Friday, 20 July 2012

Kick It Out Of The Park

Despite the curfew catastrophe I thoroughly enjoyed both Springsteen and Paul Simon's epic sets in Hyde Park last weekend.

However, the general disquiet about the quietness suggests that it may be time to stop concerts in the area as they are not only annoying the locals but those attending the concerts.

I attended the first Hard Rock Calling weekend in 2006 to see England go out of the World Cup on penalties to Portugal (well I read the whole of 'Vernon God Little' instead) and Roger Waters perform 'Dark Side Of The Moon' followed by The Who on the Sunday. The thing that most impressed me was the sound. Used to underpowered outside PA's the clear vocals and strong bass of the HPC weekend was a refreshing change. Its meant that I've returned to the weekends there again over the past few years.

However, this year, like the weather, it was a depressing and frustrating experience for many. I must say that for me I was close up to the PA on both nights and for Paul Simon in particular thought the sound was perhaps a little quiet but immaculate with all those players on stage. For Springsteen that was partly true but for at least the last 30 mins of the set the sound was gradually being turned down. It wasn't my imagination, I have it on tape, the sound got thinner and more tinny as the "encore" section progressed. The curfew etc has been discussed to death but even before the power was cut there was a definite fade out.

At 10:15 on a Saturday night in, I would say, the greatest capital city in the world.

This, despite all the conspiracy theories and finger pointing, was due to the licence given by Westminster Council and agreed to by the organizers - no music after 10:30 and it was 10:40. They would have got fined and possibly risked not getting a licence for gigs next year. With the amount of concerts in Hyde Park already reduced for next year the competition for places will be harder than ever. So as a musical decision it was appalling but as a business one, understandable.

The Royal Parks Department needs the concerts there to raise revenue to maintain the fine green area of Central London. the locals hate the noise and disturbance to their lives that the concerts bring. Yes, they are probably rich and have a country cottage they could slope off to. Yes it was Saturday night, they are killjoys, its rock n roll, man etc. Yet the Council are no doubt reflecting the interest of their constituents. The lack of concerts in Hyde Park may result in higher council tax bills for the residents - most may see that as fair exchange.

But turning down the sound does not serve the musicians, audience and music.

So I would suggest it would be better for all concerned if this year would be the last year that concerts were held in Hyde Park. I say that with a heavy heart as I enjoy attending gigs there. I think they are well run, well catered for and a cut above your average outdoor gig. They are relatively easy to get to and from (although Saturday night's post gig organization was an omnishambles) and the crowds often good-natured.

The question is where else to hold outdoor gigs in London where you can have a a large stage, decent sound and travel links?

Perhaps some of the Olympic venues can be utilised rather than be mothballed. Perhaps keen cyclists Kraftwerk can have a residency at the velodrome. Victoria Park has held gigs in the past perhaps the locals not being so well healed may prevent similar problems over noise levels with the council. Is the location of Hard Rock Calling simply because it is next to their flagship London restaurant?

I shall be back in Hyde Park on 12th August to see Blur \ New Order \ The Specials hold their "Thank Fuck Its Over" party as the Olympics fades into a future of Londoners paying for the bloody thing for decades to come. I just hope that the doomy bass of 'Ghost Town', the electronic pulse of 'Blue Monday'  and the crunchy fuzz of 'Song 2' is more "whoo-hoo!!!" than "what? eh? speak up!"

Its better to burn out than to fade away.....


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