Oxegen: Day Three

17 07 2009

[From http://www.totallydublin.ie/blog%5D

Dear Oxegen-info starved readers, please forgive the lateness of my post. That’s what three days of trudging about in the mud, bearing torrential downpours in the name of music research, some, em, light boozing, sleeping in the car and staying up ‘til 5am to debate the finer points of MCD’s organisational skills and communication issues at some sleazy guy’s ‘tent party’ will get you. None of your fancy B&B’s or hotel stays for the Totally Dublin team, we’re dedicated to bringing you the FULL festival experience here (well, apart from a certain indie whizz kid who wimped out with a day pass ;)).

So, day three. The amateurs had crashed and burned and the rain from the day before had driven away the rookies. With Saturday drawing the largest amount of day-trippers, being the only day to have sold out of one day tickets, the crowd had dissipated considerably come dawn and the sun was trying it’s best to come through for us. I was awoken by a light tapping on my cardigan-covered window (which, as I found out, only serves to intrigue people further about what’s behind the window of your car. Countless times I looked up to find a single eye peering through the gaps in my makeshift screen as I tried in vain to have my knacker shower in privacy. Advice – don’t sleep in the car if you value your dignity. If, like me, keeping warm and dry is higher on your list of priorities than maintaining self-respect, ditch the tent and recline your seat). Anyway, the tapping. Some lovely fellow requesting nail varnish. Why, prey tell? To glue the wristband that his friend in the arena had snapped off and sent back out to him. You have to admire the ingenuity of the Irish. I scabbed a smoke in return for a drop of my favourite black lacquer; “not a Johnny Blue or an’thin’ fancy like tha’ though.” And so began another day.

the-specials

I had decided that Sunday would be a ‘floating day’; a day to drift aimlessly from stage to stage with no pressure or mad dash to catch any particular band. There was one exception: The Specials. Fresh from their lauded Glasto performance, the reformed ska legends’ performance was the main draw of the festival for many of the over 20s and Sunday’s day-trippers. If ever there were a band that deserved sun it was The Specials. After helping to lift millions of spirits throughout the 80’s recession with their iconic two-tone tunes, it looked like they were sent back to help us out of an economic slump once again. Alas though, it was not to be and, as if on cue, the opening bars of ‘Do the Dog’ called forth the rain once again. In probably the heaviest downpour all weekend, it took all of two minutes for revellers to be so thoroughly soaked that there was no point in running for shelter. And with the band belting out hit after hit with all the gusto of teenagers, why the hell would you want to leave? Even the usually po-faced security guards couldn’t help but smile and sing along to the anthemic ‘A Message to You, Rudy’. The rain eased just in time for ‘Ghost Town’ and in the words of Fr. Billy O’Dwyer aka ‘SpinMaster’: “Can everyone please stand for the national anthem.” Well, certainly the anthem of Oxegen ’09 anyway.

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The rest of my tent-flitting brought to my ears the audible treats of Friendly Fires, Foals, Jane’s Addiction and The Twang. I even hung out in the Dance Arena long enough to catch the end of Miss Kitten and The Hacker’s set and half of Felix Da Housecat. I knew I’d be a broken woman come Sunday.

As mentioned by, well, almost every other Oxegen reviewer, Friendly Fires were the find of the festival. One of those bands who had been tarred with the collective ‘next big thing’ brush, thanks to their fantastic single ‘Paris’, they had been simultaneously chewed up and spat out by much of the wider media until now. With many ambling in to see them as a precursor to follow-up band Foals, they stole the thunder of the critically acclaimed ‘math-rockers’ (yes, everything MUST be slotted neatly into a genre; otherwise journalists get confused and run out of adjectives). Expect to see the initial interest in the band rejuvenated and download sales surge. Incidentally, Foals rocked too.

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I spent a few songs at the O2 Stage for Jane’s Addiction but, not being overly obsessed with the band, Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell’s combined creepy demeanours (complete with botox, bare torsos, kiss-blowing, tongue-waggling and leather- clad ass-shaking) were enough to make me too nauseous to stick it out for favourites such as ‘Been Caught Stealing’, ‘Three Days’ and ‘Jane Says’. What they did do was drive me to the afore-mentioned Dance Arena. Perhaps deterred by Fever Ray’s earlier performance, most of the hard-core ravers and yip-heads had scarpered and everyone was in good spirits for top DJ’s Miss Kitten and The Hacker and Felix Da Housecat.

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Topping the night off was a fantastic performance from stalwart lad-rockers The Twang who, despite playing to a tiny crowd due to a time clash with festival headliners The Killers, put in an energetic and admirable performance. Refreshingly devoid of airs and graces, The Twang ironically headlined the Hotpress New Bands Stage, despite being around long enough to have earned the small cult following that worshipped them with more adoration than that of all of the passing Killers fans put together.

And so ends another Oxegen. Countless grumbles of “never again” could be heard as the mass exodus from Punchestown took place today. But I know, you know, and the dogs on the street know that after weary bones have been soaked, stomach grumbles have been satisfied and headaches subsided, the memories of the incredible performances will far outweigh those of mud, rain and the indignity of being herded like cattle and, come next July, thousands will be out welly-shopping once again in preparation for what has truly become a rite of passage for Ireland’s youth.

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Oxegen: Day Two

17 07 2009

They said it was going to happen and it did. The heavens opened yesterday afternoon inducing mud-drenched mayhem throughout the Oxegen site. There was no sign of the ‘extra provisions’ that MCD had purportedly put in place to ensure things ran smoothly should the inevitable happen and, needless to say, the masses descended upon the largest tent, the Heineken Green Spheres. Never fear though, your trusty concert promoters were on hand to put the kybosh on those who had the audacity to seek shelter and proceeded to block off all entrances to the tent. Safety reasons, perhaps, but it wasn’t exactly bulging at the seams. Thankfully, some kind soul inside pulled up the side of the tent and about a dozen drenched souls made a break for it behind the turned backs of the security guards, myself included. Ahh… getting one up on the security guards – nothing like it. The repercussions of my need for shelter were threefold. On the downside, my illusion of one of my favourite musicians of recent years was well and truly shattered. Ok, so Pete Doherty has never been a reliable performer but when he’s on form he commands a room like no other and his stage presence can be enough to give you shivers. Not so the drunken (or other) mess who stumbled onstage with a guitar last night and proceeded to half-sing songs from his fantastic new album, ‘Grace/Wastelands’ before forgetting the words and launching into Libertines songs for his blindly adoring fans who must have been as out of it as he was to deem him worthy of their applause. His lack of effort to even feign sobriety was insulting, especially when you compare this to the effort that some of yesterday’s other acts went to for their slots. Afterwards a fan stumbled on my shoulder, wide eyed and ecstatic, declaring “Fucking hell, did you see that? Acoustic Pete Doherty – Class! Brilliant!” proving that no matter what he does he’ll still have an army of disciples that will tolerate the most shambolic of performances.

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On the upside, I was torn between Elbow on the Main Stage and TV on the Radio in the Green Spheres when the hurricane that was forming in the distance outside made up my mind for me. TV on the Radio were unbelievable. Wonderfully flamboyant and fantastically fluorescent, Tunde Adebimpe was the perfect frontman to lift the spirits left so dampened by a combination of the rain and the aforementioned shambling baby. TheYeah Yeah Yeahs are obviously big fans as they legged it over quicksmart after their set to dry off and watch TV on the Radio from side stage.
Leaving Bloc Party and the Kings of Leon to the masses, I stuck around to watch thePet Shop Boys perform the songs I loved as a seven-year-old bopping around in my mother’s legwarmers and, my God am I glad I did. I’d heard great things about their stage set-ups and choreography but, having never seen them before, I didn’t know what to expect. The set up was mind-blowing, awesome, indescribable. I nearly cried at one point, seriously. Think neon, tumbling cubes, dancing skyscrapers, robots and umpteen costume changes. Incredible. Whether you’re a fan or not, you have to put Pet Shop Boys on your ‘to see before I die’ list. It’s imperative that you do that.

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Flitting past the Kings of Leon as they blasted out generic stadium rock from their new album (although I did catch a bit of ‘Charmer’ which was incredible, as all their stuff from the first three albums is), I arrived at the O2 Stage just in time to see the main Bad Seed himself arrive on stage with the deliciously sinister air that seems to envelop him. Unsurprisingly, the crowd consisted of die-hard fans and Nick Cave didn’t disappoint. Cave was joined on stage by Shane McGowan for his encore.

Today’s line up is poptastic with the likes of Katy Perry, The Ting Tings and Lady Gaga all on the bill. Rumour has it that a pink Vespa has been thrown into Gaga’s props room and her runners have been dispatched to find “suitable underwear to ease chaffing from whips and chains”… not sure how Betty from Naas Ladies Fashion Boutique will react to that particular request but it’s gonna make for one helluva show. I’m going to be firmly planted in the pit waiting for The Specials to top their awesome Glastonbury show and put a little ska-induced spring back into my weary, unshowered step. Check in tomorrow for a full update and keep an eye out for tweets throughout the day.

Sheena





Oxegen – Day One

17 07 2009

The first gig I ever went to without my parents was Blur’s 1995 RDS appearance. My mother made me bring a padlock to secure my jacket around my waist lest I get torn limb from limb in the crowd at “one of those wild concerts”. Naive, wide-eyed and stone-cold sober, I didn’t know what to expect. Thanks to a well-tested combination of clambering over shoulders, diving through legs and downright pigheaded ignorance, my tween sidekick and I managed to get right up to the barriers; it’s a method I still swear by today and last night it served me well once again as I found myself, 14 year’s later, within touching distance of Damon. Well, almost. Kicking things off with ‘She’s So High’ and leading straight into ‘Boys and Girls’, the crowd were whipped into such a frenzy it didn’t matter ithat most of them were still in nappies when the band had their heyday. After Glasto, Hyde Park and now Oxegen, Blur have cemented their status as timeless band. With all the energy and boyish good looks of teenagers, 40-somethings Albarn and Coxon leapt about the stage like springboks on speed to ‘Parklife’, ‘Song 2’, ‘There’s No Other Way’ and stared in awe and gratitude at their adoring crowd before emotionally, almost tearfully, performing their unforgettable encore ‘The Universal’, during which Damon leapt into a crowd that surged forward to grapple at any piece of his body available. I think I copped a feel of his shin. Alex James remained cool, aloof and extremely competent as usual. Some things never change. This was it people, this was the big one. You can have your Killers and your King of Leon; Blur are this weekend’s true headliners. If you were there, you’re going to be recounting it in your ‘best ever gigs’ list in 30 years time as you sit around some oul fellas boozer with your mates who are still gonna be raging that they missed it.

In other news…

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Lily Allen charmed her way through a great set with her undeniable adorableness and unassuming demeanour making up for what she lacked in volume. Quiet as a mouse or blame it on the sound system? Maybe a combination of the two.

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Fight Like Apes played to a half-packed Green Spheres tent as they blazed their way through songs from their love-it-or-hate-it album with demonic energy. MayKay gave it her all as usual proving once again what a fantastic frontwoman she is. The crowd went beserk along with her to ‘Lend me your Face’ and ‘Do You Karate?’ in particular. Mad shower of fans altogether.

The gaps in my evening consisted of getting the stage times wrong and missing the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, wandering over to see Pendulum ripping up the stage and taking a quick peek in the Dance Arena. I didn’t stay long… it’s a whole other world in there, maybe by Sunday I’ll be worn down enough to brave it. Until then, I’ll be scouting about for goss, trying to avoid Abrakebabra, falling over drunk teenagers and generally drinking in the festival atmosphere which, in true Oxegen style, is suddenly starting to look very muddy indeed!

On the line-up for today is Pete(r) Doherty, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elbow, Eagles of Death Metal, TV on the Radio, Regina Spektor, Pet Shop Boys, Messiah J and the Expert, Doves, Kings of Leon and, one I definitely won’t be missing, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Totally Dublin’s team of Oxegenarians will be Tweeting from the site all day with news and updates and you can check back tomorrow on this here blog for a breakdown of the day’s events as they unfolded, the morning after the day before style. Right, I’m off to grab a breakfast roll and watch the Saw Doctors.