It’s no secret I’m a massive Queen of The Stone Age fan: I’ve been following Josh Homme’s music since his ‘Stoner’ or ‘Desert Rock’ Kyuss band days, and I’ve seen them live plenty of times over the years.
Back when I was a music journalist I interviewed Josh and Nick Oliveri backstage at Reading on two consecutive years of the Festival, as well as at was once London’s Astoria (now demolished to make way for Tottenham Court Road’s Crossrail station), and somewhere else…maybe The Forum in Kentish Town? Can’t quite remember (Oh, heady days)!
Needless to say, since then we’ve witnessed various QOSTA line-up changes, enjoyed Homme’s additional musical projects such as Them Crooked Vultures and Eagles of Death Metal, as well as his various collaborations (when he finds the time to sleep I have no idea!). Amongst other appearances I’ve also seen QOTSA live at the Brighton Dome and at Glastonbury – prestigious concert hall, grotty venue or muddy festival, I’ve seen them play them all.
I know it’s bonkers as the band’s success has absolutely nothing to do with me at all, but notwithstanding Dave Grohl’s history in Nirvana, just like The Foo Fighters I feel a kind of pride to have watched both them and QOSTA grow through the ranks, becoming increasingly successful as their hard work and dedication has paid off. And they have all totally worked their collective arses off – and still do. Inspiration to us all!
It’s kind of incredible how big both bands have become, but also no surprise at all since they deserve all every accolade they receive: they’ve really earned their places in the annals of rock history (and yes, it was tempting to miss out the ‘n’ just now, but the copywriter in me couldn’t quite bring myself to skip it!).
So, QOSTA being my favourite contemporary band and still having friends from my days in the music industry, I managed to secure two guest tickets to see them and Iggy Pop at Festival Republic’s big one day event at Finsbury Park in North London – right near where I grew up and went to primary school! Always good to be back in the ‘hood so to speak, though it had been a rather less salubrious area when I was a kid – perhaps my family moving cities when I turned eleven may have had something to do with its evident improvement, haha!
It being my birthday weekend, my husband very sweetly bit the bullet and drove up to Finsbury Park with my Shoprider Deluxe mobility scooter in the boot (that’s ‘trunk’ to you Americans), and after a hellish drive up from the south coast right through the Big Smoke to North London, we parked up and arrived at the venue frazzled and more than a little tetchy. Unfortunately, due to the traffic we’d missed Run The Jewels (though have thankfully seen them loads anyway); The Hives (ditto); Brody Dalle AKA Mrs Homme (love, love, LOVED The Distillers – hadn’t seen her peform in years); Miles Kane and the brilliant Deap Vally. Argh!
Thankfully, the Festival Republic crew at the Disabled Access gate were thoroughly charming and went out of their way to make sure myself and my OH had the correct Disabled accreditation to prevent us from killing each another. At least not on that day.
Once inside the arena it was pretty tough going: the festival was absolutely heaving, as the area of the park that had been fenced off wasn’t large enough to comfortably hold everyone – it needed to be half as big again, at least. Factor in the punishing weather (it was a boiling hot, airless summer day) and the endless, snaking queues for the bars, trying to get a mobility scooter through the crowds was bloody. Hard. Work. It’s just as well my OH is 6’1” and not backwards at coming forwards, as he acted as my Moses, parting the Red Sea – AKA angry, dehydrated crowds – until we located our friends in the crowd, to the left of the main stage.
Our buddies informed us that the queues for the bar we’d passed were over two hours long (yes, really: buying water – let alone booze – was criminally tricky, especially in the relentless heat), but that two of our crew were nearing the front and we’d arrived just in time to put our drinks order in via text. Magic (at least for us)!
Iggy Pop arrived on stage a mass of sinew, throwing shapes as furiously as he rocked out vocally. I hadn’t seen him live for years (Glasto? Definitely Reading 1991) and you gotta hand it to the guy, at 71 he’s showing no sign of slowing down, remaining the consummate showman despite his evident bad hip. Playing to the audience at every opportunity he he whirled and circled around the stage like a random particle in the Hadron Collider, bare-chested (of course), his long hair trailing behind, struggling to keep up.Raging through a setlist running from his Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog through The Passenger and Lust For Life, and ending at a cover of Bowie’s Jean Genie, Iggy’s show was the perfect crowd-pleaser. Just as well, as all around us there were unhappy mutterings about the shoddy organisation of the festival grounds and bars, angry complaints tweeted in their hundreds as the afternoon unfolded. If Iggy hadn’t played such a blistering set there might have been chaos in the crowd – and not of the moshpit kind. But as it turned out, the artist born James Newell Osterberg Jr played an absolute blinder. Indeed, with his performance ‘worth a million in prizes’ we’d say Festival Republic owe Iggy recompense for keeping the peace – and then some! What a dude; Mr Osterberg Jr, we salute you.Well, Iggy might have been a tough act to follow but, grotty, low-down and dirty venues being their speciality, Queens of The Stone Age were always going to be more than able to hold their own at some shoddily-run one-day festi. I mentioned above how I’ve seen QOSTA at various Glastonbury and Reading festivals, and without exception they’ve played as tight as a rugby scrum but twice as filthy. Love it.
Opening with the unapologetic Do It Again, Homme and the rest of his Queens squelched their way though more strong tracks than rightfully written by a contemporary band: it usually takes the oldies to have such a powerful back catalogue, but QOSTA have ripped up the rule book good and proper: their setlists are legendary. And at Finsbury Park they played – wait for it – twenty songs including the encore. From chart-friendly The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret and No One Knows to the slower Make It Wit Chu, there wasn’t a misstep in the setlist: even people who didn’t know QOSTA well would have recognized the hits peppered throughout the gig. It was the perfect festival performance.
And the sheer musicianship of the band was in full flow: holy crap, they’re such incredible instrumentalists and performers! I truly believe QOTSA to be amongst the best bands of the past 20 years: every aspect of their music and live shows is peerless.
I could go on and on about how bloody brilliant QOTSA are, but I simply wouldn’t do Homme et al justice. So if you want to enjoy their Finsbury Park gig yourself, without the crazy queues for – well, everything – then a guy called Luke has very thoughtfully put together the setlist on Spotify. Altogether now: ‘Cheers Luke!’
That said, since The Distillers and Iggy had played earlier in the day it would’ve been good to have a guest appearance from them during the QOSTA gig, especially since Brody Dalle’s is Homme’s other half. In fact, I like to think the coolest couple in rock regularly jam together at home, while one of their kids bangs a saucepan with a wooden spoon and the other jiggles their homemade shaker made from plastic bottle filled with dry lentils (plus a little glitter for good measure).
Anyway, I digress: Iggy and QOTSA were the saviours of an otherwise shambolic event. Pick-pocketers were rife, with phones aplenty being stolen from the crowd. Unfortunately, since theft seems to be becoming a recurrent theme at gigs and festivals in this country – as well as the rest of Europe – mumlecture/before your next event remember that a pocket’s not safe enough: you need a holster, bumbag/ fanny pack (ahahaha: Americans, that will never get old!) or a cross-body bag which you can wear across the front of your chest. /mumlecture
Add (what felt like) dangerous overcrowding, having to navigate a mobility scooter through dense throngs of people and a full Disabled Viewing Platform (er…I know this happens all the time at big concerts, but come on Promoters – you can all do better), the Finsbury Park festival wasn’t a comfortable experience.Moreover, not only were my husband and I lucky in our timing with the bar (ie: friends had already queued for over 2 hours), but it turns out that the Disabled toilets also saved us some strife – everyone else had a horrible time with insufficient portaloos, and I’m told queuing 30 minutes for a wee wasn’t unusual. As Redditor bixer25 put it, “if that’s the standard setup there then I have absolutely no desire to go to a gig at Finsbury Park ever again.” Yup, I second that emotion.
That said, the Queens Of The Stone Age at Finsbury Park event was the perfect birthday treat – especially since guestlist entry meant we didn’t have to pay for our tickets – and I loved the dichotomy of seeing Orbital at Brighton Racecourse the night before. Feel Good Hit Of The Summer indeedy!