Witnness Festival 2002
Sunday, July 7th, 2002 (Day 2)
Polyphonic Spree are nothing if not an endearing wake up call. Clad entirely in
white and singing the joys of being alive, this 20 odd piece gospel choir seem
to some like a hangover-induced hallucination. What they are is charismatic,
loud, attention grabbing and certain to wake you up. Not a bad alarm clock then.
With all the media fuss over Gemma Hayes, Nina Hynes'debut album has almost slipped out unnoticed. Which is a shame, as she on today's performance she proves she deserves a lot more. Traces of Kate Bush, Bjork and Belly line Hynes' varied music. And a punishing version of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' ensures her name chimes in the memory of the appreciative assembled.
Leaves are a Scandinavian guitar band. They are a more boring version of Doves, without the sprinkling of magic that the Manchester trio occasionally produce. That's all you need to know about them.
Taking all that was good about the Jam, The Who and early Blur, the Libertines play a sharp, spiky and sporadic half hour set. The most boundlessly enthusiastic band of the weekend throw themselves around the stage like rag dolls. And they play 'What A Waster', the song with the highest swear count of the weekend. True, they are fairly one dimensional, but for now there's no need to look beyond that.
The desperately unoriginal and derivative Revs are cringe-worthy. The token Irish band on the Main Stage moan about Louis Walsh and his pop puppets who peddle their music to kids. Hmm, pot calling kettle? Oh and to prove they have what they have what passes for a sense of humour in their own minds, they sing a song about Walsh saying rock and roll is dead. Ho ho ho. In this instance, maybe we'd be better off if Irish rock was killed off. Someone save me.
Look up, is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the Redneck Manifesto coming to save Irish guitar music. Yes yes yes! This Dublin instrumental four piece forsake the insular sorrow of Mogwai for something more joyous and communal. Plus a hopelessly dressed Michael Jackson impersonator moonwalks onstage between songs. Okay, so the Redneck Manifesto can get a bit noodly, but their passion, energy and clever melodies are joys to behold.
Unlike Starsailor, who sell lowest common denominator coffee table indie-lite. A dreary set is followed by a petulant outburst about Oasis. Go away.
After Starsailor you can really appreciate The Coral. They take you on an amazing musical ride, heading for Mersey beat then taking a sharp left for a sea shanty while passing through ska, punk, '50s Elvis and every musical genre imaginable. Except maybe Russian folk, no wait, that was in there too. Truly exceptional eclecticism from a fearless young band.
One of this year's Irish successes has been Damien Rice. His 'O' album isn't perfect, but tonight he sticks to the better parts of it-'Delicate', 'Eskimo' and 'Blowers Daughter' etc. Rice even proves he's more than a twee, indie folk boy with 'Woman Like A Man', a rocking and lewd song that suggests someone's been listening to James Brown. Special mention must go to his co vocalist Lisa Hannigan, whose soothing, warm voice is the perfect foil to Rice's.
Circumstance deems it necessary that one of the most incendiary bands on the planet, Primal Scream, play in glorious daylight. Driven by Mani's brilliantly pounding bass lines, a band this angry can't be appreciated fully while the sun beams happily down. Bobby Gillespie gives it loads too, but their apocalyptic electroclash rock needs to be viewed in darkness to be fully appreciated.
The Dandy Warhols are flogging a dead, or very high horse until they play 'Horse Pills', wake up and belt out some stoner sleaze rock. Yes they play 'Bohemian Like You', but they have an arsenal of fine rawk songs to share as well, like 'Boys Better' and 'Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth'. To top it all off they leave the stage ten minutes early only to be sent trundling back on with the enthusiasm of kids on their first day of school. Kids, drugs are bad.
The scene is set for Oasis: there is a worshipping crowd who are up for it, there's one of the best frontmen of the last ten years and, to top it off, a headlining slot. Yet they have all the liveliness of John Lennon's rotted corpse. The hits are churned out, almost as a chore, their playing is proficient but passionless, and Liam is the only one who seems to be half trying.
Wander into the 'Rising Tent' and you'll find the exact opposite of Oasis.Idlewild seem thrilled to be playing, are punkishly unprofessional and seem vital. 'You Held The World In Your Arms' is a sky-scraping anthem while 'When I Argue I See Shapes' keeps things fun and remind us of when Idlewild REALLY couldn't play. They have just enough newfound musical sensitivity to achieve the perfect balance they're striving for. Something special.
Trudging out of the Rising Tent, Oasis are still onstage and things haven't got much better. Listening to them plod through 'Live Forever', the prospect of its hookline seems worrying, and you hope it's not a threat on the band's behalf. Then 'My Generation' is banged out and you wonder is the irony lost on them? This isn't 1995 anymore, this isn't their generation anymore than it's The Who's or The Stones'. On this performance Oasis aren't important anymore except in their own minds, and tonight it shows.
Paddy Mc Donnell
Check out the CLUAS coverage of Day 1 of Witnness 2002