The Foos rawked, Deadmau5 amazed, and Brandon Flowers had nice hair. Alan Corr reports from the Saturday of Oxegen 2011.
Standing in the middle of a huge field in the middle of Kildare surrounded by thousands of drunk music nuts has never been my idea of a good Saturday night out. The roar of the face paint and the smell of the crowd is one thing but the fact that by nightfall most music festivals come to resemble the aftermath of the Battle of the Marne and the fall of Tirkit rolled into one has always sent me running for the first bus home.
In fact, when it comes to Oxegen I want to paraphrase Rutger Hauer’s celebrated speech from Blade Runner: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Four-man tents on fire off the shoulder of the Green campsite . . . “
But my temptation to place a letter P in front of Oxegen was kiboshed by yesterday’s proceedings. At 11pm I found myself staring Deadmau5 in the beady eye as he performed his truly mind and foot-expanding multi-media fandango with an imperious sense of mystery. But when it came time to take a break from the maus with the the cleanest and crispest bearts in dancedom, there was only one way to be refreshed – RAWK.
And Foo Fighters didn’t disappoint. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the f***ing rock show!" was Dave Grohl’s no-nonsense intro to a ferocious set that had brought most of the punters surging to the main stage.
The Best of You still kicks considerable ass, Wheels, a curious Tom Petty retread, doesn’t and when Grohl screamed out “I’m not gonna die!”, the defining line on from the Foo’s new album Wasting Light it served as a sharp and cautionary rebuke to the tragic nihlism of Kurt Cobain. The Foos are about celebrating life and not bemoaning it.
As the set progressed, it occurred to me that Grohl's classic rockers could now be classed as a kind of rock `n' roll lounge act (the title, of course, of an Nirvana song). They churn out their hits with the slick efficency of well-drilled professionals but that is not to take away from the sense of fun and passion emanating from the stage.
A luxuriantly coiffed Grohl, all big hair, good dentistry and even better beard, toiled like a Trojan to deliver maximum entertainment and even if an on-stage guitar noodling contest was a bit hoary seventies excess, it did add to the showmanship.
But as Taylor Hawkins flailed away at his drum kit and Grohl’s veins popped, the vital question remains - do Foo Figthers (well, three of 'em) have the best teeth in rock?
Earlier, Dublin power rock trio The Minutes stoked up quite a inferno on the sun-kissed Saturday afternoon playing songs from their solid debut album Marcata and what they lacked in originality (think The Cult, Iggy and The Stooges) they made up for with passion and an ability to be heard loud and clear at the back of the field. Irish acts The Riptide Movement and Reader’s Wives also managed to make the best of their early stage times.
There was precious little to see in the tarmac and concrete enclave of the “VIP” and media area. A press releases (a press release!) informed us that Saoirse Ronan and a bunch of pretty young things from Fake Street had attended the night before. Even the proper loos were blocked but the rain stayed away and Oxegen this year did not resemble a scene from POW classic Stalig 17.
The fact that the age range at Oxegen has dipped well below the 25-year-old mark was envinced by Friday night headliners The Black Eyed Peas. They may have began life as an act with soul and a social conscience but with mega success has come a gutless and po-faced cynicism that has made them the most corporately-endorsed pop act since The Spice Girls only without the laughs. As for the actual music, well it would make Jive Bunny bolt back into his warren with fright.
However, there was comfort to be had from another kind of synthetic beats. Looming above the whole arena was the Red Bull Electric Ballroom. It resembled an airplane hanger and yes, sound barriers were smashed and stratospheric heights were reached with an impressive line up of acts including rugby star Cian Healy who has swapped the line out for the wheels of steel under the nom de decks, DJ Church.
Across the field, Bruno Mars proved that he's far more than a pretty boy with a set showcasing a good voice and a surprising rock `n' roll vintage, Two Door Cinema Club were as effervescent as ever and with the workmanlike Beady Eye, Liam Gallagher proved how much happier he is now that he doesn't have to share a stage with his brother.
And then there was Amanda Brunker. The former Miss Ireland, tabolid columnist, chick lit author, and friend of Bono set teeth grinding when she was announced as a replacement for a banjaxed Jesse J on the Vodafone stage early on Saturday afternoon. Like, why, wasn’t some more worthy Irish acts bumped further up the bill? Did Bono make a phonecall on her behalf? As it turned out, the always bold `n’ brassy Amanda had e mailed MCD supremo Denis Desmond with the shock revelation that she had written some songs.
Her performance was never going to be Gaga-esque and the miniscule crowd was mainly made up of her media chums and detractors. Amanda's ten-minute set consisted of a reworked version of With or Without You (she's friends with Bono you know?), and she was backed by Gitano, a decent enough band fronted by Irish-based Spanish guitarist Francisco Garciadance. As you can see from our interview, the blonde bombshell did it all with a grand sense of humour and a damn-the-begrudgers attitude.
Of course, she was utter pants (designer pants albeit) but all the begruders could do was order another Heine and shrug.
Roll on tonight when Coldplay will bring tears to many eyes, The National will play up to their strong Irish fanbase (althought I for one just don’t get their monochrome miserabalism), Slash will turn the place into a snake pit and the new empress of the music festival Beyoncé will get bouncy. Remember she’s from Texas so she’s well used to blowing away wide open spaces.
Oh, and if you get a chance please see Friendly Fires and collect your jaw from the floor as Primal Scream play the epoch-making Screamadelica in all it’s hedonistic glory.
Welcome to the effing rock show!