SATURDAY 3rd AUGUST
The clouds darkened ominously over Naas on Saturday morning and sure enough festival goers were greeted by torrential downpours of rain throughout the first day of Oxegen 2013, but that didn’t stand in the way of thousands of Irish music lovers who were determined to make the most of the shortened weekend event.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first of all: Oxegen is a completely different show this year to the kind we experienced annually 2004-2011, with the organizers opting for a strictly dance/chart line up this time around but the vibe from the crowd upon entering the arena was very much the same as recent years with a welcome party atmosphere that extended through the evening and was much appreciated by the artists, who were quick to comment on the spirit and passion of the audience at Punchestown Racecourse.
Of the early acts of the day, British garage/R&B producer Naughty Boy livened up the proceedings during a 40 minute set which included a refreshing take on Daft Punk’s megahit ‘’Get Lucky’’, before finishing with his own UK Number 1 ‘La La La’. Rita Ora was another standout act on her first time in Ireland, kickstarting the evening with her brand of electro R&B as the festival began to take shape at the Main Stage, delivering signature hits such as ‘’Hot Right Now’’, ‘’Shine Your Light’’ and ‘’Roc The Life’’, before playing a strange medley of Notorious BIG tunes that confused some and delighted others. As she closed the show with ‘’Over’’, it seemed as though Ora was having just as much fun as those in the crowd, and her heartfelt thank you to the audience was accepted by satisfied fans.
Following a strong set by Labrinth, including a cover of NWA’s ‘’Express Yourself’’ as well as ‘’Let The Sun Shine’’ and ‘’Earthquake’’, the sun began to set and the stage was truly set for the headliners. Example was in a show stealing mood, beginning with his original single ‘’Kickstarts’’ before launching into an energetic display to which the crowd responded extremely well, making the loudest noise they had all day, with ‘’Stay Awake’’ provoking a particularly big reaction. An impressive lightshow and stunning visuals were a excellent accompaniment to the set, and as the show ended with ‘’Changed The Way You Kissed Me’’ a firework display was the perfect compliment to the already glorious climax.
As Example made his exit, attention quickly turned to Calvin Harris with the crowd growing impatient for the Scotsman’s arrival at midnight. Greeted by delighted Irish fans, Harris kicks things off with his Florence inspired track ‘’Say My Name’’, before a series of instantly recognisable tunes get the desired reaction. ‘’Flashback’’, ‘’Bounce’’ and ‘’We Found Love’’ are all brought into play as well as a number of remixes ranging from Swedish House Mafia’s ‘’Save The World’’ to ‘’We Are Your Friends’’ by Justice, and even a little Basement Jaxx in the form of ‘’Where’s Your Head At?’’. Smoke and laser machines were in full use throughout the 90 minute set which peaked with ‘’Feel So Close’’ around the 1am mark, causing the thousands gathered at the main stage to unite in a communal singalong.
A frequent complaint about DJ sets such as this is often that the man behind the deck seems to be doing little to no live work and it certainly applies in this case with Harris doing little else but standing around and observing the crowd, who he seems reluctant to engage in any form of conversation, but this no nonsense approach doesn’t seem to bother the audience, who after all here for one thing and one thing only; the music. Overall it’s been moderately successful first day for a very different looking Oxegen, bring on Snoop, Chase & Status and co. tomorrow.
SUNDAY 4th AUGUST
The bad weather and good spirits kept up at Oxegen on Sunday with another set of excellent performances from a variety of world renowned artists.
Kicking off things during the afternoon, there was plenty to be found in the Red Bull Electric Ballroom as the likes of former FM104 house DJ Al Gibbs got campers back into party mode before fans made their way to the Main Stage for Pitbull, who provided a set full of cheesy europop tunes that got everyone in Punchestown moving. Drawing a surprisingly large crowd considering the relatively early timeslot of 18.40, the American was delighted with the enthusiasm shown by the Irish audience and set up a rapport with fans that lasted throughout the hour long show as he executed a range of covers (including some Guns’N’Roses) before delving into more familiar material such as ‘’Give Me Everything’’ and ‘’I Know You Want Me’’ to the finish line.
Next up was sure to be an interesting experience if nothing else as the recently ‘reincarnated’ Snoop Lion took to the stage. Following a lengthy introduction which included classic songs like ‘’California Love’’ and ‘’Still D.R.E’’, we finally caught a glimpse of the rap icon who made it clear early on that fans had nothing to worry about as he stuck firmly to vintage material which pleased the expectant crowd no end as they rapped along to the likes of ‘’Gin And Juice’’, ‘’Tha Shiznit’’ and many others.
A short section of reggae taken from the new album served to quieten the buzz which Snoop responded to well by returning to the classics such as ‘’Drop It Like It’s Hot’’ late on and ending the show with a wonderful rendition of ‘’Young Wild & Free’’ at sunset that captured the atmosphere of the weekend in a perfect manner. As he exited the stage to the sounds of Bob Marley’s ‘’Jammin’’, it was plain to see that for many this was the most enjoyable experience of the weekend, due in large part to Snoop’s excellent interaction skills with the adoring crowd, in spite of his failure to grasp the fact that he was not in Dublin as he repeatedly stated. We’ll forgive him though.
As the night began, drum and bass specialists Chase & Status came onstage with the lashing rain in full flow, although nobody was to be put off, in fact it seemed as though the rain was driving them further on, creating a special atmosphere that was severely enhanced by a collection of hardcore electro tunes such as ‘’Let You Go’’, ‘’Blind Faith’’ and ‘’Time’’. Collaborating with an onscreen Plan B worked a charm on festival goers aswell, especially as signature hit ‘’End Credits’’ was delivered in what was surely one of the finest performances of the weekend. Despite the reputation of acts such as this for possible crowd trouble or violence (with Swedish House Mafia acting as a terrible example last summer) there was not a hint of hassle in sight with the crowd joining in communal dance and actively enjoying each other’s company. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all was the live band setup that Chase & Status employ, marking an impressive change of pace from the button pushing techniques that dominated the weekend.
Last but not least was the main attraction in the form of French superstar DJ David Guetta who took the same no nonsense approach as Calvin Harris the night before with an onslaught of chart hits that set the crowd alight, the likes of ‘’Love Don’t Let Me Go’’, ‘’Memories’’ and ‘’Titanium’’ making notable appearances throughout a set which included covers of Avicii and even Harris himself to the pleasure of many in attendance. While maybe not as impressive as the two acts that went before him, there was no doubt that the crowd were loving the reliable set of songs that Guetta provided, and it made for a fitting end to a weekend filled with dance hits.
In conclusion, while many have stayed away from Oxegen this year due to it’s changing appearance, you can be sure that those who went will have had an excellent experience and speculation that this might be MCD’s last outing with the festival now looks doubtful. After a successful weekend by all accounts, it now seems quite possible for Oxegen to continue in its changed format.
Review by Andrew Lambert