GIG 303 : Oasis / Manic Street Preachers / The Charlatans / Cast / Dreadzone / Kula Shaker – Knebworth Park, 11th August 1996

This was probably the hottest ticket of the summer of 1996. Oasis were kings of the world and were playing two massive sold out dates at Knebworth Park, with a host of support acts on each of the days. 2.5 million people tried to get tickets for these gigs, with the gigs braking box office records with reportedly one in every 20 people in the UK applying for tickets!!! Everyone wanted a piece of the action, and the various record companies wanted to make sure it was the event to be seen at. I’d been given a hospitality area ticket by Creation Records, with free food, drink, console games, DJs and celeb hob-knobbing, and had to be at a car park in Camden at 10am to catch a VIP coach with a load of other record industry folk, journalists, favoured record store employees, celebs and hangers on, that would take us off to Knebworth for a day of music (and lots of drink).

Once on board the bus we were issued with with our wrist bands (that would allow us into one of the ‘pits’ close to the stage), our hosptality pass (which would allow us in and out of the backstage hospitality area – although the hospitality area was really off to the right of the event, not anynear backstage itself), a Creations Record VIP pass (which would allow access to the Creation Records marquee in the hospitality area and all the food, drink, and console games we could want for the day) and an actual ticket.

We arrived at Knebworth about 11.30 and were ushered into the hospitaly area as the gates for general admission weren’t opening until noon. We were told the coach was heading back to London at about 3am and to have fun.

The hospitality area had a host of different marquees, from various record labels and sponsors of the event. Creation were Oasis’ label at the time and had the largest marquee area. Apart from the very well stocked free bar, there was a range of food on offer thoguhout the day, loads of console stations (I think it was Playstation but not entirely sure) that you could sit down and play on, DJs, and a couple of large screens showing the stage area which also broadcast the gig when the various bands played for those that might not want to venture into the masses for any reason.

It was a star-studded event, with loads of B- and C-listers all over the place. You could barely turn without bumping into a TV actor, a footballer, bands, or familiar face. Not really being a celeb spotting type of person I have very little idea of who they all were – barring a few of the footballers and Anna Friel who I’d had a crush on a few years earlier – and a few people from bands.

Kula Shaker were the first band on, whom I’d seen earlier that year (GIG 275) supporting Presidents of the USA at The Astoria. They were a lot better here than the first time I’d seen them and helped set the day off to a good musical start,

Nest up were Dreadzone. I really liked Dreadzone (and still listen to them today – especially their Second Light album which had been released a year earlier in 1995) but I’d never seen them live. They are a fantastic live band and were actually my favourite of all the bands that played this gig.

I wasn’t much of a fan of Cast, although they were very good live. The Charlatans were a band I’d never liked, and live they really did nothing for me. I’m pretty sure I spent most of the set in the hospitality bar though so probably didn’t give them much of a chance to redeem themselves.

Manic Street Preachers were the main support. I’d seen them a couple of times a few years before, but apart from the odd song wasn’t a fan of their music. This gig was probably the best I’d seen them, and if Dreadzone hadn’t have played such a blinding set earlier in the day the Manics would have probably been my band of the day… but they had to settle for second place.

The supports acts over the two days were different (apart from the Manics who supported both times). The Saturday line-up would have probably favoured me more as it consisted of The Bootleg Beatles, The Chemical Brothers, Ocean Colour Scene, Manic Street Preachers and The Prodigy. Certainly (in my eyes) a better all-round line-up, although I certanly couldn’t complain with the Sunday one (especially as it was a free gig with plenty of hospitality….)

The main attraction was always going to be headliners Oasis. I’d never seen them live before although, like most of the country at the time, had their first two albums (“Definitely Maybe” and “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”) on my stereo a lot. I could sing most of the lyrics without thought and really enjoyed the two albums they’d released at this point. Live, I thought they were a little disappointing. I still enjoyed them, but they weren’t a band to jump around to – more a band to stare up at the stage, maybe wave a lighter in the air, and sing. There is a reason I generally prefer rock or electronic/dance music and that’s because it get’s you moving and dancing. Oasis aren’t, and never were, that type of band for me. The set was full of a load of hits, and they played really well. I certainly enjoyed them, and am very pleased to have seen them live, but I wasn’t in love. I saw a tribute band (No Way Sis) play Glastonbury Festival years later and thought the same thing then too.

As the firework display lit the skies over Knebworth at the end of their set we decamped back to the hospitality area to be entertained by DJs, and supplied even more alcohol (which after 12 hours of a complimentary bar I’m not sure we all needed ;p) until it was finally time to try and find the correct coach heading back to London and home.

It was a fantastic day out, and a great experience, but I was very pleased that I had Monday off to cover!

Oasis – Live Forever

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