The August bank holiday weekend brings about a significant number of festivals in the UK, including Reading, Leeds and Creamfields. Not wanting to miss out on a slice of the action, London has the terribly but rather appropriately named Get Loaded In The Park, a one day event on Clapham Common which this year is for the most part aimed squarely at dance heads, ravers and clubbers. It’s for those who fancy a little bit of the festival experience without the rigmarole of camping or even a late night; due to licensing restrictions the whole thing finishes at 9pm, early enough to carry on to a club afterwards if you fancy.
The Clapham Common site is functional rather than exotic with one outdoor stage and three big top stages decorated with large inflatable shapes including a huge green, white and purple octopus in the XFM tent, a number of bars, a couple of fairground rides and banks of toilets all set up in a fenced enclosure. There is very little here besides the music, even the grass is almost non existent, worn away in a dusty dryness from other events that have occurred there over the summer.
Two of the big tops are rammed from early in the day as acts such as Laurent Garnier and Felix Da Housecat take to the decks, but its not all about DJ’s. A number of live acts also fill out the bill.
“You look like you’re going to be trouble,” states Marina of Marina And The Diamonds to a bunch of boisterous raver boys who shout “Give us a song love,” at the beginning of her absurdly early set. It turns out they’re not, the lack of pumping dance beats in Marina’s songs leading to their early exit from the tent. The band play an eclectic set that veers from the beautiful and melancholy Regina Spektor-esque Obsessions with its hushed opening lyrics of “Sunday wake up, give me a cigarette, last nights love affair is looking vulnerable in my bed, silk sheet, blue dawn, colgate, tongue warm,” to a high adrenalin electropositive version of Space In The Woods, originally written by Late Of The Pier. The ravers may have liked that one if they had stuck around. Marina may sing of vulnerability but on stage she appears completely sure of herself with confident movement and expressive singing.
After the personality of Marina the dark faceless industrial after hours electronica of Telepathe feels completely misplaced out on the main stage in the early afternoon. With possibly the smallest crowd of the day watching, the two Brooklyn girls tunes demonstrate a marching, disconnected, experimental sound with singsong rapping. The trouble with Telepathe is that they look so bored, so vacant and so lackadaisical that one cannot expect the audience to feel anything but the same. If the music was astonishing then Telepathe could get away with it, but the occasional bursts of electronic drum pads and stuttering, pulsing computer trickery miss the target far more often than they hit it. “Have fun,” they announce at the end of their set. We’re not sure if they would know the meaning of the word.
Six piece Miike Snow (that isn't a spelling error) from Sweden are however far more fun, even though they struggle with a few technical problems during the set. Dressed all in black with blank white robot face masks on to conceal their identity, they intelligently and effortlessly join the dots between pop and dance music, which is what you would expect from the men who wrote Toxic by Britney Spears. Although their very short set has nothing as compelling as Toxic in it, the electronic dance-skank of Animal gets hands in the air. Pleasurable, even if the vocals sound a little bit like Sting with a Swedish accent.
What to make of VV Brown ? (Pictured) On the one hand she can sing well and has a tight competent band that can deal professionally with technical hitches. When the electronics crash, she announces “The systems fucked up, but we’re gonna keep on rolling.” On the other hand VV seems incredibly desperate. The number of times she shouts “C’mon you guys, are you having a good time,” and “Clap your hands like this,” is huge - seriously, we lose count. A Kings Of Leon cover - Use Somebody - attains her even further lowest common denominator status. Sure the music is passably fun, a mix of soul, rockabilly and jaunty pop, with Vanessa dictating the crowd with a megaphone, but as VV shouts “Everybody clap,” for the hundredth time we feel like punching her rather bowing to her commands.
Roni Size and Reprazent once won the Mercury Music Prize for their album New Forms, which at the time was seen as innovative and modern. The jungle beats and live double bass brought Roni Size to a worldwide audience. Watching the group now however, the tunes sound less fresh and somewhat old fashioned, such is the way that dance music constantly evolves. In ten years time we’re probably be saying the same about dubstep. With a vocalist dressed in what appears to be a Bacofoil dress and an MC who seems to have taken a page out of the VV Brown school of over enthusiasm “Jump, jump, jump,” he shouts like a gym instructor, it all feels a little crass. “Congratulations you have all passed the energy test, A+,” he informs us. Well, at least we don’t need to enrol at Fitness First then.
Royksopps set in the big top will probably be best remembered for two non musical moments. The first being the girl who somehow manages to climb to the very top of one of the structures supporting columns to get a birds eye view of the band, to much celebration by the crowd. The second being when Svein Berge sports a space suit capsule on his head. This says much about Royksopp at Get Loaded. The bands breed of ethereal ambient electronica mumbles and pulses along, although the sound is not particularly good; vocals being lost as if someone had put cotton wool over the speakers. The music is never fully engaging - non musical moments are the highs. At the back of the tent much of the audience seem more interested in taking the name of the event literally, downing Tuborg lager and Brothers cider as if a new prohibition starts tomorrow, as well as a few other less legal substances, rather than really embracing the music. Eple with its neat Clangers go dancing loop and shimmering synths is still of a higher order and gets a big cheer, but other than this unfortunately today Royksopp are largely forgettable.
As darkness begins to fall it is left to one of the UK’s most seminal electronic dance acts to close the main stage. With their self possessed beats and electronic looping riffs Orbital are hugely inspiring. How can two men wearing lights on their head, twiddling some knobs make something so utterly beautiful that it makes you want to kiss complete strangers dancing next to you ? The bleeps and bass of Chime, the floating tapestry of Halcyon, and the clunking solidity of The Box are all present, then towards the end they drop in a sample of Heaven On Earth by Belinda Carlisle and the crowd erupts. A sea of smiling faces and upturned hands says it all. Blissfully good and worth the ticket price alone.
Here's a short clip of Orbital playing out their classic Belfast from the show.