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.

Review by
Andrew Lambert