A day handed down by a benevolent Mother Nature, the sort of day that people mow fields just to sit with a beer in. A bump-into-everyone-you-know day, clear skies, a Sunday that could be a Saturday. And then there was the music. Despite being still burdened with the name of a match-day snack served from the boot of a car, Ham Sandwich have grown big musically – and certainly big enough to fill a bright, wide stage in Marlay Park. They are playing to the on-blankets crowd and pitch it perfect with gamey brass twists, dialling up their album sound and channelling all the goodness of the day. It’d be hard to imagine a better aperitif at the early end of what will eventually be the Canadians’ stage. For some up-front a literal aperitif in the shape of a bottle of Buckfast from the rider wet the whistle as trumpet breaks reflects the sunshine and Niamh and Podge make the stage and the field their own.
Pixies may not talk much but you won’t get as personable a walk-on as the four-piece sauntering up front of stage waving to all and toasting us and then straight in no kissing to ‘U-Mass’ and ‘Wave of Mutilation’ – stall set out. It may be true that Pixies play every concert in the same way and the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reactions are entirely related to the listeners mood on the evening, mixed with some set-list good fortune. We had set ourselves just one song we dreamed of hearing and Frank Black serves our main course, a discordant waterfall intro into ‘Where is My Mind’ and the afternoon is polished to a gleaming shine. As for the mood, you have a few tens of thousands of people coursing with vitamin D and endorphins, faces tanned and sore from smiling and a musical monolith broadcasting from stage. While our straw poll is hardly extensive, a hefty 100% of listeners are over the damn moon. Like Star Wars before them, multiple generations are drinking it in, the band as fresh to them as it was to the ones of us who swapped ‘Live From Pink Pop’ bootleg tapes in 1980s French classes. The one chink in the cool armour is as ‘La La Love You’ drops to David Lovering’s a cappella “all I’m sayin’, pretty baby…”. He keeps going as the crowd try to cheer for the end and even the captain up front cracked a little. And so Frank Black and Lovering laugh it up, the joy finally and visibly infecting even the main players.
Win Butler would later say that having Pixies support Arcade Fire was a fucked up thing, as there would be no Arcade Fire if not for Pixies, but giants have shoulders for standing on and none have climbed their own high path higher than this commune of Canadians. Effusive with love for Dublin crowds (we’re gonna take that as Irish crowds considering their legendary Electric Picnic show of 2005 was a turning point for them) they walk on to a recording of their own ‘Wake Up’ which falls into ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, the band hiding under huge paper maché heads. A highlight from Reflektor, ’Normal Person’ starts us for real and then, so quick, ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ taps into the spines. As highly charged as the crowd are, this is another level – it’s crop-dusting the field with adrenalin.
Music that seems like it was written for days like this, for life-affirming sing-alongs, for introspective yet brass-accompanied moments, it all just cascades from the stage and from each of the four albums too. From the grabbing-a-stranger and in unison singing “WHO’S GONNA RESET THE BONE” on ‘Intervention’ to methodically yelling “NO CARS GO!” the Dublin crowd are throwing back as much as they get, and the band visibly soaking it up.
At the break at the end of regulation time the unusual sight of a version of Sinead O’Connor made up of TVs pops up on the stage extension which reaches into the crowd. The head of this creature is made up of four screens of her face singing ‘Nothing Compares 2U’, then the Pope appears and produces a picture of Miley Cyrus which he proceeds to tear up. A twist on a bit of local musical history, nicely dropped in, and then we’re re-introduced to the band by a mirrorball man entirely as gaeilge.
By the time we get to ‘Here Comes The Night’s confetti bomb, darkness is indeed falling. Perhaps it’s the one thing we could have done with sooner in the day, jealous a little for Glastonbury’s later darkness-cloaked slot two days before. Then as it started, the chunky opening to the curtain closer, the choir of thousands, the dream-end, Bowie-approved ‘Wake Up’. Half way through we realise our lips have gone numb from singing. Everything in the tank drained. A day that was a gift, tied up in ticker tape, dry throats, cold beer, glitter, mirrors, reflektors and the sun and spirits riding high.
Arcade Fire photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko.