The night before Glastonbury started, I sat by a Stone Circle where a 12 foot Wicker Man was being ceremonially burnt. The night before Reading started, I sat around a bonfire with a group of total strangers. The night before Get Loaded in the Park started, I watched Friends and was in bed by 10. Can a one day event ever create the atmosphere which makes music festivals so legendary?
True, Get Loaded isn’t trying to be Glasto or Reading, although the overpriced food would suggest different. It had some of the traditional festival accoutrements: heavy rain, a sea of mud and a stellar line-up. But the atmosphere did feel a little fake. Wearing tinsel round your neck that you inexplicably found in a field is fine, wearing tinsel that you’ve presumably brought from home is not. The proliferation of flowery headpieces just seemed a bit try-hard at a one-day festival. But maybe I’m just bitter.
If you’re not coming to a festival for the atmosphere, the only reason to come is the music. And this is where Get Loaded shone. Highlights of the day included Patrick Wolf, who worked the crowd superbly dressed in an all-green suit, perhaps in homage to his saintly namesake. The Noisettes opened to a sprightly ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm’, with lead singer Shingai Shoniwa clad in a gold leotard and appearing from huge angel wings centre stage, who later got the crowd singing along to an emotional rendition of ‘Never Forget You’. British Sea Power performed a slightly lacklustre set, whilst full points for effort went to Darwin Deez, whose four members performed immaculate yet incongruous dance routines in between songs.
The other two stages in the tiny area of Clapham Common were host to a selection of up and coming talent, of whom Babeshadow shone with upbeat tunes. Headliner Johnny Flynn got the crowd humming along to his folky songs, although without a backing band his acoustic set wasn’t perhaps the climax one would expect at a festival. Back on the main stage the ever-reliable Cribs produced an outstanding hour of some of their best work, showing that they don’t need Johnny Marr, who left the band this year. Old classics including ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ were greeted with rapture by the boisterous crowd, intermingled with new songs which look set to rocket the Wakefield band to even greater heights.
Love them or hate them, Razorlight’s London Exclusive set was the final cherry on the already Loaded cake. Johnny Borrell led his new, long-haired band through old hits such as ‘America’ and ‘Golden Touch’ which were greeted with delight, although some uninspired new songs received distinctly cooler receptions, suggesting that this is a band which has had its heyday. Borrell performed much of his set from the ground in front of the stage, proclaiming ‘Why should you get wet, and us not get wet, y’know?’ How in touch with his fans he is. Unfortunately this meant that we still got wet, and now couldn’t see him. Get Loaded is all about the music, and there isn’t much else to be there for. But the music was fantastic, and whet many an appetite for the festival season to come. And I’ll admit it, after it was all over I’d choose a warm bed over a damp tent any day.