Festival Frolics: Saturday, Hackney Weekend 2012.

Crowds of 50,000-plus; Hackney ubication; a Radio 1 affiliation: endless elements to this year's Big Weekend equivalent, the Hackney Weekend 2012 rendered the very prospect somewhat daunting. Factor in reports of Hackney Marsh gradually transmogrifying into just that – an almighty, almightily viscous bog – and the whole thing becomes ever less appealing. Saturday's Main Stage line up is a similarly groggy affair: like a treacherous overflowing of our fetid, sewer-like mainstream in which, par Example, Rizzle Kicks splurge out after Leona Lewis, the In New Music We Trust Stage would represent a safe haven of respite removed from the droplets of ersatz schmaltz excreted by the omnipresent – and lamentably omnipotent – Ed Sheeran. I say would as it's confounding to even consider the innards of a brain within which the likes of Lostprophets, The Vaccines et cetera ad infinitum may be deemed New or indeed credible Music for that matter. I recall watching the former in Swansea at Wales' inaugural One Big Sunday way back when whilst supposedly studying for some indeterminate yet determinedly pointless school exams aeons ago...

Prior to departure the inquisition on wetted lips: to wellie or not to wellie. Either out of astute punnage or out of the thick-skulled nature of your average Facebook page inanity inserter, one 'Weekender even publicly poses as to 'weather to wear wellies' as we vainly, protractedly peruse every online Beeb offshoot in the hope of stage times however provisional. More on precisely why they're nowhere to be found in a moment. Although as I amble over, mildly charred by veritably scorching rays, London seems a far cry from the televised quagmires of this year's Isle of Wight Festival. A less hellacious scene than that one is almost unfeasible to even envisage and indeed a 'Special Guest' showing from the celestial centre of our solar system is rather novel in itself – or at least considerably more so than that of Dizzee Rascal the following afternoon. Off I trundle down through Stoke Newington; Dalston, my first pair of impermeable boots clocked somewhere unremarkable between the two.

Upon eventual arrival at the enthusiasm-restoringly un-bog-like 'Marshes, a solitary queue snakes not once, nor twice, but approximately thrice around the block. On this, Glastonbury's fallow weekend, it's an enlarged anaconda of a creature that's irrefutably worthy of Somerset and it feels as though it wriggles halfway there. We slowly but surely creep up and over Homerton Road, garish bottles of Mountain Dew (not, however, of the Diet variety LDR once rhapsodised about) are thrust into every hand and almost involuntarily gulped down fewer a gullet. Let's just say it's been a wearying voyage across an almost entire London borough and I leave the inner disgusts of the soda to settle.

The queue then snaps off into more reasonable shards of boredom. "All metal objects in 'ere", an as yet cheerful security chappy babbles as yet another plastic object is thrust into the palm of clammy hand, this time a bag that's fretfully filled with iPhones and immoderate amounts of pound. With security procedures more stringent than most Spanish airports, we then trudge through life-size metal detectors and despite the premonitory warnings of these machines bearing no pernicious effects on those now endowed with pacemakers this unendingly frenzied, bleepy blitz, you sense, is enough to generate the need to have one fitted in a heartbeat.  For one oddly therapeutic moment, it's as though back in Barça.

So what of those illusive timetables then, I hear you clamour? Well in an act that feels almost facetious – if conservatively so – they're a snip of that endless mound of pound aforementioned at £7. Yes, tickets may well have been handed out for the negligible sum of £2.50 although to monopolise any potential enjoyment to be derived from actually seeing a certain set in its entirety (easier said than done these days) as such seems ludicrous. Then there's of course also the small qualm with a few pieces of poorly opaqued card costing over an hour's work according to the NMW. How's that for perspective, Cooper? Paramount to getting the most out of the bloody day and so on and so forth, more ridiculous still is that enough are seen dangling about singed necks to most probably fund another series of Total Wipeout. Opting instead to peer over the odd shoulder at opportune points, names and numbers are taken. deadmau5, needless to say, is not one of them. Unspeakably shite so I shall say no more, as D:Ream once decreed, Things Can Only Get Better.

Not that they do so to the sound of Rita Ora: prefaced by a malapropos airing of Video Games that only serves to accentuate today's deficiency in LDR, we're then treated to a glitch-infested snippet of the vid to breakthrough single R.I.P. Like a slipshod Rihanna parody, it's mercifully soon wiped off the face of the screenage that flanks the stage before she eventually emerges in what look to be pyjamas. It's nearly two but perhaps those ubiquitous RiRi parallels have really taken it outta her. Thus such comparisons seem rather wide of the mark, as is her belief in these being beats to "make Hackney jump." Plumped up with "rock your body" rhetoric, her act is more manufactured than Del Rey's facial features with her Roc Nation head honcho, tonight's headliner and the day's only true heavyweight coming to resemble her plastician. Punctuated by rock gumpf and backing track choruses (a mainstay throughout the day) although she may profess to being a "huge B.I.G. fan" she may soon cultivate a reputation for being all but notoriously lousy live. Shine A Light, her "favourite of all my album tracks", similarly does little to inspire any desire to experience the darn thing dastardly entitled O.R.A. when it drops next September although its lyric of zipping it up proves representative of a lesson learnt, as the "nip slips" of last weekend's Lovebox are discernibly evaded. Regarding DJ Fresh collab Hot Right Now, it's significantly easier to make some chauvinistic quip than it is to reference the searing listenability of the record itself which is again exposed as utter dross although within a flick of flamboyant, dip-dyed peroxide she hath departed. A "Roc takeover" today may be although she's anything but the jewel in the glint-encrusted crown.

Leona Lewis then delivers yet more buxom bellowing over the clunkiest of beats atop a prodigious Main Stage. The usage of Perpetuum Mobile on Collide – whether ever legally acknowledged or not – is dainty enough to gently delight although that it sounds as though David fucking Guetta's behind its chorus detracts more than greatly. Moreover unfortunately it sounds as though this malign puppeteer of contemporary pop is today all-pervasive, despite not playing 'til tomorrow. Following on from the unpredicted, if timely riots of yesteryear this one thus far feels substantially less riotous and despite Lewis profusely thanking all for coming out and for "supporting this event", the cause seems questionable beyond a one-dimensional R'n'Blowout.

Adding another dimension (or at least some live drums in place of interminable underlying house) is BBC Sound of 2012 champion Michael Kiwanuka who, in Biggles-ish denim, looks about as bemused as I feel. Zane Lowe pompously struts out to shoot some shit about it being "beautiful, soulful stuff" that's "also fun too" [sic] and for once he speaks even a smidgen of sense. For Kiwanuka is all those things and more as he conjures the sense of a lazy Glastonbury midday down The Park for the first time this so-called "summer". With a disbelieving, childlike glint in his eye as he gazes up at distant tarpaulin ceiling his voice is redolent of a youthful Otis Redding although regrettably, to paraphrase H to the Izzo, many don't give a shit so... Far removed from the madding crowd in which every hand clasps a sizeable screen, if the likes of Bones and Home Again may be slightly nothingy, virtually motionless slow dances his voice is sublime and in an age of Auto-Tune, is something of a marvel.

If the line up may purportedly boast the best of British then the day's clientele are questionably the worst: an evidently insatiable thirst for Bacardi Breezer waters the brood of an omnipresent passive aggression, with your traditional pint-hurling soon giving rise to a rather more flagrant aggro. The spirit of Glastonbury may, all opposable digits crossed, be alive and well although it's indubitably not living vicariously through this monstrosity as the feel is more of the V Festival brigade "bringin' it" to norfeast Lahndan. The weather too, with this midsummer meteorological apocalyptica, contributes to what is a quintessentially British bash. To revert to punter scrutiny however, most seem more concerned with meretricious, heavily pixelated camera phone photography and cropping up on TV than they may be with, say, Nero. For supposed dance music it's undeniably dire and, pivotally, undanceable.

Thus for all the endless hyperbole of how British guitar music finds itself in the most profound depths of an insurmountable dip, hip hop and dance are down in comparably cavernous ditches too. Edith Bowman appears to sprout yet more puffery and guff in the direction of Delilah who drizzles some loveable, if today slightly lacklustre vocals over trippy, West Country-sozzled soundscapes. Drab covers of Jean Jacques Smoothie's 2 People, Limit to Your Love and a woefully lazy Wildfire proceed So Irate, Breathe and so on although upon exit the sounds – and worse still, the sight – of Example comparatively seem totally hellacious. The pedantically systemised bar setup is equally so, and with home comforts only an hour away such luxury begins to nag quite insistently.

Then, contrary to Rita Ora's prophetic guidance previous ("It's not gonna rain all day!" she dimwittedly wailed but a few hours ago), it absolutely pours. The next few hours feel like five and they're spent seeking refuge in any tent temporarily bereft of chart-slaying soundtrack. Words are exchanged with a bright young thing with what look like tooth piercings (or maybe just those Vajazzle beads stuck to top incisors), few of which are fully comprehended before Westwood takes to the inspirationally entitled Outdoor DJ Stage. Just that, it's nigh on being taller than it is wide and "my boi" Tim is sat atop it like an egg on a wall or a solitary candle on a stodgy cake. "Unscrew the lightbulb!" he bewilderingly implores in that remarkable tone of his as he dishes out Nigel & Marvin's equally inimitable Follow Da Leader. They don't call him a disc jockey for nothing, now. Annie Mac meanwhile is increasingly becoming bona fide DJ rather than mere disc jockey as she thwacks it out the Dance Arena with a humdinging finesse.

And markedly does so without resorting to this Radio 1-cultivated, Brit equivalent to that previously lambasted sod Guetta. An acerbic house-fringed, duhstep-laced nullity pumped up with as many drops as there are things popped at Creamfields, even if the likes of Rizzle Kicks and Rudimental may layer proverbial bells or actual horns over the top it remains markedly atrocious and serves to disassociate from the relentless torrents of mainstream culture. When it's this deplorable it's all too easy to wade out of the mire and not be swept along by its indoctrinating mindlessness. And every year new strands of mindlessness seem to seep into the festival modus operandi: where heedless adolescents once yelled of "Bollocks" and generic Christian names, they've progressed physically, if never mentally and now yodel "Fenton" whilst relieving themselves, checking their scrupulously coiffured dos in glinting cellphones all the while.

In presupposed avoidance of all this it seems wise to opt for those foppish squibs The Maccabees. More out of desperation than impassioned desire, Orlando Weeks these days looks ever more like Marlon Brando as he brandishes two microphones for reasons entirely unbeknownst. No longer such new romantics (despite playing this, the New Music tent) First Love is already tinted with a rose-flecked nostalgia and, consequently, is somewhat depressing.

Nicki Minaj meanwhile, at only half an hour (fifteen of which she eats into with a quite unnecessary delay) is nowt more than a bottom-hefty interlude. In typically sacrilegious imagery, a bunch of nuns emerge before flaming stained glass projections as she goes on to do a Monáe and removes cloak from fizzy blonde. She's seemingly been at the same peroxide basin as Ora backstage, and merits an introduction off Westwood who proclaims her to be his "favourite hip hop artist of all time." Such declaration not only exhibits what a superficial knowledge he has of his supposedly specialist genre, but also is about the greatest accolade she's capable of garnering today with a show as abysmal as this.

Barely audible and with her lyrics entirely indecipherable (she vitriolically spits of a "nappy headed" something or other at some point, I think, besides blathering on about the joys of life and other such existential nonsense) her provocative jiving is about the most intriguing aspect to this atrocity. And that's purely due to the flaunting of her implants as opposed to anything else more meaningful. Or rather musical: between four dancers, a DJ and she, none seem to be up to much articulate and indeed at times she mimes whilst at others she merely chips in the odd lyrical spurt over prerecord. Once she rattles off Beez in the Trap the mind bumbles off to rhetorical questioning as to how she ever sits down on those unfathomable buttocks of hers, before she airs a snippet of her irrevocably shit Monster bit, some of the irrefutably Eurotrashy Starships that recalls Paola e Chiara or worse, and the bowel-juddering (again, yep, Guetta-engineered) junk of Turn Me On. For a London debut, it's been utterly disastrous.

will.i.am then gets himself embroiled in scandal as he puts in an unbelievably competent DJ spin shocker although it's scant compensation for Minaj's scrimping on time and talent, two things Swedish House Mafia ought to take into slightly more careful consideration. Their penultimate London date before they call time on their musketeering collaboration, the Dance Arena is only half full with two minutes to go as you wonder how the heck they'll ever pack out Milton Keynes Bowl in less than a month's time. Preluded by an impressive visual montage that's as patriotic as one and a half Jubilee weeks, I'm soon musing on how many Swedes it takes to clump together some substandard, Calvin Harris-esque thwump. The answer is of course three, if one at a time as the abnormally greasy fuckers take turns on the 'phones, plumes of dry ice ejaculated everywhere every few seconds. Having last weekend experienced the full effect of Sónar the trio are grimly exposed as CD DJs and no matter how logic-defying their indoor pyrotechnics and elaborate fireworks may be, this be bad.

Annie Mac earlier hyped this next bloke up as "some guy called Jack White." The muted response way back then said it all, and there's unsurprisingly only a modest throng huddled in tight for this one. With other guys with Hasidic beards carting double basses about the place, it looks as though he'll tonight be backed up by the boys. Beneath the dim glow of dental lighting, the blue aura which enshrouds the stage is as numbing as any anaesthetic whilst ladders and White's assembly of Fenders are diligently arranged. It's as though we've weaved our way beyond wooden hoarding and made it onto the innards of a lavish construction site. It's a typically workmanlike approach although, as with Minaj, it's questionably hardly worth traipsing him across London for forty. "Welcome to the immaculate world of a musical genius", Lowe again impertinently trills in what is, again, a startlingly sagacious pleasantry from the zany cretin.

Gaunt and dark as Hackney midnight, White then materialises to clatter through a pop noir take on Black Math. What with the gender alternations there must be an intrinsic pressure placed on the shoulders of whichever band he opts for on whichever eve although here his men really put a shift in: it's as disorientating to see him toting a Telecaster as it is to have him backed up by a competent drummer but that's what he's got himself tonight. Almost all hatted, it's a top back-room jazz bar reinterpretation. The codger riffage of Missing Pieces and Freedom At 21 bore and although evidently relishing being backed up by a band this proficient, the show feels devoid of any spontaneity; of spark. That unmistakably canine bark of his got a bit dull too.

"You still awake?" he drools as though lonesome motel proprietor and it's a pertinent question; he's already hit a lull. However like a sonorous wakeup call Hotel Yorba, now bolstered by slide geetar, sounds finer than it ever did: a sawdusted barnstormer, it's one of his more memorable yet inexplicably forgotten classics. Rome cut Two Against One, by comparison, is a dozy lil' number best unremembered before he and his cronies romp through both I Cut Like A Buffalo and Steady, As She Goes as though he hadn't scribed anything in his last few years of sentience. And the latter patently remains one of the worst songs penned by his fine, pallid hand. Then from worst to best (if acclaim is to be believed), Seven Nation Army is a guilt-laced joy as it exudes the testosterone of a thousand Reading Festivals. As he once exhorted, this particular White Stripes cut is no longer his but ours, its chantalong chorus as evocative of the English national team as it is of Elephant. It's lovely to hear that riff emanate from an actual bass and not merely a detuned guitar too and for once, on this of all days, everything feels almost as though in its right place.

And topping tonight is precisely where Jay-Z belongs. Remember that line in Umbrella in which he queries: "Lil' Ms. Sunshine, Rihanna where you at?"? Well tonight he opens up with Run This Town and she's there right beside him, welding goggles fused to face 'n' all as they stomp out stage-centre. It's what his Glastonbury headline stint back in '08 promised yet never purveyed and as his band occupy gargantuan cubbyholes overhead, he's left the length of the stage to roam. Alone. And he commands it, again, just as he never did down on the 'Farm. Dirt Off Your Shoulder blusters into I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me); Public Service Announcement; Where I'm From. Yet even though songs are again reduced to mere snippets, the set begins to sag come Jigga What, Jigga Who. At forty-two you sense that, as with Watch The Throne, the elder statesman of hip hop may be beginning to tire. It might go some way to explaining what is, to all extensive purposes, a truly bizarre interlude whereby M.I.A. rolls in, launches Paper Planes (midway through which her mic cuts out entirely), scampers through a Jay-Z-less Bad Girls, and rolls out again. It's equal parts wtf and why the fuck not that if nothing else offers Carter a breather.

From Arulpragasam's perspective it's a slightly limp return to the UK live circuit after a lengthy absence and feels like a quite fabricated (or more bluntly false) guerrilla tactic as she invades his stage although were it a form of reciprocation for his usage of her greatest hit on Swagga Like Us then it's a quite heartwarming gesture on what is now a rather gelid night. The set swiftly dips once again though as the samples on Izzo (H.O.V.A.) almost immediately drift awry, whilst the slipping from Sinatra's New York, New York into Empire State of Mind seems rather contrived. As he then opts for another break however, and stars and stripes unfurl, the heavily touted Kanye West rumour is vindicated. His arms outstretched as he absorbs our porous applause, the self-professed "Louis Vuitton Don" again outshines as their so-called "'Throne shit" is greatly improved now outdoors. Thundering through Otis; Gotta Have It; "mad chill" single No Church In The Wild, Carter once more comes across explicitly as the wordsmith and Kanye the crackpot. Lift Off, alas, is again bereft of Beyoncé despite the rumour mill cultivating hearsay to the contrary, and it's in the closing stanzas of this one that Jay-Z reveals himself to be the real hip hop dignitary here; the lyrical talent as West purely and puerilely continues to court controversy as though an ADHD-addled imp. However as uncountable hordes (if not "millions") clamber over bolted fences in aid of escape, it's West's holocaustic lyricisms (Who Gon Stop Me) which stick in memory and not Niggas In Paris which is reservedly rampaged through just shy of thrice.

There may be innate frustrations at not being able to fully experience the Hackney Weekend given the inability of we mere plebs to frequent both days although perhaps that's just as well, what with my rag already frayed to the thinnest, most feeble of threads...