Review of FM4 Frequency Festival in Austria over 20-22nd August 2009
This 3 day festival held near Vienna, in Austria, is the only place I've ever been to where it is impossible to buy bags of ice cubes in the local shops. Luckily the girls behind the fish counter in the local supermarket were more than happy to fill our cool box with ice whenever they were asked.
This was a boon considering the temperature was around 90 degrees for the first 2 days.
Once the ice situation was sorted there was a rather good music festival going on.
Headline acts included Radiohead, The Prodigy, Kasabian and Pendulum with performances by Jarvis Cocker, Little Boots, The Editors and Grace Jones, Enter Shakira, Carl Cox, 2 Many DJs and too many others to mention. With an interesting variety of bands and musical styles on paper, at least, it looked like it was going to be a very interesting experience. It was.
Radiohead were the main attraction though and the capacity crowd absolutely loved everything they did. Personally I don't get Radiohead at all. If you asked me for my honest opinion I'd have to tell you that I find their music and, particularly Thom Yorke's lyrics, dreary, uninspiring, less than original and down right depressing. Having said that, they've made a good living over the years and sold many millions of albums, so I'm obviously missing something fundamental about what makes them a world class band, but whenever I hear them on the radio I just can't help wishing they'd cheer themselves up and find something happy to sing about. And this performance did nothing to change my opinion. I managed to put up with the depression for about 40 minutes in the interest of fair play, but then I just had to leave.
No-one could say the same about The Prodigy though! From the first chord of their opening number the passion, energy, commitment and, indeed, the noise, was relentless. Their set was only about an hour long and mostly featured songs from their recent album 'Invaders Must Die' including a blistering rendition of 'Take Me To The Hospital' though there were a few classics from their back catalogue thrown in, with 'Firestarter' and 'Smack My Bitch Up' being my personal favourites. The mostly torrential downpour did not dampen anyone's enthusiasm or enjoyment. They are, without doubt, one of the world's best festival performers. They never fail to impress, satisfy, or give less than 100%.
Pendulum are another band whose energy and commitment could never be questioned. Following the massive world wide success of their second album 'In Silico' they have become festival favourites all over the world and, last year, I believe they performed at more festivals around the world than any other band. Their unique blend of pounding drums, guitars and keyboards allied to driving drum and bass beats and laconic lyrics combine to make Pendulum a perfect festival band. I could never tire of watching and hearing them play live. Definitely the highlight of the whole festival, for me, and I can't wait for their next album.
Little Boots (real name Victoria Hesketh) is from Blackpool in the north of England. Her debut album 'Hands' was released in June this year and reached number 5 in the UK charts and she has already had 2 hit singles from it. She gave a very mature and confident performance (apart from the part where she dropped the microphone) but that's hardly surprising as she's appeared at around 50 festivals this summer. She plays an intriguing blend of electronic pop music which is only saved from cheesiness by the cleverness of the lyrics and the infectious quality of the music. Her current single 'Remedy' is fast becoming a club classic in its various remixes and the fact that people such as Pete Tong rate her so highly is, surely, an indication that this young lady has a bright future ahead of her.
Jarvis Cocker was a bit of a revelation. Everyone knows him from his days with Pulp and I think most people were expecting him to do at least one song from that group's heyday. A small part of the crowd even chanted 'Common People' at one stage. There was none of that harking back to the past though. Instead he did about 45 minutes of his own solo work and, despite some prolonged and quite unnecessary wittering between songs gave an excellent performance. He writes deep and insightful lyrics and delivers them with passion.
Kasabian were average and failed to live up to their usual high standard. There was no passion, no fire and no sense that they were there for anything other than the money. The lighting set up was awful and meant that they spent most of the time they were on stage bathed in red light. All well and good, but it does make it rather difficult to see what's going on unless you happen to be within 50 yards of the stage. It's lucky that there were screens on either side of the stage so that the rest of the audience could actually see what was going on.
Carl Cox on the other hand was, despite some early struggles with the mixer, absolutely astounding. He played a 4 hour set in the busiest and sweatiest room I've been in for many a year. It was, quite simply, the best and hardest techno set I have ever heard anyone, including Cox himself, play. It had everything. monster build ups, pounding phat beats, exhilarating riffs, bridges, silences and break downs and an intensity that was breathtaking. He's come a long way since the days he used to provide sound systems for Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold and pioneered 3 deck raves in Ibiza back in the 80's. If memory serves me right he's done more 'Essential Mixes' for Radio 1 than any other DJ. If I had done nothing else that weekend and seen none of the bands or other DJs that were playing I would still have considered it to have been a great weekend simply because of Cox's set.
To sum it all up:
Good festival, rubbish camping area, mostly good weather, excellent and diverse music.
I would definitely go again.