Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By the time I get to Phoenix '96 - another student music review flashback

In my wasted youth at University of Hull, I penned the odd review for Hullfire, the student newspaper. For the sake of completeness and comedy value, I'm adding them to this blog. 

Here's a never-before published (because not very good) reflection on the Phoenix Festival 1996, which I came across in the recent loft clear-out.

1996! [shudders]

It is the nature of festivals to promise more than they eventually deliver. The hoped-for epiphany of a second Woodstock, with all the rose-tinted, incense-scented baggage this entails, pales before the reality. 

Hours spent gridlocked in traffic outside Stratford-upon-Avon, only to be confronted by second rate bands (hello Gene, hello Bis, hello Shed bloody Seven) plugging holes in inadequate schedules. Yet complaining about the toilets, or the price of food, or even the irritating habit half the camping field had of shouting b******s as I was trying to sleep misses the point: the Phoenix was nevertheless fantastic this year.

Taking place at a Warwickshire WW2 airfield in mid-July, the Festival's keynote was rampant eclecticism. While the headliners were unusually dad-friendly (David Bowie, Neil Young, Sex Pistols), indie, dance, acid jazz and folk thrills were yours for the taking elsewhere on the site, together with the usual sideshows, stunts, strangenesses and stupid hat stalls.

As with all such events, the festival was not entirely without disappointment, with both Leftfield and Massive Attack proving shadows of their recorded selves. Fortunately, it's far easier to name the bands who made it great: the terrifying-bassist-rock of Scheer, the good-time soul of Corduroy and the genre-transcendence of Beck and Bjork.

My festival moment? Being awestruck by obscure New York hip-hop eclecto-rock geniuses New Kingdom whilst caught in water pistol crossfire from the crowd and roadies alike, and then shot some more outside the tent for wearing an Oasis T-shirt. I was soaking wet, but - and if I can sum up the festival experience at all then this is it - why gripe about it all when the music was this good?

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