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national | arts and media | feature 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
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." - 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."
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.