What ever happened to the Indie lads? You know the ones: sitting up all night to get a ticket to Reading 2008, obsessing over small bands in gritty bars up North, debating the likelihood of an Oasis reunion. On the 5th of July, Hyde Park truly answered that question.
When The Libertines announced they would be reforming for a special gig at British Summer Time, the fallout was immense. It seemed as if the organizers had managed what no other could in the past few years: the quintessential Indie festival. The day itself did not disappoint.
Opening the main stage, Coventry based band The Enemy drew a thousands strong crowd – much to frontman Tom Clarke’s surprise. By 3pm the tone for the day had been officially set, with throngs of angry young men, girls on shoulders and flares lighting the air. The Enemy’s set itself was a roaring, unyielding ride through tunes such as We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, Away From Here and Saturday. By their exit, the crowd was thirsty for more.
Following sets from The Rifles, The View and NME darlings Wolf Alice drew huge excitement – often too huge for the festival to cope with. Indeed, the band stand which The Rifles were placed was swamped with fans, at times drowning out the sound of their brilliantly eclectic gig. Carl Barât’s sister Lucie faced similar problems earlier in the day, proving cool is genetic. Equally, The View’s secret acoustic set packed out The Whiskey Bar within minutes, leaving hundreds queuing to get a glimpse.
Taking this as a test of the festival’s preparedness, it was evident what a chaotic affair The Libertines would be. By their entrance, the crowd was being damaged by its own weight, with pile ups at the centre and crushes at the barrier. Organizers had failed to recognise the magnetic pull of Doherty and Barât.
The set itself was both helped and hindered by this failure. Midway through their second song, security cut short Boys in the Band in order for Pete to attempt to quell the oncoming riot. Teething problems aside however, the bands lyrical genius was often supported by a wild, unstoppable crowd. Girls in denim shorts climbed delay towers, boys in bucket hats lit smoke bombs, a cross-generation audience sung every word they could manage before another surge.
Highlights of the set included fan favourites Cant Stop Me Now, Up the Bracket and What Became of the Likely Lads, with Gary Powell’s superb drumming creating a pounding beat which echoed the to and fro of the crowd. Of course, none of this managed to sway John Hassall, who looked suavely nonplussed throughout.
And for the infamous Barât and Doherty? The boys seemed together, however many rumours of a money fuelled reunion have circulated. Not simply because of the almost forced hokey cokey at the end of the set, or Doherty’s ever innocent recital of Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘Suicide in The Trenches.’ Rather, their voices were beautiful on What Katie Did, they weaved deftly through Campaign of Hate and played together both for and against the crowd.
In all, The Libertines were pulsing through one of the gigs they will be defined by. From gritty homemade gigs at the Albion Rooms to videos created on Hare Lane in Bethnal Green, these boys have always been raw. Hyde Park allowed them to show off their true skills once again, with a crowd that emulated that feverish attitude for a good time. Hopefully when we see Doherty, Barât, Powell and Hassall again at Alexandra Palace, they’ll be in such a shape.
Sp, what became of the Indie lads? In all its haphazard glory, Hyde Park answered the question. The fans still exist, with their crooked teeth, razor sharp hairlines and joyful anger. They’re tucked away in Camden, drinking in Grimsby and dancing in Petts Wood – it just takes a few good bands to bring them all together again.