XFM's Winter Wonderland @ O2 Brixton Academy
Radio Station Bring Rock 'n' Roll To South West
Returning for its sixth consecutive year, without doubt the biggest event on the Xfm calander, is the London leg of Winter Wonderland, the alternative music radio station’s annual Christmas mini festival. Anyone who listens to Xfm will know the buzz around this gig has been building up for weeks with so much anticipation for what can only be described as one of the most rock ‘n’ roll, star studded line ups of indie bands that could possibly take to the Brixton Academy stage in one night. Credit where credit’s due, Xfm did extremely well this year with the line up. We at Dropout UK were pretty excited to check out some of 2009’s best new guitar talents as well as the always awesome, forever entertaining Razorlight, to headline this phenomenal night of music glory.
On the bill we had Goldhawks, Local Natives, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Pink, The Temper trap and the almighty Razorlight to round off this year’s marathon of live music.
As the doors opened at 7pm a stylish, cool crowd filtered through the grand entrance of one of London’s leading music venues. As always, Xfm filled the O2 Academy with an excitable audience of over 4000 people hoping for a music Christmas party to remember. The fans were out in force, but with the huge sloping floors across the room luckily there was nothing to obstruct our views of that opulent Art Deco Brixton Academy stage.
As the first band opened the gig the applause swept across the room, the atmosphere was already buzzing. The crowd gave an exhilarating welcome to West London’s hottest new band, Goldhawks. With their biggest gig to date and a reception of more screams than they’d ever experienced Goldawks set the gig off with a bang with their 20 minute thrilling set. The two brothers, Bobby and Jack Cook, may have only formed the band earlier this year, but their sound is sophisticated, oozing the quality and experience of musicians we expect to see at an Xfm gig. Echoing drum beats and jingly keyboard sounds along with Bobby’s captivating yet laidback vocals definitely worked well in a larger venue. Their debut single ‘Where in the World’ went down a storm, this band deserves their well earned comparisons to the legendary Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams and the all time great Echo and the Bunnymen.
We were already smiling from ear to ear when the next band took to the stage. Again a sensational applause welcomed all the way from California, the up and coming five-piece, Local Natives. Here to give us a taste of their debut album Gorilla Manor, they played a blinding set of Americana indie-rock. With so much hype and media attention this band has received throughout 2009 they’re definitely ones to look out for and at Dropout UK we were more than excited to experience a mini set before their main UK tour commences next year. With big anthems like album opener Wide Eyes, catchy hooks and violin and percussion majesty, the band delivered a magnificent sound which has already impressively been compared to the likes of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Band of Horses.
Meanwhile, backstage the atmosphere was electric. The collective nerves of six bands were manifesting into an abundance of anticipation and excitement. Xfm had set up and were broadcasting live, Johnny Borrell was rushing around, and an unannounced A list guest was to be expected. The guessing games quickly started, the rumour mill was spinning; who could it be?! It was soon announced that our guest was to be honoured with the highly prestigious Xfm Inspiration to Music Award. Only ever previously awarded to one recipient, Mick Jones of The Clash, this was indeed a true honour. When Strokes front man Julian Casablancas turned up we were all in agreement that this was well deserved recognition. The Strokes’ revival of guitar music in the early noughties after a lapse in ‘cool’ and a vacuum following ninety’s Brit Pop brought indie rock ‘n’ roll back to the dance floor.
Whilst Julian prepared for his appearance backstage, North London foursome, Bombay Bicycle Club were rocking out the venue. Playing tracks from their album, ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’, these boys may still be very young but they know how to fill the stage. Throwing out massive festival-stealing tunes like ‘Cancel On Me’ and recent single ‘Always Like This’ the Bombays had most of the now packed out venue swaying from side to side. A cross between pop princes McFly and the awesome Strokes, this band could have an enormous following with a great future ahead of them as already they’re clearly so popular. The boys were buzzing when they came off stage and the atmosphere across the whole of the Academy was well and truly alight. Whilst the crowd’s attention was fully focused, Xfm’s Ian Camfield welcomed Mr. Casablancas onto the stage for a brief interval in the music proceedings. Julian appeared to a reception of crazy fans cheering and screaming in true delight to see their unexpected hero. More than flattered, he gratefully accepted his award with a short ‘thank you’ speech before making a quick exit back to the Kentish Town Forum where he was performing his own gig that night.
Next on the line up to kick start the party back into full swing was The Big Pink who literally had the crowd falling like dominos to their euphoric chorus. Before playing their current single we heard several tracks from Cordell’s band’s debut album ‘A Brief History Of Love’. The classic sound of noise-pop flooded through the venue and submersed the awe-inspired crowd in music that represents every facet of love. With influences from Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain, we at Dropout UK can definitely confirm this band are on the route to success!
Australian four piece, Temper Trap were next on the bill to hit the stage. Melbourne’s finest gave it their all to an excitable crowd as the evening drew closer to the main event. Debut album, ‘Conditions’ has seen this band climb their way to the top of the popularity charts this year and Brixton Academy was all too happy to prove that. Kids and adults alike were jumping around listening to crunching rock and epic tracks. This band are definitely not shy of big sounds; the perfect hors d'oeuvre to get the crowd going for Mr. Borrell and his Razorlight boys!
Now there comes a time in every girl’s life where she will fall inlove with a ‘musician’. Whether John Lennon or Jedward, it’s inevitable! When headliners Razorlight took to the stage; enter Mr. Suave Johnny Borrell, that’s exactly what happened to the googled eyed girls in the audience! Johnny had been backstage since midday and had been working himself up into a frenzy of excitement and nerves. This was the one gig of the year that he really wanted to do, and after opening with ‘Somewhere Else’ he graciously thanked his fans for their support. By now the atmosphere was phenomenal as Johnny lead his Razorlight band mates through an energetic journey of all three albums. Mr. Borrell exudes charm and charisma, his performance was vibrant and full of zest and he never fails to encapsulate his audience with his stage presence. Performing old hits ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Vice’from the first album, through favourites such as ‘America’ and ‘In The Morning’ to the new album hits ‘North London Trash’, ‘Tabloid Lover’ and ‘Wire to Wire’ this band never fail to entertain. An all enthralled crowd witnessed a truly magical performance with an electrifying atmosphere throughout the venue. Razorlight rounded up their set with an en core of ‘Blood For Wild Blood’ before the all too soon 11pm curfew was upon us.
It seemed Brixton Academy was all partied out and ready for the crowds to filter back out through those doors.
All in all Dropout UK can say Xfm put on a fantastic show, certainly a Christmas party not to disappoint and we’re already looking forward to next year!