Sunday, 19 July 2009

Oxegen, 2009

It seems like no time since Oxegen 2008; a festival whose offstage antics became shrouded in mystery and all of a sudden it was less about the music and more about the violence. It was these goings on, along with the rubbish credit crunch, that probably attributed to Oxegen falling well below the sell out mark this year. However, those who did attend were not going to let anything get in the way of their weekend away. It does, after all, only rear its naughty head once a year, may as well make the most of it, yeah?
Hmm...maybe not. Because, as I’m sitting here now, I too have fallen suit to the bad press of last year and credit crunched times of this year. Therefore, I did not attend the festival on the Friday. Shock horror and gasp, I know I missed Blur, and it pained me to do so, but part of me doesn’t really know if I would have wanted to see them reform anyway. I know this may sound a little naive, but in my head they were one of the greatest bands of their time, almost unattainable, and to see them now would perhaps taint my thoughts and memories a little. Excuses excuses...
So, I headed up to the festival on Saturday morning, the 11th of July, ready to catch as many bands that was humanly possible. Here are the snippets of what caught my eye, made me dance and provoked me to scream my lungs out...

Saturday 11th July

For some reason, the Saturday just wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be for me. There was a real sense of depression in the air, probably due to the fact that it rained pretty much the whole day. That didn’t stop me from seeing all the bands I wanted to, just put a bit of a dampener on everyone’s parade really.

Jamie Woon, Red Bull Music Academy Stage, 2pm
I have to admit, Jamie Woon was one of the only acts that I stayed to watch the entirety of. I was simultaneously entranced and engrossed by this boy, and what made the set even more special is that I don’t think he knows just how amazing and touching his music is. The beautiful melody of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ acted as a poignant part of the set and the haunting harmonies of ‘Spirits’ echoed through the small crowd that had gathered. There was no band, no distractions and no gimmicks; which is something that can be hard to find these days.
I honestly cannot think of a more beautiful way to kick off my festival experience. If this guy doesn’t make it, there’s no hope for anyone. Shame on you if you missed it. As a friend of mine said “This isn’t Jamie Woon...this is Jamie Swooon.”

Passion Pit, Hot Press New Bands Stage, 6pm
I didn’t really know much about this band before going to see them. Of course, I’d heard the hype that they had created, but for some reason I never really stopped to take too much notice of it. If I hadn’t been dragged along by my friend I probably wouldn’t have gone. Thank goodness I was. Now I know what all the hype was about! Bursting onto the stage with a flurry of passion, these boys obviously knew how to party, and got the entire tent dancing; their hit single ‘Sleepyhead’ receiving the greatest reaction. Although with only half an hour to perform, it felt like their set was cut short.

Patrick Wolf, Hot Press New Bands Stage, 10pm
This is probably one of the funniest set line up’s that I have ever seen, and it was to Patrick as well “I’m not sure what to think of’s good in a way, makes me feel young again, but after 7 years it’s a bit odd to be back on the New Bands stage!” This unfortunately only allowed him to have a small half an hour slot that weekend, but it didn’t stop him from doing what he does best. Strutting onto the stage in a large feathered coat, it’s really hard to take your eyes off Patrick, who really is such an intriguing character. Playing songs off the new album, as well as his new single ‘Hard Times’, Patrick really proved to the crowd just how amazing and talented he really is. Ending with his classic ‘The Magic Position’, the whole crowd sang along and a sense of awe filled the air. It all seemed to be over in a blink of an eye, yet the best things always do seem like that.

Sunday 12th July

Woke up on Sunday morning feeling a whole lot better! The mood from the previous day had been well and truly lifted and the sun was rearing its sleepy head from between the clouds. To be honest, I had seriously toyed with leaving the festival. This is no reflection on the bands; every single band I had been to see the previous day had been amazing, it was just the general mood of the festival. However, the seriously good line up of Sunday made me think otherwise...

Noisettes, Heineken Green Spheres Stage, 2.55pm
I was majorly excited about seeing Noisettes again, it had been quite a while. The first time I saw them was around three years ago as they made their way around the UK supporting Muse in their stadium tours. Obviously they’ve made their own mark since then, and I was really eager to see just how they had progressed. As I have said time and time again, Shingai is one of the most intriguing women in the music business and probably one of my all time heroines. She really is someone I look up to, not just because she has the most amazing voice I’ve ever had the privilege of delving my ears into, but also because of her brilliantly quirky fashion sense and the amazing and graceful way in which she conducts herself.
Opening with ‘Wild Young Hearts’, Noisettes quickly staked their claim to compete as being one of the best live bands of the day. Then, to really get the crowd going, Shingai lurched into one of their most famous songs to date, ‘Don’t upset the Rhythm’ with enough passion and flurry to feed the five thousand. By this stage the tent was surely completely packed out, and it was almost getting difficult to hear the strong vocals over the screaming lungs of the crowd (me along with everyone else!). As Shingai admitted that she loved the front row but just couldn’t see everyone at the back of the tent, she proceeded to get herself a closer view by climbing up the side of the stage, much to the amusement of the security who were quite frankly so excited they looked as if they might just wet themselves. Shingai stayed up there for quite some time, slinking around the side of the stage like a snake, but not looking uncomfortable or unsteady, just very natural, as she sang the beautiful lyrics to ‘Atticus’. The alluring rhythm of ‘Don’t Give Up’ again allowed the fans to remember just how brilliant Noisettes first album was too. Ending with ‘Never Forget You’, allowed the crowd to sing their lungs out to a familiar tune for the last time. I think the entire tent could have stayed there and listened the whole day.

White Lies, The o2 Stage, 5.10pm
Oh. My. God. I had heard a few things about this band and their live performances, but I’m so glad that I saved my judgement to see them live myself. And I’m glad I did that, but they were astounding. The anthem like ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ provoked the Irish crowd to scream their lungs out, and the incredibly emotional ‘Unfinished Business’, which gets me teary every time I hear it in record, managed to do the same thing live. The upbeat rhythm of ‘EST’ sent the crowd into orbit as they sang ‘I always hoped that I’d learn how to fly, In my dreams I’m there’. Absolutely breathtaking.

Friendly Fires, Heineken Green Spheres Stage, 5.15pm
Friendly Fires are just one of those bands that would manage to make even the world worst dancer go crazy to. Their strong rhythms and catchy lyrics are served up to the crowd on a bed of scrumptious beats that make them, quite frankly, irresistible. I got really quite depressed by the fact that I had managed to miss a good chunk of the set (bad time keeping, lack of a watch, not too good). I did, however, manage to walk in just as they played the, somewhat classic, ‘Paris’. ‘Every night, we’ll watch the stars, they’ll be out for us’, the band sang as the crowd were sent into some sort of fantastic trance.

Maccabees, Hot Press New Bands Stage,6pm
Again, poor planning and even worse time keeping meant that I missed the first song in Maccabees set, yet I still managed to push my way up to the front. The oddest thing about the Maccabees this weekend was where they had been selected to the new bands tent? Maccabees are certainly not a new band, so it was a tad odd to see them up there. It also meant that they were only given a time of 30 minutes, which really wasn’t too good at all. Of course, the band excitedly played most of the songs from their new (and quite frankly amazing) second album, with ‘Can You Give It’, providing one of theme tunes to the weekend. The entire band seemed happy and content with the large crowd that had gathered. Ending with ‘Precious Time’, the band really knew how to make their mark on the weekend, however short the set managed to be. Watching the crowd walk out of their tent singing along to ‘Can You Give It’ with wide grins on their faces proves that Maccabees were one of the best bands of the weekend.

Foals, Heineken Green Spheres Stage, 6.30pm
This is coming from a person who doesn’t really like Foals that much. I don’t know if it was the atmosphere of the day or just some sort of doubt that lifted in my mind, but Foals really impressed me this weekend. ‘Cassius’ made me dance like a complete loon and I suddenly back in love with a band that I haven’t particularly liked for a few years. I take my hat off to you boys.

Of Montreal, Red Bull Music Academy Stage, 8.05pm
Probably one of my greatest surprises of the weekend, I felt like I was high on something incredibly strong the whole way through. I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about this band before coming to see them, so I was really impressed and at the end very excited to be able to say that I had witnessed it! With a number of characters joining the band and dancing to the songs, it was a bit like a comedy sketch that I just didn’t want to take my eyes off (ironically)! Quite frankly amazing, I don’t think I every danced so much in my life and, to be fair, I’m not really much of a dancer!

Glasvegas, Heineken Green Spheres Stage, 9.05pm
Again, Glasvegas were one of the acts I had been most looking forward to seeing over the course of the weekend, my wait was just slightly prolonged due to the fact that they were on pretty much last on the Sunday. Surprisingly, the tent was nowhere near as packed as I thought it might have been, probably because most of the crowd had buggered off to go and see Florence and the Machine (in what was probably the smallest tent I had ever seen). I knew I had definitely made the right choice though, as the almost uplifting rhythm of ‘Go Square Go’ got the crowds pulses racing as ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart that Makes Me Cry’ sent the sentiment back into everyone’s eyes. You could see that Glasvegas were enjoying this set and it managed to be one of the longest I had ever seen them play. I’m just glad I was there to witness it, because it was only last year at this very festival when I had literally been ten minutes late and missed the entire set. This surely made up for it. The emotive lyrics of ‘S.A.D. Light’ and ‘Geraldine’ nearly had me blubbing all over my friends; it was less depressing, more moving.
Ending with the incredibly emotional ‘Daddy’s Gone’, Glasvegas provided the perfect ending to a somewhat challenging weekend. I shed a bit of a tear and thousands of pieces of tape streamlined their way into the crowd. On that note, I left with a happy heart, knowing that I had just witnessed something truly amazing.

What about the rest?
Okay, so there were other bands that I went to see over the course of the weekend but somehow, everything I wanted to see clashed with something else, so a few tough decisions had to be made. I managed to catch a song or two or St. Vincent who was of course amazing as she played her hits from her newest album ‘Marry Me’. Unfortunately I also tried to steer clear of the Main stage, just because I prefer to be where the smaller bands are. I did however, manage to catch a fair chunk of Yeah Yeah Yeahs who were of course amazing, but Karen O’s voice just seemed a little drowned out on the big stage. I also caught most of Bloc Party’s set, which made me very happy considering that I am such a big fan! However, the intimacy just wasn’t there and I managed to be placed behind a huge t-shirt stall, so really didn’t get to see much. I also managed to catch around three songs by Regina Spektor, which were really astounding, including the sensational ‘Fidelity’. ‘You’re a really beautiful crowd, aren’t you?’ Why, thank you Regina. Bombay Bicycle Club also made quite a big impression as they played on the New Bands stage. Quite the spectacle, they sang their little hearts out to a very pleased crowd.Other than that, I literally cannot believe that Oxegen is over for another year. Again, rumours and speculation are floating around, including those of deaths and violence, but for some reason everything is clouded by this big sheet of mystery. Goodness knows what will happen to the festival; in the three years that I have attended there has been no real progression, and even a sense of regression at some points. Although the line up gets bigger and better every year and that is, of course, the most important part of the festival, there just seems to be something missing. Let’s just hope that the cloud can be lifted, and Oxegen festival can start breathing again once more.

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