Doune The Rabbit Hole

Cardross Estate, Stirlingshire

Four Stars

Nicola Meighan

As Lewis Carroll almost wrote, you'd have to be half-mad to dream up Doune the Rabbit Hole. Since 2010, the family-friendly Stirlingshire festival has appeared to shirk any nod to corporate sponsorship or commercialism, in favour of a home-grown hillside hoopla.

This year's idyllic, day-glo charms included fairy-lit tree-dens, unicyclists, healing crystals, belly dancers, puppet workshops, salted ice-cream (never again), and a canvas-housed Victorian sauna and tepidarium which was open till dawn. The festival continues to thrive in its relatively new home of Cardross Estate (it originally ran in the grounds of Doune Castle, hence the name).

Their music programme, too, played out like a fever dream, from Honey And The Herbs' exotic barbershop prog to Trash Kit's kamikaze femme-punk; from Insect Heroes' dystopian, Ghostbusters pop to The John Langhan Band's Balkan-ceilidh wig-outs. Yes, there was dancing.

There were glow-sticks. There was falling over.

As usual, the weekend's kaleidoscopic bill offered the chance to see far-flung, global trailblazers – like Dutch jazz-punk livewires The Ex, US art-punk mavericks Deerfhoof and the Bhundu Boys' Rise Kagona – in a genuinely intimate and unusual setting. And it offered a platform for brilliant local talent like urban-pop livewire Be Charlotte, electro-noir alchemist Zyna Hel, and techno-chanson duo Happy Meals.

Some acts feel like old Doune The Rabbit Hole friends now – glorious psych-folk diabolists Trembling Bells and poetic unplugged bass-punk Howie Reeve have played several times, and each return announcement feels more welcome and triumphant – even if Reeve did stave off any sense of celebration by quipping that his jazz-folk psalms were “too dark for a party”, during a spellbinding, deadpan set on Saturday afternoon. And then he sang a song about a mushroom cloud in Syria.

Noise-pop insurgents PAWS, too, returned to a tent they last ravaged in 2014, and several other Scottish indie outfits played blinders:

slow-core harmonists eagleowl eased us into Saturday afternoon, and kraut-folk conjurers The Phantom Band invoked dark and unknowable wonder in the twilight.

The Jabberwocky Stage – part retro sci-fi rig-up, part patchwork-quilt – was a fitting backdrop for The Phantoms' skewed electro divinations, which are futuristic and archaic, extra-terrestrial and earthy. Two toddlers dressed as ladybirds danced along to The Wind That Cried The World, while a silhouetted arm raised a bottle saying DRINK ME (or maybe just Buckfast) at the moon, and Doune The Rabbit Hole, it seems, gets curiouser and curiouser, indeed.