o2 Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London
Confiscated cameras and synergetic co-branding opportunities ahoy!
Report by urban75 editor, 21 June 2006
A last minute offer of a free ticket took me to this corporate brand-a-thon in the heart of London.
The o2 Wireless Festival runs for five days in London and Leeds, featuring a wide range of acts; some good, some great, some grim.
Photos are verboten
The ticket said 'no professional cameras' so I figured I'd be alright with my rather knackered Nikon D70, shoved in the bottom of my backpack, wrapped up in its usual 'case' - an old bobble hat.
The search coming into the venue was a pretty intrusive affair - instead of the usual half-arsed rummage for ten packs of beer, I was treated to a full-on, hands-in, stuff out, bag-emptying extravaganza. The kind of thing the police do.
When the camera was located it almost felt like being caught with half a kilo of best Moroccan at customs.
With a sniffy look, the ubermensch on the door declared my camera to be 'professional' because it 'had a lens' (no, really!) and I was forcibly shunted towards the lock up where I had to fork out for a compulsory £3 storage fee. Not a good start.
(A friend later rang up their organisers and asked them how a professional camera was defined. Their answer, 'Cameras in their own bag are professional cameras.') That makes a lot of sense, then.
No cameras, no beers
It wasn't just cameras that were being sought out with relish - a couple next to me had their two cans of beer ejected out of their bag (criminals!) leaving them with no other option but to fork out for the inflated beers inside (that'll be pound;3.50 a pint, if you please).
Happily, my Ricoh GR Digital camera was deemed 'amateur' enough to be allowed into o2's hallowed arena, so here's a few shots from the day.
Main stage. Somewhere in the distance was the excellent Gogol Bordello mashing it up.
Oh dear. A lovely old Routemaster bus had been given a garish multicoloured makeover and transformed into a mobile Superdrug advertising medium.
The bus offered free 'beauty treatments' to any passing crazy-eyed, rebel rock'n'rollers.
Let the corporate synergy begin!
We were invited to 'step into the Moto Meadow' (the what?!) and 'see the very latest Motorola products, visit the Music Room, grab a bite to eat and relax with a cocktail.'
The free cocktails never materialised but we did get to see some berk (sorry, the 'V3im DJ') playing tunes from the top of an old Airstream trailer and looking rather sheepish.
This is a MotoHome, apparently. Looks more like a waste of an Airstream Excella 500 to me.
Another stage, another branding opportunity. Welcome to the MySpace/Fender stage. As you can see, the place wasn't always troubled with crowds.
There was a couple of funfair rides on the site, most of which seemed rather free of customers.
Judging by the amount of free tickets knocking about, it looks like o2 struggled to fill the place.
Lordy. Welcome to the o2 'fourth stage', with admission only available to o2 customers prepared to text a special number.
So, in other words, fuck those punters who happen to be on the 'wrong' mobile network - despite the fact that they'd already paid through the nose to be there. Nice work, o2!
Chums enjoying the pricey - but nice - pear cider.
Humanzi in the Murdoch/MySpace tent. I liked the bouncy bass player who jumped about like an over-excited member of Buck's Fizz.
The Raconteurs on the main stage. Now, this is what you call a bloke's band. Lots of guitar solos. Lots of 70s-style rock riffage. And much trading of 'licks.'
At one point we looked in serious danger of being treated to a drum solo, but thankfully the drummer calmed down in time.
Despite ambling through a confusing roll call of musical genres, I rather liked 'em by the end.
Thankfully, the lurking rain clouds didn't tarry for long and we spared a Glasto-style downpour.
In an utterly baffling move, the organisers put the massively popular Super Furry Animals in the way-too-small XFM tent.
End result: queues of less-than chuffed punters forced to stand outside and look at the walls of the tent. Nice one, o2!
By the time the SFA started up, 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck,' I'd had enough of standing outside like a lemon, so bumrushed the show to 'rock out' inside.
The Furries were fantastic. Best band of the festival, easy.
I normally like this lot, but Belle and Sebastian didn't quite do it for me - the stage seemed too big for them and I reckon they would have worked better in the XFM tent.
Looking towards the main arena.
The Strokes from afar.
When the Strokes were good (i.e playing songs from the first album) they were very, very good. The rest of the time they were a bit, well, average.
This installation played noises when you put your hands over holes in the poles. Or at least that's what they were supposed to do, but there didn't seem much coordination between the sound effects and my hand.
But it was still tremendous fun.
And as the clock ticked towards the cray-zeeee late hour of 10.30, it was time to vacate the park.
After a vast intake of Pear Cider, I'd managed to block out the corporate logos and branding opportunities, but as festivals go this was something of a strange experience.
But what the fuck - it was free and I got to see the Super Furries. Sorted!