Yup, we're trying the "Grown-ups" Festival! A couple of reasons for this;
1. the Reading Festival line-up is shite, so we're only doing one day there;
2. I originally thought that this Saturday was the day we were dropping Evan off in North Wales after his Summer 2 weeks with us. Wrong!
3. The Pixies! We'd totally failed to get tickets for their recent Brixton Academy run, so this was the best chance to see the reformed Boston Rock pioneers.
So we set off at 9 am, joining the queue off the M6 J12 at 11ish, and encountering slow-moving traffic along the A5, nevertheless still parking in the Weston Park car park just after 12. One immediate impression of this Festival is the size of the site - it took nearly half an hour to walk from car to arena, then the arena itself seemed nearly twice the size of Reading. We took a wander around while KOSHEEN played on the main stage - weak bland funk, with most songs sounding either like M People, or like TV ad music. Rachel couldn't even drown it out with beer, as she wasn't prepared to queue for tokens to buy beer, then queue for beer as well! Still wandering around the stalls during JAMIE CULLUM'S mainstage jazz set. He attempted some vocal gymnastics but ended up like a bellower rather than a singer; he's not really even very good at what he's trying to do, and the cover of "High And Dry" was even duller than Radiohead's version!
We found our first highlight of the day - the Hog Roast stand! - then after lunch we wandered over near the backstage entrance to hear SNOW PATROL, next up on the main stage. The Scots indie survivors, currently enjoying a high profile, kicked off with 3 corking numbers, all rocking, swirling, upbeat pop, with current single "Run" coming over all MBV with its' atmospheric mid-section. Then, just as they were beginning to surprise and delight, they blanded out with some plodding rock of the Travis/ Coldplay ilk. Very disappointing; this set was the definition of "started well then faded".
So we took a wander to the other end of the park, to the smaller but still open-air NME stage. MULL HISTORICAL SOCIETY were rounding off their poorly attended set with their eponymous signature tune, the greying vocalist looking even more like an accountant these days! Then everyone left, so we took a position right on the barriers for the first real musical highlight of the day. FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE sauntered onstage after an interminable soundcheck, kicked into "I've Got A Flair", then the sun came out! The Fountains have been missing in action for awhile, due to similar (but thankfully not as terminal) record company wranglings to those which beset fellow power-popsters the Gigolo Aunts, but are enjoying a high profile at the moment thanks to flippant, teen-friendly recent single "Stacy's Mom" and the heavy-rotation MTV2 video. Today they provided the perfect soundtrack to a hazily sunny Summer Saturday, with an immaculately chosen set, which read as follows;
I'VE GOT A FLAIR; DENISE; NO BETTER PLACE; RED DRAGON TATTOO; HEY JULIE; MEXICAN WINE; STACY'S MOM; RADIATION VIBE; SURVIVAL CAR; SINK TO THE BOTTOM
Totally encapsulating their summery vibe, "Stacy's Mom" predictably got a great reception, but "Radiation Vibe" was the real highlight. The perfect band at the perfect time.
Saw 3 numbers of the crap ZUTONS set, then trekked around again. Next up for us were the mainstage THRILLS, who unfortunately timed their set with the clouds rolling over, and thus were a bit hit and miss with their 60's Byrds-ian pop. Closer "Santa Cruz" got the best reaction after a disappointingly patchy set from a potential highlight. Tea then shopping, then over within earshot of BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB'S sleazed-up, dirty rock'n'roll set, all attitude but a little thin on distinguishable tunes. Ironically they mucked up "Punk Song", their best number. But never mind, we were only going to see half of their set anyway...
It was the witching hour. Time to join the large and expectant throng by mainstage, as dusk began to wrap a mysterious and symbolic shroud over the arena. Time for the denouement, the reason why we (and half the punters in this crowd, I'd wager) were here anyway.
Time for THE PIXIES! "Another Boston band showing the rest how it's done," I remarked back in 1988, and 16 years later they've reformed, their legend and legacy now firmly established, to once again show the rest how it's done. Tonight was a revelation, a triumph, a display of awesome power and precision. Drawing mainly from their first 2 full-length collections of rock, sex, sleaze, Spanish-tinged songs of incest and debasement, they were brilliant from the off. The angular, off-kilter beat of "Bone Machine", the metronomic, haunting "River Euphrates", the nonsensical, amphetamine-fast "Isla De Encanta", the inevitable sing-alongs for "Monkey Gone To Heaven" and "Debaser" (although this knowledgeable crowd, a mix of old rockers and first-timers, sang along to most of the numbers anyway), Kim Deal's pre-emptive grunge prototype "Gigantic", the trad but no less powerful "UMass". All were highlights, but in my view the tense, taut "Tame" eclipsed them all, Frank bellowing the hookline like an old sabretooth cat come to reclaim its' kingdom.
A stretched "Vamos", featuring Joey Santiago coaxing unearthly noises from his effects pedals, was followed by a slow "Wave Of Mutilation", before The Pixies soaked up the applause for a good few minutes before leaving.
And so did we! Headliners The Strokes had not a chance in hell of following that, so we (and a fair few others) headed back to the car park, getting home for 11. Best band of V - you really need to ask?
And the set of the day went thus;
SOMETHING AGAINST YOU
WAVE OF MUTILATION (FAST)
ISLA DE ENCANTA
NUMBER 13 BABY
MONKEY GONE TO HEAVEN
PLANET OF SOUND
WHERE IS MY MIND?
WAVE OF MUTILATION (SLOW)