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Great Olympic Moments

In Sport on July 25, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Cathy Freeman wins the 400m (and more) at Sydney 2000

Sportsmen and women are often said to carry the hopes of nation with them. It’s often just media hyperbole – but if it were ever true, it’s true of Cathy Freeman in the Sydney 2000 Olympics, her home Olympics.

Relations between Aborigines and those descended from British (or other) settlers in Australia have been strained ever since colonisation in 1780. For much of this period up until the late 20th century, the country operated an oppressive separatism, based on the racial distinction. Indeed, the term ‘aborigine’ did not exist until after settlers moved in as, until then, there was any ‘newbies’ to distinguish them as ‘natives’. According to historians Loretta De Plevitz and Larry Croft, “[aborigines] were forced to live on Reserves or Missions, work for rations, given minimal education, and needed governmental approval to marry, visit relatives or use electrical appliances.” Right up until a landmark referendum in 1967, called by then Prime Minister Harold Holt and which passed with 90% approval, the vast majority of Aborigines had no real legal or electoral representation, with forced removals a regular occurrence. Matters improved for aborigines after, with many achieving noteworthy positions in politics and sport. But it was not until 1999 that an official apology was released, and associated action taken, by the Australian Government – a Motion of Reconciliation drafted by then Prime Minister John Howard and Aboriginal Senator Aden Ridgeway, branding the treatment of Indigenous Australians (as is becoming common, more PC phrasing) “the most blemished chapter in our national history”.

It was in this context that the stunning 400m victory from Cathy Freeman, a woman of Aborigine heritage and the country’s primary track icon, and her celebrations afterwards – with Aborigine and Australian flags – acted as vindication of the political changes and Aborigines’ long struggle for civic rights and representation. (Even if her green and silver, hooded all-body suit get-up, kind of resembling a futuristic space bunny, did seem a little ill-fitting to represent a group typically so in thrall to tradition. Maybe, paradoxically, that was the point.) And it was what made her lighting of the Olympic Cauldron a beacon for a (finally?) progressive, equal Australia.

 

Glorious failure – Derek Redmond and Eric Moussambani

As much as we like to think of it as fluffy and inclusive, the Olympics is an elitist event, make no bones about it – a stage for those gifted athletes who have honed their talents with relentless, brutal training. Further, an event which, really, only recognise its top three exponents at any given time (some athletes would argue only one). The draconian separatism of podium and non-podium makes no concession to match fitness, sportsmanship, morality, or even endeavour in and of itself. Here, fourth place in the world – an exalted achievement in any other walk of life – is only thought of in relation to the medal winners; a so-close-yet-so-far, gallant loser or so-close-yet-so-far. As us Brits know all too well (Dean Macey, Paula Radcliffe in the 10,000 in Sydney 2000 etc etc) – at least until Beijing’s impressive showing. (Or maybe that’s just my old man’s well-worn fandom coming through). Gold will win you global glory, multimillion-pound sportswear contracts, probably even a film; Silver, some national TV punditry; Bronze, at least a cereal contract; 5th place is positively obscurity.

That said, the Olympics is not just some grotesque allegory for the corporate world. Far from it. Of course, it is inherently cutthroat for the athletes, but the end (for at least, 99% I’d venture) is a glorious vindication of all their hard-earned work, played out through a medium which is intrinsically meritocratic and where the only losers are those who have to be prepared for it. Everyone else is enthralled, even inspired by the skill and determination of the Herculean feats. And all this is underpinned (or at least should be) by, if not friendship, deep respect for the endeavour of the competitors and consequent sportsmanship, borne out of a sense that, though everyone wants to win, there is noble pursuit of something greater at stake – a triumph of the human spirit.

Nowhere is this more evident than in this joint pick: Derek Redmond and Eric the Eel. Derek Redmond was in blistering form going into the final of the 400m Final at the Barcelona 1992 Games. He started strongly, but halfway down the back straight said he heard a shot from the crowd, which milliseconds later he realised was his hamstring, tragically, going. As all his competitors (rightly) sprinted on, Redmond knelt down in agony. But then  – undeterred – heroically hobbled on round the bend, one armed on the stricken leg and his faced etched with pain. Coming onto the home straight – with all the other athletes long finished – his dad ran on, brushing aside the protesting official to give his son the physical and emotional support to limp over the line…to the standing ovation of nearly all the crowd. Redmond’s disqualification paled into insignificance; if anything a validation of this incredible act.

Equitorial Guinea is not exactly renowned for being a powerhouse in Olympic swimming. As such, no one paid Eric Moussambani, then 22, much attention when he lined up in a preliminary heat of the 100m Freestyle at Athens 2004, clad in just swimming trunks (aerodynamic swimsuits evidently hadn’t reached the third world), alongside Niger’s Karim Bare and Tajikistan’s Farkhod Oripov. However, things got a lot more interesting when the other two false-started, leaving Eric puzzled as to the next course of action – which was, of course, to run it with just him. He started off reasonably, with a competent dive and inauspicious start, but it soon transpired that he was rubbish, at least by the technical standards of competitive swimming – moving limbs in a quick and co-ordinated manner in water. He clocked in with a time of 1:52.72 – more than twice standard Olympic time, and probably slower than you or I could manage; certainly slower than Ian Thorpe did twice the distance. Everyone, however, loves a trier. And all those in the stadium, after initial laughs, warmed to this plucky lad, raising the roof to get him home in the final length (the BBC commentator was questioning whether he could make it) . Pundits, like sponsors cashing in on this incredible story, labelled him ‘Eric the Eel’, and revealed he had only been swimming about 8 months and that there was no Olympic-sized swimming pool in his native Equitorial Guinea, which meant often braved the shark-ridden Atlantic Ocean to train – transforming him from plucky (but rubbish) underdog to a kind of strange embodiment of the Olympic spirit.

(As a postscript, Eric toured Europe flushed with glory and a relatively lucrative Speedo contract, and set his sights on proving, at Athens 2004, that he was more than just a novelty act. Sadly, however, documentation suspiciously ‘lost’ by the country’s despotic government prevented him from earning a visa to either train at the University of Wisconsin or compete in Athens. He has, though, achieved a respectable 100m time of 57 seconds (very respectable considering his plight), and is now the national swimming coach of Equitorial Guinea. So kind of a happy ending.)

Both may not have returned home with a medal – but, arguably, with far more.

Joel Durston

 

Reflections on Latitude

In Culture, Opinion on July 20, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Music festivals are a glorious testament to human ingenuity; the desire to create makeshift replicas of all the bare essential necessities and commodities of modern-day civilisation – running water, sanitation, shelter, beer (yes, it’s essential), and food. Nearly all shit by considered judgement of course; as Marcus Brigstocke quipped, “the only real difference between this [Latitude] and some refugee camp in Southern Sudan is that we’ve got Elbow.”  And it is endearing in its gallant – and largely successful it must be said – attempt to create a microcosm of wider society in some fields in the middle of nowhere (this one, in deepest Suffolk, at least).

For this is where the Big Society is to truly be found – not in the minds of politicians wishing to offset the harsh effects of recession with cheap rhetoric. Where else would one willingly – and so politely – constrain oneself to approximately three centimetres of ‘personal space’ (except the Northern Line, but that’s hardly polite, if even willing), or queue to use muddy, stinking bogs, all for some grander collective purpose?!

The irony of course of all these Jezs so merrily traipsing round fields in wellies is that it is controlled by decidedly more Mark Corrigan-like figures. They’re not actively anti-fun; just that any such fun must be within certain limits and relentlessly fair to all – even more fair to the bottom lines of the companies involved. That’s not to suggest festivals should be organised in any other way. Those of a hippy inclination may have much to recommend them – the egalitarianism, their free-spirited nature, the music and the drugs – but I think it’s fair to say that diligence and organisation are not really their strong points. It’s merely pertinent to point out that, as AA Gill brilliant put it, “the price of freedom, to be a bit of an anarchist and a fire-worshipper, is a lot of razor-wire”.

And for a self-proclaimed liberal arts fest, it’s very capitalist. Watery beer costs £4.20 a pop, and that’s before considering the £3 deposit to be paid every time. Burger vans vie for customers with ‘quality’ Scottish fish huts and vegan outlets, but all sell very basic takeaway fare for, at the cheapest, £6. Don’t even blame them, really – apparently the eateries pay the organisers £50,000-£100,000 at major festivals just to set up stall, so to speak.

The final morning of a festival is a strange experience. The listless grey skies would have represented great pathetic fallacy if the weather was not similar for the most of the weekend. The hangover, literal and metaphorical, is almost palpable, as litter is strewn liberally across the fields and people pack away their tents and belongings. And with it, it seems, their youthful dreams of a life other than tuition fees, sales jobs or unemployment (or all three).

Joel Durston

Latitude 2012

In Culture on July 19, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Latitude, stomping ground of middle class families, 6th form girls with laurel wreaths in their hair and blokes named Hugo, was this year in its seventh year, better (and muddier) than ever.

So jam-packed was the bill, even the midday slots, often the chronological wasteland of festivals, were awash with talent. First up on the main stage on Friday were Givers, an exuberant five-piece hailing from Louisana. Their joyous, chaotic brand of indie-funk-afrobeat, probably the result of putting White Denim and Vampire Weekend in a blender, brought some much needed sunshine to a very drab day (and no doubt won vocalist and percussionist Tiffany Lamson many more admirers than just this one).

Cold Specks, on just after on the sponsored i Arena in the woods, was undoubtedly more sombre but no less impressive. It’s the stage name of Canadian singer-songwriter Al Spx, whose May debut by all rights should have a greater following given the enormity of Adele and all her imitators. Anyone who decries the Croydon singer as soulless and manufactured, would do well advised to check this woman out – as her voice, on great display here, genuinely has echoes of a racially-divided Deep South of the 60s.

Just as good if not better than the music bill was the comedy one. Shappi Khorsandi, with her filthy single mother act, and Holly Walsh, doing a straight-down-the-line act, both fared reasonably well. Newcomers Frisky & Mannish, however, thrilled the crowds with their unique, cabaret pop culture act. They are Laura Corcoran and Matthew Floyd Jones, a pair who met at Oxford and bonded over a shared love of literature, classics and chart pop. Their set, a mix of stand-up and music, is a superbly knowing, inventive melange of pop music melding Rihanna to the Bee Gees, The Carpenters to Grime music, and much more; laced in irony but undoubtedly affectionate – a wonderful ode to pop.

 

There was more musical parody from Doc Brown in the Comedy Tent soon after, this focusing primarily on his dying love for rap. He does a great job poking fun at it by juxtaposing his former love with his current unangry, moderate middle-class life, resulting in raps on how to create a hip-hop hit  from a legal template and how to make a cup of tea.

Polica took an early evening slot on the Lake Stage on Friday. They were very tight and energetic, but, though through no fault of their own, their brand of noir indie-soul – a bit like an autotuned XX – would have worked better at night. Janelle Monae, on the other hand, on just after on the main stage, deserved more sunshine than the grey – but thankfully dry – weather. She performed her soul and funk hits with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the Duracell Bunny, and the crowd – full of everyone from long-haired hippies to middle-aged couples – duly responded. Makes one question why she’s not bigger here.

Lana Del Rey was far less energetic and enthusiastic, but then to be anything but jaded would be to defeat her very purpose. At least she was singing live. Anyway, predictably, Videogames received some of the biggest cheers of the festival.

Bon Iver, headlining on Friday, has, as here, managed the transition to stadium-filler brilliantly, helped by his more ‘surround sound’ second album, self-titled as if to suggest his mopey (but impressive) first was not truly him – merely a hollow, broken-hearted shell. Still, along with the more widescreen, multi-instrumental newer epics, the man-and-his-guitar sing-alongs of For Emma, Forever Ago worked surprisingly well to the vast crowd. Literally and metaphorically, he seems to be surfacing from his isolated log cabin, and crowds are gladly receiving him.

Saturday in the Comedy Arena started very early (11 am) and cerebrally for the many – yours truly included – feeling a little worse for wear from the night before. The Infinite Monkey Cage is a Radio 4 show debating with equal intellect and wit the big questions, and this debate, recorded for a later broadcast, featured Al Murray (as himself, unusually), Twenty-Twelve actress Sarah Passcoe and comedian Robin Ince arguing for the importance of the arts; against popstar-turned-physics-pin-up Brian Cox, cosmologist Andrew Potzen and Professor Jon Butterworth presenting the case for science. The scientists discussed the implications of the Higgs Boson discovery and argued that the reasoned quest for the origins of existence and humanity are, contrary to what many think, beautiful pursuits; while the artists asserted that this would all be meaningless without the arts, humanities and philosophy to make personal sense of it. But all spoke with such knowledgeable belief yet accessible humour that it was hard not to come away thinking that both disciplines, while undeniably distinct, could not survive independently. If only political discourse were this amiable and witty…

Phil Jupitus followed, and was brilliant in describing boys’ randiness, especially in the story of a friend’s six-year-old’s first dirty internet foray (he’d searched, in order, ‘tits’, ‘bums’, ‘boobs’, ‘legs’… and then ‘sexy Chinese ladies’). Yet given the strange empathy with which he spoke of this, his sketch about wanting to kill his 16-year-old daughter’s horny boyfriend, while amusing enough, felt overlong.

At least he got the right venue. Josie Long, apparently a comedian, seemed to have got lost on her way to the Faraway Forest (literally and figuratively) where all the Occupy wasters were, such was the ranting, socialist nonsense she was preaching. And it was preaching: “the Tories are evil; anyone who disagrees…well, they’re wrong”. Yet there nowhere was any reasoned debate on the economic  background to policy, only an offhand, unevidenced dismissal of recession as “not that bad”. And her more ‘comedic’ material merely seemed like an awkward, annoyingly chatty, excitable girl half her 30 years. If ever there was proof comedy should not be the province of the sincere, this was it.

After this, James Acaster was a breath of fresh air; an awkward, but brilliantly delivered, set on all of life’s most important problems – playing with wax candles in pubs, the best way to roll Blu Tack and a gloriously over-egged dissection of a friend of a friend’s analogy: you wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard (substitute girlfriend and nightclub).

Lee Nelson– a comic creation of a happy-go-lucky council estate idiot – was anything but awkward, but delivered his filthy and superbly knowing one-liners, often involving the audience, with just as much panache. Irishman David O’Doherty gave a blistering good set on life and all its dark and mundane forms, at once sincere yet ironic enough to be hilarious.

SBTRKT (or Aaron Jerome) is a reclusive fellow; a London musician who wears tribal masks to conceal his identity and says: “the name SBTRKT is me taking myself away from that whole process. I’m not a social person, so having to talk to DJs to make them play a record is not something I want to do.” So it was interesting to see how his brand of minimalist, soulful electronica would transfer to a sub-headline spot in the large Word Arena. Fortunately, he smashed it. The songs were completely transformed from their on-record counterparts, bolstered with some huge synths and drumbeats, bringing a real carnival atmosphere to what is often decried as a very mono-cultural, dry festival. It was weird seeing the big screens focus on just a 16-button electronic sampler – but that’s the point of SBTRKT, I suppose. No ego; just tunes. Huge tunes.

Indie veterans Elbow are as sure a bet as any as festival headliners, and they duly delivered; at times both personal and anthemic, especially on One Day Like This, which brought the set to a lighters-in-the-air finale accompanied by fireworks.

Robin Ince again started the day again at the Comedy Tent, today with The Early Edition with Marcus Brigstocke & Andre Vincent – a gently amusing wander through the day’s papers and events with selected festival-goers who’d wafted through a paper each.

Nick Helm & the Helmettes followed. The character, which mixes stand-up and song, is a wonderful comic creation – a kind of David Brent of the shallow world of 80’s power pop, driven by shallow desperation for his dreams and genitals. Abandoman is a similarly superb pop-comedy cross-over – Ireland’s self-proclaimed 7th best rap outfit (which, they say, officially puts them four behind Jedward and makes them shit). Rob Broderick gets the crowd to get involved in his magnificently innovative freestyle raps – such as What’s In Your Pocket, in which the crowd stick up the weirdest thing in their pocket and he raps them all together, and a rap battle around one of those pub-sized Connect 4s (“we came…we saw…and we connected 4!”).

Reginald D Hunter was his usual caustic self, though perhaps overly intellectualised his usual sex-and-race schtick for it to truly hit home comedically, however clever. Rich Hall had the crowd in stitches with his dark, wry observations.

Alike Bon Iver, Bat For Lashes was another who many perhaps doubted could fill a big stage. But her setlist wisely included her more energetic songs, performed here with suitable vigour, as opposed to her (undeniably beautiful) ballads. She also gave a peak at some songs from her forthcoming album, A Haunted Man, such as Oh Yeah, which hint at a bigger, brassier direction.

Wild Beasts, top billing on the Word Arena, were a suitably esoteric, art-student-emo, but thrilling end to a great festival.

Joel Durston

Teardrops and Raindrops in SW19

In Sport on July 10, 2012 at 4:46 PM

The Wimbledon Men’s Singles Draw between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was notable for two types of falling water droplets. Firstly, the slightly less dramatic; the roof being closed due to the torrential downpour that hit SW19 at around 4pm, with the scores locked at 4-6 7-5 1-1. The second, far more unexpected: Andy Murray’s tears that greeted his heart-rending 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 loss to the new-number 1.

They were the result of a tremendously spirited performance from the 25-year-old from Dunblane which still leaves him as the nearly-man of men’s tennis – despite his great efforts, without a Grand Slam title to his name. Murray has much to proud of from this tournament, especially considering he was somewhat written off before it, even branded a  ‘drama queen’, after a back problem reared its ugly head at the French. But from his straight sets victory over Cilic in the Last 16, after a few merely workmanlike wins – and a lucky break in Nadal’s exit – he gave performances at times majestic and at times resilient, often both at once. The Ferrer quarter-final is a particularly good case in point. Nicknamed the ‘Little Beast’ for his diminutive tenacity, Ferrer had been in brilliant form leading up to the match, having beaten a far-from abject Del Potro in straights the round before. Against Murray, the Spaniard took a tight first 7-5 in the breaker, and was 5-2 up in the second thanks to some impressive shotmaking and stunning running. But Murray dug deep in his reserves to pull the tie-break out of his arse, and went onto to, unusually for a player often derided as boring, completely hit his opponent off the court.

People may well decry yesterday’s tears as being of the crocodile variety, perhaps because Murray did play well (ignoring the fact that many of these detractors are the same ones who, hypocritically, declaim Murray a dull, dour, emotionless Scot). But it’s precisely for this reason that, paradoxically, the loss will be so hard to take. I’d venture it would actually be easier for him to take in some respects had he been beaten comfortably in straight sets; without the mix so poisonous to professional sports people, like Murray – victory so palpable yet unattainable.

That he got to the final and undoubtedly played well will likely be of little short-term consolation to Murray. Nor, I imagine, will the fact that he gets to go home to the lovely Kim Sears in their £5m Surrey home with another £575,000 in his pocket (he’d swap this sum in a heartbeat for the pure glory). This seeming contrast between his mood and his riches seems to be the source of much of the derision of Murray. But being unemotional doesn’t mean one’s unhappy or ungrateful. Fact is you don’t get to be 4thbest in the world at anything , much less a sport as individual and psychological as tennis, by accepting merely ‘good’ (even someone as ostensibly carefree as Tsonga is a bloody hard self-taskmaster). Basically by definition, any player in the top 10, will be pathologically perfectionist in their tennis. Surely it’s better that he won’t settle for second best.

The inevitable shoulda woulda couldas probably only hurt more when the alternative outcomes could reasonably have led to more than mere consolation sets. And they certainly could have yesterday. Had Murray converted either of the two break points he had at 2-2 in the second (or the pair at 4-4, or even held at 5-6 40-15), he would have in all likelihood opened up an imposing two-set lead. Also, he could have taken a few half-chances to break in the fourth. But he didn’t.

When the hurt subsides, Murray should take solace in the fact the reason he didn’t win was far more to do with Federer’s exquisite tennis under supreme pressure – the sign of a true champ – than it was him ‘bottling’ it. And he should be proud of the way his game has developed under Lendl’s tutelage. Admittedly, he didn’t serve brilliantly, but his second serve has really come on, while his first has remained a considerable weapon. He has added extra layers of physical ability and mental steel and he has become significantly more attacking, regularly hitting lines, which has added a different dimension to his game, as shown with him going toe-to-toe with Federer in some pounding, relentless baseline rallies.

Problem is, every time Murray steps his game up, some combination of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are there, lurking ominously round the corner, ready to up their respective games to even more stratospheric levels. Let’s just hope they hit a ceiling sometime, so Murray can catch them up (or that there’s some kind of tennis equivalent of Lasagne-gate, poisoning Nadal, Federer and Djokovic for one Slam)…

Joel Durston

Hop Farm Festival

In Culture on July 1, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Hop Farm Festival has slowly but surely been gaining a reputation in the world of festivals for its lively, ethical, come-one-come-all ethos, which, stereotypically, attracts a mix of suburban hipsters and ageing rockers (and rockettes). In this, its fifth year, founder Vince Power, suitably attired in pink-hatted and Hawaiian shirt, has amassed probably the festival’s best line-up to date, with Peter Gabriel and The New Blood Orchestra, Bob Dylan, and Suede headlining (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively). And other highlights including Billy Ocean, Jose Gonzalez, Richard Ashcroft, Kool and the Gang, Lianne Li Havas and The Futureheads. TAY…ahem, hopped along on Friday to check it out.

90s band everybody has heard but not heard of, Mercury-winning Gomez, were second on the main stage. And, with their brand of eminently hummable, yet forgettable, indie rock were a unspectacular but perfectly welcoming band to soundtrack people wandering around, acquainting themselves with the Kent country park.

Jose Gonzalez was next on, following a rather awkward technical hitch which left the Swedish-Argentine songwriter just sitting there in front of hundreds; silent, offering the odd consolatory smile but little more (stage presence has never been one of his strong points). In fairness, the acoustics did – eventually –  work well, effectively conveying Gonzalez’s intensely lo-fi, acoustic sound to a main stage. But Gonzalez’s aesthetic – intricate, arty, personal, low-key; beautiful to some, mopey to others – was never really built for the big stage. And so it proved an odd decision to put him on in the middle of day in the (relative, British) sun, rather than in one of the slightly more intimate tented stages, in the dark or twilight more suited to his sincere (or ‘humourless’), sombre tones. As it was, with little effort to gee up the crowd, it proved very nice, but only mildly diverting – even on classics, Heartbeats and Crosses.

Billy Ocean on the other hand, on afterwards, truly was built for this occasion. With his repertoire of sexed-up soul and funk cheese, and energy of someone forty years his junior, there was basically no-one not dancing and smiling. His cover of The O’Jays’ Lovetrain even saw a 50(ish)-strong, conga-ing lovetrain snaking in and out of the crowd. And, in circumstances nearly too apt to be attributed to mere coincidence, his set also brought the sun out. As compere Vince Power said, doses of Billy Ocean should be made available free on prescription from the NHS to treat depression.

In the Big Tent, Lianne La Havas, a similarly earnest (or trying) artist to Jose Gonzalez, fared much better than the singer-songwriter. The 22-year-old South Londoner of Jamaican and Greek parents has been making waves in industry circles for a little while now for her brand of soul, having been nominated for the BBC’s Sound of 2012 and toured with Bon Iver, following her previous job doing backing vocals for Paloma Faith. So there was a definite air of anticipation to see whether she was the real deal or just another manufactured Adele. Thankfully, it turned out to be the former, Lianne’s variously soaring and honeyed vocals and the backing band’s impressive instrumentation adding depth and variety to what can appear a little ‘coffee table’ on record. And both parties seemed genuinely thrilled to be there; the crowd for seeing a rising talent and Lianne for finding the crowd’s love was indeed Big Enough just ahead of the release of her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough? (9th of July) – even taking a few pictures in a nice gesture to remember the occasion.

The Futureheads livened up proceedings in the Big Tent afterwards. The Sunderland band are probably on no-one’s list of top five bands/artists, but they certainly put the effort in, having quietly (unbeknownst to me at least) racked up four albums since their September 2004 debut – the Scott Parker of the indie music world. Alike the industrious Spurs centre-midfielder, they had the energy to get the crowd moving, even to numbers that it seemed most hadn’t heard (or, again, maybe I’ve just been particularly ignorant to their time in the indie music hinterlands…or not, as it were). Regardless, they played a few great joker cards to add variety to their usual slightly idioscyncratic indie schtick. The first was a couple of songs off their entirely acapella most recent album, Rant – a Northern version of Scrubs’ Ted’s barbershop band singing Kelis’ dance/R&B smash, Acapella; bizarre but somehow brilliant. The second was their segue into defining song, Hounds of Love, in which they had the two sides of the audience singing alternate harmonies, before launching into their frantic cover of the Kate Bush song – one of those very rare songs where no one really cares that people mistake it for the coverer’s own due to its quality. However, having almost undoubtedly one’s best song be a cover is a double-edged sword. (They cleverly left it to near the end of the set, after which a good many left).

The evening was a bit of a fallow period (sorry, had to get a farm reference in there somewhere), personally at least. Take a deep breath for I might be about to commit blasphemy to many… I’ve always considered the Kinks’ mediocre and overrated, and I found Ray Davies’ solo oeuvre to be even more insipidly ‘dad rock’. Also, I’m sure it would appeal to those who deify him, but to me his cocksure manner just rendered him an arrogant twat (“I’m now going play a song by a band called The Kinks…great band”). One benefit of the mediocre I Am Kloot, playing at the same time on the Bread & Roses stage, was that the lead singer pricked the ego of “fucking Ray Davies”, telling of how Davies had gone to a tribute show for a sadly passed musician where others were covering his songs, but Davies came and played three of his own. Others seemed to enjoy it, though.

Anyway, this was only a small blip on an otherwise great day, capped off by an incredible headline set by Peter Gabriel and The New Blood Orchestra, the latter a 60-strong outfit, which together create, I suppose, a pop-classical hybrid, here allied to an amazing visual show. Strangely enough given the stirring, soul-searching mood, it was sign of the only trouble (at least that I saw) at the festival – one hell of a punch up that took a good ten lads and one very brave female arbitrator to sort out… but then I don’t think Pete had yet played Book of Love, a song so beautiful even Voldemort would probably shed a tear.

Joel Durston