Mardi Gras : London Finsbury Park

a1, Steps, Hear'say, Human League and some boring indie types rock the Festival Formerly Known As Gay Pride...

Welcome to the festival formerly known as Gay Pride now curiously named after the French for ‘fat Tuesday’. You know the drill, Kylie, Pet Shop Boys, Gina G etc. But not this year. Those renowned beneficiaries of the pink-pound are conspicuously absent. For the first time, in addition to the pop PAs, Mardi Gras features, shock horror, [I]indie rock[/I]!

Maximum Roach have the misfortune of opening and so play to three men and a gay dog. The indie stage is, unfortunately, situated nearer to Wood Green than Finsbury Park and few punters manage the trek. Despite their name, Gay Dad fail to draw the crowds, possibly because they’re not actually gay, possibly because they’re not actually any good.

Meanwhile, on the main stage, The Magnets’ dreadful Jayne McDonald-endorsed a cappella inspires a journalist from The Telegraph to call them “Flying Pickets on acid”. Quickly followed by the dreadful Jayne McDonald herself. It’s a long fifteen minutes. Supersister are all sporting ‘We love Brian!’ t-shirts in gratitude for the Big Brother star’s regular performances of their hit ‘Coffee’. Matt Lucas (AKA George Dawes) introduces himself to a wobbly Penny: “People keep mistaking me for Bubble!” he protests.

The perpetually cool Phil Oakey introduces a brand new Human League single: “If you all buy this it’ll get in the charts”. It’s called ‘All I Ever Wanted’ and it probably won’t. Also in need of a boost in sales are the perplexing Sugababes who, despite adoration from all corners and a rapturous reception at Mardi Gras, are selling even less than Mel B. If the tabloids are to be believed Melanie is now ‘unpopular Spice’ but her performance of ‘Feels So Good’ brings the loudest cheer of the day (this may have been helped by the black PVC catsuit with diamante nipples!)

Atomic Kitten are forced to cut short their set due to various illnesses (cat flu?) Noel Hear’say looks especially happy to be here. The Popstars trot out the number ones, murder ‘Boogie Wonderland’, and leave. Steps premiere their new single, a cover of ‘Chain Reaction’ (do the Bee Gees have a Mafia wing?) H looks especially happy to be here. Ken Livingstone appears to announce free tram travel for gays and lesbians or something. He’s great.

Five have been replaced by Belinda Carlisle. Is that a fair swap? How about Tasmin Archer AND Beverly Craven for one a1? Oh well… worth a try. a1 are probably as surprised as anyone to find themselves headlining the biggest lesbian and gay festival in Europe. They look happy to be here.

The finale is a version of their version of ‘Take On Me’ accompanied by gay choir The Pinksingers, just in case you’d forgotten what all this was about and mistakenly believed it was just a cynical attempt to boost the fanbase of a few struggling bands.

Timothy Mark