Clapham Common. Popular haunt of Londoners looking for open space, dog walkers and politicians who are fed up of their jobs and/or families. Add to that list, a significant number of revellers keen on two days of music and excess on their bank holiday weekend, without having to leave the capital, stay in a tent or be in the same place as Fall Out Boy.
Sunday is billed as a crossover between urban, indie and dance genres, fused together on one site, divided by keeping them in specific tents so there is little chance of accidentally checking out Newton Faulkner while waiting for some slamming electro. Whilst the line up isn’t exactly the most cutting edge – (The Automatic and Dirty Pretty Things have significant slots), there is enough variety here to keep even the driest musical pallet moist and enough sunshine today to create a pleasant and typical British sense of optimism on site – greatly aided by the abundance of bars, toilets and general organisation.
Things kick off with Peter, Bjorn and John – three Swedes who have one song that people know and many that they don’t. The site is half-full, they’re pleasant enough but even when they inevitably play Young Folks, there are only a few people dancing, despite some impressive whistling. They’re followed by The Wombats, three Scouse upbeat Indie-popsters who sound really good on the radio but a bit dull live. After an attention grabbing Beach Boys style vocal harmony to start off, it all blends into generic guys with skinny jeans and guitars fare before their excellent single, Kill The Director. So far, so meh.
As the temperature on the common rises, thoughts turn to more variety. In pursuit of something other than blokes with guitars, a crowd navigates away from the main stage towards Bonde De Role – three Brazilian Baille Funk nutcases who despite having all sorts of problems with the sound, are brash and bold enough to inject some life into proceedings. They gyrate, they sample Grease and Europe, moan about the sound some more and wave feedback speakers around like offensive weapons.
Which is all good preparation for the more polished but equally multi-dimensional animal that is The Go Team. Easily the best set of the day so far, they manage to bring backside shaking, jumping and a bit of well placed Ladyflash to the proceedings and not a minute too soon. Maybe it’s because most of the crowd are now cowering under the giant inflatable’s bouncing above them, or the sheer energy that this band seem to have, all is good. So good in fact, that we barely have time to contemplate before heading to the XFM tent for a double header of urban influenced tunes and the two prospectively exciting acts on the bill.
It’s a testament to the Get Loaded In The Park bill that as well that both M.I.A and Dizeee Rascal are not deemed worthy of a headline slot. Both artists are able to whip up the kind of fervour that makes festival sets memorable. M.I.A struts about the stage, festooned in lurid coloured military paraphernalia and regularly scaling the speakers to cast an eye back to the busiest crowd yet. Latest single Boyz, laced with rattles and horns bounds around the tent, more Notting Hill Carnival than Clapham Common.
Likewise, Bamboo Banger, from new alum Kala does what M.I.A is best at: clever samples, heaps of energy and catchy as hell. Which is exactly what Dizeee can unleash at every given opportunity. For the first time today, the tent is full to bursting and rightly so with another Mercury nominated album to peddle and a live show which has always stood out from other hip-hop artists for it’s rawness and energy, he doesn’t disappoint.
Bubbles and Temptations (featuring an Alex Turner sample), from latest offering Maths & English are highlights but it’s the older tunes which really get the crowd going. Fix Up Sharp is the military drummed anthem for youth, while Dizeee’s anthem, Just A Rascal sounds as fresh and vital as ever. He ends with a triumphant Stand Up Tall which could have easily closed the festival, such is the mass arms-in-the-air hysteria it provokes.
That task, is however, placed in the hands of a certain Mr Skinner. The Streets have granted us the privilege of their only UK festival set, and for a crowd which is a blend of (albeit better than average) mainstream taste, it’s a wise choice. Skinner has to work hard to turn a typical London crowd into one worthy of his baiting and upbeat performance, but has enough tricks up his sleeve to leave everyone with a smile on their face at least. Dry Your Eyes has legions of men with their arms around each other, It’s Too Late is he everyman anthem for screwing up a relationship, while Weak Become Heroes is still one of the best tales about the joys of clubbing around.
Even if you can’t stand his idiosyncrasies, slightly dodgy lyrics and beer-boy antics there is no mistaking his ability to write a tune, and to a crowd which has had the fortune of Spanish weather, German organisation and a good dose of British musical talent, that’s all you need to finish it off.