Saturday at Oxegen is the real test of endurance for the 80,000 attendees. The rain is bucketing down and the considerable wind is jolting the sound from the main stage speakers just out of reach of those not occupying the front ten rows. Not that it bothers the YEAH YEAHS YEAHS and particularly Karen O. The New York girl with white teeth and an eternal smile popping out under her black windswept hair is the perfect person to brighten up the atmosphere. With her elastic frame and polychromatic poncho, she might just be performing a ceremony to drive away the rain. Karen O and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – you could watch her for hours. Most of the material is drawn from their recent album It’s Blitz! and it’s these danceable upbeat songs that are the perfect tonic for the weather. ‘Heads Will Roll’, and ‘Zero’ are highlights while Karen O dons a studded-leather jacket with ‘KO’ embroidered on the back for a slow yet sweet acoustic version of ‘Maps’.
The brutal weather affects State’s ability to get a look at HOCKEY, LITTLE BOOTS and TV ON THE RADIO as people are sheltering from the rain. Same story over at the IMRO tent where another NY girl Annie Clark aka ST. VINCENT is treating dampened revellers to songs from her most recent album Actor. Boistered by trumpet, violin, clarinet and a microphone that adds effects to her elegant voice, it’s a ear-warming setlist particularly when the trumpet player steps out from his domain to play his instrument or when Clark beats the hell out of her guitar with her fist as if she was trying to make it bleed. She may look like a Raggedy Ann doll with curly black hair and wide eyes but the girl, and the band know how to create a on-edge performance.
So too do BLOC PARTY thankfully who have been known to let their moods (particularly Kele) dominate proceedings. No such problems here today. The band are enthusiastic and Kele is talkative, flatteringly telling the crowd, yes you guessed it, that Irish crowds are the best around – it never gets old that one. ‘Hunting for Witches’, ‘The Prayer’ and ‘Banquet’ sounded superb amongst the newer songs like current single ‘One More Chance’ giving the crowd ample opportunity to singalong.
The Prayer (Live at Oxegen ’09)
The rest of the night is spent wandering with notably only DOVES and BOYS NOIZE making an impression but for two very different reasons. Manchester’s Doves are, on paper, surely one of the most boring bands in the UK at the moment. While they have some nice songs which are played from the O2 Stage on the night like ‘Pounding’ and ‘Black and White Town’, there’s dull and grey bits within their set which doesn’t make you want to stay much longer than you have to. One person’s epic is another person’s bland.
Berlin’s Boys Noize however could not be described as boring; repetitive maybe but that’s the nature of his dance beat. Uncomprising scattered beats over 4/4 ones produce weird connotations on set segueways, returning to the more regular sound of electro to shouts of “WHOOMP There it is!”. State wonders how many times the Dance Arena has heard that over the weekend?