Sorry for the delay. I've contributed a few blurbs to a big article for The Skinny. The full article is here, excerpts and other comments are below.
Before I've seen a single band, the boss has set us up with an interview with Gareth, lead singer of Los Campesinos! I meet him in the artists backstage area, sitting on a bed while a wholly unrecognisable indie band plays pool beside us. He's good chat, actually, a warm and funny guy who goes on one particularly hilarious rant about Loose Women (the TV show, not the... looseness of women) and Jordan's son, Harvey. Not sure if it's printable, or if we'd ruin their career (he needs a PR person to sit beside him and say "we retract that statement"). Later we go and watch his band perform in the King Tuts Tent. It's a huge tent and the crowd seems pretty small (they've a lot of young fans). I've written about their album before on this blog, I think it has lots of lovely moments and You! Me! Dancing!, the build and release, is absolutely brilliant here. Shame the crowd was so small (numerically, not the... physicality).
I’m sure The Music were never this popular before. Fans are literally bounding into the King Tuts Tent to get close to the new look Robert Harvey, shaven headed and bulkier, very different from the lanky long-haired hippy of 2002. And when they find a groove The Music know how to pump it: The People is especially riotous; everyone’s going apeshit. Carling don’t do comebacks, but Tennent’s obviously do. [ab]
From where I’m standing, the Chemical Brothers seem jaded. There’s crossed arms and frowns to the left of me, dancers to the right, but they’re dancing because they think they should, not because the beats are making them. We’ve seen these visuals before too. Star Guitar and Out of Control are well received, but there’s little connection elsewhere, so I leave to catch The Verve. [ab]
There’ll always be a nostalgic appeal to The Verve for fans of a certain age: but before Bittersweet Symphony, Richard Ashcroft does his best to inflate his own ego while simultaneously belittling the entire crowd. "Does anyone here know what it's like to write a classic?" he says. “You don’t have to rub it in”, we say. [ab]
Richard Ashcroft thinks he is JESUS, by the way.
dEUS the next morning at the NME/Radio 1 Stage. The crowd was shamefully small - less than 50 I'm sure - which kinda infringed the whole event.
Will Young doesn’t need to do much to convince his flock of adoring young fans of the worth of a soppy ballad. But even for a pop star, this populism is stunningly manipulative: a highland jig, a Groundskeeper Willie accent, and a 500 Miles singalong, all to much acclaim for Lovely Will. I leave before he brings out the kilt and bagpipes. [ab]
I thought he actually might be greeted with bottles of piss, but the tent was chock-a-block with young girls screaming for Non-Threatening Will. His attempts at ingratiation were actually quite hilarious, though I don't think he meant them to be.
In the hospitality area, we were being treated to a live performance from some rubbish jam band playing on the back of a lorry. But who's that drummer? It's only former Formula 1 boss Eddie Jordan! This band, Eddie & The Robbers, were incredibly due to headline one of the tents on Sunday night, after Hot Chip asked to not go directly up against Primal Scream, REM, Prodigy and Aphex Twin. So, get a bit of money together and you can headline T In The Park then, is that the deal? Anyway, such little attention was paid to Eddie & The Robbers in the hospitality area (as you can see on the left - only photographers were interested) that their headline slot was swapped, at the last minute, for a mid-afternoon slot, giving the Brian Jonestown Massacre a chance to headline. Apparently they were shit, too.
This feels epochal. It’s not that Glasvegas play better than usual or anything like that: rather, the crowd response, in a Futures Tent packed full 20 minutes before kick-off, is unprecedented. This band only have one full single, yet every word of every song is belted out at full volume by a rapturous audience in thrall to James Allan. Not only does Glasvegas’ greatest ever gig confirm their big time arrival, it also demonstrates the awesome viral power of fan-shot YouTube videos. Now this is the gig to search for. [ab]
Yeah so I wasn't really impressed with Glasvegas, but that's kinda beside the point. The crowd reaction was unbelievable - I was there with Billy Hamilton, and the two of us spent most of the gig gawking at the chaos around us. I met them afterwards too, and they were thoroughly lovely people from what I could tell. But I have gone off them, as a band, since hearing the re-recordings of their early songs which are now on their myspace. They new versions are over-produced, the epic quality of their sound used to feel spacious but now it feels flat, and some A&R bozo has obviously told James Allan to emphasise his Scottish accent. It sounds fake now; may as well be Mel Gibson. What I admired Glasvegas for was that they were both very real (they sung in their real accents, using real local slang and lyrical references), and very unreal (the detached rockstar glam even while playing in tiny venues) . That detachedness allowed them to be earnestly emotional about a cause of grief for loads of young men - absent fathers, a topic which is very much under-represented in pop music - without coming across as whiney or wet. Well, that authenticity is quickly evaporating since they've signed to a major label. They still don't sound whiney or wet, but now they sound whipped. They have the Major Label Sound and it's ruining them IMO.
Sunday, and Yeasayer (above) are fucking brilliant. That's all I can say, really. I interviewed the bass player a few months ago, wrote up a feature on them, and have still never heard the album. Wasn't expecting much, but the whole 25-minute set was such a thrill, I've completely forgotten it. But everyone agreed.
That's more than can be said for Battles (above), who split opinion between me (reasoned, calm critic) and everyone else (irrational, emotional fanboys). I used to respond to Battles chat with a reasoned, calm "wank wank wank" analysis, but now I see better. While still obviously very influenced by The Wank - very Wank-esque you might say - "wank, wank, wank" is a little harsh. Battles' technical prowess is obvious, as exemplified by their frankly awesome drummer. But too often that’s used as free reign to fanny about, to randomly slap at the keyboard or squeal an off-key guitar chord in the name of the avant-garde. If only all of their forcefully rhythmic attacks crystallised into palpable songs as well as on the bonkers Atlas, they’d be the greatest band in the world.[ab]
The T-Break tent is half-full, but every soul here is crooning “I’ll get my hole!” like it’s divine truth – even the girls are singing it - and when the chorus kicks in it’s utterly triumphant. Everyone rouses from the spell, rubs their eyes in the sunlight, and wishes they were back under. Tonight Matthew, Frightened Rabbit (below) are simply magic.[ab]
Logistical problems notwithstanding, Amy Winehouse would really suit a late slot in a big tent more than a daytime slot on the Main Stage. At times seeming bored, scared shitless by the crowd, or distracted, Amy’s untuneful warbles do her no justice today. But then, I’m nine miles from the stage, and those closer in are more interested in whether she’ll live to the end of her set than in her singing. She does. [ab]
Justice are a bit flat (or maybe I'm just knackered). But then Holy Fuck are a revelation - even to my tired soul and weary legs. I danced like a lunatic - not drunk/drugged - must've looked like a fanny. Again, like Yeasayer, I was so busy enjoying it I can't remember it much. Only that I loved it, and that it was much better than Battles. Then we got interviewed for the telly, or something, someone shoved a camera in front of us and started asking us about "Tennents' unique qualities". It's the only beer at the festival, that's why I'm drinking it. That's not the unique quality they were looking for.
When he’s not doing Firestarter or Breathe, which both go down fucking mentally, The Prodigy's Keith Flint just parades about, gurning like a lunatic. That’s it. It’s Maxim who’s the star of this show, a show which is flat for spells but rescued by the madness that accompanies the hits. Who wouldn’t freak out to Poison or Out of Space? Psychopathy has never been so appealing. [ab]
(ps. I promise never to write "x has never been so appealing" again)