When THE SAW DOCTORS stroll out onto the main stage in the early afternoon a nostalgic feeling of Irish festivals past floats through the air. People are sitting out on the woodchip covered slope and GAA jerseys and flags start to materialise out of nowhere. The first drop of rain has yet to fall, so the old timers from Galway luck out with the weather. Their set is as predictable as you’d expect, but it’s delivered with such cheery gusto that it would take a heart of stone not to enjoy it. When Davy Carton hollers out the opening salvo of -The Green and Red of Mayo’, for a brief minute it feels like we’ve time-warped to an early 90’s FÃ©ile festival. The kids love it and respond most enthusiastically to the band’s corny cover version of the Sugababes’ ‘About You Now’.
One of the surprises of the day is the extremely large crowd who turn out for CAROSEL. It appears that this continental-sounding Irish pop band have been quietly developing a following. Helped out by backing musicians and their friend Liam McDermot of Funzo, the core members, guitarist Pete McGrane and singer Michelle Phelan play a set of breezy, delicate pop. Michelle – dressed like a French mime artist – has a smooth, jazzy way of singing and her voice is the best thing they have going for them. The set is chilled and well-received, and songs like ‘Sun is Shining’ and ‘Easy as it Flows’ make the sort of easy-going sounds that suit a festival afternoon.
Nerdy American synth-poppers PASSION PIT come to Oxegen trailing oodles of hype and a lauded debut album in Manners. By the time they emerge onto the New Bands stage, the main festival arena has been turned into an apocalyptic mudscape by the freezing horizontal rain and wind. In this weather, the tents really are where it’s at and the capacity crowd who come to see the lads have lucked out. They play a blinder, delivering their upbeat, pulsing songs with a gutsy verve that keeps everyone on their toes. The delirious response their best known song -Sleepyhead’ draws from the crowd makes for an explosive moment, and although some of their material can be a little samey, there is no denying it has an infectious quality live that irons out any weaknesses that may be more apparent on headphones.
Although Kings Of Leon are a predictably massive draw on the main stage, for a certain type of punter the PET SHOP BOYS, playing in the Heineken Green Spheres tent are one of the big draws of the weekend. With a back catalogue of consistently excellent pop stretching over decades they have an embarrassment of riches to bring to any festival. They play a wonderfully, outrageously flamboyant show with a screen showing the most out-there visuals of the weekend (think dancing Soviet youth and psychedelic Rubiks Cubes). The sense of euphoria that greets the likes of -Go West’ and -West End Girls’ is palpable. It is thrilling stuff, and a great alternative for those who might find the main event tonight a slightly dour proposition.