The start of July sees the UK fully in the swing of festival season, and what a glorious one it has been thus far. Having just about recovered from the incredibly surprising Glastonbury heat-wave – we ventured to Hyde Park for our second festival hit in as many weeks. The iconic Green Day headlined a day characterised by scorching sun and soundtracked by the thrashing of guitars.
::: The Damned :::
Heavy-hitting rock music is the order of the day, and opening proceedings were riotous rockers – The Damned. As the varied crowd of punks, rockers and more regular looking folk filtered into Hyde Park, frontman Dave Vanian and his boys instantly cemented their status as godfathers of shred. Having been going since the 70s, it’s clear to see how The Damned’s style played a part in influencing what would have been a young and yet to form Green Day.
The Damned’s recent 40th anniversary tour and stellar performance in a leafy London park left the crowd in no doubt that you’re never too old to rock out. Sadly, a balmy Saturday afternoon and chilled out atmosphere was slightly detrimental to the performance as people were simply too relaxed to mosh – a theme echoed throughout many bands today.
::: Hey Charlie :::
There are gems to be found when one wanders away from the lure of the main stage. The Summer Stage listings were timed well to coincide with gaps in main act programming, and it is during one such gap that I stumbled upon the glorious noise from Hey Charlie.
A trio of terrifyingly brilliant proportions, Hey Charlie strutted around as though Green Day were merely an afterthought for people to wind down with after this raucous set. “Girls can be pretty but don’t fuck with them or they’ll fuck with you” was a personal lyrical highlight, and a sentiment that has stayed with me in the 24 hours+ since.
There aren’t many female fronted bands on today’s line up; which in itself is a crying shame, but Hey Charlie really put their stamp all over the assembled crowd. Again, this is a band who would thrive inside a venue or tent; but the outside ambience prevents the audience from truly getting into Hey Charlie’s punk with a passion.
::: The Hives :::
Even if you don’t know The Hives; trust me, you know The Hives. Their songs are played to death on car adverts and just about anything where rousing guitars are needed. But as a live band, these sassy Swedes are so much bigger than that. Frontman Pelle Almqvist cavorts about the stage in his mismatched suit, with a youthful energy unbridled by the hassles of life.
The hits come hot and heavy with Hate To Say I Told You So and Tick Tick Boom sending the building crowd in a frenzy. The onstage banter is a finely tuned machine, clearly well rehearsed but with a tongue in cheek heart. Moshpits are started and those in the main area begin leaping over barriers to grab themselves a piece of the action.
The Hives may not have released an album since 2012’s Lex Hives, but their passion in what they do makes even the lesser known tracks anthems for a day. They perfectly raise the bar and anticipation for the quality of the days two remaining acts, amping up the crowd without tiring them out before the headliners take to the stage.
::: Gogol Bordello :::
Gogol Bordello are an anarchic beast if ever there was one, frontman Eugene Hutz pounds the stage with no real plan it seems. Despite their more Balearic feel, the band were formed on the Lower East Side of Manhattan which makes their sound a little confusing for those first experiencing it for the first time.
There is such an abundance of energy on display, with each member of the seven-piece adding their own unique flare to proceedings. But despite the pizazz and the intrigue, I didn’t feel the connection to the crowd that previous bands have exercised.
Among a sea of confused faces were those having the time of their life, this mix of total disbelief and total adoration are much the norm at festivals such as these, where punters will arrive based purely on the lure of headliners and are sceptical of any who dare deviate from the desired sound and image.
::: Rancid :::
They may be Rancid by name, but I for one was pleasantly surprised by how accessible these rebellious Californians were. Despite the facial tattoos and snarling grins, the music wasn’t too heavy or dark for people to get involved with. Mohawked punks mixed with floppy-haired teens in moshpits and circle pits all encouraged by frontmen Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman.
For the life of me I couldn’t figure out a word being sung, but it doesn’t matter because it all felt good on the ears! It felt like a throwback to days spent playing Tony Hawk skateboarding games on my mates Playstation One, when that was how grunge infiltrated living rooms and bedrooms this side of the Atlantic.
Rancid sparked another epidemic of people leaping fences from general admission into the more exclusive Golden Circle area. Security tried in vain to wrestle escapees before they could lose themselves in the moshpits – but this is punk rock and it was never something the authoritarians could successfully hold back.
::: Green Day :::
This is it. The main event. The band some here have been waiting weeks, months and years to see return to the UK festival circuit. It is Green Day time. But first – it was time for a singsong. Not just any song though, the timeless Bohemian Rhapsody blared across Hyde Park inciting the largest singalong seen so far today.
With such a decade defining back catalogue, the pressure was really on for Green Day to deliver the goods. Now with all three members above the age of 50, I rightly had doubts about their capability to provide a high-octane set. Luckily – these doubts were so unfounded, I can’t believe I dared have them in the first place.
Billie-Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Durnt pounded their stage like gods of rock, strutting in front of their adoring fans to hits such as Holiday and Basketcase. By mixing up the decades within their set-list, Green Day maintained the fixed appreciation of the entire audience. Cuts from Dookie, American Idiot and their latest; Revolution Radio, were all out in force.
It wouldn’t be a gig these days without a dig at the current American administration, and the crowd bellowed an anti-Trump chant with incredible gusto. Never one to shy away from being outspoken, Armstrong also took time to encourage investment into the young and the arts. As a standalone statement this would have seemed very contrived, but the band invited up a plethora of female crowd members to sing, strum and strut their way over some of the most well-known fan favourites.
As the back-drops behind Green Day dropped to reveal iconic album artwork from the days of yore, fans could barely contain themselves through the more sombre moments. The forever moving Time Of Your Life saw a solo Billie-Joe strum a single acoustic guitar as couples swayed together, friends huddled together and strangers feel connected. Green Day are first and foremost one of the world’s most iconic punk bands, but their ballads are gut wrenchingly emotional even after all this time.
With Green Day branded confetti falling from the sky, the evening drew to a sombre close. One man and his acoustic guitar might not have been the big finish Green Day are capable of but ;all throughout, this gig was never going to be a simple walk in the park. It felt like a celebration for the weird kids, by the weird kids. The acceptance and tolerance felt throughout Hyde Park today will keep the hearts of those in attendance warm for years to come.