Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oxegen 2009 review

The below piece from today's Limerick Chronicle..

Alan Owens
DESPITE apocalyptic weather predictions ahead of the Oxegen music festival that took place at the weekend, there was really only one serious period of sustained rainfall.
As New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem - Bruce Springsteen’s favourite band - took to the stage on Saturday afternoon around 3pm, the rain began, coating the mammoth Punchestown site in a blanket of heavy swathes of rain, an incessant shower that remained until around 10pm.

However, as suddenly as it began, so it stopped, allowing the bulk of the 80,000 fans, plus movie-star Natalie Portman, to enjoy a headline set from Kings of Leon - their third show in Ireland in 12 months - while the remaining brave souls sampled the dark and delightfully lyrical wares Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds had on display on the O2 Stage.

The Australian troubadour was joined by Shane MacGowan for a masterful encore, but really impressed with tracks Midnight Man and Red Right Hand.
In that difficult, rain-filled period, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Guy Garvey of Manchester band Elbow, tried valiantly to blast the rain away.

Elbow were resplendent in green ponchos, finishing their blistering set with the rather ironic One Fine Day, while a shower of confetti sprayed over the massive crowd.

Previously, on a bone dry and balmy Friday night, headliners Blur predictably drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.

In something of a coup for organisers MCD, the newly reformed band - who haven’t played together in six years - were fresh from gigantic gigs at Glastonbury and Hyde Park, and didn’t disappoint with a 24-strong set that encompassed all of their greatest hits, from opener She’s So High to epic closing track The Universal.

Elsewhere, the post-rock stylings of Mogwai seriously impressed, as did the mash-up skills of Swedish House Mafia and the heavy beat of Pendulum’s set. Even Snow Patrol weren’t too bad, enjoying a massive crowd for a large sing-along.

Cork band Fred opened proceedings on the massive Heineken Green Spheres stage at 2pm on Saturday, drawing a huge and appreciative crowd for a triumphant set. The band boast a Limerick member in bassist Jamin O’Donovan, who hails from Caherdavin Lawn and who spoke to the Limerick Chronicle backstage after the gig.
“The gig was brilliant, we were delighted with it,” said a happy looking O’Donovan.

“We did think, two o'clock Saturday afternoon, will there be 20 people out there - so we are absolutely delighted with it. We think we have found our niche, we think we have found what we like now, and that is playing big festivals,” laughed Jamin.

With a brass and string section backing up their set, the band drew thousands into massive tent, demonstrating why they are one of the finest Irish bands around at the moment.
Another Limerick man, Steve Melling, playing with well regarded band the 202’s, told the crowd that they “can only get wet once”, but at its height, the deluge took no prisoners - sending many running from its unforgiving nature.

Almost predictably, UK band Doves played one of the best sets of the weekend, the edgier material from recent album Kingdom of Rust sitting happily alongside their older material, with finale There Goes The Fear one of the highlights of the weekend.

Although Sunday was reasonably dry, the site had become something of a mud-pit due to the previous night’s rain.

However, Lady Gaga got some temperatures running high with a risqué show that left little to the imagination; the New York popstar strutting her stuff through various costume changes.

UK bands Friendly Fires and Foals played two of the sets of the weekend in the Green Spheres tent, while on the Main Stage mod band the Specials played together for the first time in 28 years - classic track Ghost Town wrapping up an impressive set.

Promoters MCD declared themselves happy with a weekend that saw crowds of almost 80,000 attend each night.
Local Limerick bus service Kelly Travel told the Chronicle that they ferried nearly 1,000 local music fans to and from Punchestown with absolutely no trouble and that they were “looking forward to next year already”.
Smiles all round then, just as long as the rain stays away entirely next year, we will be happy too.

Honourable mentions:

Fever Ray - the quirky Karin Dreijer Andersson (of Swedish group The Knife) played to about 100 people in the Dance Arena on Sunday afternoon. Why could she not have been scheduled for the picnic, where she'd play to a full field of appreciative listeners? Fab, quirky, scary show tho.
Howling Bells - Sydney shoegaze rock, great frontwoman in Juanita Stein (great name too).
The Chapters - great new Irish band, great new album in Perfect Stranger.
The Saw Doctors - Is there another Irish band that could play in the rain on the main stage and still get a massive crowd, singing and dancing and feeling good? N-17 was a popular one..
Not so much:
Kings of Leon - Lads, go away for a year or two and come back then, please..
The Gaslight Anthem - I think all that can be said about the New Jersey band is that Springsteen likes them. Everyone else was hanging around waiting for him to show up, a la Glastonbury.
Lady Gaga - Great look, choreography and decent pop songs, but just too over the top for this reviewer - trying waaayyy too hard for my liking.
Mud - Ok, not an act per se, but what is the story with lads diving headfirst into mud pools, wearing nothing but a pair of GAA shorts? Made me nearly lose my lunch several times..

Five things you may not have known about Oxegen but now you do:

5: There are 700 flags on site.
4: There are 250 food vans on site (that's a lotta food).
3: Dublin graffiti artist Maser did the various artworks that adorned those temporary walls people were pissing up against.
2: €1.5m was spent on erecting permanent roadways and thicker grass to soak up the rain, while €2 million was spent on security, gardaí and medics at this year's festival.
1: The view from the side of the main stage is very, very good - a bit like actually being on stage. The closest I'll ever get to performing in front of 40-50,000 people!!

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