Festival Preview: Wireless 2007

01 June 2007

Festivals are big business. Long gone are the days when they were an excuse for a group of like-minded souls to gather in a field, watch some bands and, if you’ll excuse the expression, chill out.

These days, with seemingly every festival televised live and the subject of acres of newspaper coverage, big businesses have realised there’s a nice little niche in this particular market. Almost every festival nowadays will be saturated with advertising hoardings, have a stage named after a particular multinational, or in the case of the
O2 Wireless Festival, actually be brought to you courtesy of a mobile phone company.

You can bitch and moan all you like about corporate sponsorship, but it’s a fact of life. Even Glastonbury has an army of sponsors on a par with that of a small country, so perhaps it’s time to accept the inevitable. Of course, there’s a school of thought that without such multimillion pound sponsorships, events like the O2 Wireless Festivalwouldn’t be able to ring together such impressive line-ups. If there’s one thing to recommend O2’s annual shindig this year, it’s a mightily impressive line-up.

Held in two sites in the south and north of England – London’s Hyde Park, and Harewood House in Leeds – the O2 Wireless Festivalhas already boasted big names in its short life, but this year’s sees possibly the biggest yet. London’s line up sees bands spread out over four days, while Leeds takes on the more traditional form of a weekend event.

The Leeds leg is handily divided into theme days – Friday is ‘rock’ day, Saturday is, for want of a better term, ‘indie’ day, while Sunday sees the dance/electro fraternity take over Harewood House.

The major attraction on the Friday will be The White Stripes‘ one and only festival appearance of the year. With forthcoming album Icky Thump (a title sure to go down well in the fair county of Yorkshire) promising a return to the full on blues-rock that made Jack’n’Meg’s name, their headlining appearance is guaranteed to be talked about for months to come. Indeed, you can imagine the organisers of Leeds’ other big festival, the Carling Weekend, casting envious eyes in O2’s direction when that particular announcement took place.

The Whites aren’t the only noteworthy act on the first day. Josh Homme will be promoting some typically brutal rock from Queens Of The Stone Age’S new album Era Vulgaris, while perhaps the most intriguing appearance is that of Perry Farrell. Will his new band, Satellite Party, reclaim the glory days of Jane’s Addiction or be more of a Porno For Pyros-shaped damp squib? Their show on the main stage should answer that one.

The main stage is also host to new wave veterans The Only Ones (whose Another Girl Another Planet classic is now a mobile phone advert theme – ironic innit?), while The Sounds are virtually guaranteed to pick up admirers with their Blondie-like Swedish indie-pop. As is ever the case with festivals, there are also several little gems to be found hidden away on the other two stages – the Tuborg Stage and the O2 Blue Room.

French electro legends Air and Manchester’s indie new-wave crew Polytechnic have the dubious pleasure of headlining against The White Stripes, but The Bees and Bella Union’s big discovery of the year, The Kissaway Trail will be sure to attract some loyal fans.

“You can bitch and moan all you like about corporate sponsorship, but it’s a fact of life.”

On the Saturday, the big news is the homecoming of the Kaiser Chiefs, no doubt accompanied by lots of football chants of “Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” ably supported by their best mates The Cribs, and the dark moody rock of Editors, who’ll be showcasing their rather excellent new album The End Has A Start. There’s also plenty to see on the other two stages, including those other local heroes The Pigeon Detectives, the Marmite pop of Los Campesinos! and Brummie baggy revivalists The Twang.

Over in the O2 Blue Room, Kate Nash will be continuing her quest to prove she’s actually nothing like Lily Allen, while there’s more traditional guitar rock from both The Little Ones and 1990s.

The final day will see revelers dig out their glow sticks and dab on the face paint, as it’s electro day. A mighty line-up on the main stage sees the always entertaining and enigmatic Daft Punk headline, while James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem will lead cries of “Us! Them! Over and over again!” Maybe Daft Punk will even end up playing at his house…

Elsewhere on the day, Lovefoxx from CSS will no doubt be attracting many a gooey-eyed young lad, while Mark Ronson will be promoting the rather excellent Version album. No word on whether he’ll bring Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen with him though. Over on the other stages, those doyens of new rave, the Klaxons will be headlining the Tuborg Stage after Simian Mobile Disco and various Modular DJs have whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

So while it may not be as cool as Glasto, or have the same end of the summer party feel as the Carling Weekend, there’s a lot to recommend the Wireless Festival. If you’re on Vodafone though, keep it under your hat.

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