Festivals are funny things. You're meant to enjoy mixing with a lot of smelly strangers, eating lots of over priced deadly food and rapturously applaud lots of indifferent bands for coming out with such pearls of wisdom as "Alright Leeds?!"
As we arrived Erasmus were playing. Everyone waited for their one hit, then left.
To watch Dogs Die In Hot Cars, in my case, who were spooling out their chirpy sing-a-long, happy handclapping indie pop on the Radio One stage, reminding me of The Housemartins but without the brains. Meanwhile in the comedy tent, a hypnotist was putting a stage full of people to sleep.
The Golden Virgins pump out some high velocity, bluesy garage pop; this and their stage suits made me think of The Hives with wonky keyboards, big hair and even bigger chins. They finished with next single "Renaissance Kid" which is a sleazy surf singalong classic, easily the best thing of the festival so far.
In the comedy tent, the hypnotist had now succeeded in putting audience to sleep as well.
Far more comic was a spoof band T Shirt I spotted: "Don't Let the Salads Win - Eat Chips. Manic Street Preachers".
The Stills were unremarkable and they went unremarked by me, even thought they had their drum kit on stage sideways.
Sons and Daughters, by contrast, were most remarkable, and unfairly suffered by playing at the same time as The Streets. They were easily the most original sound of the day, and also the hardest to describe: a sort of dark edged crunch rock with added mandola. The way the bass and drums work together was a bit reminiscent of Joy Division, and the mix of male and female vocals made for some Very Interesting Stuff Indeed. Official.
The Streets were just as you'd expect them to be from hearing their live bootleg Cds, almost word for word. But bigger. And drinking more tea. Which is perhaps the only on-stage antic Mike Skinner shares with James Dean Bradfield. Despite arriving late, this was a very professional performance, it just lacked any real spirit, and both band and audience seemed subdued; perhaps working too hard on the rock'n'roll treadmill is getting to the geezer?
Lost Prophets have more energy than The Streets, and far less brains.
British Sea Power possess the enticing power of wistful, inoffensive stadium rock/pop which could propel them right to the top, pop kids; with great songs, great choruses and a great stage show, only a stupid name stands between them and a lucrative future.
Tickertape and fireworks greeted 50 Cent. What a pity someone who could be such an inspirational, powerful, rabble rousing role model has so little to say, is so vacuous and without substance : "Drink, smoke pot and fuck". Yeah man, radical.
The Von Blondies were overblown cock rock.
But Green Day rocked. Absolutely. Period.
And no, I didn't take the photo.
Goldie Looking Chain are a bunch of ugly looking Welsh bastards, but they could teach 50 Cent a thing or two about how use rap to put across a point. They use intelligence and humour and piss taking and word play and self depreciation and plagiarization of everyone from Gareth Gates to Jimmy Saville to have me in stitches while also saying something serious about gun crime, politics, culture and um soap bars. Genius, probably my highlight of the weekend.
Reel Big Fish were joyous ska punk. Nothing else.
Terra Diablo deserve more than a half empty tent. Frantic, piercing and melodic, I could almost forgive them the haircuts.
International Noise Conspiracy tell us that they believe in the romantic possibility of changing the world. This they attempt to do through their frenetic, energetic guitar bashing poppy punk with unlikely keyboard breaks. Their stage rhetoric made a refreshing contrast with the brain dead inane comments of most of the other bands; they left the stage with clenched fists and left me wanting to hear more.
Subway play bluesy, swampy power rock. They are driven by the singer's fantastic rasping voice, but they need to work on their songs as there's a lot of this sort of thing around and it takes something very special to stand out.
Then I went to hear the half time football scores, The Swans were winning at Cambridge.
The Wildhearts rocked. Absolutely. Period.
The fact that the Radio One tent was completely crammed to see Ginger and co dazzle with their melodic slabs of lyrical understanding and sympathy shows that there is hope for us all, despite the corruption of the biz. Amidst the loudest cheers of the weekend, it hit me that people really, really LOVE this band, who have almost become a family institution (Ginger's little son Jake joined them on stage), the crown jewels of the dispossessed, smuggling honesty and beauty and intelligence and life into the charts despite the antipathetic censorship of TV and radio. They squashed a 40 minute set into 30 minutes, and were the inspiration of the weekend.
The singer of The Hives thinks he is very clever because he can drink a bottle of water. He gets applauded for this and so wins the most undeserved applause of the weekend award. He says that Dance is his answer to everything. Here he is probably not completely correct; this shows that he is either stupid or a liar. And yes, I was in a bad mood at the time. Despite the full time football results.
McClusky are muscular, spiky, angry, frenetic and exciting.
The Offsping aren't.
The Darkness are valuable for taking the piss out of the pomposity of rock'n'roll. And for doing it so incredibly well. So well, in fact, that they now, ironically enough, risk becoming a part of that pomposity themselves. Justin's dryly ironic stage comments help puncture this pomposity, and he turns the traditional festival intersong banter on its head by asking "Who's having a shit time?" This must surely help him win the quip of the weekend award.
My attention wandered briefly but quickly returned when I found Kasabian to be very disappointing. Indeed. Back with The Darkness, the cover of Radiohead's "Street Spirit" was class, as were the fireworks.
Thursday played first. Made me glad it was Sunday.
Razorlight were bright and breezy, a great way to blow the clouds and hangovers away. Despite their indie guitar band format, there's something fresh and exciting about them, enough to inspire me to want to listen to my pile of their CDs at home. But not enough to want to talk to them as they walked past.
Autolux pour out swirly squalls of distorted guitar noise held together by the bass and some fantastic female drumming. In this way, and with their combination of male and female vocals, they reminded me of "Isn't Anything" period My Bloody Valentine.
The Icarus Line were noisy and earnest, but elicited very little response. And they probably didn't deserve to. In the end they had to resort to some half hearted acrobatics and equipment trashing to generate any enthusiasm.
The 45s play powerful guitar punky pop powered by rasped vocals and keyboard abuse, reminding me of The Beach Boys after a night in the gutter with The White Stripes. It was very hard to leave them for ...
The New York Dolls, but you have to see them don't you, just in case the rest of them die and you never get to see this relic of history? In fact they are fairly well preserved, like their songs, and it speaks volumes that all the bands playing on the main stage (along with a certain band known as The Manic Street Preachers) would count them as inspirations.
Flogging Molly could well have been The Pogues. Which is great!
The Glitterati's dirty power punk pop was diverting enough
unlike The Ordinary Boys who were just ordinary.
The Duke Spirit's hypnotic female vocals and pummeling guitars suggest interesting things to come, if they can work a bit on their songs.
Franz Ferdinand. Why bother? I didn't.
Time flew as The Libertines set of 50 minutes seemed to be over in 20, surely proof of an entertaining, uplifting performance. No on-stage banalities, no shit, no time wasting, just pure heartfelt honest rock'n'roll. Musically they were tighter and more biting than I've seen them before, but they lacked a certain spirit, a certain character, which no doubt resides in the troubled breast of Pete Doherty; get well soon Pete.
MC5 show us why, in their words, "this shit keeps happening". The shit they refer to is this rock'n'roll thing, and the power, tunes and in yerfaceness of their set is good enough reason for it to carry on for another few decades at least. Inspiring.
To complete today's Golden Hour (or is it Help The Aged?), The Mean Fiddler presented Morrissey. I, who am old enough to, never bought any Smiths records on some sort of principle, the point of which I now forget. However, the old dear does have a back catalogue which must have helped define so many people's youths, and I suppose it was interesting to see him in the flesh.
And so here we were at final headliner time. The White Stripes epitomise the bluesy, sleazy, garagey sound that is so popular at the moment, and they do it better than anyone. And in Jack White we have a guitar hero for our new millennium. However musicianship never holds my attention for long, and I took a wander to see the great survivors 'A' pack the Radio One Tent and to be sledgehammered by their fistfuls of powerchords, energy and melody.
I returned to watch The White Stripes end with a triumphant encore, finishing with the simplistic genius which is 'Seven Nation Army'. And then that was that. Another summer over, time to go back to a wet smelly tent before facing the queues on the way out back to a wet smelly job and a wet smelly life. I hope that some others there felt better able to face these discomforts thanks to seeing some uplifting, inspiring bands. As indeed I did.
Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T's 5 Most Uplifting Bands of the Weekend Awards
(I took the pictures too, apart from the good ones which I nicked...)
Thanks yet again to the ever wonderful Caffy for sorting us out with the tickets, despite the problems with the postal system, and to Jordan for coming with me.