VAMPIRE WEEKEND are a perfect festival band, treating a stuffed Green Room to a rip-roaring set that has the entire tent dancing, arms in the air. The New Yorkers seem to be having just as good a time as their fans, and that’s saying something. Kudos to the two girls with the home-made ‘Who’s Blake?’ sign, which raises quite a few eyebrows until the quartet rip into ‘One (Blake’s Got A New Face)’. ‘A-Punk’ turns the entire tent into a jumping fleshpot, and if you close your eyes it could be 1977 again (or so the older gent beside State seems to believe, anyway), while ‘Oxford Comma’ ensures that even the chin-scratchers at the back are busting some moves. Fuck your shoe-gazers, your beard-rubbers, your nerdy math rock: this is what festivals are all about. By the time they leave us with a dizzying ‘Walcott’, Vampire Weekend have more than lived up to their early-year hype and then some.
En route to Black Kids, team State make a quick pit-stop at the Pet Sounds tent, where RICHARD HAWLEY is providing a not-huge, but perfectly formed, audience to some classic croon-rock (copyright State 2008). ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ is so delicious, you could slice it, sell it for €5 a go and you’d have no shortage of takers. According to one of the honorary State members, Hawley reminds her of a combination of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello. Out of the mouths of babes…
THE NATIONAL have arguably visited these shores more than any other international act over the last couple of years, but enthusiasm for the quintet’s bruised beauty shows no signs of waning. Despite the presence of some genuine long-term heavyweights on the other stages, the Pet Sounds tent is busy, and the entire front half seems to be made up of people who know every word to every song. The band are as
good as ever, although they’re let down somewhat by a murky, marshy sound for the first half of their set which ensures that frontman Matt Berninger’s vocal rumblings are as indecipherable as Finnegan’s Wake. Thankfully, things improve before the end. Highlights include the
heart-breaking ‘Slow Show’, the anthemic ‘Fake Empire’ and Alligator’s two wig-outs, ‘Abel’ and ‘Mister November’, the former a frenetic throat laceration and the latter as fine a set closer as you could wish for.
REM belie their elder statesmen tag with a frenetic set that takes in tracks spanning their 28-year history, delivered with the punch, energy and enthusiasm of a band half their age. Sure, there’s plenty of material from Accelerate, but the set is peppered with some real gems from the back catalogue. State, for one, never thought we’d get to hear ‘Fall On Me’ (dedicated to former Virgin Prune Guggi, incidentally) from 1986’s Life’s Rich Pageant, but we’re so glad we did, even if Mike Mills’ harmonies did occasionally drown out Stipey’s lead. Watching them storm through a furious ‘Orange Crush’ took us back to the first time we encountered the juggernaut that is an REM live show, back in the RDS in 1989, and perhaps the most impressive fact about this is that the Georgia natives have lost none of their fire in the intervening years. Talk about the passion, indeed.
Photos by Shawna Scott