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Hydro Connect: The Complete Review

 
By on Sunday, 7th September 2008 at 5:41 pm
 

Hydro Connect Festival was my first proper music festival, and quite possibly one of the furthest away from home we could get. After a 9 hour drive leaving home at 5am on Friday morning, we arrived at one of the most beautiful festival settings I think you’ll find this side of Coachella.

After the horrible trek from car park to campsite (we were warned it was 20 minutes, but we’d suggest you double that if you’re carrying a tent), we set up our tent and went out to explore the main arena.

First up were Noah and the Whale and Ladytron on the Guitars and Other Machines Stage (otherwise known as the second stage for those of you who are Glastonbury / Reading / Leeds fans), before a wander around to see Amy MacDonald sporting a rather fetching kilt. I’ve never been a huge fan of her Radio 2 – lite tunes, but the Scottish crowd certainly loved the Glaswegian girl.

Manic Street Preachers were up next, and were on absolute fire as they did an amazing set. I’d heard people rave about them, but now I really can understand why – they were amazing. Kasabian headlined, but frankly were nothing on the Manics. Tom Meighan is an amazing frontman and certainly can whip everyone up some, but frankly they don’t have the tunes that the Manics do.

After an interesting night in the campsite, we slowly started our Saturday in the Speakeasy cafe on the sofas, listening to some amazing acoustic music. Quickly time rolled around and we had to amble back to the Media tent to catch a quick chat with Paul from Glasvegas and Kele and Matt from Bloc Party. After coming down from that little bit of excitement, we went to catch Friendly Fires on the Guitars and Other Machines Stage. We knew they were good having stumbled across them several times around the blogosphere, but weren’t expecting the amazingly high-energy set they provided us with. Black Lips disappointed, failing to energise the rather small crowd. Glasvegas had one of the biggest mid-afternoon crowds of the weekend, and provided the anthem of the weekend around the campsites.

A bit of food, and back to the main Oyster stage for the evening. We had high hopes for Grinderman, but simply didn’t appreciate Nick Cave’s new project, with it sounding largely inaccessible to us. Paolo Nutini I wasn’t holding out high hopes for, but he plain and simply blew me away, with his songs providing some great sing alongs. Oh, and his cover of Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? AMAZING.

We’d been excited about Bloc Party since their confirmation as Saturday night headliners, and with the announcement of their new album, Intimacy, just 10 days before the festival we were all the more excited. Kele and co didn’t disappoint, blasting through everything we’d hoped for and a bit more.

Somehow getting almost 6 hours sleep on Saturday night, we were woken by the pouring rain on Sunday morning, and took the decision to put our tent back in the car to prevent it from floating away in the increasingly boggy waters around our tent. Making the way back to the main arena we couldn’t decide who to catch, so caught snippets of a few different bands. Santagold looked rather out of place in a metallic blue dance suit compared to the muddy audience, but none the less was amazingly good, with her indenti-kit backing singers coupled with her backing band providing some surprisingly good tunes.

I’d heard about the Levellers from friends, but never actually caught them live. They were a true festival band, getting everyone moving, and really warming things up a bit. Elbow I’ve never been a huge fan of, however they again surprised me. Lead singer Guy Garvey was decidedly chatty, commenting that “this is my sort of weather – I don’t like the hot weather ‘cos people take off their clothes and it isn’t pretty from here! In Manchester just about every beer garden looks like it has about 2 dozen red eggs in it anytime there’s a mildly warm day!”

Goldfrapp were so-so. I’ve never been a huge fan of their stuff, on the basis lots of it is a bit too arty-farty for my liking. Plus, I was simply excited for Sigur Ros, who were next up and closing Hydro Connect 2008 for us. They didn’t disappoint.

With that, we left leaving Franz Ferdinand to do probably much what they did last time I caught them, and to make an exit from the car park (with the help of some amazingly nice girls who pushed us out of the mud).

What was hot:

  • Amazing setting
  • Great food at good prices
  • The lineup… simply amazing for a festival so young and small
  • The speakeasy tent with its comfy sofas and free newspapers
  • Friendly and helpful security

What was not:

  • Mobile reception was always hampered by “network busy” responses… if Hyde Park can cope with having upwards of 40,000 people all with mobiles, why can’t Connect? This was also the reason for a big lack of live updates from Connect – we didn’t take a laptop, and had been planning on there not
  • The hideously long trek to and from the carpark
  • A massive lack of toilets and washing facilities on the campsites.

Overheard:

“I now know where they let the oldies out to: we were by far the youngest in that tent!” (joked two mid-20 somethings on the walk back to the campsite)
“When you fail to perform, it really knocks your confidence… then you just can’t perform next time!” (overheard one morning at the campsite… you can only guess what it’s regarding!)
“This is SO overrated!” said by a guy completely covered in mud after wrestling his mate

Want more coverage?
Why not check out these Flickr Streams:
jjbuchan’s flickr stream
Taburetka’s flickr stream
Foofango’s flickr stream
Aaron Bassett’s flickr stream

… or these other reviews:
NME.com’s review
Sunday Herald’s review
The Lancashire Herald
The Independent
The Times

Thanks go to:
Lee and all at Burt Greener Communications for looking after us so well and sorting out the tickets.
Dan for the photos and putting up with me for a weekend.

Roll on Hydro Connect 2009 is all we can say!

 

Hydro Connect: Day 3 review: Sigur Rós

 
By on Saturday, 6th September 2008 at 7:28 pm
 

Just before Sigur Rós took to the Oyster stage as the penultimate band of 2008’s Hydro Connect festival on Sunday, an enchanting must swirled around the mountain, perfectly setting the surroundings for the forthcoming musical extravaganza. The warm up music changed from the usual NME houseparty tape to something a bit mellower, and suprisingly quickly Sigur Rós wandered onto stage to rapturous reception.

Rumoured to be having pyrotechnics after having originally been asked to headline, they pulled out all the stops for their 75 minute display of beauty. There weren’t any substantial pyrotechnics other than glitter exploding from the stage halfway through the set, but they’ve never exactly been a band who needs a fancy stage set-up to get people to like them.

Lead singer Jónsi Birgisson was largely unchatty as I’d expected, however did speak a bit in Icelandic to a few dedicated fans who’d made the trek to Scotland from Iceland. Joined by a brass section wearing ‘See You Jimmy’ hats – a well known Scottish joke hat for songs early in their set, the certainly played like headliners, even if they didn’t have the billing.

Playing all the expected tunes, they gracefully marched their way through such modern classics as Hoppípolla, Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (inside me a lunatic sings), Festival and Gobbledigook, I felt like this was a band I could obsess over, follow around the world, and be amazed everytime at their beauty and elegance, whilst blown away by the aural noise they could make.

Hopefully my first time seeing Sigur Rós won’t be my last.

After the jump: big photos

Continue reading Hydro Connect: Day 3 review: Sigur Rós

 

Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Bloc Party

 
By on Thursday, 4th September 2008 at 8:55 pm
 

“We’d love it if more festivals were like this – all small and lively” commented Matt Tong of Bloc Party mid Saturday afternoon before their sensational headlining set at Hydro Connect 2008. It had been threatening to rain all afternoon, but thankfully it held off long enough for us to have a quick chat with Kele and Matt from the band.

Already pressed for time and running late, the lads didn’t stick around for long, but enough for us to get two quick questions in, which in hindsight weren’t exactly the most insightful we could have asked, but still. Kele was in a jokey mood – when we mentioned their set at Reading the previous weekend and asked if it was a homecoming for him and Russell (they met at Reading ’99) Kele gave us a heart-in-the-mouth moment as he goes “Oh, I never went to Reading… it was just a joke I told people to like us more!”, before conceding that he actually did meet Russell at Reading. Matt on the other hand commented that it was a homecoming of sorts for him – whilst he didn’t meet Kele and Russell at Reading ’99, he spent his summer shuffling paper around offices in Reading.

Having been exceptionally excited about their new album, Intimacy (reviewed here), we were hoping for a set heavy with the new songs. However, whilst we only got two new songs, their set didn’t fail to disappoint and they certainly silenced any critics who said that they weren’t ready to be headliners.

Playing 16 songs over 75 minutes, Kele seemed remarkably chatty compared to when I last saw them and other gigs I’ve seen on TV etc. From their opener Mercury’s chant of “My mercury’s in retrograde” to “Positive Tension”‘s yell of “so f***ing useless”, we knew that both crowd and band were happy to work as one, and made for a magical closing to Saturday.

Still enjoying the gorgeous settings, Kele thanked “our favourite elephant polo playing duke” for asking them to play personally. Hydro Connect marked the last time Daniel Lindegren would be standing in for bassist Gordon Moakes, and Kele took the opportunity to dedicate “So Here We Are” to him “as long as you don’t cock it up!” he joked.

“One Month Off” was the only other new song they played all evening, the disco stomp fitting right in with all their older work perfectly.

“Ah, I meant to say, did you like my kilt?” Kele asked the crowd in reference to his tartan red kilt. “The question is: what am I wearing underneath?! It let’s more air in, if you know what I mean!” he joked shortly before the first song of the encore, “Blue Light”. “Flux” heated things back up again as their green laser was cracked out, making the Scottish rain look beautiful for once as the laser hit the castle and trees.

Coming back one last time, they burst into “She’s hearing Voices” as Kele dives into the crowd chanting “Red pill, blue pill / Red pill, blue pill/ Milk of amnesia”, leaving the security unsure of quite what to do and ensuring they went down as one of the best headliners of the festival.

After the jump: setlist and bigger photos

Continue reading Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Bloc Party

 

Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Paolo Nutini

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd September 2008 at 7:32 pm
 

Now I’ll be the first to admit – the prospect of Paolo Nutini supporting Bloc Party at Hydro Connect on Saturday wasn’t one that initially filled me with excitement. However, I’ll grudgingly accept that he was far better than I expected, even if he did choose to do the (slightly strange) choice of playing a lot of new material.

His debut album was mostly full of typical chart singer/songrwriter stuff, which didn’t rub many people up the wrong way, and had enough pull that grannies and tweenies loved him along with people in their 20s and 30s, but his new stuff sees him get a bit Johnny Cash and 60’s/70’s US rock on us. This is no bad thing and certainly shows us that the local lad is more than a one trick pony.

Perhaps the highlight of the set wasn’t the hits being wheeled out at the end, or the tales of growing up, instead an inspired choice of cover. It took me a moment to realise, but the call-and response of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was perhaps one of the undoubted highlights of the day, possibly the weekend.

Rounding off with “Jenny Don’t Be Hasty” he certainly had won me around, and it looked like the whole crowd were then swooning for the local Paisley lad. Look out for his new album – it looks set to be a corker.

After the jump: Photos

Continue reading Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Paolo Nutini

 

Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Glasvegas

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd September 2008 at 10:04 pm
 

Glasvegas drew one of the biggest mid-afternoon crowds of the festival over on the Guitars and Other machines stage, as legions of fans came out in support of the NME darlings.

Earlier in the afternoon we were lucky enough to get a chat with their bassist, Paul Donoghue by a very fragrant portaloo, when he talked to us about their debut self-titled album, which is out next Monday (8th September). He’d received the first complete copy with artwork and case and everything just 2 hours prior to talking to us, and was clearly chuffed how things were coming together.

“It took almost 8 weeks for us to record the album in New York, though it only took me two days to record my parts”… asked what he did for the rest of the time, he mentioned his fondness for drinking and watching the football. “There were two football TV Channels in the hotel room.. one showing English football, the other Spanish… I was slowly learning Spanish from the commentary!” he joked. Caroline’s drums took 2 weeks to get right “which is all the more surprising when you consider I was the least experienced!” he smiled.

As for the rest of the lineup, Paul was hoping to catch Spiritualized over on the mainstage. We joked that we weren’t that impressed with Paolo Nutini playing before Bloc Party, to which Paul commented that he caught him playing acoustically earlier in the year, and thought he was “out of this world”, which certainly put us in our place! He joined just about everyone we’d spoken to in commenting that the setting was just gorgeous, and wishing he could have stayed longer.

After our chat we went to catch Glasvegas on the Guitars and Other Machines stage, and needless to say were blown away. By far one of the largest mid-afternoon crowds had gathered, and blasted through a short yet triumphant set. Geraldine, Flowers And Football Tops and Daddy’s Gone all prove that frontman James Allan has a genuine lyric-writing gift, but at times the feedback-drenched sound was just a bit too much My Bloody Valentine for my liking.

Closing with current single and Radio 1 favourite “Daddy’s Gone”, the chants of “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s go-one, oooh-oh-oooooh-ohh” could be heard for much of the rest of the day and much of Sunday, easily one of the anthems of the festival. Watch out for them next year – once they’ve played their tour this month, there will be no stopping them. Scotland’s Oasis? No, they’ll be bigger than that.

After the jump: some big photos.

Continue reading Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Glasvegas

 

Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Friendly Fires

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd September 2008 at 9:35 pm
 

Now, I’d heard of Friendly Fires before the festival, but didn’t know much about them, and having realised that they played during a lull in the afternoon’s proceedings (and after our little chat with Bloc Party), we decided to check them out – and they were amazing.

Playing the vast majority of their debut album (which came out yesterday, 1st September) throughout their set, they slowly drew in more and more people with their Klaxons / Killers hybrid and managed to make everyone dance much more than many of the previous bands on Saturday afternoon. Lead singer Ed Macfarlane danced around the stage like a slightly younger Klaxons, playing disco-rock whilst thrusting ecestatically.

“Jump in the Pool” received one of the biggest receptions of the set, as everyone danced like loons, even attracting those of the crowd who were easily old enough to remember rave the first time round, before it even became “nu-rave”.

After the jump: More big photos
Continue reading Hydro Connect: Day 2 review: Friendly Fires

 
 
 

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