Queens of the Stone Age - Festival Review
Josh Homme is really f*cking cool, but don’t tell him that. The man knows. The Queens of the Stone Age frontman was probably about 5”10 when he started the Californian band, and his impressive 6”4 now is purely making room for his big head. It’s hard not to be full of yourself, though, when you’re the frontman of one of the best rock bands on earth.
Finsbury Park, on Saturday, 30th June, played host to an ambitious 2-stage 1-day festival. Headlined by Queens, the lineup featured artists such as Iggy Pop, Miles Kane, Deap Vally, Run the Jewels, Black Honey, and plenty more. Ambitious for a reason, the festival was marred by planning and organisation issues, but that didn’t detract *too* much from the festivities.
We arrive at the festival just before Black Honey are due to take the stage. By this point, the queues already snake round the gates of the park, and the heat is turning us into mushy, sweaty messes. And this is before we even go into the crowd.
Opening the main stage, Black Honey channel their Western aesthetic with Izzy’s co-ord double denim getup (provided lovingly by Wrangler, it seems). With vibrant sky blue hair and red lipstick, Izzy masters the glam rock look. Having never played a main stage before, the band take it in their stride, blaring out their new singles ‘I Only Hurt the Ones I Love’ and ‘Dig’ to a joyous, dancing crowd. Their setlisted consists of now-quite aged ‘Spinning Wheel’, which is a nice surprise for us longtime fans in the audience. As the set goes on, we are helplessly disappointed as ‘Madonna’, ‘Corinne’, ‘Bloodlust’, and ‘Teenager’ are removed from the setlist, but it makes sense when we take into account the recent announcement of Black Honey’s debut LP. Even so, with the setlist missing a few oldies, the passion and energy the band bring to the heady summer’s day is enough to make up for it.
From one badass female fronted rock band to another, Deap Vally storm onto the main stage half an hour later. With a flick of hair, the chainsaw chords of ‘Baby I Call Hell’ rip through Finsbury Park, showing those unfamiliar with the Californian blues rock duo exactly what they are about. “Hello London, we are so f*cking excited to be here!”, screams vocalist Lindsey Troy. Us too, Lindsey, us too! Serving a much needed slap of female ferocity and empowerment with ‘Smile More’ and ‘Walk of Shame’, the band give ‘those’ men the best musical middle finger. Deap Vally debut their two new singles; ‘Bring It On’, which is go-to motivational banger, and ‘Get Gone’, that gives us a brief roadtrip to California, begging to be blasted from the open windows of a VW campervan. The characteristic chords of ‘End of the World,’ chime the end of their set, and with another yell of “We are Deap Vally, thanks so much for having us here Finsbury, you’ve been amazing, and fucking big up Queens of the Stone Age”, Lindsey and Julie are showered in cheers. The duo reward the crowd with the deafening twangy guitar and hard hitting drums of ‘Royal Jelly’ before leaving the stage. Two things we’re immediately sure about: 1) we cannot wait to see them in two days’ time in Birmingham, and 2) where the hell did Lindsey get that jumpsuit from.
Playing right after Deap Vally, Miles Kane manage to win the main stage as well. A hatrick for fantastic performances, it seems. Wearing only white jeans and a gold chain, Miles plays his catchy brand of mod rock revival to an impressed crowd. Confidently chatting to the crowd in between songs with his Merseyside lilt, Miles is a charismatic and talented performer. One thing that immediately bowls us away is the ferocity of Miles’ live drummer. Her facial expressions are incredible, and the energy she brings to the set is undeniably unignorable. It’s during a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ that the crowd really get into Miles’ show, as we have a suspicion that the punters aren’t overly familiar with Miles’ back-catalogue. The revamped version of the disco classic is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, and its surprise ensures that the set won’t be forgotten.
After Miles Kane, we take a break from the back-to-back performances on the main stage and decide that it’s time for lunch. After paying £6 (!!!) for curly fries, we relax by the bar, and have a mooch around what Finsbury Park has to offer. There are a shocking lack of amenities on-site, despite the 45,000 capacity selling out; the bar is horrifically understaffed, and there is only one water point for 22,500 people. A shocking lack of organisation on Festival Republic’s end, but we’re determined not to let this ruin the festival for us.
The sun begins to set as the anticipation for Queens of the Stone Age builds. We’re instilled with the belief that anything can happen. A wall of noise erupts as the quintet are welcomed onto the stage. The groovy growls of ‘Do It Again’ quickly and firmly establish that Queens of the Stone Age mean business. They are here to play dirty and, tonight, the crowd is more than ready to ‘Go With the Flow.’ The prescient tracks from their 2017 album Villains such ‘The Way You Used To Do’ and ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’ ramp up the energy. With Josh’s nonchalant style and oozingly cool demeanour, he addresses the crowd knowing we’re wrapped around his little finger; the finger holding his lit cigarette, as he breathes into the microphone between chats with the audience. Queens play a large chunk of their (arguably their best album) (definitely their best album) ...Like Clockwork, with ‘I Sat By The Ocean’, followed by the swagger track ‘Smooth Sailing.’ Josh is a relentless frontman, hardly letting the crowd catch their breath or blink before launching into the next ferocious song. When the sun finally fully sets, leaving the park in a dimly lit glow, Josh addresses the crowd and introduces his fellow bandmates. “We have John on the drums, the best drummer in the world”, followed by keyboardist and guitarist Dean Fertita, which prompted an on-going ‘Deanooo Deanooo’ chant. Josh carries it on with “Now we have the most alcoholic and best dressed man in rock n’ roll, Troy on guitar” to another onslaught of cheers and screams, and Josh berates the misguided encouragement of Troy’s extravagant liquor relationship. Josh continues on through the band: “Now today is a very special day for Mikey Shoe, our bassist, its his 31st Birthday!’ Needless to say, the crowd help celebrate the baby Queen of the Stone Age’s birthday with a deafening chorus of ‘happy birthday’. And with that, the Queens had only three songs remaining. The electric encore of ‘Songs for the Deaf’ and ‘Songs for the Dead’ left the crowd, not to mention us, begging for more. The set seemed to be over in a flash despite a substantial 21 tracks played, and many declarations of love bestowed upon us from Josh.
By the end of the show, we feel a sense of enlightenment--Queens of the Stone Age really are that good. They still sound fresh after so many years, and whilst their most recent album is not a patch on ...Like Clockwork and Songs for the Deaf, to name a few, they can still electrocute a crowd (in the best way possible). It’s difficult to praise a man with an already inflated ego so highly, but it can’t be ignored. We hate to admit it, but man, Queens of the Stone Age are good. Marred with organisational issues, Festival Republic’s Finsbury Park festivals could have completely failed, were it not for the excellence of the bands prepped to play.