Saturday 23rd June 2018
Part four and we're still only at Saturday morning. I better crack on. There's gonna be a one line review of James Bay later so that'll help. It was 'gold' day at the festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary. My sole contribution was a gold bandana tied round the beacon. A poor effort really. Wasn't even my bandana. I eyed my remaining beer and decided I really couldn't face 90 degree lager plus it would mean taking my bag into the arena again and I clearly couldn't be trusted with it. I regretted my purchases again and smothered myself with suncream borrowed from Gabe. I was suffering. The hat has it's uses as a meeting point but as regards saving the back of my neck from the sun it is woeful. Anyway, I was heading to the Hard Rock Stage to catch up with Apollo Junction and hopefully Jimmy Mac. (There was probably a Jimmy Mac at every stage. He's everywhere). I wandered off telling Chris I'd give him a ring in a bit knowing my phone would probably let me down and I'd be on my own all day. The band had a day of media appointments to fulfil. I took out a loan to buy an ice-cream and a bottle of water on my way to the Hard Rock and bumped straight into Jimmy, of course.
I'd somehow not seen Apollo Junction since IoW 2016. No idea what I've been playing at. In those two years they've matured into an excellent indie pop/rock band. Tight on stage, aware of when one of them wants to go off on a tangent and with a stage presence up there with the best. They start their set to a smallish crowd sat watching and finish it to a full field having a boogie. Always nice to see.
Their penultimate song included the John Barnes rap from 'World In Motion'. That was always gonna be a winner. Their final track found singer Jamie Williamson having a seriously prolonged walk through the crowd. I'm sure he was eyeing up a trip on the big wheel at one point.
Miraculously my phone worked and I managed to get hold of Chris. Even more miraculously we managed to work out just which fish and chip stall he was stood next to and I went off to find them. I walked straight past them. I'm good at this. Chris treated me to a proper pint (a very cold locally brewed IPA), Lewis hunted down some gin and Gabe bemoaned the lack of alcohol free beer anywhere. Sharron joined us as Jesse J took the stage. I'm not a fan, not my kind of thing. She was absolutely brilliant. A stunning voice, a lot rockier than I'd imagined she would be and with a permanent smile showing just how much she was loving being up there.
Kodaline came on for a bit of background music so Chris et al went back to camp for some grub and I went to try and find the band with plans to meet by the Pinball Wizard bar. We'd found a nice spot there not considering that the arrival of a Gallagher would naturally mean the arrival of several thousand more people to that area. I wandered 20 yards to the backstage are straight into the band and most of the entourage. See when I don't arrange to meet someone I walk straight into them, when I make arrangements I invariably fail. There's a lesson there.
Blossoms could have done with watching Jesse J to see how to engage a festival crowd and enjoy themselves. I love Blossoms, I'm a fan. Bought the albums, seen 'em live several times and they've always been excellent. I have no idea what was wrong today but it was an uninspiring, lame, lifeless performance. Maybe fatigue after being constantly working for three years? I don't know but it wasn't fun.
James Bay played. Did a cover of Tina Turner's 'The Best'. That's all you need to know.
By now Sam had turned up and I think that was everyone accounted for. Only taken 8 hours. Liam Gallagher was due on next. Everyone headed further into the throng but it looked like mayhem so me and Sam stayed where we were happily in the shade of an oak tree. Some people moan about stadium gigs (I know it's not a stadium but you know what I mean) and having to watch a gig on a big screen. It's not ideal of course, give me a Rock City or a Leadmill any day, but every now and then I don't mind. It's a lot more preferable to a having a bottle of piss thrown at your head. Plus when used effectively the screens can be an integral part of the gig.
And to prove that point Liam's swagger from backstage to stage front was shown on the screens. Cracking way to whip the crowd up.
He says four words, 'Rock 'n ' Roll Star' and we're off. There is still a discussion going on online as to whether Liam should have headlined over Depeche Mode. For me it was the right way round. I've been listening to Depeche Mode since Liam was 8. Maybe not the best reason but it's the one I'm using. As it is Liam only has an hour but we get 14 songs and a healthy dose of Oasis tunes, (9 of the 14). We get the swagger, the calling out of someone in the crowd for being a 'shithouse', we get Liam. The rarely performed 'Whatever' is an absolute triumph, followed by 'Supersonic' and 'Some Might Say'.
No one wants this set to end, especially Liam but time is pressing. 'Do you want Wonderwall or Live Forever' barks Liam. 'Please not 'Wonderwall' I say to myself as the violins kick in on the 'Live Forever' intro. Perfect. As it closes, 'Fuck it, I'll play 'em both' says the man and we're closing with 'Wonderwall', the bane of every open mic everywhere, but when Liam's got hold of it with 60,000 backing singers it suddenly makes sense again and I remember how much I loved it when I first heard it in 1995. As the song draws to a close, the crowd in fine voice, Liam steps to the mic, 'You're beautiful' he tells us before swaggering off into a glorious sunset.
This is the bit when the vast number of attendees became an issue. We figured it'd be quieter for Depeche Mode so me and Sam headed forward hoping to find the rest of our troupe to be met by a wall of people going the other way. There was no security, no clear way in or out, just a melee of crushed people pushing in opposite directions. Tempers were getting frayed, children were crying. It was genuinely frightening. It had all got a bit Leeds Fest. As soon as we got past the sound desks it thinned out and we could relax but I'd come close to giving up. The main stage area is a bottleneck that's not been an issue in previous years. If the festival continues to attract these numbers it needs addressing.
We found Ross, and co on the first barrier. Stars and Charlotte had gone for an early night, again it had been a busy one for them. I was grilled by the 'young uns' about Depeche Mode songs including some tragic singing on my part. This was the big name band I'd been most looking forward to this year. A band that have gone from electro-pop pioneers to stadium rockers and everything in between over a 40 year career.
There was some moans later of not playing 'the hits' but with 14 albums to go at there were always gonna be some favourites missing but we did get 'Personal Jesus', 'Everything Counts', 'Enjoy The Silence', 'Walking In My Shoes' and somewhat surprisingly, 'I Just Can't Get Enough'. 'Everything Counts' in particular was magnificent. The crowd singalong at the end just went on and on with Dave Gahan gleefully conducting the crowd. Both Gahan and Martin Gore looked honestly moved by the love pouring their way from the crowd. It was an emotional night.
A truly awesome 'Enjoy The Silence' closed the set. I didn't want them to go. They didn't want to go. They were still saying their goodbyes as some people got back to their tents. I managed to lose everyone on the way back. Standard. I stopped off at The Big Top briefly to watch Hacienda Classical banging out 'Blue Monday' with Peter Hook looking all Hookyish before wending my way to my tent. It had been a good 'un.