LIVE FESTIVAL: 6Music Festival, Trafford – Manchester (28/02/2014)
If you’d heard the 6Music Festival radio trails and attended expected nothing less than Woodstock 2.0, it would be perfectly understandable. What with promises of (and I quote): “a city of creators commanded by curators”, “a forest of wonderment” and “a thousand stories coming together at once”, what else should you have expected?
However, it seems the PR machine at Media City must have been cranked to “fantastical jargon” mode.
Sky-high drinks prices, ill-conceived capacity problems, short sets, set clashes, heavy-handed security, sound issues and a deliberate concealment of set-times to coerce you into buying an extortionately priced 1-day “festival guide” (only relevant for 6 hours of music) immediately shattered any illusions of grandeur and deducted from the experience as a whole hugely.
Outfit welcomed in the masses with their last foreseeable show of 2014, with highlights such as “Thank God I Was Dreaming” proving a treat for those that could negotiate a position in the room that offered a view not obscured by the warehouse’s iron girders.
Breakfast japester Shaun Keaveny batted off good-humoured calls for a Menswear re-union as he introduced a typically blistering set of bratty garage-rock by his much-championed Drenge.
Kelis book-ended her set with stately covers of “Feeling Good” yet failed to sustain interest with stodgy big-band versions of her usual electronic smashes. Similarly underwhelming was Doves’ frontman Jimi Goodwin, who struggled to compete with the overpoweringly pumping soundsystem of the not-so-silent silent disco as it trampled the delicate melody of acoustic single: “Oh Whiskey!”.
Metronomy‘s youthful fan-base poured into Room 2 and highlighted logistical and capacity issues with the venue as they clamoured in and swamped security. Unlike the frustrated melange of people, the band looked cool and collected in their new Starship Enterprise stage set-up as they produced a spell-binding set showcasing their sparkling new material.
Heading over to catch the end of Midlake, fans were treated to a guest appearance of John Grant for a stunning rendition of “Sigourney Weaver” in a set that was technically good, but otherwise uninspiring.
This left the keenly anticipated Damon Albarn headline slot remaining. Despite Albarn recently stating he didn’t want his new solo album to be so “introspective” that it alienated listeners, his live set managed just that in what came across as more a vanity project than a feel-good headline slot. Opening with new single “Everyday Robots“, Albarn set the tone for the rest of the night. A bias of unfamilliar and consequently disengaging new material and a misrepresented choice of retrospective tracks including the Blur-by-numbers B-side “All Your Life” and an under-rehearsed version of Gorillaz’ “Melancholy Hill” ensured that even the beautiful Eno collaboration “Heavy Seas of Love” to close left the audience feeling apathetic to its charms.
By all accounts, this event couldn’t have provided a less festival-like experience. Next year, it would be advisable for the BBC PR machine to be set at “modest” to avoid sweeping disappointment. See you at the 6Music Annual Conference next year then…
Words: Thom Williams