Ah Saturday, after two days, the aches of sleeping in a tent, drinking too much and being crushed by immovable idiots start to make their way deeper into your muscles. But unbowed, we struggled into the arena to see Bombay Bicycle Club (incidentally, with Katharine and Matt, who introduced me to them – thanks guys!). Again, we really made the right choice as an opening act. A lot has been made of BBC’s age, but to me it really doesn’t matter. No matter how old you are, if you’re this wonderful and effervescent, you’re always going to be a hit. Their Strokes-y guitar lines, Jack Steadman’s tremulously Oberst-like voice, everything about it was lovely. Plus, the token inclusion of a badly dancing panda (from their “Evening/Morning” video) never fails to impress.
Leaving with smiles on our faces, we headed over to the Alternative Tent to see the highly-recommended Jeffrey Lewis and the Jitters. Now I’m always partial to a bit of anti-folk, and the opening with “I Ain’t Thick, It’s Just A Trick” was a lovely little relaxing feeling, but it was all a little flat for me, after the sheer energy of the first band, it just seemed as though I still wanted that. So our next band – on the main stage this time – was a good choice. The Subways (local heroes where I come from) came bounding onstage, Billy Lunn shirtless and screaming. They launched into a lot of newer tracks (the explosive “Girls and Boys” proving the best), but the reaction from the crowd was frenzied when they played their first album’s tracks. “With You”, “Rock and Roll Queen” and the awesome “Oh Yeah” all provoked massive singalongs.
Next, we ran across the field to the NME tent once more, this time to catch the Mystery Jets. In a set peppered with tracks from their second (and much more successful) second album, they really conjured up the whole ’80s vibe of their album, they matched their bouncy melodies with a bouncy persona, smiling throughout and really making the atmosphere a good one. “Two Doors Down” was always going to be a highlight, but “Zoo Time” as a closer drew an obviously wonderful chant out of the crowd, even if most of them didn’t realise there was a first album at all.
Back to the main stage and We Are Scientists were in full swing, mixing older songs with new, covering ’80s classics whose names I can’t recall with guitarists from Editors and providing their unrivalled between-song banter. Seriously, they’re hilarious, who can blame them for supporting themselves with a stand-up show? But their tunes don’t suffer, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” still crackles along, and “The Great Escape”‘s breakneck verses don’t disappoint. After being introduced as WAS’ aftershow band, Editors more than fulfill their billing. Their album tracks might not be massively interesting, but their singles sound amazing when played live. Tom Smith was clearly loving the experience, jumping on his piano during the breathless chorus of “Bullets” and generally running around the stage constantly, his best Ian Curtis impression blurting out of the huge speaker stacks. “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” proved a standout moment, from the first verse until the end, everyone seemed to know the words around us, and it was impossible not to join in.
The Raconteurs were always going to be well-attended, but as Jack White emerged onto the stage, the roar that met him seemed unreal. He truly has become a legend. The show itself lived upto his reputation. Despite the second album not being as good as the first, the songs they played from it were brilliant. “Top Yourself”‘s moody blues carried well, and closer “Salute Your Solution” (which I think is the best rock song for years) blasted through the crowd like the juggernaut it is. But it was always going to be “Steady, As She Goes” that got the greatest reaction, even if it was two songs shy of the end. Its effortless, punchy rhythm made everyone move, and Jack White’s wails positively filled the air.
Bloc Party was our last appointment at the Main Stage and luckily (from what I’ve heard since about the sound problems) we were at the front. Accompanied by a stand-in bassist for Gordon Moakes, they tore through a set full of tracks from both the previous albums, as well as a couple from the album that came out on the Thursday the festival started. It’s difficult to say which tracks were the best received, because adoration for Bloc Party is something to be reckoned with, every track was screamed for. However, the best moment was the incredible laser light show that started with “Flux”. Kele Okoroke danced onstage and led the way for the rest of the audience. “Helicopter” and “The Prayer” may be their most famous outings, but they closed with their first ever singe, “She’s Hearing Voices” and it seemed to be a nostalgic moment for the band and the crowd at once.
But to be honest, we left without much ceremony, mainly because Cat was physically dragging me to the NME stage once more. We did slightly muck up on the timing though, as we got there just in time for the Bullet for my Valentine. Now I have nothing against metal, I can enjoy it (and their captive audience certainly were). It’s just that when the sound is so badly set up that the double kick-drum they used overpowered all of the other music, it doesn’t really make it anymore than violent drum ‘n’ bass. No, what we really came for was something a little more special. Manic Street Preachers really are something else. How a band with such juxtaposing members actually ever worked is beyond me, but work they do. Nicky Wire alone has an incredible stage presence, he carries himself so well, and he plays the crowd perfectly. James Dean Bradfield wields his guitar like a god, and always knows when to summon up the spirit of Richey Edwards to maximum effect – it makes the crowd go wild. It’s testament to this band that the crowd is so incredibly varied, metallers rub shoulders with indie kids, and feather boas are everywhere. Having seen them before, we knew we were going to have a good show in store, but they astounded everyone. Their set was just full of hits. They opened with “Faster”, which led into “Your Love Alone…”, then there was “Motorcycle Emptiness”, a cover of “Pennyroyal Tea” (Amazing), “If You Tolerate This…”, and “Motown Junk”. Not only that, they played a couple of lesser-known tracks (“Of Walking Abortion” and “Little Baby Nothing”) for the hardcore fans. Then they closed with the incredible “Design For Life” – I mean, what a way to end! Why anyone would choose The Killers over this I just cannot understand. If you ever get a chance, see them.
Bombay Bicycle Club – Open House
The Subways – Oh Yeah
Editors – Bullets
Bloc Party – She’s Hearing Voices
Manic Street Preachers – Faster