The best thing about going to gigs at Alexandra Palace has always been leaving: stepping out onto a broad dark promenade where the whole of London is laid out beneath you like a glittering circuit board. So how about a festival where the great hall is used as overelablorate toilet facilities and the real action takes place on an outdoor stage, with all the views you can eat?
Kaleidoscope is a brand new one day event opening in a summer when London’s festival season has changed more than ever. Lovebox, Field Day and Citadel are in new parks, the London Stadium is busier than ever and another newcomer, All Points East, has hoovered up all the best bands.
This one has time to find its place musically. If people already know to head to Hyde Park for legends and Wireless for rappers, it’s not obvious where to file a line-up including the spooked rap of Ghostpoet, the strident poetry of John Cooper Clarke and the wistful folk of Beth Orton.
It felt like a family friendly one, with racing children regularly zipping past your knees and babies in ear defenders like drilling workmen. It was easy to see, with the main stage at the foot of a steep slope, and though it might suggest disappointing ticket sales, there was welcome space to stroll and explore.
Headliners The Flaming Lips, however, were the perfect booking for the surroundings. Correctly recognising that no one among the facepainted attendees would care that their last album, Oczy Mlody, is no classic and they’ve just released a six-disc set of their recordings from 1986-1990, the psychedelic pranksters from Oklahoma stuck to their best known songs and were rarely far from a giant inflatable.
Ringmaster Wayne Coyne provided confetti and giant balloons during the traditional opening song, Race For The Prize, and saved his signature blow-up hamster ball for a mid-set cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. This time, the hill meant he couldn’t travel further than the front rows.
During The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power), he donned what he called “my thing” – 22 silver balloons arranged in a cross which he wore on his back. His fragile voice, much quieter than the music this evening, meant that the soundtrack was less memorable than the visuals, but everything they did demanded a sharp intake of breath and a photograph. The number of phones aloft confirmed that, as a sight, Kaleidoscope was unbeatable.