Early afternoon and lyric-less noise oiks And So I Watch You From Afar are not a natural combination. In fact, giving Belfast’s most boisterous band a slot that early is an affront to our hangovers (and no doubt theirs, too), but the four-piece attack the stage with every ounce of their usual energy, despite the gathering’s strange collective calmness. In this particular arena, watching And So I Watch You From Afar is much like viewing a top-end horror film at midday with all the lights turned on: class, but it somehow feels wrong. That’s not to say that the likes of ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ and ‘D Is For Django The Bastard’ aren’t epic: that the two guitarists still manage to throw themselves around like that early on says everything you need to know about their commitment. Who knew instrumental punk in the afternoon could be this good.
Crystal Castles appearance is one that we watch with a strange mix of morbid curiosity and genuine interest. Having been labeled ‘the ultimate hipster band’ and dismissed in some quarters as nothing but shambolic noise, the press surrounding Crystal Castles is hardly a huge love in. Their gig, then, comes as a pleasant surprise: our second Crystal Castles experience is every bit the mental-unhinged shambles that might entice Ms. Glass to smack her fans around the face, but comes together with a kind of accessible experimentalism that has the Electric Arena bouncing along relentlessly. Alice does have a volatile look about her, her screeching vocals polarizing to say the least, yet she certainly adds an inbuilt tension to the eclectic rhythms and incites a mixture of intimidation and passion in the front rows. There’s the temptation to dismiss it as directionless dance-themed noise, sure, but when a band play with this much heart and lift a crowd so compellingly, we can even forgive that tense yelping.
Hot Chip have gained a reputation quite the opposite to Crystal Castles: brilliant on record, but not quite up to scratch live. Perhaps they’ve heard, as tonight’s performance seems intent on dispelling the idea, and has the Electric Arena throwing shapes despite the absence of Joe Goddard. The singer’s taking some time off to be with his newborn child, and was represented on stage by a large screen with his face mouthing along to the words. ‘One Life Stand’ provides the anthemic sing-along, ‘Over And Over’ (and over and over) offers up the campsite repetition late into the night, while pretty much every other hit of their four-album career is given an airing along the way. Jelly shots and clubby dance moves are the order of the day, along with a dance floor buzz and mutual love in that takes us entirely by surprise. Most had them billed as an LCD Soundsystem warm up, but Hot Chip have evolved from let down of the weekend to a lively, crowd-pleasing, sing-along highlight in their own right.