Hyde Park, London
3rd July 2011
Wireless Festival was a 3 day festival; RB could only afford to make it for the last day, though with Pulp headlining the final night, was there any real need to waste 2 days waiting for the greatest band ever?
I heard that Aphex Twin were amazing on the Saturday and I regret not getting to be art of that. However, Sunday is where we were and thus the review begins.
I don’t recall going to Hyde Park before. I’m not a big London lover. I can manage 2 days tops, but even then I get a bit stressed by it all. I don’t like busy places, I don’t like things noisy and hot and sweaty and I don’t like the fact that you have to get the tube everywhere, randomly popping up in some suburb not knowing where the hell you are. I also don’t like how expensive it is and the fact it loves itself a bit too much.
HOWEVER. We managed to get a hostel right on Hyde Park for just £20 each a night. We could see The Albert Hall out of our Window. The Natural History Museum was a 3 minute walk. And being in upmarket South Kensington made us feel all fancy. Hyde Park itself was a good venue, it was great to sit in the park and chill before the festival itself started. It also meant you could have a few cheeky beers before hand to save on dollars as once you were in, YOU WERE IN. No re-admissions.
Getting in was a problem as the queues were massive, meaning we missed Yuck and all but the end of Metronomy, pretty much the only two bands on the day time bill I cared about. The tailend of Metronomy was excellent though, amazing I saw them in The Hop, Wakefield just a few months before. Admittedly they have intentionally got a hell of a lot more accessible with recent album The English Riveria, but it was the right move. They sound great in the mid afternoon sun.
We find a good spot to perch and sit on the grass. The festival isn’t too busy and there are plenty of spots to sit and drink and chat, near enough to hear the bands, but far enough to be heard over the noise. It makes the best of being in a park basically. Although it is busier by the end, it never gets too busy.
Bands come and go – The Horrors surprise me as I thought I pretty much despised them. I hated them when they arrived but I’d heard good things about the 2nd album. Not enough to listen to it, but from what we get here I’m really impressed, swarming walls of noise with a Primal Scream penchant for dirtiness and euphoria in equal measures. Cool. The Hives, who we are all surprised to hear still exist, arrive next. They are entertaining, front man Howlin' Pelle Almqvist spurting odd and humorous asides between songs. They are exactly as we remember them sounding. Pleasing background music to the pints.
TV on The Radio, another band I never got into, pop up next and again I’m surprised that I’m actually liking what I hear. The sounds are dense and interesting but the atmosphere of the festival, or at least the space around us, is geared more towards socialising and I’m not paying a great deal of notice.
For the first time we leave the main stage and head over to catch Foals. It’s almost as if this festival was made up of bands I’ve heard loads about but know nothing. The tent is full and again the sound is good. But we stand outside and let the fans squash in. Around us are plenty of food stalls, offering plenty of variety. Price wise we are talking £4 a pint and about £6/7 for food. Pretty pricey if it were a northern festival but in London it’s close to a bargain. There are plenty of security staff around, some of them even monitoring the toilet queues to makes sure people don’t jump ahead.
The overall festival vibe surpasses what I expected would be overly corporate. It’s inclusive and, I guess, relatively family friendly. Amusingly, the big screens by the stage between bands show vox pops taken with the crowd and interview sections hosted by a T4 wannabe and Huey from Fun Lovin Criminals. The festival they are showing on screen seems to differ wildly from what I see around me – talks with Skins like teenagers about all the hot boys and girls and getting drunk and Huey spouting like he’s at some California frat beach party. Weird, because the festival was a lot nicer than the image they were seemingly trying to project.
So we caught the last 5 minutes of Grace Jones. I don’t know anything she’s ever done, except play MayDay in ‘A View To A Kill’ and was probably right to assume her music wouldn’t be up my street. But she astounded us all by performing her entire closing number whilst hula hooping non stop. And she weren’t just stood there. She walked around the stage introducing the band. Like she’d forgotten it was there. Then she walked off, hula hoop still going. Nice work.
And so the wait began. For the mighty Pulp. I had had mixed feelings about the reunion. In general I viciously disapprove of band reunions for the sake of it. I’ve seen a couple. I saw The Pixies at Leeds Fest. I had a great time during the gig. But it was wrong, and I knew it (and proved very unpopular when stating it). If they’d got an album out I wouldn’t mind. But we’re still waiting.
With Pulp I was excited because Russell was back. For me that seemed to give it the stamp of approval it needed. And hearing they’d got together due to a mutual friend passing away and them realising life was too short – I can deal with that. I think if anything I perhaps felt a little jealous as I had made the effort to attend their ‘last ever gig’ at Magna in Sheffield which had been amazing. I couldn’t say that anymore.
The festival seems Pulp’s natural home now though. Come on and play the hits… except they don’t have a massive amount of ‘proper hits’. And the excitement of seeing ‘I Spy’, ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E’ and ‘This Is Hardcore’ again, alongside the singalong favourites was the perfect combination of feel good and subversive.
As expected they opened with ‘Do You Remember The First Time’ which seemed slower but more driving than I remember, Jarvis’ opening line of ‘You say you want to go home…’ sounding so strong and alluring – exactly as if the last 17 years had not passed. As ever Jarvis is the greatest thing going here. With this reunion in particular, it all rested on him. The band sound tight and perform efficiently if not without any particular flair (stylish Russell aside). Jarvis is the key. If there had been any sense from him that he was going through the motions it would have fallen apart. But from the very beginning he was back, putting ever ounce of passion and playfulness into his performance.
He introduced every song and it was good to hear him reminisce about his years in London – though very much a northern band, most northerners do forget that it was London that made the band when it counted, or as Jarvis puts it; ‘the clash of Sheffield and London’. Pleasingly they illustrate this with ‘Mile End’ which though played a lot during the Different Class tour I’d not heard live before, only available on the Trainspotting Soundtrack.
The set continues with great song after great song. 9 of the 12 Different Class tracks get an airing, leaving 3 from His N Hers, 1 from This Is Hardcore and 1 from We Love Life and Mile End. I expected more from His N Hers but it seemed they ran out of time, with Jarvis asking the time and then playing Common People. I reckon they wanted to play Lipgloss of Razzamatazz, which would have been amazing and probably preferable to Bar Italia. But, it has to be said, it was a festival and the festival favourites naturally got the best reaction; ‘Disco 2000’ was immense, ‘Something Changed’ got a huge singalong and ‘Babies’ got people bouncing around like it was 1995.
‘I Spy’ was a highlight. Jarvis started on the floor on his back with perverse callings of ‘I’m coming to get you… I know where you are’ as the band built an unnerving wave of sound. He then came down to the audience with a camera and stuck it in their faces, to great comic affect. Once the beat kicked in it thrust into life, much greater than the record. ‘Pink Glove’ had a fantastic propulsion to it as well and it was good that the band had clearly worked on some of the tracks, tighten them up for the festival audience.
There wasn’t a track that didn’t satisfy. ‘This Is Hardcore’, a personal favourite, soared over the park. It was those moments that justified the reunion for me. Such a crazy, conceptual piece of devastating music being fed to the Disco 2000 ‘masses’ was a triumph. It also made me realise that I had mellowed some in the years since Pulp left us in that I happily sit in both of those camps now.
But that was the overriding feeling – it didn’t feel like they had ever left. Officially they never split, but it felt right for those songs to be part of NOW. They didn’t feel like relics, it didn’t even feel like nostalgia. Of course I hope they make another record. But if not, any excuse to get Jarvis back in front of a field full of people is worth it. It’s where he belongs and it makes the world a better place. Jarvis closed the gig by saying ‘see you again, maybe in another 10 years’ but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be sooner than that.
As a festival, it was a good experience; the trip to London with friends felt like enough of an adventure to warrant to cost and it was something new and different. I’d have been less impressed I had just popped to Leeds for the same thing. The atmosphere was good and the organisers seemed to care that you had a good time, though ultimately it is just another corporate festival.
Photography by Joel Rowbottom