A queue in your run-of-the-mill convenience shop where every second person is a woman under the age of 30 buying a naggin of vodka wouldn’t always bode well for any kind of event that may happen to be taking place in the surrounding environs. Indeed, the marauding crowds of neon-clad girlies (and smattering of Kappa-clad lads) clustering around the streets of Dublin in early afternoon gives the place the vibe of last orders in a suburban superclub rather than that of an outdoor summer concert. Marlay Park, nestled in the southside suburb of Rathfarnham, has seen dance gigs before, but we slightly fear for the residents on seeing the crowds loitering on D’Olier Street.
Early afternoon drinking can only work in favour of the act with the unenviable task of kicking proceedings off, Irish act Bitches With Wolves, who have been drafted in to replace Zane Lowe. Their swirling poppy-disco-electronica is, in some ways, the ideal way to kick things off, but the overcast daylight somehow doesn’t completely lend itself to the dark beats and frontman James O’Neill’s perfectly soulful yet detached croon. O’Neill himself is a complete natural, coming off as a cross between a gothic Adam Ant and Grace Jones, but their post-Peaches, arch-camp disco pop definitely deserved a higher billing than it actually got. Here’s hoping we weren’t the only one who noted that the Bitches are ones to watch.
Scottish DJ Burns plays it safe and remix-heavy, throwing a few of his own in for good measure and getting the crowd suitably pumped in anticipation of fellow countryman Calvin Harris. His heavy, dark-yet-addictive beats seem to go down well, but the crowd’s minds are elsewhere (either on dance pin-up Harris or their stashed naggins). Harris’ arrival onstage in a bright red, almost Jackson-esque, jacket is heralded as though he’s the second coming for the neon-paint daubed faces in the crowd (and, in fairness, he probably is). The sight of thousands of twenty-somethings all with their hands in the air and going, well, ape-shit at four thirty in the afternoon to a skinny white guy bouncing and hunching over a deck alternately won’t be forgotten soon. They have all come to worship at the altar of watered-down rave in a faux-nostalgic manner, and Harris is Il Papa, his black-clad backing band the bishops. His contact with the audience only goes as far as shouting at them and jumping up and down in prompt, but his radio-friendly, big-sounding electronica speaks louder than words. Everyone seems to know the words to new single ‘Ready for the Weekend’, and current single ‘I’m Not Alone’ sounds life-affirming when played in a festival setting, somehow.
Fake Blood, unassuming in the way that only bald, quiet and retiring remix geniuses can be, treats us to a good hour of expert mixing. Throwing in his own remixes of Tiga, a bit of ‘Bad’ and even the infamous Tetris song, Theo Keating showcases what made his Crawdaddy gig earlier this year so talked-about. Being able to put almost-sacred tunes beside something as obscure (to this audience, perhaps) as Major Lazer is something Keating specializes in, piquing the interest with a well-known riff and holding onto it with his moreish beats. Up next, the unsung star of the show appears onstage, white cap backwards, black jeans slung low. Marlay Park isn’t capable of containing the whirlwind of charisma that is Dizzee Rascal. Most of the crowd is just here to hear dance crossover smash ‘Bonkers’, but as Dizzee slinks through ‘Jus A Rascal’, ‘Dance Wiv Me’ and the ever-charming ‘Pussy’ole’, they’re won over by him anyway. ‘Bonkers’ naturally gets the best reception, and is still as addictive-sounding as ever, but it’s still amusing to hear the entire young population of Dublin’s northside singing about being pure mad in a Cockney accent.
David Guetta is probably the main pull – besides maybe Harris and Fatboy Slim – for most of the people here, and he definitely doesn’t seem to disappoint his adoring public. All rock star looks and big house sound, he reels through his you-know-it-without-realising-you-know-it back catalogue, including latest single, the faceless ‘When Love Takes Over’ which features Guetta’s R&B equivalent, the forgettable Kelly Rowland.
But it’s full steam ahead for the superstar of superstar DJs. Norman Cook comes on stage, a bit greyer and wider than before, to the surreal tune of ‘Pure Imagination’ from Willy Wonka. The familiar piano riff of ‘Praise You’ sends everyone into a frenzy. The next two hours are comprised of waving hands, big beats, and a DJ who appears to conduct the crowd. It’s more like an exercise in nostalgia for everyone involved. Fatboy Slim, purveyor of the era-defining big beat, was in front of us, playing his remix of ‘Renegade Master’. He gallops through, trademark headphones half-on, stopping off at ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Right Here, Right Now’, cutting through a few decades’ worth of songs indiscriminately and finishing with the unfinished ‘Praise You’. Over in a flash, perhaps too much of a flash for the hundreds we see leaving before the end. No encore, but a hefty fine for the Fatboy, who went over his curfew by at least fifteen minutes. Much like history with an ex, it’s nice to revisit the past but you wouldn’t always want to stay there.
Photos by Claire Weir.