Oxegen 2013: A breath of fresh air or a last gasp?
It was once the festival that ruled them all but ticket sales have declined and the line-up has shifted to pop and dance. Will the likes of David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Rita Ora herald a new dawn?
RENAME THAT TUNEFEST
Maybe a name-change is in order? “A name change would lend itself to a new experience for the audience and maybe even draw more people in,” thinks O’Sullivan. “People probably still associate Oxegen with huge cross-genre acts.”
“Perhaps it would have been a good time to do so, with the year gap,” thinks Grainger. “But if this year goes well – and the ticket price is apparently much more reasonable – they could yet re-establish the festival’s strong reputation.”
It also remains to be seen how other issues beyond the music will impact on the Oxegen turn-out. MCD boss Denis Desmond recently talked about how the company saw the introduction of the property tax leading to “a noticeable dip” in ticket sales. While there are very few Oxegen-goers who are likely to be paying that tax, it’s another outgoing for parents who may well be subsidising the weekend in Co Kildare.
Many of those hard-pressed taxpayers may also recall what happened at last year’s Swedish House Mafia show in the Phoenix Park and have parental cause for concern. Six people were stabbed, 40 were treated in hospital and two men who attended the Phoenix Park concert died afterwards from suspected overdoses. There were also more than 30 arrests.
Given that Oxegen wasn’t on last summer, a number of shows in the Park were pitched as substitutes for the festival, including Swedish House Mafia, who had played Oxegen without incident in 2011.
While Oxegen has had public order problems in the past (90 arrests in 2011, for example, and more than 300 drug seizures), gardaí at the Punchestown event have never reported trouble on the same chaotic scale as last year’s SHM show. There may be a lot of online anecdotal evidence about antisocial behaviour at Oxegen, but it’s not reflected in the police reports from the weekend. What happens on the Oxegen campsites, it seems, stays on the Oxegen campsites, especially as we’re not dealing with a park located slap bang in the middle of the capital city.
HOPING FOR A SHELL-OUT
What will matter this year is the turnout, as Oxegen is pitching its tent firmly as a dance and pop festival and placing all its eggs in that basket. Will it get 50,000 people to part with their cash (or their parents’ cash) to see acts like Guetta, Harris and the Dogg? Or will the festival be forced to go back to the drawing board yet again for 2014? Time to find out.
Oxegen takes place at Punchestown Racecourse, Co Kildare, from August 2-4. oxegen.ie