The day begins with a solution to who the mystery hugging-man was last night. He is a member of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who open Friday in the best way possible – with a mass of pumping trombones, trumpets etc and by the end of the first minute of dancing and gyrating no-one remembers they have a hangover and third degree sunburn. The Chicago combo simply make the best live dance music, throwing in some afro beats behind the brass chorus and the odd rap from various members of the band. It’s a love-in, no question.
In one of those odd decisions we have Africa’s Tinariwen in the second biggest tent, Arena, while Florence And The Machine plays the much, much smaller Odeon at the same time. Tinariwen have a very simple stage set up – all dressed in traditional garb but fronted by three electric guitars, three singers up front and more traditional percussion behind. The sound is distinctly North-African and they can effortlessly make electric guitars sound like sitars, though there’s also a warm, familiar feel to the sounds which seem to be based on rock and roll somewhere along the way. With the moustachioed singer treating us to some traditional dancing directed towards our side of the stage, it’s easy to warm to these guys.
There’s a bit of a lull so we take our chance to go see Florence and yes, it’s packed way, way back into the surrounding field. Sheer tenacity does get us in eventually and it proves worth the trouble. This is Florence Welch’s natural territory – the festival gig. Her mood suits the audience perfectly – the barefoot dancing and adventures in climbing the stage rigging bring huge cheers and even though she’s playing the same old songs she’s improvising within them making them sound stronger and more confident than ever. The pulsing -Cosmic Love’ is perfectly and calmly played while a strong new song, with a name we didn’t catch, due to the terrible sound at the sides of the stage, had her yelping and screaming at the masses. She gave it all for the final two, -You’ve Got The Love’ and -Rabbit Heart’ and you couldn’t have asked for more from Ms Welch and her band – except a bigger tent.
On the way to the Cosmopol stage we pass huge swings, giant Connect 4 games, and the relaxed youth of Denmark who still don’t seem to have had enough sun – though they’re all bronzing instead of the more traditional lobster-effect that those of us with more Hibernian skin get. We arrive to Delphic all clad in crisp white shirts and in the middle of a relentless set of their cheery, electronic-infused rock. They have made the lighting system their own and put more energy into everything on stage than anyone would expect on this hot day. There are drum machines all over the place and they are constantly adding layers of sounds and beats to what they’re playing to fatten up each song.
On the main stage the reformed Danish band Dizzy Mizz Lizzy (we told you before about the Danish band names) are making all the thirty-somethings feel like they were 15 again. They must have gathered 50,000 people to see them, and it’s an emotional memory lane for the Danes while the rest of us enjoy a bit of nicely executed pop rock which does indeed sound like to the soundtrack of youth – or a John Hughes film at least, which is the same thing.
Speaking of 15 years ago, Alice In Chains are next on the main stage and while they no doubt rock, in their own tail-end-of-grunge kind of way, we’ve had enough looking back for one day. CasioKids are the perfect electro-pop to go with our dinner out on the grass, which is now more discarded paper plates and pizza boxes than grass. When we passed Dirty Projectors they were scowling a bit to a packed tent. We didn’t get close enough to see the whites of their eyes but we wrote in our notes ‘they don’t know what they want’ so it’s quite possible we were not so blown away, yet all the running around in the heat, coupled with beer, was taking its toll.
Dave Grohl can sober you up with one slap of a snare drum and the rock fans that queued, young and old alike, to get into the pit were fully satiated by Them Crooked Vultures. Grohl is easily the best rock drummer around and he pretty much controlled the heartbeats of the tens of thousands gathered at the main stage. Homme was in rude health, as ever, and not gushing but honestly thankful to the adoring crowd. And if Grohl and Homme know their shit, John Paul Jones adds a layer to proceedings befitting someone who almost invented modern rock. We drank on afterwards listening to the more spiritually long-haired of our friends gush emotionally about the gig into the small hours so that’s good enough for a thumbs up from us.
Late into the night we dared to go see HEALTH and the LA noise rockers were lost in their cacophonous set-list but were engaging despite the young guitarist looking like a paperboy. The controlled wall-of-sound always pulled itself into some shape or rhythm and it was with real pleasure that we got lost in the music for a while.
Lastly was a trip to the main stage to see what Danish band Nephew were up to. The local bands always put so much into the stage shows and as Nephew sing mostly in Danish, thus limiting themselves somewhat to a national audience, this was the biggest gig for them and it looked every bit of it. Massive, sliced diagonal screens dominated the stage and Simon Kvamm was, as ever, magnetic. The lead singer has a frightening thousand-yard stare and looks a bit like Gary Numan without the make-up. The sound is rock, but synth heavy, and the drums are so deliberate that it’s almost marching music. You can’t take your eyes off the stage, especially Kvamm. We are told that the band wrote the recent Danish World Cup song but the less said about that (the team, not the song) the better.
The night ends with an episode that is already an anecdote involving a member of State, a burger-eating Dave Grohl and Florence Welch discussing a sausage – but that’s a story for a whole other day.
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