Normally reserved for returning 80s rejects, 2009’s Clumberfest was a nod to 90s indie. How could I resist?
Date: August 22, 2009
Venue: Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
The year of the comeback, reformation, cash-in (call it what you will) is showing no sign of hesitation. Seriously, 2009 is the new 1994. Oasis, Blur, Ash, The Manics, Jarvis, Shed Seven later this year at Rock City…the list goes on. It’s been the second coming of Britpop, and what band can better sum up the halcyon days of sunshine-dappled tomfoolery and ebullience than Supergrass?
They have the honour of kicking off this mini three-band festival (or, since The View pulled out, open air gig to be precise).
As the sun bakes the few thousand revelers as they lounge on the grass in this clearing at Clumber Park, or as they negotiate the World’s biggest bar queue as it snakes around the site, five shadowy figures appear on stage to a muted reception.
As the band open with the little-known Diamond Hoo Ha Man the crowd collectively and reluctantly shuffle off their slumbers and approach the stage. Once there, they see a band that has honed their skills; a band that doesn’t receive the credit they deserve. Gaz Coombes – our hirsute Neanderthalic Britpop heartthrob – has become one of the greatest guitar players in British rock music. And that’s no sycophantic exaggeration.
He handles his axe with superiority, and with Danny Goffey’s precision drumming, Supergrass should be as relevant today as they ever were.
Although it’s requested vehemently by the crowd Alright is absent – and we don’t hear Going Out either – but we do get Moving, Strange Ones, Mary and Pumping On Your Stereo, plus the cult classic, Caught By The Fuzz, which they end with as the sun sets. It’s all excellent stuff.
Next up are The Lightning Seeds – one of those bands who you know have countless hits but you struggle to recall them. It’s not until you hear them that you get that “Arrgh I know this one” moment.
Ian Broudie is more concerned with producing records than playing gigs these days so it’s a privilege that they’re here. However, Broudie struggles to get the volume right on his mic, and the entire set could benefit from a tad more amplification.
Still, we get all the hits. Marvelous kicks things off acoustically; Pure, Lucky You and Change are all disentombed from the vast vault of pop tunes Broudie has amassed since 1989. And, when it’s not soundtracking goal of the month montages, Life of Riley sounds awe-Inspiring. However, a shaky rendition of The Ronettes’ Be My Baby is both cringeworthy and unnecessary.
Super Furry Animals headlining slot may seem incongruous to some. But they slay their doubters with an eccentric, eclectic and highly polished set of psychedelic cerebral pop.
The venerable Welsh pop wizards have come to melt everyone’s minds, something they have been doing with stunning regularity for over 15 years now, and they open, suitably, with the mind-mangling fan favourite Slow Life, a kind of harmonious techno rhapsody, if such a thing can possibly exist.
Crazy Naked Girls – another album track from their latest long player, Dark Days/Light Years – ascends to the dizzy heights of stadium rock with its Muse-shaped guitar pomposity, while Inaugural Trams is a shimming krautrock odyssey (and oddity) concerned with the new tram network of a made up German city. Its awkward beat and German rap (courtesy of a recording of Franz Ferdinand’s German-born guitarist Nick McCarthy) is yet more evidence of the eccentric circles in which this band moves in.
It doesn’t always go to plan though. Juxtaposed With You’s chorus is a lovelorn, floaty lullaby accompanied by lush strings but the verse – in which leading oddball Gruff Rhys pumps his voice through a vocoder – is distorted beyond recognition, and appears to be transmitting strange robotic signals to a distant star. Only a glorious bit of pop majesty can save them now. Welcome, then, Hello Sunshine, with its swaying grooves and calming ambience.
Gruff – whose stage look has taken on tramp-chic – provides participation instructions for the crowd via large cardboard banners which he holds aloft while roaming the stage. ‘Woah!’ reads one. ‘Applause’ directs another. But with the likes of (Drawing) Rings Around The World, Golden Retriever, Demons and God! Show Me Magic on the set list there’s little need to appeal for applause.
SFA were always the band skulking around the underbelly of the Britpop era; a band who subverted modern pop music with bouts of nosebleed techno and obscure dalliances. But as the class of ’94 to ’96 continues to dominate 2009, no one can deny them their position atop the Britpop pedestal tonight.