It’s only been about three weeks since State saw The Middle East live and expectations were not completely met that time around due to poor sound and other immeasurable factors. Having caught The Middle East at SXSW, we knew they could do better so we were interested in how their style of folk would go down at a pop-oriented festival like Oxegen.
The good news is that the band were fully suited to a festival tent and the sound problems that besieged them in The Sugar Club were ironed out here, allowing the band to fully showcase their high-quality songs. There was more purpose, more energy and crucially, a shorter set which meant less meandering songs. Career-best song thus far ‘Blood’ ends the set on an impressive high and we’re sure new fans have been gained.
Which is not something that can be applied to The Golden Filter’s set in the cavernous Dance Arena. There really should be no live bands booked into that hall during the day unless it’s an act who is going to draw a big crowd and has an impressive stage show like Vitalic. The Dance Arena is for DJs and 4/4 beats so as soon as a consistent beat stops, the crowd drifts out. The remainder would dance to a drum soundcheck (this actually happens). By the time The Golden Filter take the stage, it becomes painfully obvious this is yet another example of a band booked for Oxegen who are put on the wrong stage or maybe, shouldn’t be here at all. There’s not a whole lot the band can do about it; the sound is low and is barely audible at the back of the arena. The band valiantly try to establish an atmosphere with songs ‘Hide Me’ and ‘Solid Gold’ but when the vuvuzela in the crowd is louder than the band, it’s no surprise that, at one point, the strutty singer Penelope Trappes asks “When is the next DJ on?”. Oh dear. Time to go.
No such problems for Local Natives who have a very appreciative singalong audience over at the Red Bull Music Academy stage. First time viewers and listeners remarked immediately about the band’s impressive harmonies and it really is one of their big selling points. There are clap alongs aplenty and the band play with gusto and a beefed-up energy not present on their debut album Gorilla Manor. This is a band getting better and better.
Jamie Lidell is a man who has been through a few guises in his musical career from his collaboration with Christian Vogel as Super Collider to his time as an experimental loop-based musician to a soul crooner. At what juncture we find Lidell in at Oxegen is hard to tell. Perhaps an amalgamation of a funky soul singer (a bloody good one at that) with bits of experimentation thrown in. His fourth album Compass, released a few months ago, suggested this much. Sometimes, it really works and backed by a new live band, his set is at times awkward mix of funk, soul and solo improv looping electronics. Like Compass, it’s a bit unfocused at times and less accessible overall but it is the moments from previous albums Jim and Multiply that really impress particularly ‘Another Day’ which ends in an uplifting soul-clap acapella singalong.
Despite the traction of a World Cup final taking place at the same time, Broken Social Scene’s set beckoned us to the Red Bull Academy Stage once again and we were eternally glad of it. Having witnessed a few stellar BSS shows in our time, we know what the band are capable of and the Oxegen set was no exception. Despite the relatively low numbers (about 300 maximum) , the band launch straight into Forgiveness Rock Record highlight and the album’s opener ‘World Sick’. When this Canadian band are at the top of their game, they can be one of the best bands in the world and they certainly showed some elements of that at Oxegen. It helps that they have songs, nay alternative anthems as good as ‘Texico Bitches’ , ‘Stars and Sons’, ‘7/4 (Shoreline)’, ‘Forced to Love’, ‘Cause=Time’ and ‘Superconnected’ to roll out when they please and nine people on stage to play them. Afterwards, the details of the match filters through and we know we made the right decision.