OnBlackheath is a great place to chill out and have a beer or glass of wine or three with your friends and to park your young children (there’s an excellent kids area) for a day or two. Essentially it’s a very pleasant mid-sized entry-level London festival, but this year, for me at least, it erred a little too far on the soft-core pop side of things.
It’s all about taste of course, the festival drew a good and seemingly enthusiastic crowd who I suspect wouldn’t agree with me, but try as I might I just couldn’t get all that excited by the line up, not least by Saturday’s headline act Squeeze – even in their heyday they were, how can I put it, a little too nice, too clever, too safe, and in this they didn’t disappoint. Sunday’s headliner Paloma Faith was more current I suppose, and there was the excitement of her new big hair, huge likeability and catchy songs, but where was the danger, where was the edge?
Perhaps I felt this way because last year’s headliners The Libertines were just amazing, a festival defining act that brought the place alive, an ‘I was there’ type of a gig. Unfortunately there was nothing comparable this time, albeit Billy Bragg was very entertaining and amusing as is his habit, inspiring too if you like a bit of rabble rousing (which I do), and the Divine Comedy’s sprightly and I’m-so-modest pop-rock set pretty much stole the show. Strangely Morrissey got a fair few mentions during these sets, not least for his descent into unfathomable irascibility. Ah, if only he’d been on the bill!
There were a few other stand out acts: on the big top stage (one of four stages at the festival) Louis Antoniou delivered a bit of memorable rock welly, and Dat Brass’s unique, to me at least, mix of hip-hop lite and brass ensemble was infectiously good fun. Back on the main stage De La Soul were arse-jiggling foot-tapping stand out, and The Lightning Seeds were also pretty good, better than I remember them, albeit they greatly disappointed me and others by not granting us our glorious singalong wish of playing ‘It’s coming home’. Spoilsports…I can’t really blame them though, the song must be a terrible burden.
In the main though the music on offer felt a little anodyne to me, (is the NHS choir really a main stage act?), but the sizeable crowd seemed happy enough with everything so what do I know? I suppose OnBlackheath knows its audience – middle class, middle aged and middle politics as someone described it to me, rather unfairly as it happens as there was a quorum of younger punters in situ and a fair few less well-heeled looking types too.
All said and done the atmosphere at this year’s festival was was very laid back, very relaxing, and this made for an easy, enjoyable and hassle free weekend. I really must mention the food too. There was a wide choice of excellent options, some I hadn’t seen at a festival before, or indeed tasted, and there was plenty on offer for veggies, vegans and gluton-free types. Great stuff. Oh yes, and the beer was truly exceptional – the Meantime Pale Ale is probably the best Pale Ale I’ve tasted…hic.
Published on 01 October 2018 by Neil del Strother