Any poor souls praying for a bright and bouncy Britpop revival would have been dispirited by day one of this year's Carling festival. As the oppressive angst of Queens of the Stone Age gave way to the pestilent screams of Papa Roach, a sea of goths and nu-metal kids spat into the dirt, emitting great waves of self-disgust. Grunge is back, and this time it's really pissed off.

The sky darkened, and Marilyn Manson flounced on in front of a giant scorched US flag, wielded a gun-shaped microphone stand and swore a lot. As a genuinely subversive social force, Manson is up there with horror flick director Clive Barker.

As a musician and showman, he is less ambitious than Alice Cooper, not as silly as Kiss, and a tad less awful than Twisted Sister.

The arrival of Eminem and his fellow rappers D12 perked things up. Eminem's pop star notoriety has almost entirely eclipsed his career as a rapper, so it was surprising to witness an hour of hardcore ensemble hip-hop before the comedy routines began.

Apart from a fake assassination, the highlight was a self-mythologising soliloquy in which our hero explained why he had to hit his "bitch" for kissing "another motherfucker". It was all done in the worst possible taste, but after a day of razor-blade rock and second-rate children's entertainers, adult humour had never felt so liberating.

The NME had reported that the festival organisers were refusing to move the Strokes from the Evening Session tent to the main stage, but they obviously relented. Whether or not this was a good idea is a moot point, as the boys looked a little lost.

Their album has received favourable comparisons with Oasis's debut, but the Strokes's songs are nowhere near as anthemic. Edgy guitars and neurotic Lou Reed vocals do not belong out in the fresh air, and much of the band's crackling energy dissipated as they blinked cautiously into the sunlight.

They were followed onstage by Iggy Pop. With Iggy, the question is not one of outdoors versus indoors, but whether his act is even fit for human consumption.

If the Strokes were anxious young pups, then he was the rabid dog. Still, the crowd's elation at finally being in the presence of a genuine rock'n'roll star was invigorating.

Richfield Avenue and Temple Newsham Park


James Griffiths

The GuardianTramp

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