Oxegen – But Not As We Know It

Bear looks at the evolution of Ireland's renowned festival

After a year off the circuit, Oxegen and MCD were probably hoping their absence would make the heart grow fonder. This was not to be the case. Their line-up received a luke-warm reception and that’s probably being generous (check it out here http://serenityb.com/festivals-2013/oxegen-2013-full-line-up-announced/). Social media buzzed with incredulity and anger as only social media can. But while fans seethe with anger, is it deserved?

The line-up is pretty weak compared to other years but maybe it’s not fair to make that comparison at all. To appreciate the Oxegen line-up, the festival needs to be redefined. Here’s what it isn’t…


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Before Oxegen there was Witness. Witness was one of the best festivals in Ireland during its four-year existence from 2000. The line-ups attracted some of the biggest bands and the last version of this festival in 2003 hosted Coldplay, Kings of Leon, David Grey, Underworld, Flaming Lips…the list could go on. Anyone born pre-90s remembers this and talks about it in hushed tones as it passes from legend to myth. Anything that followed was Witness’ commercialised bastard never to be the same, yet always compared to it. Perhaps it is time to stop banging this drum when we talk about Oxegen. The same should be true of Oxegen and Oxegen 2.0. They share a few things in common but on the whole they are different.


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Unfortunately in Ireland doesn’t have a big enough population to host a festival like Glastonbury. Glastonbury is a festival which means all things to all music lovers, successfully blending a variety of acts so broad they are only seen together on the shelf in a record store, or, for the digital age, iTunes. The magic and demand of Glastonbury means it can sell close to 150,000 tickets costing £205 GBP in under two hours, before the line-up is released. It is difficult to imagine any Irish festival being able to that, even if it could replicate the line-up. Oxegen tried to be the biggest and best akin to Glastonbury but real world realities and costs forced them reassess.


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When Oxegen was climbing its way to the top of the Irish festival food chain not many stood in its way. But as the market demand for such festivals grew, so too did the supply. This year its competing more than ever against Body and Soul, Longitude, Indiependence, Life Festival, Sea Sessions, Castlepalooza to name but a few, and that’s leaving out the old enemy in Stradbally. With all these festivals, some more niche than others, some more value than others, and some just better than others, Oxegen had to try and find its place.


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It’s hard to put titles on these things and it can also be quite condescending but here it goes: mainstream dance. Think Swedish House Mafia, Skrillex and the like and you are probably on the right path. Think young, just scraping 18. Think festival virgins and then you are in the right area. Some will groan with disapproval but to be fair, it is quite a shrewd business move by MCD. There isn’t always a place for this group at festivals and here is one that could cater exclusively to them.

So is this the greatest Oxegen line-up? No, probably not. But it is likely to be a good start for Oxegen 2.0 with headliners to grab the attention of their new target audience.

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