It's hard to take, but it's also inevitable. Shock, horror – it's raining at Oxegen. One wonders what has to be done to allow that not to happen. Soul selling? Soul searching? Soviet cloud-busting techniques? Encasing Naas and Punchestown in a giant Tupperware bubble? It's also slightly difficult for promoter MCD to insist that its festival is some sort of utopia when everyone's falling around in the gravelly mud, and wind causes the sound to bleed between stages and tents that are already too close together, with few extra shelters or home comforts to ease those wet and muddy limbs. Maybe the Sunday Tribune is getting old.
But Oxegen isn't about trimmings, it's about big names. That's where the money goes and that's what the kids come to see. And you can't really get much bigger than Jay-Z, Eminem, Muse, Kasabian, Arcade Fire, Dizzee Rascal, David Guetta and the Black Eyed Peas. Still, though, tickets were for sale up to and during the 85,000-capacity event. Falling a few thousand punters short doesn't stop Oxegen being the biggest game in town. The festival not selling out despite having one of the best line-ups of any festival anywhere this summer must come down to expense. Not enough school-goers and students, Oxegen's prime demographic, have several hundred euro at their disposal to splash out on a weekend this year. Along with that, an increasing number of Irish music fans are heading overseas for their annual festival fix, with Spain, Serbia and the UK reaping the benefit of their custom.
Even though it's evident everywhere that cash is not as flash as it was last summer or the summer before, plenty still try to make a fast buck. Dublin Bus was the prime offender, charging €25 for a return bus ticket to the festival site, significantly up on previous years, and refusing to sell single tickets down to Punchestown, even though upon leaving the site at night you could catch a bus back into the city centre for €10. When the Sunday Tribune enquired about this bizarre situation, we were informed that it was a commercial decision. "It's business," one Dublin Bus ticket seller said, before being told that if we didn't like it, we could get a taxi. Even in the VIP section, there were grumbles about prices, with a carton of virtually tasteless chicken noodles being flogged for €9.50.
Out in the main arena, the only noises being made were those of drunken delight, and apart from the relentless rain, there was plenty to be happy about. The performance of the day on Friday – and possibly of the weekend – was that of Jay-Z. The New York rapper brought his phenomenal catalogue of hip hop hits to the main stage before Arcade Fire on Friday night, with the biggest screams being reserved for his recent inescapable chart-topper 'Empire State of Mind', which has become a modern-day anthem for the Big Apple. But it wasn't all stateside antics as Beyoncé's beau also played to the crowd, rapping over a riff of U2's 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'.
Pop is the big draw at Oxegen, which has shifted from its rock beginnings, much as many young music fans have. Tinie Tempah, David Guetta, Florence + The Machine, La Roux and the Black Eyed Peas all drew massive crowds. Tonight, rapper Eminem will close the festival, back on top post-rehab.
So the big wheels keep spinning; the dance tent (or rather, warehouse), housing thousands of raving kids, keeps pumping; post-Oasis indie boys are fist-pumping at Kasabian; schoolfriends huddled giggling in tents crack open another can and roll another joint, and the rain keeps lashing. Oxegen, eh? Some things never change.