Oxegen, Poxegen: The Modern Rock and Roll Experience.
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Wednesday July 19, 2006 01:02 by Pinhead - Shoplifting Gabba Fiends FC | Photos: Pinhead, Riotspace and The Mad Monk Of The West
MCD buries bad Vibes over Oxygen 2006
"MCD have buried this, going as far as to close the message boards on their Oxegen subsite but thankfully a Google cache holds some of the threaded information. This has to be a new low? Reports of people being kicked from behind and then laughed at by security when taking a piss outside, random assaults, tents being set on fire and over all incompetence seem to dominate reports of the Sunday."
Security Extinguish Tent Fire
- Pinhead, Indymedia User.
Indymedia users are adding to claims that ugly scenes typifing recent Oxygen festivals were compounded this year by "riot conditions in Camp A on Sunday/Monday night, the towers pulled down, the rampaging drunks, druggies and robbers and assaulters setting light to tents and the undermanned out of control security who tackled both the law breakers and the innocent with equal viciousness. ( 1)" With a rising tide of cynicism directed at MCD's chief, Denis Desmond's claim that "the fans were amazing, incredibly well behaved and good humoured” there are now concerns that MCD shut down the popular forum on its Oxegen site, in an effort to pour water on an organic forest fire of bad publicity in internet land, threatening its lucrative festival brand. Security at the event was contracted to Eventsec who previously faced accusations of incompetence from football fans. Claims from an Oxegen message board handle, eventSecurity, that "anyone that got a dig or rap deserved it" , were retracted as a wind up by the same handle on another board and the Oxegen site. This fake security statement may have contributed to the sites closure.
Despite a rumour mill
that MCD has threatened real time media with legal action, the Mirror
ran a story
with a sensationalist "I Predict A Riot
" headline pulled from a Kaiser Chiefs
song. In a mainstream media tradition, the paper used an image
from more severe crowd disturbances at a recent Leeds Festival
to illustrate the Oxegen trouble. In an article
romanticising the rock festival experience, SF's Danny Morrison
commented how "at Oxegen there was little or no sense of any form of solidarity with the underprivileged or the exploited of this earth." Maybe its worth remembering how, a for once critical NME described
a mythologised Feile'95 as "a decaying Gaelic football stadium upon whose pitch several hundred gymnasium crash mats and multifarious rock bands have been unceremoniously dumped, as the promoter sits back and lets the cash roll in."
See kids, nothing really has changed. In the festival swamp of concession stands, an uncritical media that slaps the promotions companies on the back for ads while stoking up hysteria around "young people" with the other - its always going to be the fans that loose out.
Links of note on this story: Google caches of removed Oxegen threads critical of the festival and MCD. | Fastfude users discuss ejections from tent at 6:30am in camp A | Boards.ie users discuss the festival | The Other Side - set up to respond to Oxegen site closure From Youtube: Fire in camp and much more footage of bands and randomness by "citizen reporters." | Another one | Thumped forum users discuss a "descent into anarchy."
Worth looking at: IRMA And Piracy: Interview With A Vampire | IRMA Sweeps On File Sharers | The Clampdown on Raves | A Beach Party&Close Encounters of the Garda Kind
Original Article As Submitted
Oxegen, Poxegen: The Modern Rock and Roll Experience
There’s a long standing tradition of music festivals in Ireland, from the Fleadh’s of yore with their bizarre intersection of trad and hippy folk revivalists, to the self organised beauty of the anti-nuclear festivals at Carnsore or the hilarity of a Dylan gig at Slane that broke out in a riot. The most romanticised of recent Irish festivals is the Semple Stadium Feiles, when sprawling night time chaos descended across a quite Irish town leading to jammed Liveline phonelines for about a week after and infuriated auld ones tearing the nation’s youth a new arsehole with verbal condemnation. The tightening of planning legislation around festivals as a result of the chaotic nature of the Feiles led to a tragic respite from the multi-day festival from 1997 onwards. With a generation lacking any similar major rites of passage, the massive Slane one day events reigned supreme and there was always some fucker of a mate’s older brother to regale you with boastful tales of pissing, shitting and shaggin all over Thurles in contrast to the placid state of Slane. But lets see these thirty something suckers dance now cos we've been pissing on ourselves and getting our stomachs pumped at our own Feile - OXEGEN! Or so Denis Desmond's main man Brian ‘Biggie' Spollen would have us believe.
The 80,000 punters that made it to Oxegen last weekend represent a mere indent in the total attendance of festivals and concerts in this country every year. Yet the monstrous blow out of the festival season has become a central point of clash between the various companies dominating the promotions industry here. It really is a case of mine is bigger than yours and you can suck it. Since the first Electric Picnic a sustained challenge has been presented to MCD’s domination of the festival season by Aiken and Pod Concerts. Pod and Aiken have proved themselves an astutely enterprising team in redefining the festival experience in Ireland through stalking new demographics in a successful effort to bring thirty something year olds back to the festival circuit with a combination of clever marketing and the creation of the “boutique festival” concept.
The Boutique Music Festival
The boutique festival entails the provision of quality foods and entertainments beyond the main acts and the traditional punnets of soggy chips drenched in red sauce. The Irish animation company Eyebrowy exploited the far from subtle levels of snobbery associated with the Electric Picnic marketing strategy to launch a series of devastatingly funny fake ads and music television parodies online. Caricaturing the metrosexual tones of the sensitive Southside blokes that make up the Thrills, they extolled how the Electric Picnic was a festival for those answering “yes” to the question of are you “sick of having your tent gate crashed at half two in the morning by Northside scumbags out of their mind on pot?”
“The picnic,” as us young people like to call it, is a festival designed to play into an audience that takes its consumption of the slightly more alternative section of the cultural industry seriously. This is a music listening public that was more likely to have heard Arcade Fire before you last year and wanted to “enjoy the festival the posh way for a change” without the droll presence of those who have yet to discover Pitchforkmedia and think a new football jerseys is dressing up. Astronomical rises in ticket prices, well relayed Witnness urban myths of tents being set on fire, port-a-loos being turned over while in use and random eruptions of drink fuelled violence contributed to a shifting demand from festival goers. Shitnness just wasn't good enough so Aiken and co answered with a template tagged with ideas of comfort, intimacy and a certain quality of punter over quantity.
While offering nothing as exciting as Aiken’s importation of Lost Vagueness from Glastonbury, with its “anarchic and culturally twisted” creation of fringe events outside the main events, the principle of diversifying the festival experience has been copied by MCD. More healthy, veggie and alternative food options such as the festival food franchise the Japanese Noodle Bar make an appearance. The arena gets packed with stalls selling enough condiments and services to spice up your festival options then they add a dash of head shops, some alternative clothing stalls and suddenly you have “the artist and audience’s ultimate musical festival.” One of the cleverer moves by MCD this year was to bring in the Workers’ Beer Company as the "nice face of MCD" to handout free line ups in a further ethical cleansing of their previous extortionate charging of 10 Euro for programmes listing the running times on the various stages. There was also a probably unconnected scattering of petition collectors gathering signatures to “make trade fair.”
The new softened edge around the corporate beast that is Oxegen is only one part of MCD’s new approach. The main challenge to its Aiken and Pod rivals comes in the form of a new addition to the festival circuit here called Hi:Fi. As Jim Carroll pointed out in his Discoteque column, this is an importation of a UK festival brand to these shores much like Creamfields and others before it. Hi:Fi is also going to be held in the grounds of a country house called Belvedere near Mullingar and again is a response to a changing consumer demand answered by the Electric Picnic. As former manager of the Frames Brain Spollen puts it “young people aren’t interested in being pigeon holed into one genre any longer so the line up reads like a playlist where a little bit of everything is good for the soul.” Apart from directly challenging the Electric Picnic, the rest is just marketing, Oxegen after all really is just an extension of the Scottish T in The Park festival with the same acts being ferried from both sites on different days.
The Disco Noone Can Hear and The Great Gazebo Purge of 2006
So how was Oxygen? The tabloids have a method of dealing with such questions. They root deep down around the bottom of a bag of clichés marked “summer festival season” to churn out lines like “even torrential rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of festival goers who danced in the mud to hot stuff from [insert popular band here].” This endless stream of praise for the festival organisers does little to explain the emergence of terms like Shitnness and Poxegen for MCD’s largest annual event. Saying “hello” to a particularly giddy kid I passed in the campsite I was greeted with a “this is great, everyone is so nice – everyone is infected with the spirit of Woodstock” rant. A nice thought but Glastonbury really has forged the frame of reference for festival organisaiton in recent years and that’s been a cold and clinically removal from any trace of the free festival it started as. The general trajectory now is to close off any room for the sort of unpredictability that really spices up a festival and that means a huge level of crowd control.
The silent disco which is another importation from Glastonbury via the Electric Picnic really gives definition to this. Used to provide an official central social space for punters so they don’t get too creative themselves as well as circumventing stringent noise and time regulations tied into the licensing so the cows in the next field can get some rest before the milking. How queuing for well over an hour to slap on a set of shite ear phones with zero bass so some appalling pub DJ can broadcast top forty hits at you could be considered a novelty is beyond me but for many it is. It must be a wacky student thing.
For the first day security went around ordering people to take down gazebos in the campsites. As one security bloke put it to me a real effort was made to close off any alternative social spaces partly due to a near rave in the car park last year and the usual fear of the mob. This great cack handed purge of gazebos had to be called off when it became obvious most people were splashing out 50Eur for them within the actual camp at stalls permitted by MCD. A series of watch towers with spot lights oversaw the campsites, with layers of security surrounding the perimeters. That wonderful habit of local kids who annually exploit their knowledge of the lay of the land to breach the festival boundaries ensured MCD had dogs and security patrolling the perimeters, dogs which barked with all the passion of a rabid street preacher all night long too.
Its amazing how a tiny minority of punters can make you feel as if you are trapped on O’Connell St at 3am on a Saturday night for three days in a row, 24/7 such was the levels of drunken fuckwittery on display. The site looked like a landfill within hours as the organisers provided not a single bin throughout the arena or camp, instead opting to contract in mainly migrant workers to clean up after the Tiger's cubs. The rain and wind devastated the camps on Saturday night - all to be expected.
The Skinny Leg and Converse All Star Brigade
Your musical tastes are your own but Oxegen really captured the popular music zeitgeist this year and I’m not too keen on this recent retro revival. Bill Drummond’s scathing puzzlement of why Pete Doherty “a guy in his early 20’s or whatever he is, would want to play that type of old fashioned music” could equally have been put to ¾ of the line up and fans. I’m sure the skinny leg jeans and Converse All Star brigade were enraptured by whatever it is the the new wave of British rock that dominated the festival has going for it but Primal Scream played “Swastika Eyes” and I was happy. The Go Team blew the roof off the Green room with their jump up soul, swaggering through a set with all the upbeatness of the Sesame Street theme tune on super strenght yokes. Whipping Boy did their anxiety young man routine without the drunken embarrassment that accompanied their pre-Xmas reunion gigs, even throwing in typically McKee metaphorical rant on how the yanks brought coke to Dublin when they pulled in on the USS JFK as the economy tore sky wards. The "rave tent" held out little hope with an appalling line up. Artists like Vitalic and Dave Clarke utterly failed to deliver the goods in an arena and a crowd that looked like it was conjured up by someone designing a rave scene for a didactic drug education short. The mid 1990's thumping four by four, complete with dancing girls on stage lives on. Big box, little box anyone?
The H-Blocks and the Criminalisation of the Yoof
The News Of The World led the drugs hysteria this year with a front page screaming about a coke and pills bust worth 1.5m in Blanchardstown. The big busts of the festival are one story but the reality is a little more mundane if not harsh as hundreds of kids face criminalisation every year for nothing more than carrying enough drugs for personal use into a rock festival and not copping some bogger with a sniffer dog a few metres away. This year the cops seemed especially keen, with round 40 northern fans arrested in searches on 70 buses stopped near Carrickmacross and Castleblaney. Last year over 550 fans were arrested at the festival, usually detained within the grounds of the festival in especially laid aside holding quarters out of the sight of the revellers and given the name the “H-blocks” by festival staff.
One punter who'd worked at previous Oxegens told me how the Gardai regularly use a process of entrapment in going in under cover and offering drugs to kids and then upon receiving a positive response nicking them for it. In a field full of blokes that all look like they could be notching up the frequent flyer points at at Garda off duty haunts like Copperface Jacks, with country accent’s galore and a wardrobe of shoes and shirts the best philosophy can be taken from the X-Files and that's to "trust noone." One mate reported seeing two security men on the Sunday night slash open a tent, pull a knife on some punters, take their coke and tear into it. Security was provided by the northern based Eventsec which have a solid rep in the game, the security bloke mentioned earlier however did describe how shifts were 16 hours long and often pushed to 20 hours which could explain the often prickish nature of festival security.
A-I-K-E-N That Spells AIKEN! Go Business!
In the perpetual critical ducking and diving engaged in by music fans amongst the trenches of the pop culture war, Aiken are accorded with some level of respect for taking on MCD and giving the punters what they want. But their own record is far from clean. Last month they set up a “Kilkenny Express” with Iarnrod Eireann to ferry fans to and from the recent Dylan gig. Tickets were sold exclusively with Ticketmaster for 45 Euro with a 5.95 cover charge, this is double the price of a similar trip during the day. Both corners of the boxing match are also engaged in an equally consistent process of consolidating music venues in Dublin. The Olympia is controlled by MCD. MCD's Denis Desmond also has a holding stake in Abbey Street’s Spirit, a nightclub wrapped in enough therapeutic new age psychobabble for the yuppie weekend party goer to make you gag. A place to “awaken your senses” and “regenerate your mind, body and spirit” its website boost, Spirit takes up the market gap created by the closure of the Temple Theatre in bringing the super club idea to Dublin a decade late. Spirit has now gone on to sell its “sensual yet mystical surroundings” leeching off clichéd images of various indigenous cultures as as a franchise across the globe. Aiken also owns Vicar Street. Meanwhile his festival season partner Reynolds owns the Pod complex, Market Bar and the Globe and looks set to soon open a 1,600 seater right beside it real soon as an effort in boosting the power of his tender for major touring acts.
Same Shite, Same Owners and a Stunted Scene.
Supposed rebels and outsiders made good Phantom Fm exemplify the concentration of interests in the Irish music scene. Recently granted a Dublin license after a few scuffles with Geldof’s Zed fm, the final Phantom consortium was made up of MCD’s Desmond, U2’s management agency and Frank Gleeson. Gleeson owns half of Wexford St, with venues like the Village and Whelan’s under his control. Anyone remembering the glory days of the station as a pirate will recall its sickening symbiotic relationship with Whelans as a main sponsor. This relationship has much to answer for in explaining the relatively stunted music scene in Dublin and can only worsen as it binds itself further to the major players in promotions and venues. Its privileging of bands of the Frames mould over electronica, anything with a harder edge and possibly even non-Whelans based led many bands to pigeon hole themselves to fit its play lists and aesthetic. An aging Hot Press staff could equally stumble along using Whelans and Phantom as a source of new and exciting bands to justify its continued existence. This happy incest led in many ways to the current dominance of the Irish industry by singer song writer stalwarts like Damien Rice, Mundy and second rate Coldplay knockoffs like BellX1. Many cafes in and around the boho trail in town also make exclusive deals with venue conglomerates for the rights to stick up posters advertising gigs leading to a dramatic isolation of independents that can only more recently be combated through the net.
That there is a healthy DIY and smaller promotions circuit in the city, is a testament to the efforts of dozens of individuals across a diversity of scenes. Every city needs a circuit for bands and acts outside of the routine auditioning for the majors that so often is the indie scene sustained in the main venues across this city. On a DIY circuit bands and acts can work at their sound in a community based environment that seeks to sustain itself with out the make or break attitude of bands restricted to playing to an ever increasingly bored audience of their friends, families and maybe one day an A&R man. MCD has been more determined than most to muscle in on the spaces occupied by more independent promoters.
Notoriously in 2001 they booked Canadian hardcore merchants Propagandhi, a band who deliver regular anti-capitalist polemics in their lyrics and included articles by Ward Churchill and William Bloom on an album dedicated to Mumia Abu Jamal. After hordes of Irish punks brought the nature of the booking agent up with the band directly, Propagandhi forced MCD out of the Irish leg of the tour only to be booked by them again under the fake trading name of “Straight.” Once this was brought to light, the lead singer condemned the company from the stage, provided anti-MCD literature at their stall and some local anarcho punks inflicted minor property damage inside the venue. There have also been occasions where MCD has organised punk gigs to clash with local prompters like Toxic in an effort to take away their crowd even at the risk of making a loss all in an effort to force them under.
You. Me. Pitchforks at Dawn.
The underground has been equally capable of mounting challenges to the dominance of the main promotion companies’ festivals in a pisstake, two fingers to the fuckers manner. There was a phenomenon of smaller festivals that purposely clashed with the overground ones a few years ago. A punk festival called Shitnness took the piss out of Witnness and Freefields questioned the commercial nature of Creamfields. As you'd expect there's a bubbling history of other festivals too, Knockrockery was raided by the cops who famously confiscated contraceptive pills at a what was a charity fundraiser, the Warzone and GGI showed the punk scene can pull off its own larger events. But there is also an increased number of smaller yet more ambitious festivals that are gaining visibility despite coming from outside the industry. Morfest was the most visible of these in recent years as a fundraiser for Charleville Castle. Putting on innovative electronica and visual arts before a disagreement with the heritage society running the castle saw it morphing into the more commercial Castlepoolza. An event that has no connections to the original Morganisers. Two upcoming festivals, Leechrum in Leitrim (duh) and Manitua Lives in Roscommon look set to mount a relatively serious challenge to the idea of the boutique music festival in genuinely containing many of the aspects the previous form boosts with quality up and coming line ups and real intimacy.
Across the country people still make trips to fields for raves in the middle of County Nowhere and find themselves walking away from all signs of public transport for three hours come twelve o'clock the next morning. A nostalgia trip which on the back of reports seems to attract dwindling numbers every summer. With less and less sound systems on the go, the isolation facing the remaining ones become tantamount to a fear of organisation and action as the support that is necessary to carry off the party is solely lacking. And anyway, if people are no longer awed by the prospects of drinking out doors instead of being stuck in cack handed nightclubs across Dublin or are thrilled at the cuntish prospects of listening to the Velvet Underground tradition being mutilated by a slew of NME sponsored white boys on guitar - then do you see any reason for there to be a fertile out door party scene? Nope me neither but for some reason this season has been better than most. Crews like Tir na gCasta have been pulling parties together in Cork and Undertracks have been doing the business out in Donabate amidst local media hysterics and some vaunted reportage in Totally Dublin that will ensure the one organised for last night may will have been the biggest in a while. I hope you didn’t forget your waterproofs.
Charming a lift off the festival stewards
Hip Hop: MC of the break offs in the Red Bull Tent
Wind, Rain and Floating Tents
Some Very Drunk Crowd Randomers
Crowd During Silent Disco