Note to self: tent walls are not actual walls. Ours was probably a quiet enough part of the campsite but there was still too much loud guffawing from the hoorays camped across from us. One of them tried to steal a peg from our tent right in front of us the day before….privileged sense of entitlement and all that. In fact on Friday I realised just how poor(!) we were compared to most of the rest of the campers.
Leaving our pocket of deprivation for a drippy shower (they would get better), the early morning sunshine was reassuringly windless – thankfully the weather would remain hot and sunny for the rest of the weekend. There was a huge queue of people waiting to get into the arena..and once we were in we realised just how big the festival was. All of the venue tents seemed full to bursting. Festival veterans complained afterwards that the festival had gotten too big and I could see what they meant. Deciding to ease ourselves into the day, we went to the literary tent to hear the story of a former celebrity who ended up interviewing the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Uncomfortably funny and shocking.
After lunch I headed back to the literary tent for a discussion on English identity with Billy Bragg, Mark Thomas and Jez Butterworth. It was bunged but I managed the not to be repeated trick of sneaking in under the side of the tent, almost losing my camera in the process. I got to ask a couple of questions and ended up being asked a few myself by the panel, which was pretty cool. Afterwards I was able to meet Billy Bragg which was great as I’m a big fan of his music, and politics. He remembered some specifics from his last gig in Belfast and we had a brief conversation about that.
Afterwards I caught myself on and remembered I was primarily here for the music. Caught the set by Hockey at the main stage, forgetting my age by jumping into the politest mosh-pit ever. There may have even been a blanket on the ground. I was really there to see Spoon. They’re from Texas and have never toured Ireland, so this was a rare opportunity to catch them, Pity they were on at such a strange time and venue..I was surrounded by drunken regatta boys and teenage girls in wellies who had no interest in them at all. In the end it felt like a strange sort of private gig to me, and I wondered whether I came across as either (a) an obsessive fan singing all the lyrics on my own (b) a bit scary. I suspect it was a bit of both. Laura Marling was next but I find her quite boring.
Made my way back to wife and friends in the comedy tent for the end of Tommy Tiernan, who was hilarious. I thought the Irish comedians all weekend were the best. We sat in the tiered seating during Empire of the Sun, as the crowd gathered for Florence and the Machine – who will never be more than 6 metres away from you all of this summer. Just before she came on I made for the Word Arena with my sister just as Richard Hawley was finishing his set to get to the front for The National.
This is an awesome band. They have got better with every album, and they seemed like a different group from the ones I saw in the Spring and Airbrake in 2007. The whole band seemed to feed on the energy of the crowd to create one of the most compelling and intense atmospheres I have ever experienced at a gig. Every song sounded, and was treated like, an anthem by the crowd – most of whom seemed to be male and about my age/height. It was like Joy Division only with the joy.
After The National we passed the main stage where the dog days were still not over. The National have five albums compared to Florence’s one – yet her set started before The National’s and ended after it! I think the poor girl needs a rest.