Monday, 4 July 2011

Wireless Festival Sunday - Review

Wireless festival returned in 2011 with a bang, Friday saw the Black Eyed Peas headlining in a day dominated by current chart conquerors and pop hopefulls such as the painfully polished Bruno Mars and the acceptable face of mainstream British rap music Tinie Tempah. While Saturday marked the token dance day with a wide range of acts from the ever-energetic Janelle Monae, recently critically acclaimed Battles playing material from new album 'Gloss Drop', and masters of middle-aged rave The Chemical Brothers fresh off of a triumphant visual extravaganza at Glastonbury.

While both of these days have their certain charms, the Sunday of wireless this year is undoubtedly the main focus for fans of all things vaguely alternative. Not forgetting to mention the much anticipated headline set from recently reformed Pulp, but more on that later. The day kicks off in style as the Pepsi Max tent fills up to watch London dream pop duo Summer Camp. Singer Elizabeth Sankey bellows out songs with infectious charm from their debut EP 'Young' and new material from their forthcoming fan-funded album. Set highlight and fan favourite 'Ghost Train' goes down particularly sweetly, Sankey's soft chants of "you you you you you" accompanied by a backdrop of slide show pictures of the duos youth give a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. Set closer 'I Want You' is also executed brilliantly, as a repeating synth plays under Sankey crying out in true 80s style about bordering on obsessive love "If i could I'd kiss your lips so tight your entire face would bruise, write your name in blood on every wall it would make the evening news" instantly disproves any labels of the duo being cutesy.

Following on the Pepsi Max stage are Yuck, who today firmly establish themselves as one of the best new bands around. Yuck today have a new found confidence (as opposed to earlier more awkward gigs) and waste no time blaring out their scuzzy pop to the masses. Opener 'Get Away' is now all too familiar, but gains a new string to it's bow live as their younger fan base lose the plot over the infectious chorus. Similarly crowd pleasing are 'Holing Out' and 'The Wall' as they blast out of the speakers and have the words chanted back almost religiously, not bad for such a new band. Although the grungy energetic songs get the biggest crowd reactions, there's no question that Yuck are at their most poignant when singer Daniel Blumberg really bares his soul, 'Suicide Policeman' is excellent and still just as deep as it was when it first surfaced on their blog in 2010. While Yuck are unlikely to ever gain widespread chart success, their popularity is growing significantly if subtly, and this is surely no bad thing.

Making the transitions from tents to big outdoor stages this year are Metronomy who perform a mix of old and new favourites. It's encouraging to see new songs such as the 'The Look' and 'Corinne' going down as well old hits 'A Thing For Me' and 'Heatbreaker' although it's hard not to be on board when a band play with as much fun as Metronomy. Next on are The Horrors, who release their much anticipated third album 'Skying' in July. Unlike Metronomy, the transition from tent to main stage is not quite so seamless and a lot of the sheer noise that encapsulates The Horrors' sound is completely lost into the air. 'Sea within a sea' one of the best songs of the last decade, falls completely flat and sounds too blurred and hazy. New material 'Moving further away' and 'Still life' are more synth based dance affairs and are standouts amongst an otherwise disappointing set, although it is unclear whether this is due to The Horrors or simply the sound system.

Heading into the evening, and another one of the big tips for 2011's best new band take the stage, The Naked & Famous. Opener 'All Of This' is fast, abrasive and full of quirks and immediately grabs attention, which followed by the anthemic 'Punching In a Dream' quickly wins over the crowd. The Naked & Famous are a lot more powerful live than on record where they are more withdrawn and timid, singer Alisa Xayalith  belts out songs  like 'Spank' and Frayed' with the fury of a thousand suns alongside heavy strangling guitars and pounding drums. The already euphoric crowd, then explode as the band power into signature hit 'Young Blood', a former number one single in their native New Zealand and for good reason. Alisa shrieking "YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH" at the crowd who reciprocate all too gladly, is surely one of the best moments of the festival.
After The Naked & Famous, The Pretty Reckless feature on the Pepsi max stage, peddling their middle of the road, trying to be rebellious idea of rock music rather unsuccessfully. Not that it matters, as teenage girls and boys alike go completely ape shit for lead singer and American tween icon Taylor Momsen. Oh well at least they're better than the woeful Neon Trees and their one song.

As evening draws in, and as Grace Jones ends her set, The buzz for Pulp is evergrowing. Fans young and old flock to the main stage to await one of the most anticipated UK headline slots of the year. The set began with Pulp lyrics being projected onto the back of the stage, before the band come onto stage and are met by a flurry of cheers and whooping. Jarvis Cocker sporting his usual geography teacher influenced attire begins the nostalgic trip back to the 90s with the rather appropriate 'Remember The First Time' to which the crowd go absolutely nuts, women jump up and down frantically while their husbands dance like dads at a wedding. Pulp's core fanbase may have aged, but their dedication remains ever-present. Pulp then proceed to play somewhat of a greatest hits set, very much pleasing their adoring fans with timeless anthems including singalong favourite 'Disco 2000', ode to the grotty 'Mile End' and the playful 'Underwear'. It's an absolute joy to see Jarvis bounding about the stage, and even reacting with the crowd during the brilliantly sexy ' I Spy' plus his class on stage banter, with quips ranging from the celebration of Tom Cruise's birthday to how important it is to get behind the student protests over Tuition fees. The set finishes with 'Common People' as you'd expect, uniting the whole crowd in a singalong, followed by a rather peculiar remark from Jarvis about returning in 15 years time. Although judging by the crowd's reaction today, the memories of this performance will stick around at least 15 years if not for a lifetime.

By Toby McCarron

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