Oxegen: Calm before the storm
Warm, dry, comfortable. The music I desire at my fingertips. But for the next three days I’ll be pitting my wits against the combined forces of time, nature and blatant idiocy in an attempt to see a ludicrous number of bands spread across a race-track in Kildare. Having a race-horse at my disposal would be pretty handy come to think of it. It would surely find a way to leap over the Abrakebabra van blocking my way from one side of the festival to the other in a mad dash to catch the second half of somebody or other’s set. Failing this, I shall endeavour to tackle the time restraints of the cluttered line-up at Oxegen with my trusty Excel timetable print-out and the legs that once upon a time came within 16 places of claiming the coveted bronze medal in the Leinster Under-18’s Cross Country race.
There’s shag all you can do about the weather in this country and poor auld Oxegen has seen the good lord open the heavens and dump his load on Punchestown every year for quite a while now. I have however just invested in a stylish little rainproof number from Guiney’s for the handsome price of €5. You may have seen them being modelled by junkies around Smithfield. That’s the look I’m going for. For the first time ever, I’ll also be leaving the festival each night and going to sleep in a bed. How’s that for a big, lavish ‘fuck you’ to the evil weather! According to the Oxegen website’s blog, the fact that we’re choosing not to camp makes us “festi-traitors”. I’m not sure if the lawless gang of knackers that destroyed this festival in recent years have formed some sort of hierarchy, but I’m pretty happy to be a traitor this weekend if it means not being subjected the living hell that is the Oxegen campsite fun & games (including all your old favourites like assault, rape and pin the tail on the brainless fuckwit).
Aside from all this though, they have assembled a line-up that is almost too good to be true. It’s even better than last year’s list that made me so jealous not to be there. I developed a bit of a seven-year-itch having been to all the previous Oxegen and Witnness shindigs, so foolishly gave 2008 a miss. But I couldn’t resist the endless list of top quality names that kept spewing out of the MCD marketing machine during the spring months. It’s like they’ve booked two full festivals, with The Killers, The Script, Lady GaGa, Paolo Nutini, Lily Allen and the likes for the mainstream kids and then they’ve gone and booked some of the best new and established bands around. It’s astounding the way they’ve filled small stages with quality international acts and made no effort to hype them up, but if the Picnic had booked most of these acts, they’d be pushing them as bill-topping superstars. Just look at the difference between Brian Wilson playing in the Pet Sounds tent on Sunday night in ’07 while everyone was at either Daft Punk or whatever shite was on the main stage (probably The Killers) and look at how he’s now being promoted as a headline act for this year’s Electric Picnic.
Enough of that though, there’s quality music to be come acquainted with!
Friday: The big boys for the opening night are obviously Blur. Taking to the main stage after Snow Patrol, they should claim a huge percentage of the crowd tomorrow night and rightly so, given their back catalogue and their seemingly brilliant Glastonbury set. As much fun as David Holmes or 2 Many DJs might be, lord knows what kind of people will choose to be at Keane during Blur’s set. We’ll probably try to catch a decent bit of the homegrown contingent on Friday as well, with Jape, Fight Like Apes, Cashier No.9 and Heathers on the early bird menu. I wouldn’t mind catching some of Mumford & Sons too as I think their stuff could translate to a really good live show. M83 and Ladyhawke are options but since I’ve heard both can be patchy live (though I saw Ladyhawke do a decent set in Arnott’s in May), a combination of Mogwai and The Joy Formidable might be in order. I don’t know all that much about The Joy Formidable, but I got a few tracks of theirs last year and they’ve got a nice, unusual take on the combination of electro and rock on songs like “While The Flies” and the one below, “Austere”.
Saturday: I thought Saturday would be the most hectic day and it kind of is in parts, but there’s nothing I care much about until MJEX at half past five. Then things get tricky with Passion Pit, Hockey & Little Boots in the Hot Press tent competing with Regina Spektor in the Green Spheres and St Vincent in the IMRO tent, not to mention the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the Main Stage. There’s not much competition for Nick Cave at the end of the night, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again, having seen him absolutely terrify the front few rows at the Electric Picnic in ’05 and again last year with his other band, Grinderman. There’s also festival stalwarts like Doves and Elbow slowly creeping up the bill after all these years and after seeing them destroy Tower Records last week, I wouldn’t say no to catching some of And So I Watch You From Afar on the IMRO Stage. The big draw of the day (and the weekend) for me though is TV On The Radio. I’ve missed them every time they’ve been in Ireland and the reports from the Tripod show late last year were sickeningly good. I really love this band and they’ve got a couple of incredible albums under their belt now, including last year’s astoundingly brilliant and futuristically funky Dear Science. I can not wait.
Sunday: No rest for the wicked (except those of us who have managed a good night’s sleep) so Sunday starts with a few chronological conundrums for breakfast. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch the R.S.A.G. live show a few times now, so I might leave it up to others to appreciate his gargantuan efforts in the Red Bull tent. I’d like to check out the Phenomenal Handclap Band and see if their too-cool-for-school funk can kick off the party at such an early hour. If they can’t, there’s always Nialler9, who will be pimping his shit over in the Dance shed, nicely sandwiched between Hudson Mohawke and Fever Ray, who apparently has quite the impressive stage show. After that, I will most definitely be hurling myself towards the Green Spheres tent to catch Friendly Fires (“now with added brass”) get the crowd a-dancin’. I might just stick around for Foals but I’ve seen them twice already so time may be better spent heading to Telepathe and then dealing with the 3-way head clunker involving The Virgins, Casio Kids and Broken Records. In reality The Virgins aren’t going to compete with the other two. Casio Kids make some really great electro-pop that’s perfectly fitted to their cartoon-ish, Scandinavian world. Broken Records make a kind of rowdy but at times pensive and melodic indie that’s perfectly fitted to their beautiful but at times miserable hometown of Edinburgh. They’re a seven piece who dabble in luscious, sweeping strings and a reckless Balkan-influenced racket. They’re gig in the Button Factory in April ’08 was promising, so they’d be one of my tips in terms of lesser-known bands on the line-up. Of Montreal and MSTRKRFT might get a look in before we attempt to beat the inevitable crowds to Florence & The Machine who I’ve built up in my head quite a bit despite her less-than-astounding Glastonbury set on BBC2. I think she could put in a classic performance here on the week of her official album release and I’m hoping she’ll give us the kind of set you want to end a festival with.
Or I might just get totally plastered and go sing along to Razorlight, who knows.