve missed way. The momentum continued to the end, as did the crowd who didn’t filter out once Ed had made his cameo. The commercial nature of Wretch 32’s output certainly drew in the younger elements of the festival, and held them there.

Next stop was Noah and the Whale. However, with Ed Sheeran on my itinerary, there was concern that pushing the limits on the Noah and the Whale set would possibly give difficulty returning to the Goldenvoice Arena. With that in mind, only the start of a slow burning set was picked up. Concern about a return to adjacent tent took hold and an early exit was made.

Ed Sheeran

Arriving 15 minutes early, the numbers for Ed Sheeran were already sizeable. A position three quarters back was the best that could be hoped for. By the time that Ed was on stage, it was clear that we had made the right decision. What wasn’t clear was a view of the stage. With a wall of up shoulder high girls creating a barrier between front and back, jostling and a steady stream attempting to move beyond was developing. ‘Give Me Love’, though, was a rallying call, and the frenzy ensued, with full voice being heard of the festival goers, during ‘Drunk’, which, no doubt, many were. The more poignant, ‘Small Bump’, settled the proceedings before turning to, crowd pleasers, ‘Lego House’ and ‘The A Team’. At this point the tide had turned and now the stream was moving away from the front, but the majority remained, as Ed turned ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ into a singing lesson. He did just about everything he could with the song without breaking it, and getting the aforementioned Wretch 32 on stage for an ever so brief appearance. Not far off twenty minutes playing with the song to round off the set, and send the assembled back out into the night for, judging by the general footfall, the main stage headliners, Mumford and Sons. Clever timing by the organisers.

Wreth 32 (with Ed Sheeran)

So that was day one, and I didn’t moan or blame the damp (but not rainy) weather for anything, in fact I didn’t even mention it. Something must be good then. Saturday, though, is a new day and if the festival continues the way that it started, this could be one of the best years yet down Dores way. The key will be the programming of act times, and already Justice and Deadmau5 only have minor overlaps planned. It all augurs well for the weekend ahead.

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