“ Indie, Punk and Rock Alternative summer music festival. „
If you have never seen Madness live, you are missing out on one of the best live acts around. I saw them at Gulifest a few years ago and after the show had finished I wanted to do it all over again. The atmosphere was amazing and the interaction with the crowd entertaining and often funny, not to mention the music. Every song strong and clear as a bell, even from the back. After seeing them once I promised myself I'd go and see them again. So when I heard they were bringing back Madstock, a Madness festival, with of course the boys themselves headlining, I made sure I got a ticket.
Tickets for the event cost £35 for a standard ticket and £45 for a VIP ticket, it wasn't really clear what this extra £10 bought you so we got the cheaper tickets. When we got there, we realised there was a section at the front of the crowd for people with these higher priced tickets. With a few difficulties in with the masses as I will get to later on, it might have been worth the extra money.
Madstock this year was held in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London on 17th July. It's not the first Madstock, but the first held in this venue, in previous years it's been held at Finsbury Park, but this year it was like doing a gig at home for the boys, who come from this area.
Nice for them, no so nice for the people commuting into London and trying to get to this somewhat awkward location. A train to Waterloo to start the journey as always, a tube to Statford and a long tedious bus ride later we found the park. The publicity for the events state that it's a 10 minute walk from Statford or Mile End stations, I'd say it's a little more and that Friday afternoon the streets were super busy so a bus seemed the best option. The traffic was terrible and it was only about ½ hour into this bus ride I realised why we were stopping at every stop. A kid in a pushchair was just at the right height from the disabled stop button and was pressing it constantly! Still after a few long hours commuting we arrived. Then the heavens opened.
I guess it's traditional for rain at a festival and we got soaked! Still, luckily it didn't last and dried up for Madness at the end of the day. The festival has 3 stages with a good selection of knowns and unknowns. Line up for 2009 looked like this -
Wall Street Riots
Second Stage -
Scarlett & Viva
Main Stage -
Man Like Me
The festival was originally due at start at 4pm, but a memo went round to ticket holders a few days before stating that a new time of 2pm was scheduled to start. No where in this notice did it state that acts would be on stage at two, or that is was just the grounds that were opening earlier, and no where on the net could I find a complete line up prior to the day. All they had announced were the top 5 or 6 acts. So we went a little in the dark as to how big this festival was going to be and decided to keep to the plans to get there for 4- ish. Little did we know how long our journey would take and we ended up getting there at gone five and just missed Hayseed Dixie, who were on my must see list. A shame, though I'm sure I'll get a chance to see them again, they seem to play every festival going!
We arrived for Gregory Issacs in the rain, somehow reggae just isn't the same without the sun shining and unfortunately not many people were braving the rain for him and there were more people in the by that time steaming beer tent than at the stage.
Victoria Park, or at least the part marked out for the festival is long and skinny, we entered at the end where the second stage was located and the third and main stages were quite a long muddy walk to the other side. On this muddy walk we could have eaten about 100 times! As with a lot of festivals, food stalls were everywhere. It's really difficult to know what to go for at these places though, although a lot of it looks tempting when you're hungry, you know when go are going to get is going to be very disappointing and highly overpriced. Amongst the delights on offer were jerk chicken, curry, burgers, sushi, tacos, hot dogs, pancakes, noodles and some things, well I'm not even sure what they were. I was cold and went to a chocolate themed van and got a hot chocolate which was also cold and had some paper floating in it. All for £3!! My other half had some dubious looking curry wrap, rather him than me.
Aswell as filling your stomach, other attractions included fairground rides such as the waltzer and dodgems, but they were all very soggy by the time we got there! It surprised me but there was very little in the way of stalls selling stuff, just the official merchandise stall where you could pick up a reasonable selection of Madstock merchandise, but nothing under a note. The customary souvenier T shirt would cost you £20, though there are always some shady characters around to offer you them for £5 or £10.
Also on the way to the main stage was the lowlight on any festival, the loos. Why on earth they didn't have separate portaloos for ladies and men I don't know but this was a free for all, and not a pretty one. No offence gentlemen, but at the best of times you get some that just can't aim right but add rain mud and booze and most loo seats were practically a swimming pool. Doesn't bother you, but us women have to sit on that, I'm not saying that some of the mess couldn't have been made by women, but most of it would have been physically impossible for a woman it achieve, so Madstock organisers, if you're reading for next year, can we have male and female loos, please?!
After the torment of taking a wee, the sun started going down and the big acts got on stage. The atmosphere was incredible. The stormy sky went a beautiful purplely colour and the rain stopped, everyone was making their way to the stages in anticipation of the act whom everyone had come here to see. Due to my allergy to anything Abba, we avoiding Bjorn Again. (Just hearing their songs makes me scream and find anything that's nearby and stuff it into my ears to make the dreadful sound stop). The only thing worse than Abba is an Abba tribute. Instead we headed to the main stage to see the Pogues.
It is entertaining to see a drunk man struggle thorough his set, and Shane McGowan was on top slurring form, though after a while the novelty factor seems to wear off. Luckily, they were only on for an hour and the crowd were really getting into Irish dancing to 10 songs that sounded the same. I've seen the Pogues live before, and even if it isn't your sort of music (as it isn't really mine), they are worth seeing. It's amazing just how much of at atmosphere they can create, which what is really a truly dreadful act. I thoroughly enjoyed it, thought I don't know why!!
As it stated to get dark, and we'd been pushed back about five rows (probably purposefully) with all the Irish jigging, Suggs and the boys came on and opened with One Step Beyond, a song guaranteed to start off the nutty dancing with a bang. It did and the crowd went crazy, some a little too crazy. The somewhat selfish 6' 3" bloke (and this was width ways and height) had clearly had far too much cider and crashed into me about 20 times a minute. This sort of thing, unfortunately could be said for a lot of the crowd, whilst I'm all up for a drink and a good time, clearly a lot of them had got there at 2, and had been knocking it back since then. In addition to them I had a woman behind me who seemed to have a bit of a crush on Suggs, for every time his face appeared on the big screen she'd let out a sigh or a "aw.. look at him". For god sake he's a grown man not a puppy.
Luckily Madness were on top form and loud enough for me to be able to block out the idiots for most of the show. They performed all the hits to perfection, and many songs from their fantastic new album, The Liberty of Norton Folgate. (Please see separate review - sorry I'm shameless) I was surprised at the ones from this record they did choose however, I felt the opening track 'We are London' would have be perfect for the occasion, but apparently not. It was strange, there were a lot of die hard fans there, as you would imagine but people who knew all the words to the newer tracks were thin on the ground. I would have thought all these super fans would have rushed out to buy their new material. As a result the new tracks did not go down as well which is a real shame, because in my opinion it's the best stuff they've done.
The encore started with a little speech from the band, which I did not hear a word of, as the pi**heads next to me, where so into chanting for them to come back on, they failed to notice when they did. Me shouting at them to shut up, seemed only to make them shout louder. Luckily a blast of Madness' theme once again drowned them out and it did make me snigger to see a few of them fall in the mud on the way out.
All in all, for all the difficulties in getting there, scary food, bad weather and drunken idiots, it was a great night and yeah I wouldn't mind seeing them again next year. Madness are a band who I think will be in demand for a long time to come.