It must be a daunting experience opening the main stage at a major festival at the best of times, yet throw in the occasion of the release of your debut album and the fact that the weather is verging on the biblical and it would be understandable if Eliza Doolittle had merely come and gone without much fuss. As it is, the very factors that could have so gone against her actually work in her favour. The crowd huddled in front of the main stage are clearly in need of a boost and fortunately get just that. She’s clearly being groomed to fill a space if Lilly Allen does decide to give up music and is some way off filling those particular shoes, yet her bright and breezy pop is a cut above most.
With the IMRO Stage gone this year there is no real concentration of Irish talent, with the bands that are here dotted around the site at largely unsocial hours. The Brilliant Things open proceedings on the Vodafone Stage and are largely awful, a throw back to the bad old days of Irish indie music. They throw in a Blondie cover early on but all it does is make their own shortcomings all the more obvious. They are followed by Fox Avenue, who seem to be on a mission to become our very own Jonas Brothers. The three piece aren’t bad in their own way (the piano is quite nice) but we do wonder why we need a junior Scouting For Girls today when the frightful real thing is soon to be upon us.
The early part of our day, however, is completely made by our discovery of The Capitals . The youngest band ever to play the festival, they are here with far more intent than just to make up the numbers. The Red Bull Stage (this year in far more accessible position) is not packed by any means but those that are there are having the time of their lives. The music is basic enough guitar rock but they do it with a conviction beyond their years and, in Evan Dempsey, they have a lead vocalist with a classic raw rock n roll voice. One band we will most definitely be exploring more in the near future.
Republic Of Loose are a long way further down the road, yet still find themselves with a mid-afternoon slot – albeit on the Vodafone Stage. Quite where they’re at as a band we’re not too sure, and the initial moments of the set seem to portray a band who have lost their edge and we start to feel that this is a band who promised much but just never got their just deserts. We should have had more faith, however, as things start to click. The presence of a range of musicians and vocalists on stage adds to the party atmosphere, with some of the weight being taken off Mick Pyro’s shoulders and countering his posturing with a welcome female edge. The crowd respond and soon the pit is a steaming mass of jumping bodies. They play some new material and the usual old favourites and we depart in the knowledge that it might not be over for the Loose just yet.
The transformation of Plan B from angry young man to angry young soul man in a suit has been one the year’s most surprising turns. It’s obviously struck a chord, though, with commercial success and a massive welcome today. He cuts an imposing figure, backed by his be-suited band, and is unquestionably brilliant. The tracks from the new album work far more well than they have a right to, at times sounding like Rage Against The Machine playing Northern Soul. However unexpected, Ben Drew has found a way of getting to the hear of the music that has influenced him and created his own, totally authentic, version. He leaves to an absolute ovation and deserves every last second of it.