Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Rain fails to dampen Oxegen vibes

"Lady GaGa", live on stage on Oxegen Music Festival 2009
"Lady GaGa", live on stage on Oxegen Music Festival 2009
Festival goers Sinead Feeney and Clara Brown, from Derry, arriving at the 09 Oxegen Festival in Punchestown

In spite of hosting some of |the biggest names of the global pop and rock scene over the last five years, individual Oxegen festivals seem to be defined by one thing: the weather. 2005 was the sunny one, ‘06 the torrentially rainy one, ‘07 the muddy one, ‘08 the so-so one.

So while 2009 might have offered the most impressive line-up yet, in a festival which exceeds itself year on year, it was the skyline that was getting all the attention.

It held up well, and even by the time Lily Allen got going there was little more than a splutter from above.

Allen, whose brash nature and attention-seeking ways have earned her as many nay-sayers as fans, was just wonderful.

With a charming stage manner, she led the first singalong of the weekend with The Fear, before summoning thousands of raised middle fingers during the chorus of F**k You — an ironically cheery ode to George Bush with a melody to make Bacharach proud.

Duke Special attracted an impressive crowd at the O2 stage, though his compatriot Iain Archer suffered by timing.

His Hot Press set preceded that of his former band Snow Patrol, and a largely empty tent suggested his fanbase had been lured away by the more commercial tones at the main stage.

They were missing out, though, particularly as the Bangor outfit's set was every bit as dull as |the more cynical might have expected.

Blur had quite a mantle to pick up but managed to do so without merely riding on their name.

They put all the effort in the world into a full-on set and once Girls And Boys kicked into action they'd grabbed hold of the night and closed off Friday in style.

It was a promising start to Saturday in weather terms. Lightly overcast at first, there was nothing to suggest a day of wind, rain and even the occasional hail shower. But the weather here never fails to surprise us, and Saturday’s music quickly became overshadowed by the elements.

Fred pumped out a superb opener to the day in the Green Spheres tent, drawing in one of the most surprising and impressive crowds of the opening two days. Finishing with Running and Skyscrapers, the Cork band were everything that a festival band should be — fun, energetic and visibly having a superb time.

Squeeze gave an exhibition in classy pop music on the main stage, dragging in the punters and doubling their crowd size throughout their set, before The Blizzards showed how far they've come since their outing on the New Band stage in 2005. Confident, tight and facing a packed arena, this band never cease to grow and improve.

At this point, though, the weather was deteriorating and making it difficult to concentrate on the music. It's not easy to rock out when at the forefront of your mind is a warm pair of socks and a nice cup of tea. Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a detached, aimless set while those who stood facing into the driving rain and hail to see The Mars Volta found their efforts unrewarded by a massively disappointing performance. The O2 stage was rescued by a reliably brilliant show from Doves, drawing an impressive number in spite of being up against Bloc Party on the main stage.

But the same couldn't be said for Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, whose interesting and gripping show was appreciated by just a paltry handful. The masses had flocked to see Kings of Leon on the main stage — and they showed just how far into themselves they've disappeared since their glorious early days. Striking no connection with the audience, playing through hits like an uncreative tribute band, they formed a disappointing conclusion to a disappointing day.

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