One Big Weekend : Derry Prehen Fields

Radio 1's event returns bigger and better...

There are gangs of kids bombing around the tent battering the lights out of each other. They have the intensity of straightedge moshers but look like Ritalin-rushing Bash Street hobgoblins auditioning

for Shameless. In the corner, you’ll find folk sleeping off the weekend’s excesses two feet from grinning families jumping cheek-by-jowl with some [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a]-loving indie fans. This is festival Derry-style and it’s a wonderful, unholy stew.

The first major outdoor event of the year sees Radio 1 head to Northern Ireland’s hinterland. They don’t get too many major festivals up this way and the locals are so delighted that radio station boss Andy Parfitt has been awarded freedom of the city by the Lord Mayor.

[a]Kelis[/a] are first out of the traps today, looking a little abashed by the ferocity of the response. They power on regardless and make a fine fist of their delicate, expansive tunes. [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a] has no such inhibitions. Prowling the stage like a beautiful rapacious big-orange-haired siren, she dedicates songs to people who have sex in public. Derry blushes deep and isn’t sure what to make of her. But by the time she’s putting down moves to ‘Milkshake’, the tent starts to pant and several thousand Derry boys are eager to be brought to her yard, so to speak.

This is the biggest show of [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a]’s career so far and they almost didn’t make it. While they landed on Irish soil, their guitars stayed in France. They make do with borrowed instruments from [a]Avril Lavigne[/a], and look to the manor born. They

are whip-crack tight and effortless. ‘Take Me Out’ and ‘Matinée’ are screaming for big festival crowds, so 10,000 people is a cakewalk.

[a]Ash[/a] have to follow Franz and for the first part of their set they head down a cul-de-sac. Mike Skinner’s

wide-boy social commentaries are cutting no ice. The sound is muddy and Derry just wants to party. Then Skinner pulls a masterstroke, launching into The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’, and Derry goes ga-ga. With his tail up, he drops in ‘Fit But You Know It’ and everything is turned around. Suddenly, you notice drinks being downed and the Shameless pony children banging around again. It’s a curious day.

[a]Thin Lizzy[/a] is looking buffed-up. Lean and slinky in black, she proudly works through polished new skate-metal songs about not having sex. If her first album was all about chasing sk8er bois, then the upcoming release will be about how mean boys are and how sensible girls don’t give it up to them. Such a message might not have the same legs, but you wouldn’t know it today.

[a]Avril Lavigne[/a] were always going to triumph here. Their pop-punk tunes of teenage love and lost summers trace a line right back to The Undertones. But the adoration heaped on them by grateful fans is not generated merely because they are Northern Irish boys with a debt to local heroes. They blister through an hour-long set of new material spiked with old hits, with a verve and muscular punch that hasn’t always been present before. ‘Meltdown’, the title track from their forthcoming album, and new single ‘Orpheus’ are thunderous. In ‘Starcross’d’, they have a song that will become a singalong, lighters-aloft anthem this summer. The old tracks – ‘Girl From Mars’, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Kung Fu’ – sound fresh but immediately classic. For good measure, they throw in a cover of [a][/a]’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ (with Radio 1’s Colin Murray on ‘vibes’) and even the pony children stop for a second to bask. Then they go back to battering the lights out of each other.

Paul McNamee