Radio 1's One Big Weekend 2009 - Rated!
Lydiard Park, Swindon - 9 May
Daniel Fahey - 11 May 2009
Overall – 7/10
A far cry from the Radio1 road shows of old, One Big Weekend is a free two-day, four-stage extravaganza that isn’t completely devoid of the nostalgic trimmings supplied by Tony Blackburn and his goonies from a mobile disco 20 years ago – free badges and intermittent shout outs for both the station and location are both in abundance all day. Portaloos, bars and eateries give the event a ‘festival’ feel and with three-quarters of the stages undercover, organisers are prepared for wet conditions, though the weather is sunny and kind for the whole of the opening day.
Stage sound levels are the good, Chris Moyles is the bad (his banter consists of boasting about his salary) and the journey from the bus drop off point to the arena is the ugly – “It’s a fucking mile walk from here to the site,” moans one ticket-holder. The festival triumphs in giving an area that doesn’t usually host large musical events, the chance to have their own, and while the entire line-up isn’t to everybody’s taste, this year it represents the station’s playlist ideally.
Getting there and back – 7/10
With the majority of tickets distributed to people with a Swindon postcode, the trip to the site is convenient. Bosses also organised a fleet of buses to take festival-goers from the town centre to the arena, but the drop off point was a 15 minute walk from the site itself, leaving some ticket-holders slightly annoyed. The town is on a main train line that serves London, but for the pleasure of an hour train journey, ticket winners can expect to be charged £20 each way by Great Western trains – not cheap.
The site – 6/10
For a festival of this size, the site is tiny, but organisers manage to squeeze in as much as possible. Bars, eateries and merchandise stalls line the walkways between the stages, but the queues for the toilets inside the site are rather too long. The main stage is a huge tent with two entrances coming off at 45-degree angles, which means the enclosed crowd was spread thinly, but widely leaving some with restricted stage views. The In New Music We Trust Stage was a smaller, more traditional festival tent, while the Introducing Stage was half the size again. The intimate site means no aching legs, but it also leaves little room for lying down and relaxing. Despite the close proximity of the stages, there are no sound clashes between different sound systems.
Atmosphere – 6/10
For a freebie, the atmosphere was surprisingly limp but there was more than enough pockets of good feeling at Dizzee Rascal, Basement Jaxx and Kasabian. Zane Lowe, the ultimate musical motivator, gets his crowd buzzing like a school trip to a Smarties factory, more so than 2 Many DJs who go on after him. There is even space for plenty of ‘there’s-free-live-music-near-where-I-live-I-best-drink-my- own-weight-in-an-over-strength-vodka-rum-and-coke-concoction’ casualties on site as well.
Kasabian – 8/10
With a performance tighter than Tom Meighan’s samurai ponytail, the ever-emphatic festival favourites can hardly put a foot wrong at the moment. Touring with such a swaggering setlist, it’s unbelievable that the Leicester band didn’t top the line-up at this year’s event, especially with tracks like the chugging battle cry ‘Empire’ which are built for such settings. ‘Fire’ is mammoth twisted slice of psychedelia but another outing for Candi Staton cover ‘You’ve Got The Love’ again questioned Meighan’s ability to sing anything other than the band’s own bullish rock.
Jack Penate – 7/10
Since Penate went African funk, his older material has been given a new lease of life. ‘Torn On The Platform’ is less washed out indie, more chunked out pop today, while catchy afro single ‘Today’s Tonight’ benefits from a female vocalist uplift. ‘Second, Minute Or Hour’ is Penate’s chance to dance like a 50’s rockstar and new single, the soulful ‘Be The One’, should propel the singer songwriter from the mediocre to the masterful.
Basement Jaxx – 7/10
Another contender for the headline slot on the Saturday, the Jaxx mixed together their samba-eque party tracks in a packed In New Music We Trust Stage. ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Do Your Thing’ are crowd pleasers but new single ‘Raindrops’ is, unfortunately, a vocal distorted slice of trash euro pop and a short but sweet remix of ‘Sex Is On Fire’ by Kings Of Leon is flaccid.
Dizzee Rascal – 6/10
Mr Rascal’s crossover from Mercury Award winning rapper to glossed hip pop star may’ve earned him a larger audience, but his set seemed to miss out some of this finer work. ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ is as a monster as usual and Calvin Harris’ guest spot for ‘Dance Wiv Me’ gets plaudits from the radio-friendly hoards, but it is, ultimately, unnecessary. New track ‘Bonkers’ gets a huge response as the set closer but chart success like ‘Stand Up Tall’ and ‘Dream’ are sadly absent.
Click here to see BBC footage from the festival.