As the damp car fumes that pass for rain, filter through the mess of my hair and wash the sleep from my eyes I realise that I’m not dreaming. In front of me four men are ‘dancing’ to Enya’s ‘Sail Away’ in a formation the looks something like a flock of migratory geese hit by sheet lightening.
They are Darwin Deez and they are sharing their inexplicably successful take on the concept of cool with an audience gathered in front of the main stage at Clapham Common’s ‘Get Loaded in the Park Festival.’ Darwin, so lanky he appears to be made out of vertical, is dressed in some sort of charity shop carpet with holes for arms and legs. He and his merry men lift the crowds soggy spirits with a set of laid back, almost loungey indie anthems and, of course, a few trademark dance routines.
Excuse Gigwise for being terribly British and mentioning the weather again, but it really is raining. People talk a lot about horizontal rain, but this is pan-directional rain, a fine omni-mist you only get at festivals. It’s Quantum rain, capable of taking all paths through your clothes simultaneously.
I wonder over to Gigwise’s very own tent, not only to get dry, but also to take in Spector who, with their unwavering collection of perfect hairs and polished tunes take to the stage, doing their best to undo the heavy atmosphere.
Outside, back on the main stage Los Campesinos take the opposite approach, opting to embrace the gloomy conditions. “Here’s a song about how every single one of you will die alone” intones frontman, Gareth, before launching into the title track from their last album, ‘Romance is Boring.’ The mood does lighten a bit when they bring out the minor indie masterwork ‘You! Me! Dancing!’, or as Gareth labels it ‘that song from off an advert…’
I catch a bit of Babeshadow, who give the Gigwise tent the benefit of their infectious indie pop, before rushing out for Patrick Wolf. He’s dressed in a double breasted suit, with mint green legs and sleeves and a field green torso. Under the rim of his black hat protrudes a shock of red hair.
As a result I spend the opening song ‘Home’ wondering if it’s politically incorrect to even think he looks like a leprechaun, let alone express it. Then, on the next track, ‘Bluebells’, he sits down to play a harp and the vision is sealed, adding one more look to the long list of looks-Patrick-Wolf-can-pull-off-but-you-can’t.
Just one song later he’s asked to bring the set to an end, which he does with ‘The City’, the triumphant lead single from his new album. It bodes well for him that his recent material gets the best reception, though this may have something to do with him running off into the crowd to deliver the song from the midst of a legion of admirers.
In a recent interview British Sea Power told me that they thought two guitars were enough and that they only let Phil have a go “because it makes him very excited”, but from my vantage point and can see it’s making a fair few other people feel pretty excited as well.
That said BSP aren’t the cheeriest of bands and I feel bad for the ice cream vendor who looks on despairingly. He’s probably staked his two weeks in Malaga on doing a roaring trade today and, as a result, has a face like a Wall Street trader circa October 1929. Given the stodgy conditions underfoot, if he did take a flying leap from the top of his van he’d manage all of a twisted ankle.
I track back to the main stage once more for The Cribs, who, if you don’t know, will insist on telling you from they’re from Wakefield, mainly for the benefit of the audience member’s whose idea of the North is Edgware road. They play an hour long set that illuminates just how much quality has been present on their quartet of albums to date. They touch on all of their records, playing classics such as ‘Men’s Needs’ and ‘Hey Scenesters’ as well as newer material from ‘Ignore the Ignorant.’
Their debut even get’s a look in, providing the brilliant ‘Another Number’, which the band dedicate to the twenty or so people who watched them last time they played Get Loaded in 2004.
The set highlight is definitely ‘Be Safe’. As it depends on a spoken word part from Sonics Youth’s Lee Ranaldo I wasn’t expecting it, so it was especially joyous to see this gray haired, but still fresh faced visage pop up on screen behind the band, reciting slightly dodgy, sub-Ginsbergian poetry to monstrous musical backing.
His spirit obviously infects the band and they spend a lot of the closing track, ‘Berlin Wall’ rubbing their instruments against mike stand, amps and monitors, something Gigwise is always happy to see. Nice one Lee.
That leaves only Razorlight, who end the night more with a question mark than the emphatic full stop the crowd had hoped for. All of the original members of the group, save Johnny, have left. What you have as a result is essentially a Razorlight tribute act with the extreme good fortune to have the front man of the once chart topping group in their ranks.
I might be being a bit harsh, but they just don’t seem to have the vigour of old. The new bassist looks like Bob Dylan finding God, which, if it didn’t particularly suit Bod, certainly doesn’t suit him. The guitarist resembles Bryan May and plays like Slash, assuming Slash were to lose all of his limbs in a drunken brawl with a helicopter and Bryan May were to permanently stop eating. Not a good look, not a good sound. And yes, both are important, especially if you’re Razorlight, the band that had many a young man donning skinny white jeans not so long ago.
They play a lot of new material, as well as songs from ‘Slipway Fires’ which, judging by the number of blank faces, not many people have heard. Unsurprisingly the hits from their sophomore record and every song from ‘Up All Night’ get rapturous responses, but a certain something is lacking.
Their cover of Edwyn Collins’ ‘Never Met a Girl like You Before’ is a palpable misstep, but even the festival-ready adaptations of their own songs seem weak. The dragging, extended build ups and solos are unnecessary, as are the frequent gaps left in songs for audience to clap the backbeat.
Johnny also re-works most of the vocal parts, rarely sticking to the precise melodies on the record. Generally they are about as flat a Belgian bottle of coke, left with no top on and subjected to the close attention of an ACME anvil.
Still, most of the crowd just want a chance to sing along to ‘Golden Touch’ or ‘America’ and are more than happy to sit through the hour and a half set’s weaker moments for the privilege. So, everyone’s a winner!