Get Loaded in the Park

published: Thu 31st Aug 2006

Sunday 27th August 2006
Clapham Common, London, SW4 9DE, England MAP
last updated: Tue 9th May 2006

Described as "London's definitive indie-dance crossover event," Get Loaded in the Park is the bands day of the annual Metro Weekender on Clapham Common which also includes the SouthWestFour dance festival. This inner city festival welcomed 20,000 people through it's gates for their 3rd annual shindig on the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday weekend. The sun was out and the people were dancing to four stages of bands, beats and belting music as they enjoyed the sunny Bank Holiday weather.

On paper the line-up for this event looked immense but once into the arena and with a programme in my hand it quickly became clear that it was more set dressing than substance. Almost all of the bands on the line-up were booked in for ridiculously short half hour sets: barely enough time for them to even warm up and guage how to approach their audience. There was a distinct "get em in, get em off" feel to this festival that I really didn't like. Was this really an event about music or was it an event about making money...?

We began our day out with Lily Allen on the Get Loaded Main Stage. Having seen Lily perform at several other events this summer this performance smacked of home crowd laziness. The hits were all there - Smile, LDN, Knock Em Out - but I have seen her perform far better even when pissed out of her head at Secret Garden Party the weekend before. Perhaps she is just beginning to tire of her material after gruelling months of promotion work but this felt like a set she had to get through rather than one she enjoyed.

We stayed to watch the ever-entertaining Cuban Brothers who were compering the Main Stage as well as performing four times that day. This was their only live set of the day debuting their spanking brand new 8-piece band, however even before the live show these boys were doing well, receiving high profile bookings from the likes of Elton John, Robbie Williams, Damien Hirst and Vernon Kaye & Tess Daly. Their set is as funky and funny as ever, their Latin beats and break dancing combine with Fast Show-esque humour to create a truly entertaining stage show.

At this stage we went for a wander around the site and were immediately accosted by The Launderettas and their punk rock pampering in honour of the festival's 30 Years of Punk celebration. In a gin-infused, polka-dotted whirl the ladies had us covered in luminous face paint, sprayed with yellow hair dye and had hearts painted on our faces in kohl pencil before sending us back off into the real world of the festival to find The Comedy Store performers on the Get Loaded Other Stage.

In a change to the advertised line-up, Des Clarke joined John Fothergill for this little comic interlude. Clearly playing to his audience, Des Clarke went in for plenty of drug-related jokes including one about how when his friend got caught doing drugs at school "he was given 100 lines... Talk about mixed messages!" John Fothergill went in for the more tried and tested differences between men and women gags ("According to one women's magazine 90% of women fake orgasm. What they don't tell you is 100% of men couldn't give a f*ck."), but in spite of the over-used nature of his material he was definately the funnier of the two and by the end of his set I was wishing he was on for longer.

Next we ran over to the Get Loaded Second Stage to catch what would have been my band of the day, Guillemots. Unfortunately for me as 65 Days of Static had cancelled earlier that day, Get Loaded had taken the ridiculous decision to pull all the bands on after them forward a set, meaning that 4 bands were on about an hour earlier than billed. They may well have been announcing the changes regularly in that tent (I wouldn't know, I wasn't in there much) but there were definately no signs up anywhere to indicate this ill-advised change in the running times. I have no idea who the organisers thought this plan would please, but it certainly wasn't me...not impressed. Guillamots were one of the main bands I had come to see that day, I was gutted to miss them and I met many others who felt the same.

It was at around this time that I tried to go to the toilet. I say "tried" as there were more people queueing to use the 20 or so portaloos in that particular block than I had seen in the Other Stage tent watching the comedy earlier. With 20,000 people onsite and a strict no pass outs policy in place, 3 blocks of 20 toilets was nowhere near enough and I spent some 30 minutes - an entire band's set by Get Loaded standards - queueing to use the loos. The cashpoint queue was also horrendous where it need not have been as there were many cashpoints within walking distance of the event, but as the festival had decided not to issue any passouts under any circumstances many people were left queueing for over an hour for the ATMs.

British Sea Power were the next band to catch my attention on the Get Loaded Second Stage. The Brighton-based quartet (who I knew little about before the event I hasten to add) seemed to fit neatly into the Art Rock pigeon hole. This quirky, nostalgic outfit, whose bass-driven melodies have a distinctly retrospective feel that harks back to the New Wave of The Psychedelic Furs and The Smiths, had the crowd in the palm of their hand as they powered through an intense set. They may not have been Guillemots, but they made me feel at least a little bit better about having missed them.

Back over at the Main Stage we caught a little of Graham Coxon's 35 minute set. His very British style of indie-punk seemed to be going down well with the Get Loaded crowd but leaves me cold every time, although it did at least remind me where the Arctic Monkeys nicked most of their stylings from.

Finally Babyshambles took to the Get Loaded Main Stage, complete with a backdrop flashing up tabloid headlines and a greeting of "Big up to The Priory!" from career-junkie Doherty. It is difficult to write objectively about a Babyshambles gig from a music angle because, unless you have lived in a cardboard box for the last couple of years and have managed to completely avoid the Doherty media circus, there is something rather compelling about watching this drug-addled alleged "genius" work a stage. He is certainly entertaining to watch, if only from the perspective of pure showmanship. The hits were duly rocked through including 'F*ck Forever' and 'Killamangiro' which caused the rather desperate looking girl fans at the front to scream even louder than they were already. Doherty's desperation for column inches was further proved when he pointlessly got Lily Allen onstage to "bring him some water" before he launched into a few bars of "Smile" as the photographers' flashbulbs went into overdrive. With Kate Moss absent from the proceedings, snaps of Allen and Doherty together must have been the next best thing for the army of dissapointed tabloid snappers in attendence.

Overall I found Get Loaded in the Park a dissapointing event. The line-up had looked so good, yet many good bands were wasted with dissapointingly short sets. Getting into the event was a slow process, getting out was a total no-go if you wanted to come back in again and the site was totally rammed with 20,000 people in attendence. The toilet facilities were among the worst I have seen anywhere on the festival circuit this summer and the whole event seemed to lack any kind of real soul. It could have been so good with a line-up as rich and varied as this one but it seems clear that the organisers were far more interested in making money than putting on a day of great music which is a great shame for all concerned.
review by: Lynsey Haire

Sunday 27th August 2006
Clapham Common, London, SW4 9DE, England MAP
last updated: Tue 9th May 2006

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