Featuring reviews of Dot to Dot, Glastonbury, Dour, Outlook, Download, Reading and Exit
Different rules apply at festivals, that we can all be certain of. When a rather dirtied fellow, of dubious origins, stumbles past you, belt hanging off his arm and trousers draped revealingly around the ankles, you accept it as festival vibery. When, after having had a lovely, if muddy, evening frolicking through the fields, themselves newly adorned with burger vans, token stands and the inevitable beer tents, one wanders idly in front of a young lad who, on what is probably his first outing with peers to a place of little to no authority, has decided to deposit his urine in the middle of the main pathway back to the campsite, little johnny out and all – you think ‘Pff! What’s a bit of urine on the shoe!’
When you return, however, to your palatial two-man tent, only to find its entire contents nicked? No no, this is surely when it starts to grate a little. But yea! Bitter tears and harsh remarks are soon replaced with cheers when, by some extraordinary luck, an anonymous caller claims to have found your backpack, with MOST of the clothes intact! Hurrah! But, uh-oh, where’s that silly document we all rely on so much – the passport. Dang and Blast it! Off to the old lost property then, to join a long queue of similarly disillusioned folk. * sigh *. Oh well, never mind, it can be replaced (through an admittedly arduous process, but no need to dwell on that eh?). On with the festival! Providing the ditties we all needed to put the nonsense behind us were a host of skilled and highly enjoyable Djs and bands, including the chubby, friendly face of Mr. Scruff and his little animations, the corruscating and entertaining (seen whilst rather tight, I must add) Goldfrapp, the enigmatic and sexy Brodinski and that crew of rockers-mathematic, Battles. So, having been lifted out of a frightul mood by these pros, we made our way back at dawn… Now wait just one doggone minute, where on Earth did I put my digital camera and Bum-bag?? Oh hang it all! Not those too! The last strands of identification (driving licence) and money (bank cards) were withall! Back to the assuaging gents at lost property, by this point getting rather sick of my rum old visage, to see could they turn anything up. Well fancy that! Sitting sheepishly there, my bum-bag! No camera, but money! Yipee!
Well. Exhausted and emotionally drained, tent, backpack (what was left of it) and camping stove were hastily packed up to ensure an early start off home. I say early insofar as it was a mere few hours after returning from the festival site, but an entire day ahead of plan. That’s right! Once the various mood enhancers had worn off (which didn’t take long) a small and somewhat defeated group of us made our way back the 25 minute walk we had greeted willingly 4 days previously and jumped on the next train to Paris. Sacre Bleu! Chums, this was my Dour festival 2008 in Belgium. Despite all this though, I saw at least 3 or 4 people having a jolly old time (including the heroin addict), so don’t take my word for it – go and see for yourselves!
Exit Festival 2008, Novi Sad (10-13 July 2008) – Putting Serbia onto the Map of Europe
Last summer thousands of people gathered again for the 9th EXIT Festival on Serbia’s beautiful Petrovaradin Fortress. Yes, the setting is a fortress – you heard!
A festival that doesn’t only offer an amazing music line-up (mainly electronic music orientated) such as 2ManyDjs, Soulwax, Laurent Garnier, BBCs HEIDI, the new star on the electronic music scene Alex Metric, BookaShade, Skream and Benga as well as The Streets, Manu Chao and Gogol Bordello but also an unique atmosphere with its setting on a fortress overlooking the Danube. Even if you are not massively into “raving” one of the 30 stages will have something to offer you and when you need a break from dancing, you can continue drinking Pivo (beer) in one of the many cafes and bars spread across the festival grounds. Drinks, food, accommodation and the festival ticket are cheap and you get to go to a country your parents will probably only ever have heard of because of the former Yugoslavia. What more can one ask for?
The Download Festival (13-15 June 2008)
The Black Dahlia Murder are like a rabid Rottweiler at a children’s Birthday party. Watch as five thousand onlookers simultaneously shit themselves whilst Strnad’s vocals fluctuate between guttural bello
ws and ear splitting screams. Awesome. Comeback Kid provide a much more straightforward sound, which goes down well in a festival atmosphere, with hardcore chants loud enough to Wake The Dead. “So who has been your favourite band so far?” asks one of two passing metalheads. “Kid Rock” replies the other. “But he cancelled his performance” – “exactly”. Over on the main stage pop metallers Disturbed are showing the youngsters how to put on a rock show. Out of key. Motorhead arrive onstage to do their thing and little else and are therefore distinctly average, which is an impressive feat considering they only have one decent song. Punk legends Rise Against provide a well deserved bouncy, sing-along set before The Dillinger Escape Plan close up the third stage. The band themselves are barely visible through the smoke that hangs thickly over the stage, and go off like a canned seizure as musicians are sent scaling tent supports and hurling along with their speakers into the pulsating crowd. Their erratic assault of mathcore along with an abundance of strobe lighting turns the audience into what can only resemble an overcrowded pill popping tank of piranha. Bravo.
There are perhaps six people in the crowd who know who Malefice are. The rest will remember them as those hairy blokes from Reading who came, conquered and decimated. Skindred’s hybrid of reggae and metal is hard to follow for the unacquainted, but it’s not quite as perplexing as the prospect of Job for a Cowboy’s deathcore meeting the light of day. It’s a wander that they aren’t reduced to ashes by the sunlight, but instead turn out an adequate performance. Throwdown remarkably manage to inject a pulse of excitement into their tired hardcore stomp before returning victors Bleeding Through turn out one of the performances of the weekend, reducing their audience to wave upon wave of surfing thrashers. Viking metallers Amon Amarth are here for one reason only – to conquer England. They leave behind them a battlefield for the wolves and depart with more than a few converted Angles. 2005 was the year of Bullet for My Valentine who stormed England with their explosive live shows. Today their thundering routine is looser than Rutland’s collective arsehole, their guitars flailing over an apathetic audience. Johnny Truant are a pensioner’s worst nightmare but it’s veteran thrashers Testament who claim the day. They’ve been making their noise for a quarter of a century and it’s only fitting that their long deserved Download debut finds them at the top of the bill and apparently the top of their game too. Each classic has been crafted to perfection over the years proving that, like a fine wine, true musicianship only gets better with age.
Devil Sold His Soul appear to have taken five instruments and thrown them blindly at a PA system to create a complete mess. At least Municipal Waste have songs about shark attacks. Blackstone Cherry on the other hand know how to put on a rock show, despite their fledgling career, they have enough hooks to equip a small vessel full of fishermen. Cellos at a metal festival? Hell yeah! Our Finnish friends Apocalyptica demonstrate the close kinship of classical and metal music, providing a welcome break from all the angst and frustration on display. Within Temptation continue the theme with Den Adel’s simply perfect operatic vocals whilst In Flames thrash around aimlessly in a drunken stupor. The Wildhearts know how to party and are escorted off stage by security after encouraging the crowd to ‘throw shit at [them]’ as toilet seats and shoes make their way to the stage. ‘Nuff said. Hyper speed solos, crushing double bass pedals and a cover of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, speed demons Children of Bodom are experts in delivering a melodic death metal hammer to the face. The recently reunited Cavalera brothers complete the weekend with a collection of Sepultura, Soulfly and original songs with their new project Cavalera Conspiracy and are a headbangingly nostalgic end to proceedings.
Outlook Festival, Croatia (29-31 August 2008)
Outlook is, by summer festival standards, a small scale operation. It was organised by a number of underground club nights including Subdub, New Bohemia, The Doctors Orders and Vagabondz. They specialise in everything from classic roots reggae sounds to dark electronic music. Rather than risk an outdoor event in gloomy Britain, they took this one to the picturesque village of Petrcane on the Croatian coastline.
Some well received performances from Iration Steppas and Gentleman’s Dub Club on the outdoor stage were followed by performances from dubstep artists Rusko, Chefal and Mala in the dingy, sweaty club next door, which boasted a Function One sound system.
There were two boat parties every day, which saw acts take it to the water with 180 lucky revellers. Some disastrous scheduling meant some big acts went unseen, but who cares when the sun is shining and the ticket was only £55 for three days?!
Reading Festival (22-24 August 2008)
Anti-Flag kick off Reading’s rockiest ever weekend with a set full of politically-fuelled pop punk which, as much fun as it may be, severely dulls in comparison to The Loved Ones’ blistering rendition of their far more mature tunes over on The Lock-Up, which include a truly heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Massive’. The Briggs keep up the pace before Frank Turner blows the roof off of the Lock-Up with his folk-inspired acoustic musings to a fantastically enthusiastic crowd. Old-timers H20 are up next showing us how it’s done with their stripped down – by numbers hardcore. Their set however, is over shadowed by The Unseen – the band that everyone are dying to see – who tear the stage to shreds, and proceed to move on to the crowd itself, leaving a giant punk rock shaped bruise on every punter in the tent. Goldfinger have earned themselves a cult following in the ska world, and this evening they prove exactly why. It is absolutely impossible to have any more fun in forty-five minutes without causing yourself a severe brain haemorrhage. Fact. Back on the Main Stage big names Queens of the Stone Age are hammering out their muddy rock n roll to the largest crowd of the weekend so far, leaving fans puzzled with the omission of their classic tune ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, perhaps indicating a change in attitude within the band. It’s been eight years since Rage Against The Machine last played in the UK, and the atmosphere across this field can only be described as buzzing. Their performance however, is distinctly average, rambling along at a snail’s pace and lacking the kick that it once possessed. Nevertheless it almost seems worth it to hear 80,000 people screaming the words to ‘Killing in the Name’.
Opening the Main Stage are The Blackout who are apparently not the best remedy for a hungover crowd as they scream and croon their way through their tired emocore. Out of all of the bands playing this weekend, The Gaslight Anthem are without a doubt the happiest to be here, and we’re just as happy to have them too. The King Blues bring an exciting hybrid of indie, acoustic punk and folk music to a receptive crowd, proving to be a contender for champion underdog of the weekend, before Cancer Bats tear Reading in two with their metal infused hardcore stomp. MXPX are punk rock veterans and churn out a set that has clearly been honed to precision over the past ten years, but which is drenched in routine. Next up Flogging Molly bring their legendary punk/folk party to a familiar crowd, which goes off like an atom bomb at an Irish stag party, nabbing them the title for best band of the day so far. Thrice severely dull in comparison, barely aware of the five thousand strong crowd they crawl through their sonic landscapes in a daze. It’s been a long time coming for Alkaline Trio who unfortunately suffer a late start due to sound problems which plague their set and leave them with no choice but to cut staple set closer ‘Radio’. However, these technical pests are just a blip on the radar for the Trio who plough their way through one of their best ever UK performances, paving their set with new masterpieces and old classics alike such as ‘I Lied My Face Off’ and a thrilling ‘Goodbye Forever’. What better way to end your Saturday night?
Bring Me the Horizon are an unwelcome replacement for today’s dropouts, but you have to hand it to the boys, they manage an endurable set despite playing some of the worst music that rock has ever known. Alexisonfire fare little better with their cult following, but at least they have real song writing to back it up. Over on the Festival Republic stage Black Tide bring our first dose of ‘traditional’ metal, just what the doctor ordered. All members are still in their teens, but given a few more years of hard touring these youngsters could be a formidable force. Back on the main stage Dropkick Murphys continue the Irish inspired punk/folk party, snapping at the heels of their peers from the previous day, but ultimately falling behind. Mindless Self Indulgence might have the ability to disguise their mindless excuse for music as an enjoyable racket if only they could keep lead singer Mr Urine off of the microphone between songs. Not a problem for Feeder who squeeze out radio anthem after radio anthem, finishing on the fantastic hit ‘Just a Day’. Avenged Sevenfold turn in their best performance yet by not showing up, whilst Slipknot are sorely missed. Tenacious D provide a comical break from the music with their stage show, which a welcome change as it may be, seems to lose direction and point. Thank God they have a few decent songs to throw into the mix. Fireworks, machine gun fire, thirty foot flames, who else could it be? Metallica storm the stage to an electric crowd, assaulting them with 25 year old songs, and songs that are yet to be released. The new material sounds like an improvement on 2003’s ‘St. Anger’ but it’s the oldies that everyone is here to see tonight, and in a word they sound simply incredible. From set opener ‘Creeping Death’ through ‘Sad But True’ and finale ‘Seek and Destroy’, every song is a timeless classic and played to and above perfection. There is no band that can come anywhere near to touching Metallica when it comes to a live performance. Indeed, they must be seen to be understood.
Glastonbury 2008 not selling out involved a number of factors. The media’s favourite seemed to be the line-up; Jay Z was of course the first hip hop artist to headline this prestigious event. Other loyal Glastonbury goers may have been put off by 2007’s washout. My favourite argument is the competition provided by new festivals both at home and abroad, but I think those who went this year will be happy to return. The weather held up well; a rainy Thursday night was followed by good weather for the remainder of the weekend.
Friday’s highlight was, for me, Santogold on the Park stage. The Park, organised by Emily Eavis, was a particular favourite with its naturally sloped viewing area and combination of up-and-coming acts alongside established ones, some of which remained unannounced until the last minute. The guilty pleasure of the day was Candi Staton’s soulful classics. MGMT played later that day in the John Peel tent, and although they took some time to get the crowd truly involved, the set was a success.
Saturday began with Lykke Li, and despite the early start, she managed to work the seemingly weary but willing crowd into action. Later that afternoon came Neon Neon – the experimental combination of Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and Californian producer Boom Bip. Again the audience needed some encouragement, but with the help of Har Mar Superstar rapping while standing on his head, they managed to almost fill the area around the Other stage. Later that evening a rather special light show and an appearance from Wiley made Hot Chip’s set something to remember. Following this experimental group Battles put on a mesmerising show at the Park.
Sunday was spent largely around the Dance Village. It began with Rex the Dog playing an early set to a very small number – but it was well received all the same. Does it Offend You, Yeah? again played early, but still managed to tear the place up. Front man James Rushent began his set by shouting ‘anyone who crowd surfs can come on stage with us,’ much to the dismay of their tour manager. The chaos that followed consisted of guitars being thrown and scuffles on stage as staff tried to remove those who had taken his the offer. The performance finished as keyboardist Dan Coop carefully picked up his instrument and dropped it to the floor. The set was, unsurprisingly, cut short. So too, were Crystal Castles, playing in the John Peel tent, this time for climbing up the frame of the stage. I ventured to the Pyramid Stage twice on the final day. Firstly for Goldfrapp, who combined magical vocals with an unexpected appearance from a number of pole dancers, before The Verve finished off a memorable festival with typical arrogance and class from Richard Ashcroft.
Dot to Dot, Nottingham (24-25 May 2008)
There were two incidents this year which, to me, exemplified the attitude of fans and performers alike, all desperate to make the most of their May bank holiday. The first came during Dan Deacon’s infamous dance off, although I’m sure even Deacon himself did not expect what followed. First up was a gentleman who proceeded to drop his trousers to his knees, pin his shirt up under his chin, and joyously rotate his genitals to the shock of the crowd. Deacon’s reaction summed up the incident as best as possible – he paused his tune and asked inquisitively; ‘what the fuck is wrong with you dude?’
The second incident came at the end of the Midnight Juggernauts set, when Daniel Stricker took a drum from his kit, complete with protruding metal prongs, and jumped into the crowd with it. As far as I am aware everyone escaped serious injury, although Stricker was seen outside with blood coming from his eye. A member of the bands staff, who was clearly all too familiar with his antics, took one look at Stricker and said ‘we gotta go sort you out man.’
Although not a sell out, organiser Anton Lockwood recently expressed how happy he was with the event, considering the trouble that other festivals had this summer. Plans for next year have begun, and the format is likely to stay largely the same, although many of 2008’s performers will have moved onto bigger and better things. Glasvegas and Santogold are probably the best examples of this, but they are only to be replaced by the latest crop of up-and-coming bands.