It was day two of the Metro Weekender, but despite being back in the same venue, today’s music extravaganza was an entirely different proposition to that which had occupied these grounds the day before.
Today was the “indie day”, Get Loaded In The Park. The sprawling and confusingly branded event part-shared the bill of artists rostered for Cardiff Calling, also on the day before. (Keeping up at the back?)
As with southwestfour, three tents and a main stage were utilised. Unlike southwestfour, sets lasted for the most part just half an hour. Cramming so many bands in confused the artists as well as the audience at times. Later in the day it would mean The Pipettes, resplendent in trademark polkadot, set out to play their well-drilled set largely unchanged from that played everywhere else with a stage this summer, but they swiftly found themselves out of time and had to hurriedly end their rapturously received appearance. The similarly ubiquitous Guillemots seemed to leave their set almost as soon as it began, enjoying just enough time to allow Fyfe Dangerfield to bash a dustbin lid at us.
Earlier, Killa Kela demonstrated his beatboxing credentials as second to none (okay, maybe Pete Bennett from Big Brother is a rival, and he does dustbin lids as well). He finds his voice and a single micenough to cover some classic hip-hop tracks, as well as somecross-genre pieces, extending as far into the surreal as BritneySpears. Killa lays down a full drum-kit’s worth of beat(he even duels with his drummer at the start of his set) – and thenmanages to sing lyrics over the beat without a break.
Another early set of note was Adamski (or is it now AdamSky, as the backdrop visuals insisted?) – who played live, with backing tracks, dressed in a skewed glittery hard hat and a black leather waistcoat that exposed his unerringly wobbly belly. This was unquestionably the day’s most bizarre performance.Backed by a feathered dancer but no band, he finished perhaps inevitably with his 15-year-old monster hit Killer. There was no Seal to sing the lyrics though – indeed the entire melody has been thrown out and rewritten to bemusing effect. “Who’s he?” a horsey blonde waif enquired of me, eyes ablink, presuming my advanced years sufficient to recognise the old codger in the Village People outfit. “Adamski,” I replied. “He had a hit single a while ago.”
The middle of the afternoon saw a breakdancing group called theFunkmeisters take the stage, for a world-record attempt. On his thirdattempt, Italian breakdancer Chico (not ‘im from The X-Factor) broke his own record, managing 21990s (spins supported on one hand) in a row. The exhibition reminded us that festivals are made up of more than just bands.
Unfortunately it also served to remind that this would be the day’s only diversion from the music (unless you count the queue to board the Pimms routemaster, parked in the centre of the common, and an hour of comedy late in the afternoon).De La Soul, James Lavelle, Scratch Perverts and Goldie all took to the main stage too, but there was plenty else happening in the tents.
Early in the day, in the smallest venue in the park, the absolutely wonderous Misty’s Big Adventure triumphed, unseen by agency lenses or broadsheet scribes. Performance artist Erotic Volvo, a tall man dressed head to toe in red cloth and blow-up blue hands (no, I wasn’t hallucinating) mimed along to behatted front man Grandmaster Gareth’s musings on the trials and tribulations of life. A trumpeteer found herself dancing with the Basil Fawlty-faced Volvo before the audience was given its own turn, everyone grinning from ear to ear as really rather subversive lyrics wormed their way under the frivolity of the band’s visual impact. “CDs, t-shirts and fingerpuppets are on sale over there,” announced the Grandmaster of the circus, and we flocked for the fingerpuppets – alas, he was having us on, and the puppets had run away.
In the same place, Son Of Dave fought against a pedal – “it’s made in Korea!” – that got on his goat to triumph over the advertisity that is, seemingly, playing live. Dressed in his trademark grey suit, shirt and hat, the sampler and harmonica specialist of “devil’s music” blues seemed ill at ease, repeatedly telling the audience that he’d “fuck off soon”. It was annoying – without his wilful outbursts his musicality had already won his audience over.
Around the same time, French electrohead Vitalic was putting together a slamming set and hypnotic visuals that had the packed dance tent going wild. He’d be surpassed only by fetching model boy, DJ and remix artiste Tiga, who spliced up his own tunes from debut artist album Sexor with choice cuts of his favourite things. It being a dance tent, it wasn’t difficult to find pills if they were wanted – but with the day’s sets so short there seemed to be little demand.
Some schedule shuffling over at the second stage meant we missed The Boy Least Likely To, who turned up half an hour early. So it was back to a punky main stage for young pretenders The YoungKnives, old has-beens Buzzcocks and the ubiquitous GrahamCoxon.
A mainstage highlight was the ballgowned, luminous-eyelidded Lily Allen, who puttogether a confidently poised appearance that had her audience – and brother Alfie, again on hand to get his song going – eating out of her hand.A bit ofa strange selection for a festival with Babyshambles headlining(even by her own admission), she held her own with style, and the singing-along crowd suggested her fans are not yet tired of her summery vibes.
Speaking of Babyshambles, an unexpectedly coherent and sober set from them finishedthe festival in style. More than one cynical voice was asking ifPete Doherty was going to show up at all, but show up he did, and puton a drilled set that reminded old fans why they loved him in thefirst place.
A mention has to be made of the slagging match thatdeveloped as the last sets were playing. Badly Drawn Boy defiantly opened his Second Stage headline set with three new songs and various unfortunate quips at the expense of “car crash Pete” Doherty, while Babyshambles, on the main stage,were doing a parody cover of Lily Allen’s Smile. Thankfully, thatdidn’t last long, and the music was allowed to continue to talk foritself once again until the respective sets played out – and it was Damon Gough whose performance was the more shambolic of the two as he knocked over his mic stand, thwhacked a beer can with his guitar and generally behaved like a pished-up eejit. Back at main stage, gargantuan Millwall FC fans hollered along to Doherty’s words and the faithful and celebrity-obsessed crowded in, the better to witness the ex-Libertine on day release from The Priory. Sober or not, those in the crowd unfamiliar with a musical reason to appreciate Doherty will have left still none the wiser what all the fuss was about.
Love them or be nonplussed by them, Babyshambles’ 9pm close also marked what felt like a premature end of the festival. We tried not to think of Muse taking to the stage of Leeds about now and instead ambled off in the direction of more noise in the form of Clapham High Street, where we’d find our own headline entertainment.