08 July 2006
...but you'd be very naïve to believe the weather could dampen the spirits of those attending one of Europe's premier festivals. Our man on the Emerald Isle, Daniel Arthur, got his hands dirty...
I arrive on the site discovering
that there is salvation from the elements, provided by the covered Pet Sounds Stage. I also discover one of the most energetic
shows around delivered by Delaware’s finest, The Spinto Band. Expecting the obscure indie sounds
found on the bands latest album, Nice And Nicely Done, to be impossible to recreate live, the performance manages to surpass
all reservations as the band fling themselves neurotically skywards making sure that every square inch of the stage
counts. Transferring the instruments mid-set shows the versatility of all six members who undoubtedly love every minute of
By mid-afternoon, it's the fans pouring to the stage more rapidly than the rain, to catch the greatly hyped Arctic Monkeys. This is the Monkeys’ first major festival season since they caught the attention of the nation so it’s sinking or swimming time for the Sheffield quartet. Take two tablespoons of lyrical genius, mix well with equal measure of genuine talent and finally add six kilograms of youthful arrogance; the result is a vastly appealing performance. The masses are exposed to a set of brusquely played tunes while Alex Turner hits us with all the greatest hits from their debut album. The performance illustrates that the swagger is not just for show, backed up by the belief that the band can remain top of the game for the foreseeable future. This is underlined by their 'new' material; For instance, 'Leave Before The Lights Come On' is just as fresh as every track we come to expect from the band and is clear from the reaction that another top ten hit is guaranteed.
As I lie flat on my back in the middle of the 20,000 strong crowd after being dropped eight feet onto the thick mud (after a highly unsuccessful crowd-surfing expedition), I notice that I am minus one shoe; Am I mad? Am I annoyed? How can I possibly be infuriated after witnessing the Monkeys reaffirming their position to be the future of rock and roll.
Next on the bill are a band who have strutted through the preliminary hype and backed it up with relentless success. The Strokes are back on their familiar festival circuit. Julian is in fine form, providing us with bum jokes in between catching our full attention with that infectious warble of his, and the jaded cool charisma in which Casablancas captures the essence of, insures a well defined performance is delivered. He treats us to the best known tunes such as 'Replica', '12.51' and karaoke favourite 'Last night', before ending on a personal favourite, ‘Take It Or Leave It’. However The Strokes work best on smaller setting and the attempt to take the basement sound to the outdoor arena highlights their own limitations - and it can’t even be saved by the ‘ultra cool’ façade. It is most apparent with guitarist Nick Valensi, who is obviously not fully content standing behind the front line; his attempt to step up a gear to an energetic guitar hero leads to Valensi misplacing chords and mistiming harmonies.
It is now on the hands of Editors to take on the NME stage. I’ve got to be honest, my preconception of an Editors performance, would be a low key and frankly dreary set - I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lead man Tom Smith has the energy of a nuclear explosion and it’s making him burst at the seams with astounding, fluid, powerful melodies wrapped up with a voice from above. You know what they say, if there is a heaven, there is a hell - this is supplied by Russell Leech on bass. Completely expressionless he stares into the audience and delivers intensely devilish basslines. The moments of beauty - notably from the rendition of 'Fall' - and the moments of brute force - such as Munich and Bullets - are perfectly blended. The ambiguous lyrics call on the audience to draw their own conclusions to their set of highly original songs and this combined with the shear power of Editors live insures a fresh and thoroughly enjoyable show.
There is a chasm between being a great rock act and a legendary rock acts; Primal Scream might not have reached legendary status yet but they are only a whisker away. Headlining the Green Room Tent, Bobby, Mani and co take us on a journey through their back catalogue. Tonight, Bobby Gillespie portrays the image of a muddy funking Jonny Ramone, taking to the stage with the authority of the seminal punk band while rocking the audience in the only way Bobby Gillespie can. From the controversial 'Swastika Eyes' to recent wonders 'Country Girl' and 'Dolls', he gyrates across the stage with the energy and enthusiasm of a band first embarking on their musical trip. It is almost impossible to describe what you see in front of your eyes without resorting to obscenities. Rocks off? Fuck yeah.
My previous experience of Oxegen is that of a festival that never sleep - on returning to the campsite, however, it's more of a case that there isn’t even anywhere to sleep! The murmur of ‘I thought you said we were in this campsite?!’ echoes around the site and by morning it is quite apparent that we are no longer dealing with the lush green hills we first set our eyes on early Friday afternoon, but rather a backdrop from ‘Apocalypse now’ – Welcome to day two of the Oxegen festival!