‘What a day for friendship’ exclaimed Joel Amey of Wolf Alice, during their set at BST Hyde Park – The Libertines. And it certainly was. Groups passed out after too much sun and beer, circles of friends camped out in front of the main stage and youngsters on the shoulders of strangers anxiously waited for one of the most exciting band reunions in several years: the return of The Libertines.
Hyde Park itself had a large section barricaded off from the rest of the park for the several all-day events that were to be hosted here. Full of overpriced food stalls and fairground rides, the festival itself was well equipped despite the terrible layout design and poor signage. It took quite a while to locate the smaller stages and with two of them inside tents/theatres, this proved a major problem later on in the day when fans could not get into see the smaller acts.
Darlia were the first act playing in the Barclay Card Theatre. Loud, furious and punchy, their set was everything you can expect from these lads that have made quite a name for themselves over the past year. Having just returned from appearing at Glastonbury for the very first time, you could tell these guys, just into their twenties, were clearly having the time of their lives playing the festival circuit. Their feverish energy was reciprocated by the crowd which went completely wild in such a small venue for the singles ‘Candyman’, ‘Dear Diary’ and closer ‘Queen of Hearts’.
This was followed by an impressive set by North Londeners, Wolf Alice. Unfortunately a good few hundred members of the crowd were not able to get into the theatre to see the band due to capacity issues.
Next on the stage were indie dance band Reverend & The Makers. Once again the queues outside were massive but this time, frustration set in and fans set about pushing and queue jumping, desperate not to miss out. The theatre itself had a capacity of around 300-400, not nearly big enough considering the crowd for the festival was 60,000 strong. Nevertheless the crowd inside the theatre were treated to some fantastic sets and remained full of energy despite the increasing temperatures.
Swim Deep and Blur’s Graham Coxon were also supposed to appear in the Barclay Card Theatre, having due to a technical fault, Swim Deep’s set was relocated to another stage and Graham Coxon was cut completely, causing yet more frustration in the crowd.
The Summer Stage caused another point of contention. Barely as big as a bandstand in your local park, it hosted popular acts such as The Twang and The View. The crowd could barely get close to the stage as it was, but being slap-bang in the middle of the food court, it was impossible to navigate around this crowd for the majority of the day.
Over in the pitch-black Village Hall Stage, which shared an entrance with a makeshift pub making it almost impossible to find, several less well known acts appeared later on in the day. The closing act on the stage was Manchester-based 3 piece, I Am Kloot. They played a very raw set of some of their older songs which were well appreciated by the fans in the crowd. The set didn’t appear very well rehearsed but with over 14 years together as a band, this made no difference to the quality of the set that was delivered. It was also an iconic moment for the band, who usually play sat down, and bassist Peter Jobson stood up for the whole set. As frontman John Bramwell stated ‘After 14 years together, we’ve finally ascended, quite literally’.
Over on the main stage, acts such as The Enemy and Maximo Park preceeded the main event. Both these played great sets with crowd favourites and were great at interacting with the audience. It was apparent just how popular this festival was at the main stage with The Enemy’s frontman Tom Clarke stating ‘There are several festivals on this weekend, each with 30-odd thousand. There are 60,000 of you here.’
Other than the reunion of The Libertines, the highlight of the day was seeing The Pogues. As most of the crowd were in their early to mid twenties, the majority probably had no idea what to expect from the band. Everything I’d ever heard about The Pogues was summed up in one moment when frontman Shane MacGowan shuffled on the stage, evidently high, drunk and with a cigarette hanging out his mouth. The set had to halted at one stage for a fan to receive medical attention but this was handled very well by the band stating ‘We’ll be back soon if it’s suitable to do so’. Their set was incredible despite MacGowan slurring his way through most of the songs and reading the lyrics off an autocue and the crowd loved every minute, skipping and country dancing to the celtic rock-style songs.
At 8:45pm, 60,000 drunk and tired fans gathered at the main stage impatiently waiting for the moment that would see one of Britain’s most famous indie bands play together in almost 10 years. Barat was dressed in The Libertine’s signature red military jacket and he and Doherty had matching red, white and blue tape on their left legs. The band opened with the track ‘Veritgo’ and were barely through ‘Boys In The Band’ when the song was suddenly halted due to concerns with the safety of the crowd. It appears there was massive surges in an effort to get close to the stage, leaving many fans crushed, knocked to the floor and desparate to get out of the frenzy. Doherty attempts to get the crowd to move back were largely ignored and the track was once again cut short. Drummer Gary Powell came down to the front of the stage to try and move the crowd before leading into the chant of The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’, which was followed by Pete Doherty playing The Foundations own ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’.
Things finally settled down a bit, with the TV screens coming back on and the set continuing with ‘The Delaney’, ‘Campaign of Hate’ and ‘Time For Heroes’, the latter being dedicated to the late Gerry Conlon. Later on The Libertines were halted once again as fans began to climb the delay towers in order to get a better view of the stage. With just Barat and Doherty on stage playing a stripped down version of ‘France’, Barat told the fans if they did not get down then ‘Pigman [Doherty] can’t play his solo’. Due to the stoppage the song was played completely.
The day was brought to a riotous end with ‘I Get Along’ before Barat and Doherty embraced each other with such a force they brought each other to the floor. As the four band member lined up to salute their fans, Doherty burst into a rendition of the Hokey Cokey. This was followed by an odd but touching moment as Doherty and Barat paid their respects to the armed forces, reciting Siegfried Sassoon’s 1918 poem ‘Suicide In The Trenches’.
It was an oddly fitting end to the day which was as much a nostalgic event as it was a loving reunion between Barat and Doherty, and all the fans. Despite all the technical faults and capacity issues, the fantastic sets put on by the bands certainly made it a great success. Let’s just hope the organisers learn from the crushed crowd of 2014, which could have ended up causing some serious injuries.