The wonders of good night’s sleep. With the little rain of yesterday clearing up we are so match-fit that we make it in early enough to get into the Pavilion tent to see Cerebral Ballzy push some genuine punk on the relatively early risers. It’s shouty and loud with a simple but perfect three-chord trick underpinning it all and with a busy tent insisting on an encore they certainly ask what’s required on this Saturday morning. And their mothers will be proud at how polite they were between songs. We’re now awake enough to take in the campsite radio station’s annual Naked Race. Taking a short cut we walked through a door where the hundreds assembled were expecting the nude runners to appear, but brushing this off we enjoyed the three or so minutes it takes, and marveled at the bravery and flying parts of the athletes.
The fully clothed Julia Holter is perhaps the mellow, pensive punk. Just when you think you have a hold on a mainstream melody of hers, she twists it that little bit into some sweet discordant movements. Holter is super focussed when playing and seems to exist in her own world during much of it, coming back to earth after each song and even remembering to take her handbag, which sits beside her keyboard for the show, when exiting the stage. A wee bit spellbinding.
From a Fleet Fox-cover-You-Tube-sensation First Aid Kit have not lost that elfin folk charm but have grown in attitude and just exude confidence to a rammed Odeon tent. They have the simplest on-stage set-up and despite the rootsy musical thread through the set, they really seem to rock it out, making full use of their flowing locks to headbang whenever possible. Chatting away in American English and giving shouts out to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris et al, they have fully taken the jump from their native Sweden to Southern States country. A folke-up cover of Fever Ray’s ‘When I Grow Up’ is slipped in, and a throw-the-hair-about knees-up closes the show in the shape of ‘King of the World’ and sure we’re all dancing.
The darkest, moodiest stage lighting surrounds South Africa’s Spoek Mathambo. Rapping through some seriously fat beats and electro, he lays out an addictive mixed sound. Playing live with his Copenhagen-based collaborator Chllngr, we get plenty of live sax blended in to the mix. A serious show for just 4pm. Next door in Pavilion is essentially the come-down party as The Low Anthem are doing their pastoral folk thing. Impressing much more than on record, despite the saw-playing we stayed way longer than was planned completely missing Tune-Yards and just glimpsing The Roots who put on a massive show. Opening up with the Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul Revere’ dedicated to Adam Yauch, the sun broke through and the 60,000 or so faithful just lit up. If we had a beer for every time an acquaintance talked about that awesome show over the next day we would have been too incapacitated for M83 but no way in HELL were we missing Anthony Gonzales here. In the Arena tent. On a Saturday evening. Arguably one of the finest live bands currently touring we were front and centre when a masked figure walks out, laser-tipped fingers reaching out across the crowd. PUMPED. Gonzales could come out and play chopsticks and still deliver but of course we get the opening synth 1-2 of ‘Intro’ and no-one builds drama like this guy. He has distilled pure joy into electronic sounds. There’s practically no let-up – if ‘Steve McQueen’ is like taking drugs in a planetarium then ‘Midnight City’ and, today’s second sax appearance, is like kissing god.
The only, only, way to follow this is with Bruce Springsteen. Time to have that calming beer and be buoyed along on the wave that is three hours of the most honest, life-affirming rock show going. M83 demanded your energy, Springsteen demands that you enjoy his energy. The vibe in the crowd – right to the back of the site, is chatty and friendly. An hour into the blissfully entertaining carnival and one of Denmark’s original punk rockers, who is by chance standing beside us, turns and notes “and he hasn’t played one fucking song from Born To Run yet”. Friends of Springsteen’s from New York, The Roots, join for ‘The E Street Shuffle’ and there’s a nicely done silent minute during ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ where we see footage over the years of the late Clarence Clemens. ‘Because The Night’, ‘The Rising’ and a typically roaring ‘Born to Run’ were the moments we took away but at Bruce’s all-you-can-eat buffet everyone will have their own favourite combination.
Running on empty, though perhaps running a little on Tuborg and literally running to the Arena tent we catch the last part of Bon Iver. A rag-cloth draped stage and Justin Vernon’s assured presence in the midst of it, provided no surprises to anyone who’s seen his recent concerts but it didn’t stop the electrified atmosphere in all gathered. People caught on their own were turning in awe to their neighbours, shaking heads at Vernon’s large-scale re-construction of his own personal and detailed songs. Under instruction we all join at the end of ‘The Wolves’ to a peak of 15,000 voices crying “what might have been lost” before the final yell expunges any traces of vocal chords that were left after ‘Born to Run’ earlier.
Plenty to talk of, it’s time for a sit down. Some shots perhaps, and in one case the appearance of a frightening Schwarzenegger mask. After a few hour of this, and against all odds, there was still one singular treat left. With some effort a small group were moved from the comfort of a seat in a bar back out to the Odeon tent where an immaculately suited Lee Fields was laying out a jewel-encrusted blanket of soothing soul. Such a wonderfully unusual treat to find ourselves there, as the clock moved to 4am, after the days travels and the last shot-in-the-arm we needed to survive until the early northern sun crept up over the site.
Photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen