Rain fails to dampen spirits at Punchestown

Sun teases and crowds gather for a very different Oxegen festival


“She’d be a great country if you could roof her.” As the so-called VIPs by virtue of their wristbands surveyed the rain pummeling Punchestown outside the backstage bar tent, that remark was inevitable. But the sun was teasing, so this is festival weather: shorts and a poncho. Welcome to a very different Oxegen, far removed from its pinnacle of dozens and dozens of thousands pumping their fists to rock bands.

Oxegen 2.0 is about dance and pop with a dash of hip hop, the soundtrack to a sizable portion of youth culture in Ireland - well those who haven’t left yet anyway.

“Are you ready to go f***ing stupid?” The MC for DJ Fresh on the Heineken Live Project Stage didn’t have to ask, as a crowd of a few hundred let go of the odd inflated condom-turned-balloon and got down to dancing. One of the biggest improvements at Irish festivals in recent years has been the quality of sound blaring from the PA system, and DJ Fresh’s live set up took full advantage.

Meanwhile in possibly the best venue in the country to have a rave, Rory Lynam was an early highlight at the Red Bull Electric Ballroom, taking no prisoners as he bashed out the tunes, standing on the table of his decks while Patrick Hagenaar’s remix of Rudimental’s ‘Feel The Live’ shook the foundations of not only the hangar but possibly also nearby Naas.

The Red Bull Garden next to the massive warehouse offered a more Balearic serving of house and techno. The Other Stage, in a location traditionally reserved for the artists, press and VIPs, illustrated how reduced this installment of Oxegen has become. By 7pm, just a handful were dancing to a set from Simon Says.

The fun fair was equally sparse. But why jump on a ride when there was dancing to be had? Security personnel were everywhere. At all entrances to the stage, at the toilets, walking around on site surveying the scene. Early in the evening, a young woman was stretchered away by the bumper cars, but overall the crowd appeared in control, friends looking after each other, bar one group who chose to video their mate vomiting rather than rub his back.

Before 7.30pm, crowds streamed to see Rita Ora who opened with an emphatic version of ‘Radioactive’, her black-clad dancers looking like rave special ops pulsating to a hint of Diplo’s ‘Pon De Floor’. In a green jumpsuit and red lipstick, she proved why she’s signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, with a voice as prominent as her neon microphone, and a blistering presence to match. “If there’s one thing you guys came to do tonight, that’s to f***in’ party, am I right?” she questioned, before asking the crowd to make some noise for DJ Fresh.

The derogatory comments on social media towards the Oxegen demographic judges from afar, as if there is something wrong with kids wanting to go crazy for a weekend of dance music. This is no country for old guitar strings. Yes, Oxegen has changed utterly, so go hard or go home.