We crossed the pond to attend The 02 Wireless Festival on July 4, 2008 in London's Hyde Park. The event was a lesson in indulgence, boasting five stages of continuous music. Add in a dozen stages of karaoke, Guitar Hero pavilions and Rock Band game tents, and it added up to a sonic overload. To say it was aurally overwhelming is an understatement.
We saw bits of The Wombats, Siouxsie Sioux, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, and many others. And while tens of thousands of adoring fans sang along to Beck at the festival's main stage, a few hundred music faithful crowded into a small tent to see one of the most influential rock bands of all time, The New York Dolls.
The Dolls were way before my time, but they kicked off the punk movement and influenced bands ranging from The Clash, to Motley Crue, to Guns N' Roses, and The Smiths. It was worth the trip from North Carolina just to get a glimpse of these true true rock 'n roll pioneers.
Long before The Smiths, festival headliner Morrissey was such a fan of the Dolls that he was the President of their fan club. Morrissey was instrumental in reuniting the Dolls in 2004, and no doubt pulled some strings to get them at the 2008 02 Wireless Festival. Thank you, Moz.
I've only been to two Morrissey concerts and this was my second favorite, trailing last year's Morrissey concert at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC. It's hard to beat the intimacy of a small venue performance. But it was cool to see Moz treated like royalty in his homeland.
Pictured above: Morrissey wearing an American Idol t-shirt.
The O2 Festival Rocks...All in all, there was much to like about the 02 Wireless Festival. Foremost, Hyde Park is a great venue for such an event. It's beautiful, spacious, and easily accessible by public transportation. Coming in, we breezed right through the entrance line. Going out, we filed right into the awaiting train at the nearby Hyde Park Corner Underground stop.
The event was very lenient with bringing in your own food and beverage items. We packed a weekend's worth of food and drink and waltzed right in, saving us a fortune in expense. And if you wanted more, the sheer volume of food and beverage vendors offered a multitude of choices with no lines at all. There were plenty of places to find a seat on the grass, or you could easily snag a picnic table if desired. And not once did I have to wait even one second to use the restroom.
But Give Me Less Bands and Longer Set Lists.My only real gripe is that I don't get the five stages. I'm 100% into the idea of discovering new bands, but the logistics of navigating through the maze of crowds to the distant stages makes it impossible. Depending on where you stood, the three outdoor stages created a wall of sound that could snap someone on the edge of sanity. The two stages in tents imposed a limit to the actual amount of people who could see the bands. It was entirely possible to not get to see a band you paid big pounds to see.
The five stages are also a disservice to the bands. How is The National supposed to compete against Morrissey, The New York Dolls, and the other acts unfortunate enough to be scheduled at the same time? Instead of being exposed to thousands of new fans, the smaller stage bands end up playing for the same few hundred fans who would have seen them at the Pub down the street.
The set lists were also way too short. Give me fewer stages, more sprawling space, and longer set lists.
But hey, I'm not complaining. A sunny day spent with Morrissey in London is a good day indeed.