Glasgowbury 2012 - The Day that was In It.
It's just gone five and Kowalski may be winning this festival. Old songs and new are decorated with bubbly synths and a healthy gathering are lapping it up. Three minutes of 'Get Back' encapsulate what we love about our annual trip to Eagle's Rock - fun, engaging, unique. Subtly brilliant. Glasgowbury!
They've been brave. The site is fairly different. For a start, the second 'G Sessions' stage is back under cover - an impressive circus tent. The main stage has moved a little, with the 'Spurs of Rock' and 'Eagle's Rock' bolting us in. A new stage, 'The Generator' lives above a cocktail bar and there's more for families, a food village in the middle, increased dance music and comedy and a proper coup in the form of our legendary headliners. More on that later.
We get off on a good footing, that's for sure. The site is dry, the sun is (partially) out and festival openersThe Red Velvetines are playing like headliners - Claire Martin threatening to have her entire front row peak too early by signing a line each from 'Bang Bang'. It's a similar story over in the circus tent as Amidships touch upon Arcade Fire levels of epic-ness, the sound bang on, the size of the arena perfect. The first real crowd of the day are at the Main Stage for Pretty Child Backfire, another quintessential Glasgowbury band - local lads armed with singalong choruses, up for the cup.
It feels busier this year, or at least an increased interest in Northern Irish music has encouraged the majority of floating voters out of the campsite and into the throng earlier than ever. The weather, decent food, DJs offering an alternative to a full day of live music, even that swingball set - it all adds up and makes for a festival more welcoming than ever. Facepaint and animal masks are dealt out equally to adults and juniors - it's that type of day.
Mojo Gogo, the current kings of exaggerated stagecraft are owning the main stage, treating as they do every show like an arena sell out. It's incredibly inviting and great fun. As always, there's a few wildcards in there - southerners Humanshield and Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters (from Letterkenny and Limerick respectively) for a start. Both on the Spurs of Rocks Stage, the former are spiritually north coast post-rock, the latter dealing in seductive retro-tinged rock and roll, like Richard Hawley fronting QOTSA, with a sunglasses-wearing drummer. Nice.
The Wonder Villians are a more familiar prospect, reliably fun, their contagious enthusiasm churning up some mud. 'Zola' and those old favourites are a little chunkier today (a good thing) yet sugary as ever. The real treat is a couple of new songs, one of which ('Baby Don't Look Sad') we're told is all about The Boss. This band are here for the long haul. As are John Deery and the Heads, who interrupt a set of knee stompers with 'The Raven', a rare, reflective moment hidden amongst the mayhem. But 16 year old Bridie Monds-Watson aka Soak takes a while to get going. Sound on the 'G Spot' is a little ropey and Bridie initially struggles to have her wonderfully reflective songs shine through the noise bleeding in. A huge following in a packed tent helps, of course.
Owen from General Fiasco seems taken with Soak. Even when his band take a year off playing he's hear as a punter, sucking it up. That says a lot. He doesn't stay punter for too long, however - next thing you know he's raising money for charity with a four song set at the Glasgowbury 'Busk Stop'.
We break for a giant burrito, giggling at some grown ups who should know better, sumo-wrestling while dressed as overweight superheros. A little wind kicks in, making hard work for those graffiti artisites and two curious looking masked stilt walkers. Nothing seems weird here. Nothing seems offensive either, even Colin Geddis' and Micky Bartlett's provocative stand up feels delightfully playful.
As we approach the half way point, Versechorusverse (aka Tony Wright) goes walkabout into the crowd after entertaining us with clapalongs, singalongs and covers. 'Big Red Van' is an early contender for song of the day. Silhouette draws a sizeable crowd to the main stage, bringing us to our feet for singles 'Can't Keep Up' and 'Volume Destroyed'. Shuana Tohill looks the part and is in splendid form, at home. Festival staples Pocket Billiards help us ignore a brief spit of rain, bringing the party courtesy of a local take on ska, punk and reggae. A few cheeky toddlers have taken off their ear protectors, wanting in on the action. Understandable.
Triggerman's cheeky, chunky riffola is solid as an (Eagle's) rock while Glenn Rosborough ofIntermission wins the award for strongest voice of the day. He's an incredible performer, well versed and armed with a mighty hollah to wake up those mountains. Great songs as well. And speaking of awards, best breakthrough surely belongs to Droids. Lafaro and Fighting with Wire - watch your back.
Meanwhile, The Dead Presidents are lighting up the circus. A three-piece brass section, oodles of funk and soul and a big haired singer who can do the splits - what more do you need? Unicorns? There's four of them onstage with Katie & The Carnival as 'Dinosaurs' ends a colourful, cute performance. Katie is a star.
We're chased by a giant drumming snake back to the G Sessions stage where RunawayGo appear to be bouncing off the very high ceiling, such is their happiness. Understandable - yet again this tent is rammed and willing. It's definitely the place to be today, withRams Pocket Radio up next, keen to show what touring Europe and the UK can do to your live sound. New song 'Aria' teases a new direction with electro influences and remix potential very clear.
The theme of new material continues with Mojo Fury, tonight armed with a new drummer. They open with a sprawling monster - 'Safe in the Arms of the Sound', one to drop your jaw. The first quarter hour is all new material, for which even the biggest fans of their debut album to date are grateful for, such is the quality of these songs. 'Colour of the Bear' holds it's own of course, albeit beefed up with a drum-off as Mike Mormeecha's shiny white trousers and purple shell suit jacket sparkle in a hail of strobe.
Cahir O'Doherty is in similarly top form as Fighting with Wire also pepper their set with new material. Arguably the band we associate most with this festival (when they're not playing their hauling amps onstage) FWW are clearly on the brink, having waited so long to release that second record. Those songs are really flourishing now, more patient than the men performing them. It's going to be alright.
On a different planet altogether is intergalactic disco prince Space Dimension Controller. That big guy in the hawaiin shirt who's down the front is the life and soul of the Glasgowbury party. This is so much fun! We're eased into beats and pieces courtesy of theDeep Fried Funk curated phase of the festival, Ryan Vail having entertained a small but intrigued gathering before Barry Lynn aka The Host (aka Boxcutter) took The Spurs of Rock on a little journey.
The traditional Glasgowbury freeze doesn't arrive as The Japanese Popstars get arguably the biggest crowd of the day. They're our Chemical Brothers, with material that's been all around the world, from Miami to Ibiza and back to Co. Derry. We've a proper rave on our hands now, glow sticks fly through the air, fists are pumping, tops are off.
Back in the circus and Lafaro are making a more traditional racket. There's no sign of the recently announced third album material - just solid hit after solid hit. Even a non-vintage performance is bags of fun with Johnny Black's customary caustic tongue and the abundance of riffs allowing the band's increasing popularity to be demonstrated by the ever growing mosh-pits that accompany them at this festival and the impressive number of punters in Lafaro t-shirts we spot all day long. It's a slightly shortened set however both because of a misbehaving kick drum mic and a moonlighting drummer - Alan Lynn needs time to get (literally) suited and booted for Therapy?, who's regular sticksman is off on maternity leave.
So here we are, watching grateful legends Therapy? headline a festival that started out in some guy's back yard. 'Living in the Shadow of the Terrible Thing' involves the crowd nicely, but it's those 'oldies', especially 'Teethgrinder', 'Knives' and their cover of 'Isolation', that get us in such a lather. This is a symbolic blessing by the old guard, coming home to salute and acknowledge not just this glorious event, but the bands they're sharing the bill with, many of whom have been so directly inspired by their music.
As the last slab of feedback breaks curfew and a smiling throng of people stumble towards the campsites, or anywhere that will delay reality for just a little bit longer, we're left to think about Paddy Glasgow, his wife Stella, Niall Kerr and the rest of those hardworking souls. We hope you took a moment out from running around your site taking care of us all. We hope you spent that moment sucking this up, the mayhem and majesty that was rock royalty headlining your festival, an event which has changed the landscape in more ways than one.
Rigsy & William Johnston.
Pics: Carrie Davenport