Jul 17 2008
Be Prepared to Run the Gauntlet
As the Sunday sun beat down upon our milk-bottle white frames and we lay by the tents praying that the inevitable redness that would colour our skin would metamorphose into something resembling a light healthy brown, we watched the campers a few tents down engage in something that resembled the Gauntlet from Gladiators. They had a big blow-up armchair and were standing in the main thoroughfare challenging anyone who dared to pass. A few people scoffed and walked around, but there was many a brave soul who took on the challenge. How no one broke a bone is beyond me, as everyone from a 20 stone rugby player (clarification: he looked like he may play rugby. This might be a stereotype but I really doubt he pirouettes down the local ballet hall in his spare time) to a frail but nippy teenager, smashed through and lept over the two-man one-armchair blockade.
Bring Some Wellies, Yes, But Also Bring Comfortable Shoes Too
I tried my best to find some wellies for the weekend but those shops that weren’t sold out had sizes that wouldn’t fit me. I am a size 11 but size 11 boots were too big and size 10 were too tight. I gave up and settled on an old pair of hard wearing runners. It ended up being the best thing I could have done. They had a strong grip, were reasonably water-tight and they weren’t too warm. So, while everyone else was cooking their feet, I was in complete comfort. See if you can spot my feet in a photo from Mr Rick‘s N95:
Bring Money, Not Bank Cards
I will direct you to this post as a perfect reason to bring enough cash with you.
Be Prepared for Rain, Mud, Cold Weather But Also…
Bring light clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses and light shoes. Sunday’s incredible weather took us completely by surprise. Waking at 6am on Sunday morning I was drenched in sweat, it was like someone had moved us out of our tent during the night and placed us in a kiln. Tired and uncomfortable, needing to use the toilet, I attempted to unzip my sleeping bag. I squirmed and became exasperated but finally located the zip. I tugged too hard. It got caught up in the fabric. I wriggled and pulled and ripped and kicked, but to no avail. I was stuck. It was no use. I closed my eyes and suffered through it.
I must have passed out because I awoke again at 11 with a renewed yearning to escape my prison. I tried to open my eyes but they were glued shut, it seemed. I located the zip again and took some deep (warm) breaths while I tried to calmly undo the zip. It came loose. I was free. Now I just had to put on some clothes and get out of the tent.
A half an hour later I found freedom. The cool air, the fresh air was manna. I looked up and saw not a single cloud in the sky. Apparently we hadn’t been transported to kiln at all, but to the South of Spain. I was first sad that I would be missing the rest of the festival, but then resigned myself to the thought that Spain was the next best thing. I think the heat had gone to my head.
I returned from the toilet to deckchairs, crisps and a beer. Ah, heaven! We talked for hours about the possibility of going into the festival arena to catch some early acts, but it was just talk. Instead we sunbathed. I can’t remember the last time I just lay out in the sun for the sake of it. Luckily, both Lottie and T had brought sun cream (it wouldn’t have crossed my mind) and we didn’t get too sizzled. Still, Lottie is quite red, even today, and my rudolph-like nose has looked better.
Save Some Batteries for the Last Day
No, I’m not referring to Nickel Cadmium cells for your torch or walkman. Make sure you keep enough in your own system to make it through the final day. When we finally emerged from the sunbathing, we staggered to the arena. It was not a drunken stagger. We were just wrecked tired from the previous night’s dancing (less dancing, more aimless jumping) and our legs and feet were in pain.
It did not stop us from getting right back into festival mode, however, thanks to Delorentos. Sunday was to be a day of Irish acts for Lottie and myself. Beginning with the incredible Delorentos, who seemed more overwhelmed by the gig than us, it was to be a brilliant day of quality music. As the bassist departed the Pet Sounds stage he looked across the crowd and gave us a wave of sincere appreciation. It’s great to see a band enjoy a gig just as much as the fans.
One of the most anticipated gigs of the weekend, for us at least, was the Republic of Loose gig up on the O2 Stage. Lottie and I, Lady Anon, RP, and others gathered a good distance back from the stage and were still close enough to experience the energy and charisma of the bigger-than-life Mick Pyro. They played a set with more power and intensity than anyone else at the festival. Pyro wanted to be remembered and went all out, pushing the crowd, demanding as much from them as they wanted from him. As an exercise in audience participation, it was a masterclass. Singing, screaming, swaying, clapping, jumping and hanging on every word of the powerhouse lead singer, the crowd loved every minute of it.
And don’t forget to drink the water you brought. Seriously, we brought bottles and bottles of water and yet I only drank occasionally from them. For this reason I was beginning to lag midway through Sunday evening. I was getting a headache and needed to buy more water. The headache was not helped by the quandry of the next gig choice. The Raconteurs were playing at the same time as Róisin Murphy. In the end we headed towards the Pet Sounds Stage for Murphy. We had seen so many live bands over the weekend, we thought a change (in the form of Murphy‘s pop-dance act) would be good.
She was more than good – she put on a show where she had no less than 6 outfit changes, where she wildly flirted with her backing singers, where she toyed with the other band members, beating up the lead guitarist, and all of this before we even think about her powerful voice. We caught Róisin at the Choice Music Prize in Vicar Street earlier this year where she performed a couple of less energetic tracks. Utilising her voice instead of the theatrics and big band, it was clear that she had an amazing voice. But seeing her at Oxegen, it was brilliant to see the full package: great voice, great songs and an unbelievable performance – a show worth catching. Again, it was a shame that the gig was so short.
Choose Your Last Gig Wisely
It will be the one that leaves you with lasting memories. Finish on a high. We chose to go to the Swell Season in Pet Sounds. Who? It was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s first performance as a group since the Oscars and they did not disappoint. It was probably the happiest gig of the entire weekend. Lottie managed to get some great footage on her camera here.
Nah – don’t bother!
No, not those – I refer to hayfever tablets, Imodium, diorylyte. Even if you don’t end up using them, someone else will be happy you are well stocked. I actually suffered really badly with hayfever on Sunday. It didn’t ruin the day or anything, but it definitely took something from it.
Be Prepared for the Impossible
You may be ready for everything – you may have enough food and drink, you may be prepared with a first aid kit, you may have a variety of clothes and footwear, you may have ear plugs, you may have a blow up mattress, you may be ready for rain, hail or snow, you may be ready for almost any eventuality……and then a tornado rips through the campsite and takes your tent a fe hundred feet in the air and miles away. This is what happened to two or three tents on Sunday afternoon. Two twisters zipped through the red campsite and left chaos, disruption and rubbish in their wake. So, what else could we do only applaud and cheer.
After the dust has settled and I open my eyes to greet the real world anew, I truly feel as though I’ve been through a ‘rites of passage’, one I perhaps should have braved 10 years earlier. I trudged through mud, I basked in the rain, I ran between gigs and endured sanitary conditions that make the term ‘sanitary conditions’ a misnomer. I have no regrets, not one. I will return, I will definitely go to more festivals, but I somehow doubt anything will compare to the incredible experience I have had at Oxegen 2008.