In nearby Newbridge there are blue skies and sunshine but as we descend on Punchestown an ominous dark cloud is awaiting our return to the site. We start to wonder if Saturday is really to be as nice as the weather reports are telling us. Thankfully, it is and with only one 10 minute heavy shower, the rain goes somewhere else to play. There is plenty of in-tent action today so we scoot off to catch some of it.
After suffering a sudden bout of mid-festival exhaustion, we need a pickup and Canadians HOLY FUCK provide the soundtrack to some much-needed loose-limbed perking up. Their schtick is that they make electronic music without electronic equipment preferring to utilise a batch of analog devices. Where most electronic musicians have a knob to activate an effect, Holy Fuck’s analog division Graham and Brian use an old 35mm film synchroniser or a guitar pedal to replicate that sound. It might seem restrictive to some but it separates them from their digitally obsessed peers. The only downside is that the duo face each other whilst performing instead of the crowd. Luckily the rhythm section are just as imaginative and the drummer Matt Schulz is robotically brilliant. This is the third time we’ve seen Holy Fuck this year and finally they live up to their album recording. With 4 minutes left, they cram in the string-led highlight ‘Lovely Allen’ and leave the stage to chants of “Holy Fuck!“. Perfect for a 5pm perkup.
As predicted in our festival preview, the PENDULUM show at 9pm in the Green Room is where it all comes together for the band in Ireland. It’s the most supreme example of drum and bass crossed-over into the mainstream. The kids are going mad. No wonder the snotty D&B elitists are pissed. Their precious drum & bass has been given a good kick up the arse and packaged as a real live experience. It is interesting to note that only recently Pendulum were doing the rounds as DJs playing to a couple of hundred revellers in the Electric Picnic dance tent. They already had the fastest-selling D&B album of all time under their belts with Hold Your Colour. Now here we are. Pendulum 2.0, the full live band showing the kids and everyone else how a festival should be done. Strobe lighting, kick-ass riffs, strip-lighting visuals,a Prodigy ‘Voodoo People’ remix turned cover and a hyper-enthusiastic crowd. This is our festival highlight so far. The sheer bombast of it all blows everything else out of the water. State gets so excited that while pumping fist in the air we accidentally grab the camera strap of some random punter taking his camera with us in delight. It’s wave after wave of non-stop hooks with their hype man getting the crowd going. It feels like the tent is going to take off into space. This is why festivals exist. Stupendous.
We hit the IMRO New Sounds tent for a chance to catch a couple of lesser-known acts. With the introduction of the IMRO New Sounds Stage as well as some key larger stage slots, this was the year that Irish music finally made its mark at Oxegen. With Bell X1’s Friday night slot the only real concession to the old guard, it’s as good an opportunity to take stock of where we’re heading. In those terms, OPPENHEIMER are the perfect litmus test. Doing things differently both in terms of music and business, the Belfast duo are a blast pure and simple, a joyous riot of pop tunes, vocoders and punk rock guitars. The last three songs display enough boundless energy and ebullience, that we join the already infected crowd. The band pop streamers over our heads and its perfect. They finish with ‘Before and After the Quake’ and you start to hope Oppenheimer get the attention they deserve in the near future.
Next up, BLOOD RED SHOES the stripped-back London rock duo of Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell. Ansell is the anchor here; a drummer with total command of his craft for one so young that providing vocals is an easy-peasy task to add to his main skill. This is a loud, loud, loud rock ‘n’ roll show which far exceeds the expectations we had after listening to the album which we found a little boring. Ansell and Carter obviously have a good buzz between them, sharing wine and vocals on-stage. They finish with a proper rock show instrument freakout and we promise to ourselves to give their debut another spin.
Finally, we make it into the Dance Stage which is actually a rather uninviting yellow warehouse with blow-up ants on the side of the outside walls. It doesn’t help that its positioned right beside the neon-glowing headache-inducing fun fair. State wonders what how the drug-taking populace at Oxegen cope coming out of a marathon 5 hour dance session with a sudden confrontation of flashing bright objects, people suspended in mid-air, people bouncing off the ground, ghost trains and carousels. Inside the dance arena, JUSTICE are slamming bodies off each other with their unique take on electronic music. The whole place is covered in a haze of sweat and body odour like a giant football changing room. There are tops off everywhere. The place is full enough that it is a hassle to get near the front so we stick to the sides. Gaspard AugÃ©
and Xavier de Rosnay are so in tune with each others head-nods they look like replications of each other. We can’t tell if it’s laptop or hardware they are using as they are obscured by their famous illuminated white cross and two stacks of nine speakers on either side of them. They cast out curves of filthy, distorted, synthetic low end. They play ‘D.A.N.C.E’ and everyone goes wild. It’s followed by ‘DVNO’ and as superb as everything is, State’s wish is that they would play the outdoor 02 stage outside the confines of the dance stage so that everyone could feel the hit of their synths.
Photos (by Shawna Scott)