Jul 15 2008
As the scouts say, be prepared. Thank you to everyone who replied to my pleas for help and advice for my first ever festival. There is so much we would have forgotten had it not been for your guidance. The weekend ended up being one of the greatest times I’ve ever had. 2008, a year of so many highs, some I thought could never be topped, seems to have peaked this weekend. For the three days there was a buzz and an atmosphere I’d never really witnessed before. And to make it even better, I was with some truly fantastic people, new friends and old, who gave me a festival I could never have hoped for – one of fun, laughter and epic nights. Thank you all so much.
In an effort to relay my experiences, I thought it fitting that I also give other festival newbs a guide to what they can expect and maybe they can be as prepared as I was to take on the big bad world of festival life.
Arrange to Arrive Late
Okay, this may not seem to be the best bit of advice to begin my festival guide, so allow me to clarify. If you have a girlfriend and she has a friend who is very practical, and furthermore if you yourself are as practical as a back pocket in a vest, it is advisable to arrive late and allow them to completely set up the two tents and have a beer ready for you on your arrival. Both Andy and I were working on Friday and finished work around 1.30 (Thank you very much, Mr. Bossman – I will endeavour to make up for it). Together we traversed the Wicklow Way to reach the campsite in Punchestown for around 3pm. The two wonderful women, Lottie and T, had the tents up (kudos go to T on this) and beers ready for us to enjoy. We were men of leisure for the weekend and, I’m sorry Ladies, there is only the slightest hint of guilt. Also, hot pants high five!!!
Be Open to New Music
Bags were searched, wristbands were granted, umbrella hats (these are now exempt from my annoyances as previously illustrated in this post) were obtained and we finally entered the concert arena. I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was immense. It was people as far as the eye Whatever about people, it seemed to be stages as far as the eye could see. The first stage as we walked through the (red campsite) entrance was the O2 stage, the second biggest outdoor stage. Deus were playing as we entered and, while I had never heard of them before, I am now eager to buy their album. I realised that this weekend was going to be more about just catching the bands I know and like – I had to open my mind (and ears) to something new, something different. I forged ahead anxious for more.
I’m unsure without doing the research, but someone might be able to correct me if I’m wrong: this year seemed to have a lot more Irish bands than ever before. Moreover, these Irish bands were gracing the main stages in triumph more than ever before. On Friday evening we caught Mundy and Bell X1, two of the greatest acts of the weekend. Mundy‘s July may have set the stage on fire, but his Galway Girl set fire to the night. It was electric – the crowd (bursting out of the Green Room tent) was chanting – more than that – they were erupting with Day-I-Ay-I-Ay’s. It was one of the many, many highlights of the weekend.
Bell X1, too, are a band I have wanted to catch for quite a while and I was not disappointed. A great Irish pop act with an edge (not The Edge, an edge).
The rest of the weekend saw us catch a number of other Irish acts including the sensual Camille, Delorentos, the Loose and Róisin Murphy to name a few. This was a festival that really promoted the ‘Boys in Green’ and it was far from a publicity exercise – this country is on top form at the moment when it comes to musical talent.
Okay, as festival advice goes, this may seem a little redundant, but it was the best segue I could come up with to talk about our first night back at the tent, when Lottie, T, Andy and I shared drinks and chatted away into the cold night. Apparently I fell asleep in the tent with Andrew draped across me. I have no recollection of this. I think I’m happy about that.
I was thrilled to have two people I love to bits along to help us lose our festival virginity. They helped us out so much and were fantastic friends all the way. How on earth they put up with my irritating prattle for hours on end is beyond me. I can only assume they (like Lottie) have learned to tune me out.
It was also wonderful to share our time with the great Mr Rick, the delicious RP, the ravishing Lady Anonymous (I’ll stick with this name until she advises another). Thank you all for a great time and I look forward to many more. Btw, Rick, did you ever locate the doughnut picture?
Bring Ear Plugs
This is a damned important piece of festival advice. Much of my festival advice is just a neat way to tie my weekend together with snappy titles, but this one is a must. I know you may come to these festivals for music, but JayZ‘s 99 Problems on your neighbour’s Ghettoblaster at 6am after getting to bed (I use the term ‘bed’ loosely) only a couple of hours earlier will make you despise music forever. Cue the ear plugs. They may not drown out everything and if you’re a very light sleeper they are unlikely to do much good at all, but if you’re like me, they’ll allow you to sleep on through the morning, as the racket fades away into the background.
Forget About the Luxuries of Home and Embrace Festival Culture
You have to – you truly need to drop all your niceties and pleasantries and misguided gentilities. When you awake on your first morning, Saturday for us, and your teeth are furry, your body is dripping with sweat, there is a smell emanating from somewhere (the Gods only know where), there is a foot in your face and something unusual crawling across your chest, a strange sticky substance that you vaguely recall touching last night seems to have stained your leg a shade of green, there are noises that resemble an orchestra of monkeys that have no instruments, only spare car parts, tuning up, noises which you are sure should never greet a person in the morning – when you awake to this, you realise that this is to be a weekend like no other you have known. Thus, we have the festival culture. Embrace it, love it, make it your friend. Otherwise you’ll annoy yourself with talk of lost toothpaste, the lamented loss of deodorant, the departure of civilisation and, of course, sanitation.
When it Comes to Toilets, Don’t Expect the Ritz
I was prepared! I was told by so so many people, I had heard so many stories over the years about the disgusting, unhygienic, foul, putrid, stench-pits that were festival toilets, that I was not it the slightest bit phased when I saw my first faeces stained toilet seat. Nor was I bothered by the vomit covered walls. But, in truth, I seem to have a very lucky weekend when it came to toiletry facilities. Maybe it was luck or maybe Crapeus, the God of Toilets, was shining down upon me, because I seemed to pick the cleanest, most well stocked of all the portaloos all weekend. I also made use of the very pleasant indoor toilets at the VIP section of the Bacardi Dance Tent. Fine, I didn’t shower for the entire weekend, but I was expecting that. All in all, my experience was a good one. I think Lottie and the others may have different views to me on this though, so again I say, be prepared for the worst and you won’t be disappointed.
Your festival weekend is unlikely to be one of gourmet foods unless you are headed to Henley Festival and even then I wouldn’t hold my breath. Oxegen did have an elaborate array of food stalls, varying from the dodgy Taste of India, to the tasty (but perhaps equally dodgy) Fat Pig. There were vegetarian options and smoothie bars, there were traditional Fish and Chips and suitably modern Bagel Bars. Certainly, there was a great selection, but the prices were high and the standards were varied. It was good that we (I say we but I mean our saviour T) had food, drink and gas stoves up at the cars. It made for a pleasant lunch before catching our first music act on Saturday.
One act I had marked as a definite and was really looking forward to was Camille O’Sullivan. The burlesque temptress has a voice to rival any of the Mainstage acts and puts on a show that thrills. Her too-short set in the Pet Sounds tent began with a small crowd but attracted enough people to fill the tent by the time she had finished her show. And what a show! Beginning in a skimpy dress, she gradually undressed until she was in her very fetching underwear singing ‘In These Shoes, I Don’t Think So’. I think she had only a mere 7 or 8 songs in her allotted time but she, along with the audience, were ready for a lot more. Two of my favourite Oxegen moments come from this gig – her performance of the Tom Waits song ‘Misery’s the River of the World‘ and her unforgettable rendition of the aforementioned ‘In These Shoes‘.
Be Prepared for Rain, Mud and Cold Weather
As we ran from Camille‘s gig in Pet Sounds across the full length of the arena, the rain caught us off guard and, while the previous evening’s heavy downpours saw us ready with umbrella hats and rain macks, the quick burst of rain on Saturday afternoon saw us soaked by the time we reached the Green Room for the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
This was another band I had only vaguely heard of but couldn’t have named any of their songs. And, although I enjoyed their set, I am still none the wiser. They seem to have a great sound, a solid sound that works for one or two songs, but then it quickly wears thin as each song seems like a slightly different variation on the last. I liked them, even if each song did sound alike, but I won’t be rushing out to buy an album.
We were really in the Green Room to catch the proceeding band, The Ting Tings. They were pop-tastic. A great performance mixed with an enthusiastic crowd made it one of the best gigs of the weekend. I think ‘That’s Not My Name‘ will go down as one of the anthems of Oxegen 2008.
The Mainstage May Not Always Be the Best Stage
Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Hype
Much of Saturday heard murmurs of Amy Winehouse‘s cancellation. Some said she had died, some said she had just fallen into a catatonic state. But they were all wrong (well, she may have been slightly catatonic).
Only a few minutes late, she arrived out onto the main stage to eruptions of cheers and applause. Still too thin but at least she was upright, she looked reasonable well (translated that means ‘not strung out’) and sober (-ish). As the music started, however, it’s clear she’s been through the mill. She’s good, but not great. The excellent songs lack something as she blithely croons through her catalogue. Her lethargy and apathy are made all the more apparent by the hyperactive energy of her male backing singers and dancers. Their life seems to highlight her lack of it. It’s a shame to see it because the girl clearly has so much talent. Of all the drugged up divas in recent years, she is the only one I really hope gets her act together. I will continue to listen to her on my iPod but I wont be typing ‘Amy Winehouse Oxegen’ into my YouTube search bar any time soon.
MORE TO FOLLOW…