Hot Summer, What A Bummer Part 2

12 10 2009

The second festival I covered this year was about a month after Download and it was the much talked about Oxegen. This year’s bill was the best ever-specky indie kids could get their kicks from the likes of Blur and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, goths had Nick Cave and Nine Inch Nails, pop kids had Katy Perry and Lady GaGa, rockers had Therapy? and Eagles of Death Metal and dance heads had their own tent. We camped out as usual this year BECAUSE I AM HARDCORE (not in the “I’m hardcore/I’m a Straight Edge wanker” way-in a comedy way of course) and the weather was probably the worst I’ve ever experienced. Still, the music was great and thanks to the Hot Press people being so understanding, I didn’t have to review Kings of Leon so I could watch Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds instead. Result!

Day one consisted of travelling down, getting drenched, interviewing Duke Special on camera then meeting Brody Dalle, catching up with the Therapy? boys, drinking some beer and spotting Udo from Accept (http://www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk/biography/diary/read.php?diaryid=272). What he was doing there I’ll never know, but he seemed to get my phone number outta somewhere. Hmmmm…

Day two was a total washout. After Yeah Yeah Yeahs I thought I was a goner (probably should’ve followed Carrie’s lead by getting hammered on wine) but it cleared up nicely for old Nick who put on the show of his life. Day three saw us leave after Katy Perry (who was amazing) but not before torrrential rain soaked us so badly my phone drowned in my pocket. Still, the GaGa and Katy more than made up for it.

Anyway, I covered day two for Hot Press, and here’s the reprint that I lovingly typed up while caked in mud.

Oxegen Day Two (July 11)

Kicking things off bright and early, New Jersey blue collar punks the Gaslight Anthem arrive onstage 20minutes late and grinning like seven year olds who just won a year’s supply of sweets. Currently the subject of many a bro-mance (ahem) singer Brian Fallon is a charming devil and his band play cuts culled from their second record The ’59 Sound. It’s safe to say that the boys are on a total Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen trip (in fact they even cover ‘American Girl’ as a homage) but their honesty and warmth make songs like ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘Old White Lincoln’ and the title track sound enormous.

The same can be said for Aussie outfit Howling Bells too, who play our very own Hot Press Tent. They might have been beset by a bucket-load of mishaps (their guitarist’s luggage was sent to Istanbul, they missed their ferry, they had to drive for 30 hours straight and according to singer Juanita Stein they stayed in a whore-house in Amsterdam) but they’re clearly loving being onstage and their set is a dreamy, ethereal clutch of tunes that sound like Florence and the Machine only, you know, good.

 Sadly we couldn’t actually fit into the Green Spheres tent for the Saturdays (boo) but we did manage to catch them play ‘Work’ and let’s face it, considering it’s the only song they have we didn’t miss too much. Eagles of Death Metal are another of today’s disappointments. Much like their mates in Spinnerette they spend far too much effort trying to be cool when they should let their music do the talking. Jesse ‘Boots Electric’ Hughes may have the tidiest ‘tache of the weekend, but the witty onstage patter just isn’t enough anymore.

Passion Pit in the Hot Press Tent on the other-hand are the exact opposite. They let their futurist funky white boy rhythms say it all and have the whole crowd unintentionally dancing like Bruno. Yeah Yeah Yeahs over on the main stage give us a powerhouse performance despite the torrential rain and a guitar amp which seems hellbent on electrocuting Nick Zinner. Karen O’s lime green leggings might make her look a little bit like a demented mutant frog, but she’s the perfect frontwoman this evening. Their set is a mix of old and new material and ‘Rockers To Swallow,’ ‘Cheated Hearts’ and ‘Date With The Night’ are definite standouts in a Herculean performance.

We spend the next few hours not knowing who to check out catching Pete Doherty, the Mars Volta, Doves and Bloc Party but coming away from the performances feeling a little unsatisfied. We’re mostly ticked off by the former Libertines man, largely because he’s still singing songs like ‘Fuck Forever’ as if they were anthems of a generation even though his most hardcore acolytes are finally starting to realize he’s a dried up old pantomime dame.

But, with the sound of the Pet Shop Boys plastic performance still ringing in our ears (‘It’s A Sin’ was great) we make our way over to the O2 Stage to catch Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Oxegen debut. Playing a festival pleasing set, old Nick has the crowd in the palms of his hands wasting no time bashing out ‘Deanna,’ ‘Henry Lee’ and ‘Dig, Lazarus Dig.’ The ominous night sky and mud covered ground only seem to add to the performance with the singer virtually begging for some thunder and lightning during the stomping rain-dance that is ‘Tupelo.’ As per usual, Nick plays his customary role of the possessed preacher man with aplomb stabbing into the night air with his fingers and flailing his arms around like a madman. Highlight has to be the gorgeous ‘Ship Song’ which pleases the lovers and the loveless in equal measure but ‘The Weeping Song’ and a tamer version of ‘The Mercy Seat’ are runners up. The Bad Seeds bring their show stealing set to a close with ‘Stagger Lee’ which is as brooding and menacing as this writer had hoped. Sadly we only get one song for the encore as Nick calls out Shane McGowan, who in fairness looks like he’s had one too many light ales. Even the singer seems bemused by the Pogues’ frontman’s state and embraces him, laughs good naturedly and closes the performance with a bow. What a legend.

Edwin McFee

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Eagles of Death Metal

10 04 2009

Last week I was faced with a dilema. Either take my Ma to see superstar medium/modern day Merlin Derek Acorah in the Waterfront, or go and cover the Eagles of Death Metal in the Mandela Hall. It was a simple enough choice (my Ma is hard as nails) but thanks to a dodgy bass amp, I ended up seeing both shows. Below is a review of the gig from this week’s Hot Press.

Eagles of Death Metal at the Mandela Hall, Belfast

To my right hand side there is a gaggle of guys walking around wearing fake moustaches and aviator shades. To my left there are a group of people clad in AC/DC t-shirts who are frankly old enough to know better and in front of me is one of the best good time rock ‘n’ roll bands on the planet-the Eagles of Death Metal. Tonight is their first ever visit to Belfast, and despite a few technical hiccups, Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes and his team of misfits are bringing out the big guns with ‘I Only Want You,’ which prompts the ‘tache-wearing tunesmith to tell us “If rock crowds were canons then you just blew England outta the water baby!”

Jesse has every reason to boast a shit eating grin at the moment. Not only has his inaugural Belfast gig been upgraded to the much more roomier Mandela Hall, there are kids swinging from the rafters, sweat is literally dripping from the walls and the females in the crowd are all over him like Vanessa Feltz on a Mars Bar. As the band blaze through a set cherry picking the best of all three records (Peace, Love, Death Metal, Death By Sexy and new one Heart On) we get the feeling that if Jesse stopped slabbering inbetween every song then this would be the show of the year.

Still, ‘Bad Dream Momma,’ ‘Don’t Speak (I Came To Make A Bang)’ and ‘I Gotta Feeling (Just Nineteen)’ are pretty much perfect rock ‘n’ roll songs so we’ll forgive his over excitement. At one point during the night, Jesse’s almost smothered by a random pair of tights thrown by an amorous fan and as he holds up the hosiery along with more than a few bras he quips “I wanna thank y’all for the undergarments. I didn’t know they’d be in my size as well.”

You’d have to be a particularly picky punter not to raise a smile at an Eagles of Death Metal gig. Not only have they got the tunes (‘Cherry Cola’ and ‘I Want You So Hard’ nearly raise the roof off of the venue) but Boots Electric himself is as a fun as a week at the funfair. Next time though, we’d like to hear more of the songs and less of the chat.

Edwin McFee

The new issue of Hot Press is out now, so go check it out.