Hard Rock Calling 2013: Sunshine, plastic grass and no mud!

Saturday 29th June 2013

Hard Rock Calling; the sun shone brightly as we strolled down the wide paths of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park into the open space where the main stage lay in front of us. Crowds were already making themselves at home on the plastic grass, enjoying the sunshine and the catchy rock melodies of Lower than Atlantis. Across the bridge, and when I say bridge, we found the other two music venues crammed right next to each other fighting to be heard. U-turn back to the main stage and Kodaline, were winning over new fans, their mandolin led tune 'Love like this' was an instant hit and unexpected highlight of the festival.

As the day progressed, the crowds began to fill into the main stage where Miles Kane played an electric set, filled with wild solos and sing along moments, the momentum really began to pick up. Paul Weller played through all the classics to a crowd that loved it, ‘That’s entertainment’, ‘What you give is what you get’ and of course, everyone went wild singing ‘Town called Malice’.

Almost an hour later Kasabian were ready to start, the stage transformed from all black to brilliant white, cheers rose from the crowd they walked on stage for their debut at Hard Rock Calling. Tom Meighan screams ‘All humans on the earth, raise your hands to the f***ing hands to the sky!’ The beat drops, with a full LED screen behind them and a string quartet to help out, this it seems, was what we'd all been waiting for. Hit after hit from their 2004 album, heavy beats and rock anthems combined to make a great show, we paused for a quieter moment with 'Everybody's got to learn some time' A few tracks later, cue the unforgettable piano intro to Fatboy slim’s epic tune ‘Praise you like I should’ supported by the sustained and piercing notes of the trumpet, mashed up into L.S.F. It was truly epic. As crowd cheered for the encore the heavy drum and bass sounds of Switchblade Smiles began, but swathes of people reluctantly had to leave, it was a good gig, but not worth missing the last train home.

Sunday 30th June 2013

From early on the next afternoon there was a buzz in the air. The crowds which had been decent the day before, now swelled across the roads and pavements on the way to the park, and everywhere we looked were American flag bandana’s, and Bruce Springsteen t-shirts. If we hadn’t known any better we would have thought we were about to attend the Bruce Springsteen fan-club convention. We could have played Bruce Bingo with the huge variety of fan t-shirts we spotted. Walking to the main stage the soulful tones of Alabama Shakes greeted us, they were a perfect warm-up for the day, and a female vocalist was a welcome break to our ears form the men that dominated the line-up, the day before.

We really enjoyed Josh Doyle’s set in the Hard Rock Rising Tent, though it was a shame when his ballad, 'I figured the world out' was overpowered by the Pepsi Max stage only a stone’s throw away. As the Hard Rock Calling hot air balloon rose a few feet off the ground we chilled out in the Olympic garden, then slowly idled our way towards the main stage once again to watch legends of rock 'n' roll, The Black Crows. It was an hour of guitar solos, and old school rockers singing along to 'Hard to handle', but now everyone was ready for Bruce.

In fact everyone had been ready for Bruce all day.

As usual Bruce did not disappoint, the E-Street band were on top form, from 'Born in the USA' to 'Dancing in the Dark', where his mum joined to dance on stage and his little sister played guitar with him it was the family Springsteen show, pretty much all the essentials were covered. Encore after encore, the e-street band played relentlessly to a crowd that could not get enough until unexpectedly it seemed the band had enough, the show ended, half an hour before the program said. I wonder, did budget cuts mean that Bruce and his band also need to catch the last train home? Or was this just a statement about last year’s catastrophe, when the power was cut before the end of the show guest starring Paul McCartney. Either way, we all walked away happy and caught the last train home.

This years Hard Rock Calling Festival organisers made a bold move by moving the festival into the Olympic grounds, and in some ways it was a great venue, but we couldn’t help but feel the festival was dwarfed by the magnitude of the grounds, with only three venues, and little else to see, there simply wasn’t enough going on to fill out the huge space. On top of this, it seemed like all the attention was put on the main stage bookings and the two smaller stages, which in many festivals provide some of the most memorable gigs were relegated to the back fighting over each other to be heard. Regardless of that, the sun shone, there was some great acts, and absolutely no trace of mud, that's pretty good going for a festival in the UK.

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