Hard Rock Calling Kasabian Weller The Twang

The Olympic Park opened as music venue on Saturday 29 June 2013 as the new host for the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London, with the first day full of guitar based acts including Kasabian, Paul Weller, The Twang and The View.

For all the written words, radio documentaries and television seasons about ignored and neglected communities there is one tribe who still seem to have been treated as invisible for years: the British indie music fan. With original independent music hijacked as a vehicle for bland, middle-of-the-road music marketed to masses of bed-wetters there has been little both original and sensational in the indie bucket in UK in the last ten years, with the exception of the Arctic Monkeys; so, it is no surprise that when The Stone Roses return they are celebrated like a literal resurrection and that even the Saturday at Hard Rock Calling 2013 is pounced upon like a rubber bone thrown in the direction of a starving dog.

There is no Arctic Monkeys, who headlined Glastonbury the previous night, but instead four stages of decent enough music with a number of acts who all have elements of a passionate following. It was far from a sell-out and there were many tickets given away free by organizers who wanted both a spectacle and a captive audience for their £5 pints but  many were there primarily for the bands.

The day attracts lots of people who want to believe in the music, many of whom, throughout the day, spend much of their time turning away from the stage to intently sing the lyrics to the person they are with; they range in ages, from the young who weren’t around in the early nineties, to those who probably not only bought Style Council records on release, but now have haircuts for which their faces look slightly too old.

The Twang have a particularly fervent fan base and in the tent that is effectively the second stage they are the main attraction of the day at 4pm for anyone who can leave the sunshine and hour-long beer queues that snake along the side of the Olympic Park they are playing. They have a front two on stage who are having the time of their lives playing to an already whipped up crowd that are jumping, dancing, waving union flags, throwing drinks and lighting flares. Musically, they are as energetic and memorable as anyone who plays for the rest of the day, although there is the feeling they are a midlands version of Hard-Fi (less the politics), and the whole scene is a bit reminiscent of the Felton band’s uplifting performance in a tent at Hyde Park in the Wireless Festival, 2005, without Seven Nation Army being played.

As The Twang finish, Blur’s Parklife comes on the PA and nearly every person sings along as they leave the tent to have a piss on the banks of the Olympic Park or try and get to the other end of the Park, get a beer from a different queue and return before The View take the same stage in twenty minutes. The View have got a bit of material to their name now and again are worth being in a tent for on a sunny day and get a sing-a-long and beer flying for Same Jeans.

Earlier, with less familiar tunes to a British audience, Kodaline brought their big hits from Ireland to the main stage. By the time Miles Kane takes to the same stage in the early evening sun, the beer queues are lengthy even at the numerous bars at that end of the Olympic Park and it seems there are more people in the queues than on the astro-turf facing Kane, who was also at Glastonbury the previous night, joining the Arctic Monkeys during their headline set.

The beers are all in for Paul Weller though, who starts off an hour-long set promisingly with an excellent Sunflower. But then his set becomes guitar fuelled rock and never threatens to reach the heights of his solo performances in 2001 which produced the wonderful live recording Days of Speed. It is only near the end, with My Ever Changing Moods, Changing Man, Peacock Suit and back-to-back performances of That’s Entertainment and Start! when he really throws something out to the masses (who had previously spent most of the time throwing toilet rolls handed out), before finishing with Town Called Malice where he pretty much has all the whole park dancing.

The headline act on the Saturday night are Kasabian and their aggressive smoke machine, where the vapour took over the from the strong smells of cannabis that had been prevalent for most of the day and also made for some impressive views of the park away from the stage as the sun came down behind the beautiful Olympic Velodrome.

Kasabian seem to have the right pop culture references: they come on to the theme tune from Grandstand, they play Misirlou (most famous for being in Pulp Fiction), they give a name check to Gareth Bale, they finish singing The Beatles and arguably their highlight of their set is a cover of Fatboy Slim’s Praise You. They also have a loyal following who are sent into raptures with a few decent riffs and choruses-come-chants.

In a recent interview ahead of this opening of the Olympic Park as a music venue on the now otherwise largely redundant TV magazine show Soccer AM, they displayed a worrying lack of understanding on how Bruce Springsteen would play three plus hours the following night, citing short-attention spans, which gave a glimpse into a lack of substance, but they have filled a gap for a market who want to walk down the street with guitar-based music and attitude in their heads.

That has led to them headlining the first music event at the newly opened Olympic Park; in London 2012 people were passing around sandwiches and were captivated by sport on big screen whereas on the last Saturday afternoon of June 2013 bags of cocaine were passed around routinely in groups sitting in circles enjoying the sunshine and waiting for their own heroes to light up the evening. At Hard Rock Calling Kasabian filled a gap and filled their boots.

MG

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Bruce Springsteen Olympic Park 2013