Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The End Of Oxegen: How Europe's Favourite Rock'n'Roll Weekend Died An Undignified Death

Europe's Favourite Rock'n'Roll Weekend
. That's the tag Oxegen assigned itself after it first emerged from its humble beginnings as Witness back in 2000, and back then they had the acts to back that statement up. Headliners in Witnness' four year run were impressive- they boasted such names as Oasis, Green Day, and Foo Fighters before MCD expanded the two day gig into a weekend long event, and began hunting the biggest names in music to play for an Irish audience at Punchestown Racecourse in  July.

It wasn't long before Oxegen began to dominate the Irish summer and for a while there it seemed as though this was a festival that could reasonably lay claim to being one of Europe's finest festivals alsongside the likes of Glastonbury and its counterparts. So how did the biggest music event in Irish history reduce itself to the rubbish that will be on offer this August Bank Holiday?

The announcement of a largely dance/chart oriented line up last night at 7pm was effectively the announcement of Oxegen's demise. Calvin Harris, Example and David Guetta headline a cast that sounds closer to the soundtrack of a teenage disco in the local community centre than anything resembling a credible music festival and the outraged reaction that followed was predictable to say the least. The first question that came to my mind was whether the weekend will even go ahead- surely they won't be successful in selling enough tickets (a whopping e199.50 for 3 days) for this thing to actually happen. But the fact remains that the likes of these lame, overplayed DJ's will appeal to a sub-section of music fans in the country and that brings me to the next issue, and one that is sure to overshadow the music in August.

Last year in place of the absent Oxegen, several concerts were held in Phoenix Park for Irish music fans as a substitute, among them The Stone Roses and Snow Patrol. However one gig stood out from the rest for all the wrong reasons- Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris and Snoop Dogg were the artists involved in an event that saw nine stabbed and two fatalities, and you can absolutely guarantee that there will be a repeat performance in Naas this year.

It's a terrible truth but the fact is that this type of music will attract violent youths and trouble is a certainty with or without increased security. Unless the government can employ enough Gardaí to personally monitor each and every festival goer then there will be deaths at Oxegen this year and this tragedy will come as no surprise to the Irish nation, who are more than aware of the reputation Oxegen has steadily gained since its inception, although clearly MCD and associated promoters are willing to take the risk while the government haven't yet learned their lesson from last year.

For many, the likes of Electric Picnic, Forbidden Fruit, Indiependence and Castlepalooza have been  superior options to Oxegen for a number of years now, but MCD were still capable of producing quality acts even as its status as Ireland's biggest festival slowly began to wane- Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Arcade Fire, Muse, The Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Daft Punk, James Brown, R.E.M, The Verve, Blur, and The Who were all there between 2004-2011 and whatever your feelings about the facilities, crowd or any other issues at Punchestown, it cannot be denied that to bring all of these world class artists to Ireland was an outstanding achievement.

So what now? Well, it seems inevitable that this is the last we'll see of Oxegen, at least in name- it seems ridiculous to bill this list of acts under the Oxegen moniker as it resembles nothing close to previous years, so a name change is surely in order after August, if the festival isn't completely wiped off the calendar anyway following the trainwreck of a weekend it will be. Perhaps sister festival Longitude is set to take its place, perhaps MCD have another ace up their sleeve for next summer (unlikely considering how clumsy they were about announcing their list of duds last night) but the one thing we can all be certain of is this: Oxegen is over. May it rest in peace.

If you're hitting the festival scene this summer check out The HMM Guide To Irish Festivals 2013 or alternatively, The HMM Guide To European Festivals 2013 if you're leaving the country.

Or turn back the clock with the HMM 
review of Electric Picnic 2012..