Oxegen: Europe’s Best Festival?

January 30, 2010


Thunderstorms, over-zealous security, pissed-on tents (often ablaze) and security up to the tit in shit: is this really what we can expect from Europe’s best festival as voted for by the over 200, 000 festival goers at the UK Festival Awards? Really?

But what exactly does Oxegen have to make it deserving of this honor? It’s hardly in a scenic location, and it certainly isn’t cheap (€240 for a weekend ticket, €2.50 for a bottle of water; the look on your face when you get back to your tent and find its charred embers: priceless). So why after swearing on every grave in the cemetery that we’ll never go back do we pull on our wellies, collect our rape whistles and brave the elements for three days of fun without sun?

Perhaps it’s because in spite of the terrible weather and often terrible people it attracts, it also pulls together a terribly good line up. Perhaps the best in Europe. But if your idea of a perfect festival is meeting interesting people and doing interesting things in the arse end of nowhere: stay clear. All Oxegen has to offer is music.

But what sweet music it has. From Blur’s reunion gig (which dropped its pants and shat all over Hyde Park) to Nine Inch Nails retirement one (so filthy it gave me a kidney infection), my musical behind was ferociousy spanked by a line up that survived a third consecutive year refusing to put on Kings of Leon.

The Pet Shop Boys, with their glitter cannons and helium balloons, used every trick in the book to remind the pretenders to their throne (Lady Ga Ga, Katy Perry) that that’s all the are. Bloc Party, whose third album left me cold, went head to head with the stormy weather on the main stage on Saturday and stole much of its overbearing thunder with a set so tight and beautifully crafted it made me forget the onset of pneumonia.

Fever Ray brought some much needed peculiarity to the dance arena on Sunday, with a spectacular light showthat was wasted in its afternoon time slot, while Jane’s Addiction got my bum shaking and my belly aching with their hilarious and exuberant set.

The only disappointments were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On The Radio. The former had to contend with a disinterested crowd who were merely escaping the weather, while the latter’s set which was devastatingly dull – even if they looked all the hotter for being windswept and rain-bitten.

Old age caught up with me as I failed to get down with the never ending supply of Next Big Thing’s at the festival. Crystal Castles were like a bag of cats sharing a bath with an electric alarm clock, and Florence and The Machine sounded like she was having her lady parts torn apart by a crowning baby.

And while great Irish acts were on short supply, despite the same old, haggered, repetitive faces thrilling the kids (The Coronas, The Blizzards, The Script) Dark Room NotesThe ChaptersMessiah J and the Expert andCarosel all proved that there is some musical decency left in the country. You just have to look for it.

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