With Nastro Azzurro on tap, blistering heat and a masked Italian rock group on the bill, the annual Independent Days festival in Bologna is not exactly your average British rock festival. This year’s bill marked a notable departure from the ska punk-friendly line ups of years gone by with Franz Ferdinand , The Libertines and a couple of Queens Of The Stone Age offshoots heading the bill on the main stage.
News arrived 24 hours before the festival that Keane had pulled out, so those hoping for one of Tom Chaplin’s tenor like performances were left disappointed. No matter, the line-up still had many tricks up its sleeve to make this a memorable day out.
It’s about four o’clock and the four lads playing their instruments rather loudly on the main stage are York-based rockers Colour Of Fire . Think Placebo , Biffy Clyro and My Red Cell thrown into a large blender and you’ll have the type of angsty, melodic rock that Colour Of Fire trade in.
Aside from vocalist Stuart Jones telling everyone that it’s “fucking hot”, his band provide us with some very commendable tunes – songs like Second Class Citizen and recent album title track Pearl Necklace. It’s a very good start to the proceedings, but the next band on the bill would offer something very off the wall indeed.
Three men stroll on stage – the running order informs us that they’re commonly known as Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti. They wear Eminem style chainsaw masks and make a lot of noise in Italian. Gut instinct suggests that they’re Italy’s answer to Slipknot and as the set progresses, this assumption is not too wide of the mark.
The crowd seems to love every minute of it, and upon further investigation, the group have a massive back catalogue ranging back to 1994. But what is really disturbing is how seriously they take themselves, with the lead singer shouting ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll!’ after each number. The novelty wears off quickly.
Judging by the number of Queens Of The Stone Age T-Shirts around, many in the audience have come for the two splinter groups of Queens: Mondo Generator and The Mark Lanegan Band . The former you’ve heard if you’ve listened to ‘Millionaire’ from Queens Of The Stone Age’s 2002 album Songs For The Deaf. Nick Olivieri’s wild scream is present on most of the tracks, and while the songs could be described as having a destructive, party rock feel, they become tedious after a short period of time. Olivieri does throw in a Queens track to placate his large fan base in the crowd – ‘Gonna Leave You’ from the aforementioned album sounds as wicked and haunting as ever.
Mark Lanegan’s husky Johnny Cash-esque vocals resonate around the arena for the best part of an hour, and while he is an undeniably talented musician, there’s nothing really in the set that will blow your mind.
The hours have ticked away, and now the trademark Up The Bracket album sleeve glares at us from the stage. The Libertines are about to take the stage, and although Bologna is an unlikely location for Pete Doherty to rejoin his old friends, there’s always hope that they may have organised a romantic reunion in this lovely red brick city. Slightly disappointing then that it’s The Libertines Mk. II that appear. They waste no time and burst straight into ‘Up The Bracket’. What is immediately noticeable is how great they sound even without Doherty – Barat’s voice has always been the more eloquent anyway.
Don’t Look Back Into The Sun is as glorious as ever, its anti-nostalgic message couldn’t be more apt at this point in time. Showcasing tracks from their second album, The Saga is reminiscent of the band’s early days with its frantic and thrilling guitars.What Became Of The Likely Lads, despite being a sorry tale of what might have been, is utterly brilliant. Although missing a vital cog (Can’t Stand Me Now is a trifle odd without Doherty to say the least) The Libertines wheel is still fully functional without Doherty.
Then it’s on to the most talked about and hyped band of 2004, Franz Ferdinand. The difference between them now and the start of the year is phenomenal, where they once looked like scruffy Glaswegian art students they now look like they’re attending a Hollywood premiere. Alex Kapranos is sporting a bright red shirt and slicked back hair, and drummer Paul Thomson is wearing a bright gold top.
They charm the crowd by muttering words of Italian, and to add to it all, play an outstanding set. The album is played back, all sounding crisper and clearer than ever before, with Take Me Out and Matinee galvanising the inevitable crowd participation and rapid hip movement. However, Franz Ferdinand are also here tonight to road test some new songs. Your Diary smacks of Take Me Out, starting off slowly and bursting into a manic crescendo of guitars, while the other new offering This Boy is a fast and furious affair.
So that was Independent Days 2004, where The Libertines and Franz Ferdinand triumphed, Colour Of Fire promised much and Nick Olivieri made one hell of a racket. The fact that Keane were struck from the bill 24 hours earlier was a distant memory. If you’re stuck for holiday ideas next September, you know there’s a wild party going down in Bologna.