Glorious sunshine, great music and free sweets make this the perfect teen-friendly festival. Victoria Park, London, Sunday. August 2
underage Festival – Field Day’s younger sister – is a little more brash and a lot more ballsy… but she still has to be back home before nine. The only festival where a library card can count as adequate ID, this strictly 14-18-year-olds affair leaves parents safe in the knowledge that you’re not doing ‘anything they didn’t do as kids’.
What it might lack in debauchery, though, it more than makes up for in thrills. With doors opening at 11am, by 11.15 the festival is already packed with 10,000 youngsters fuelled on caffeine and free sweets. For the more music-savvy of those first on the scene, there’s a host of secret gigs on the MySpace bus from the likes of Mystery Jets and Lion Club: the first flash of a constant buzz that runs throughout the festival. Early birds Lo-Fi Culture Scene play the Topman stage to a crowd riddled with excitement and memories of their stirring set here last year. Singer Jacob Wheldon and co even throw in a cover of The Killers’ ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ for good measure.
Losing their Underage virginity this year are Hadouken! and these boys’n’gal know how to get the audience going. From first song ‘Get Smashed Gate Crash’ on there’s a bobbing sea of heads and hands, dutifully following James Smith’s command to “get this party started”. With the band’s new rave colours toned down in favour of sober black, the four new songs unveiled from their forthcoming second album sound accordingly darker and grimier while retaining their biting edge.
A flash of colour, in contrast, heralds Santigold and her extravagantly outfitted backing singers. Her set is driven by powerful vocals, a pinch of glamour and a whole lotta fun. She’s a perfectionist too, asking the sound technician to “turn it down a little, I can hear static”. From where we’re standing, though, it sounds a little like stateside-diva demands from the Brooklyn babe.
Youthful festival organiser Sam Kilcoyne must be pleased this year, as the festival is graced with glorious weather and not a raindrop in sight, much to the dismay of loyal (and soggy) Field Day followers, who were not so lucky the previous day. Indeed, the only real problem is the stage times. With Mystery Jets taking to the stage at 18.00, The Horrors at 18.10 and Little Boots at 18.15, the schedule’s a clash-disaster waiting to happen. Most fans find themselves watching merely 10 minutes of each set in a frustrating game of musical chairs. Those who opt to stick with Faris and his black-clad gang, though, witness a new look for Coffin Joe: highlighted hair and what appears to be fake tan (surely not!). Playing to a tent with the audience squeezed into every crack and gap, The Horrors don’t disappoint, performing the pick of ‘Primary Colours’ to an enraptured crowd. It gives even headline act Patrick Wolf a run for his hard-earned money in terms of rock’n’roll flamboyance.
Headliners and cheeky Leeds lads The Pigeon Detectives, meanwhile, receive a slightly more, er, interesting reception. “I’ll have a lemon,” singer Matt Bowman bravely demands of the audience as the stage is bombarded with fresh fruit… probably from leftover packed lunches. Surprisingly his request is quickly met with the selfsame yellow citrus hurtling towards his person, which he kicks straight back into the crowd (Panic At The Disco’s Brendon Urie take note: that’s how you deflect an oncoming object).
Once more, Underage proves it’s far more than just a festival training bra. At the tender age of three years old, the festival’s unique flair makes it stand its ground among longer-in-the-tooth events. Youth – definitely not wasted on the young.