Arts and Popular Culture

From winklepickers to wannabe Weller’s: Noel Gallagher @ Lytham Festival

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Cards on the table. I cannot abide festivals, festival-speak, or smug festival groupies who never stop talking about who they saw at Glastonbury last year. Despite the offer of a free-ticket and guarantee of being in my own bed at the end of the night, it took a great deal of persuasion for me to agree to go the opening day of this year’s Lytham Festival in Lancashire, to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

After spending what seemed like forever trying to circumvent road closures and clueless stewards, we parked-up, and went on a tour of the various burger vans, trying to find something for less than £10. I hungrily tucked into a double bacon burger, with a generous helping of stilton; complete with stale bread and watered down tomato sauce.

The bouquet of my ridiculously overpriced burger was quickly usurped by the unmistakable aroma of money, tweed blazers, and Nubuck leather winklepickers. The place was stuffed with wall-to-wall posh-folk. They even had a VIP stand – called the ‘Champagne Terrace’ –  that was almost as big as the main stage itself. The entrance was guarded by a team of burly G4S staff, scrutinizing the ticket of every Fifi and Tarquin that cantered into the enclosure.

Lytham is a relatively affluent middle class town, so I should have realised that the festival goers would have reflected that demographic. I was decidedly underdressed, in my shorts and ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt, and dirty trainers.

Before the first act took to the stage, the growing audience were treated – and I use the term loosely – to a DJ set from former member of the Inspiral Carpets, Clint Boon. The boorish Boon interrupted each track with shouts of ‘Boon Army’ which received a lukewarm reaction from the crowd, at best.

As we moved away from the exclusive Champagne Terrace, the look of the crowd changed. Gone were the Armani jeans, couples dressed for a day at the races, wellington boots that cost a week’s wages, and hipsters laid on Burberry picnic blankets, quaffing champagne from cans.

They were replaced by packs of middle-aged men, who, despite the warm weather, all seemed to be wearing skin-tight blue cagoules, fastened up to their chins, topped off with a Paul Weller haircut (circa 1995) and pristine Adidas Gazelles. Hundreds of them bobbed through the crowd in bow-legged unison, as if taking part in a group skit of the mid-1990’s Liam Gallagher.

The first act proper was Reverend and The Makers. Not my favourite band by any stretch – but live, they were a different proposition. They had a real swagger and a funky groove that underpinned each track of their short, but memorable set. They should have been given a bigger slot – the crowd loved them.

Next up was an act that were totally forgettable. In fact, I cannot remember their name. I took the opportunity to queue for the toilet and to bulk-buy overpriced, warm bottles of lager.

As Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds strode onto stage the crowd erupted. Bottles, smoke bombs and trays of chips flew through the dusky sea-front sky.

Their set got off to a rousing start with three High Flying Birds‘ tracks: Everybody’s on the run, Lock all the doors, and Heat of the moment. Then came what the majority of the audience were there for – the obligatory Oasis sing-a-long session.

For the rest of the evening, Gallagher switched between hits from his two bands, smattered with the odd bit of banter with the crowd, and his ridiculing of the people on the Champagne Terrace.

The night closed with a storming version of Don’t look back in anger to which everyone on Lytham Green sang along from start to its glorious finish.

I was a huge Oasis fan for a couple of years when they first burst onto the stagnant scene in 1994. I was 16 and they were a revelation. Two albums later and I had lost interest and moved on. The night was a pleasant trip down memory lane.

Despite being a bit of a knob, Noel Gallagher is a genuine legend of British music, whose presence and performance will go some way to putting the Lytham Festival ‘on the map.’ Now Lytham just needs its Fifis and Tarquins to kindly piss off, and take their pristine winklepickers with them…

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