FRIENDLY FIRES excellent self-titled debut may have been released in September last year but it’s their reputation as a brilliant live band that has preceeded them at Oxegen. As they launch into their unique blend of funk, indie, disco and electro, frontman Ed McFarlane throws himself about with gusto, slinking about the stage with some very particular body contortions. The songs are boosted by saxophone, trumpet, extra percussion and infused with a vigour that makes Friendly Fires one of the best live bands around right now. In songs like ‘Paris’, ‘Jump in the Pool’, ‘Photobooth’ and new single ‘Kiss of Life’ they have the festival moments worth a price of admission.
The same could be said for chums FOALS (drummer Jack Bevan joins Friendly Fires on stage for a part of their set), already hugely popular live and rightly so. Their brand of technical rock has both the chops and the ability to move. As with most other Foals sets, they open with ‘The French Open’ after a slightly indulgent wall of noise before ‘Olympic Airways’ and ‘Cassius’ offer up their rare treat of the audience singing riffs back at the band. The Oxford band play a new song which is slower and epic-sounding. Could the song be the first math-rock sweeping ballad?
The best festival moments have an element of surprise to them and BROKEN RECORDS are Sunday’s delightful accident. The rain during THE SPECIALS herald us towards the epic lush of the Edinburgh band. With a sound as sweeping as Arcade Fire and with a clear Springsteen influence to boot, the band’s orchestral sound makes an immediate impression. We make a note to check out their Until The Earth Begins to Part album despite our cohort’s jab that they sounded like they were about to launch into ‘Come on Eileen’.
We’d rather bite our own hands off then go witness THE KILLERS close out the main stage, so NINE INCH NAILS are the perfect antidote. Most impressive is the sound at this outdoor stage. Reznor must have some sound engineer. You can hear every instrument in pristine quality, it is probably the best sound State has ever heard at an open-air event, particularly as NIN’s brand of awesome heavy rock has some nuanced electronic flourishes. It might be his last tour for a long, long time but he’s not letting up. ‘March of the Pigs’, ‘The Hand That Feeds’, ‘Head Like A Hole’ are superb and when they finish the set with ‘Hurt’ with the crowd singing along, it reminds us that Johnny Cash doesn’t own this song just yet.