Oxegen, predictably, is raining. How the dull weather and spatterings of rain still surprise punters after all these years is beyond us, really, but today the site is suffering from a light coating of mud and gray clouds touching both horizons. Never ones to turn down the chance to discover new music – or the shelter of a tent – State starts our day with the folky stylings of Kassidy, who play a distinctly Americanised form of alt. country to a small crowd, large parts of which are already singing along. There’s a catchy edge to their music, one that has our toes tapping and knees knocking.
Next up is Ou Est La Swimming Pool, who have an early afternoon dance arena (and it really is an arena here) hopping around to some almost Euro-pop-ish hits. Lively, and egged on throughout by a charismatic front man, we doubt that this cheesy yet entertaining four-piece rank amongst Camden’s proudest creations, though they could make even the surliest punter dance. Even at four in the afternoon.
Stereophonics have long been derided in State HQ for -turning into Rod Stewart’ – almost literally in the case of one particular song. Today, though, they’re in far better form, and concentrating on their far-superior early material. -A Thousand Trees’, -More Life In A Tramps Vest’, -Traffic’ and the brilliantly poignant -Local Boy In The Photograph’ all get an airing, punctuated by the occasional bout of the Welsh lads more mundane new material. While Kelly Jones indulges in his usual bout of strutting, the overall, old-school sing-along effect is vastly superior to what we’d come to expect, and has the main stage moving.
Over in the Hot Press tent, it’s immediately clear that more punters have wandered into to shelter from the rain than watch the band. Shed Seven haven’t returned to Ireland since their reformation in 2007, and they’re bringing out all the hits to make up for it. Having constructed their brand of Brit-pop a year before Oasis even formed, Shed Seven are certainly a bit dated at this stage, but they’re also tight and tuneful, and deserve a far better reception than they get. -Chasing Rainbows’ and -Getting Better’ – a -greatest hits’ finale – illustrate what they’re all about perfectly.
Groove Armada are also suffering from the schedule, with most over at the main stage to eye up Jay-Z. Fronted dually by the charismatic, gymnastic, shape-pulling antics of SaintSaviour (clad in her own rainbow space suit) and M.C. M.A.D, who take turns to pump up the crowd, Groove Armada eschew their biggest hits, and instead go for a beat-driven set wrapped up with a shape-throwing rendition of -Superstylin’. Every time the beats drop, the rain seems to cease, but that’s probably just the heat down the front’¦
Villagers have been building a stellar reputation around Dublin over the last year or two, and their Hot Press performance is greeted by a growing and admiring crowd. While O’Brien admits early on that the band are -pretty drunk’, the performance is as tight as ever, even throwing a few pre -Becoming a Jackal’ tracks along the way. With imaginative chords and O’Brien’s soaring and emotional vocals, Villagers are a rising band whose live shows prove they’ll go far further yet. They’re also the perfect pre-headliner warm up in a first day with plenty of variety and energy, if a little too much drizzle.
Photo: Kyran O’Brien/KOBPIX.