| 5.2°C Dublin

Oxegen 2011

IT'S a little after 2pm on Oxegen Saturday and, if the furore on Twitter is to be believed, the weekend's most controversial performer is about to make her entrance.

Quite why Amanda Brunker -- socialite, model, writer and custodian of one of those strange American accents they excel at in south Dublin -- should wish to add 'aspiring pop star' to an already groaning CV is a mystery.

Still here she is, looking -- in wellies, denim and tie-dye -- like a charity shop version of Kate Moss at Glastonbury.

But the real miracle isn't that she has the gumption to go through with the booking. It's that she can be heard over the roar of passing tumbleweeds.

So paltry is the turnout you don't even feel embarrassed for her as, accompanied by a bafflingly smug Tex-Mex band, she inflicts grievous bodily harm on U2's 'With Or Without You', her singing voice resembling that of an undernourished five-year-old crippled with stage fright.

Then she's gone and you stand there blinking in the sunlight, wondering if you've just imagined the past 20 minutes.

Eighteen or so hours earlier, the scene at the Vodafone Stage was very different as The Strokes, ageing kings of New York cool, brought their jittery comeback (in service of a breathtakingly mediocre fourth album) to Kildare.

On their last turn at Oxegen, they projected bleary-eyed disinterest. On this occasion, they are firing on all carbines, and you are inclined to forgive singer Julian Casablancas' condescending twaddle about the 'tough Irish' and our reputation as a nation of fighters.

Then again, The Strokes know a few things about conflict -- by all accounts they've spent the past five years barely speaking to one another.

While Casablancas and friends draw a respectable crowd they are rather up against it as, on the main stage, The Script are charming the collective trousers off Punchestown.

Fresh from a career-high triumph at the Aviva Stadium, James's Street trio Danny O'Dononghue, Glen Power and Mark Sheehan bask in the love, though, for those who caught their show the previous week, some of the shtick might feel re-heated (O'Dononghue really needs to lose the leather jacket with the Tricolour sewn inside -- it looks like something Gerry Adams might wear on dress-down Friday).

Serving up a no-less potent brand of stadium froth are the Black Eyed Peas, whose neon drenched slot is a combination of Michael Jackson concert, alien landing and the last 20 minutes of 'Tron: Legacy'. Of course, even peerless pop cyborgs can fumble the ball.

At one point, Will.i.am seems be be under the impression he's playing The O2 in Dublin (duh, it's got a roof Will); later he tests the audience's patience by shoe-horning in an interminable DJ set. Lock his ego in a strong-box and Black Eyed Peas would be untouchable.

Day two arrives blue-skied and sunny and, bravely coming to terms with the fact they've missed Amanda Brunker's Oxegen debut, the crowds are out in force by mid-afternoon.

Just in time for cracking performances from one-man pop revue Bruno Mars (he tosses off a fantastic Billy Jean cover) and prettyboy hype band The Vaccines, whose upper-crust accents suggest they've slouched out of the officer's mess at Sandhurst.

Dusk smudges the horizon as the evening's major hitters stretch their limbs.

On the main stage, Arctic Monkeys show why they've inherited the Oasis lad rock mantle while, in the Green Spheres tent, Brandon Flowers mugs his way through 50 minutes of gorgeously hokey '80s power-pop.

However, they're all overshadowed by the heavy rock blunderbuss that is David Grohl's Foo Fighters.

Since emerging from the ashes of Nirvana -- a group which raised self-loathing towards high art -- there's always been something of an eager St Bernard about Grohl (pictured left), his straightforward enthusiasm for loud music yielding such slight but feel-good anthems as 'Bridge Burning' and 'Everlong'. Still, not everyone's blown away. "That was shite -- let's get some more cans," says one punter, slouching off into the night. Haters gonna hate, as Amanda Bunker would doubtless attest.

Irish Independent