Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Oxegen 2010 – the post-match analysis

In some ways, OTR wrote most of the post-match analysis for Oxegen 2010 a year ago. Back then, we were predicting that Oxegen 2010 would be a pop and Irish affair. It’s good to know that OTR has readers in …

Mon, Jul 12, 2010, 10:01


In some ways, OTR wrote most of the post-match analysis for Oxegen 2010 a year ago. Back then, we were predicting that Oxegen 2010 would be a pop and Irish affair. It’s good to know that OTR has readers in Dun Laoghaire.

As the dust settles (OK, mud hardens) on Punchestown, it’s the likes of Jay-Z, Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, Eminem and Fatboy Slim who will dominate the rave reports. Just as was becoming clear 12 months ago, Oxegen is now most firmly a festival where pop is the favourite soundtrack. The Irish bands also got a fair rattle – Two Door Cinema Club, The Coronas, Villagers, Bell X1, Republic Of Loose (who were excellent on Friday evening) – but the omission of a dedicated tent for the Irish acts was another sign that Oxegen was on a bit of a cost-cutting diet. Those cuts were noticable in places – tents so near to oneanother that sound spills were inevitable – as the lack of a sell-out meant money had to be saved here or shaved off the bill there.

Unasked for advice for Oxegen: don’t bother spending big money in the future on marquee acts like Arcade Fire. The dampest squib on a wet day in Co Kildare, Arcade Fire pulled a tiny crowd for a band costing as much as they probably did, as the vast bulk of the Oxegen clan left the main stage area after Jay-Z (one of the best sets I’ve ever seen at any festival) to go check out Guetta or the Fatboy. Oxegen is about instant highs, teenage kicks and big pop choruses. It is not about someone playing a hurdy-gurdy (unless that wind-up hurdy-gurdy is manned by a penguin and is blasting out “The Fields of Athenry”). I would reckon Arcade Fire on the bill meant about 2,000 day tickets at most, which probably didn’t even cover their fee. Just because a band are greedy enough to take the big cheque you’re dangling in front of them doesn’t mean they’ll work as last band of the night. Arcade Fire fans and Oxegen fans are two mutually exclusive groups. But don’t worry dude, those O2 shows later in the year (the ones OTR were talking about back in February) will still sell out.

Elsewhere, though, there were plenty of reminders that lessons had been learned from last year. Gone were the luxury bookings like The Specials and Blur, bands who were never going to work at Oxegen, in favour of acts who actually are (a) popular and (b) known by the core audience like Mumford & Sons, Chipmunk, Example, 3OH!3 and Paolo Nutini. There was also none of the expensive aul’ guff on niche stages like the Dance Lean-To (no repeats of the Fever Ray SNAFU from last year, for instance, when you spent serious wonga and got a band who made the mad-out-of-it ravers who camp out in the Charlie McCreevy Memorial Hall run for the hills in fright) and very few of those keep-someone-happy bookings promoters are often forced into doing. There were also good spots on the bill for bands like The Temper Trap and Local Natives (who received good reactions too), bands who’ve been here a few times and are slowly building an audience in Ireland. It was a solid, attractive heavyweight bill, all told.

However, I’m sure the organisers are scratching their heads and wondering why a bill like this, one honed to almost perfection to appeal to the core audience, just didn’t sell, even with a huge advertising campaign. There’s only one reason and that’s the ticket price. It’s just too high at a time when the recession is still gripping the nation, no matter what various economists say. The Kids who buy Oxegen tickets or who strongarm their folks into doing so for them just don’t have the spare cash right now. Like a Fianna Fail majority government, we won’t see the likes of an early sell-out for Oxegen for quite some time again.

Bringing ticket prices down is the only way around this problem. Yes, I know, I can hear the wails from Park Road from here. The (quite justifiable) excuses about why ticket prices are so high in Ireland will be rolled out again such as costs, wages and the like. Oddly, though, MCD have not been pointing to the bleedin’ obvious reason for high ticket prices. High artist fees mean high ticket prices and the ticket price can only be slashed if those fees go down. Cut your ticket price and you’ll sell more tickets. Start your advertising campaign much earlier. Going mad with ads three weeks out is too late. As simple as that.

Then again, there were no such problems with Oxegen’s sister festival T In the Park, which was sold out in advance yet again. But it’s interesting to do a quick compare and contrast between the two this year. Eight main stages at T versus six at Oxegen. A ton of Scottish bands on the bill at T versus a patchy enough Irish selection at Oxegen. A festival which maintained the same brand since the get-go (actually, since MCD were making money from an earlier generation of Irish music fans at Feile) versus a festival which has had a name-change and a location change in 10 years. Irn-Bru and kilts versus lads in GAA county jerseys and wellies. You get the idea.

But comparing the pair only shows up the differences between the two. Oxegen is an Irish solution to an Irish problem. It’s a festival where the more unsophisticated stuff works best because we are, let’s face it, an unsophisticated race. Rather than having Win Butler and co learning how to play their new tunes in front of a fast dwindling audience, you’d have been better off with David Guetta or Tiesto or one of the Dutch lads called Armin or one of the Irish crew (John O’Callaghan, John Gibbons, Mark Kavanagh etc) up there playing records (like used to be the case with Fourth Dimension or Sound Crowd back in Thurles). Cheaper too. Give ‘em The Coronas (they’re like The Stunning or The Sawdoctors were to the Feile generation) and they’ll be happy. Cheese sells and we’re not talking brie or buffalo mozarella either. Galtee singles all the way, man.

As for the mud, the rain and the drunken kids… we’re not even going to bother going there. Like every other rite-of-passage Irish festival which has gone before it, Oxegen is where The Kids go to get out of their tiny little heads on whatever they can lay their hands on and fair play to them. To hear people who came of age at Feile in equally murky circumstances fuming backstage all weekend about the state of The Kids out weekend was post-ironic in the extreme. Me, I just went to see Tinie Tempah rocking the house instead. Now, there’s someone to book this morning for a much bigger stage in 2011.