It’s a cruel and unusual plan to have a four day festival this full-on. It’s fair to say we peaked on Saturday. A wealth of vastly different music pushed us to the limit, and winding down after the last gig at 4am still took a few hours so Dr. John’s Sunday afternoon slot slipped away as we pulled off the essential eye-mask and looked at our watch. A stroll around the site was in order catching the social aspects of the festival. People were potting plants in wellies, there was a swing section (as in tyres hanging from ropes, not a Glen Miller band) and tired but still pretty orderly looking Danes scattered around the site.
The sounds of Machine Head from the main stage were inescapable so when 6pm finally arrived we were glad to be received into the Arena tent once again for Friendly Fires. Despite a small technical delay Ed Macfarlane cut a fine shape as he contorted himself around the stage, synths and drum machines. It almost certain that everyone in the room wanted to have the energy to do same but as mentioned earlier, it was a Sunday evening on a punishing weekend of standing, walking and dancing and you could feel a caste over the room. This is Friday night entertainment and with all the will in the world, it’s hard to get on the same wavelength as Friendly Fires at this juncture in the weekend. Spirited on stage, you couldn’t really fault the band although there seemed a sameyness to the music live today. Wrong day perhaps.
Under some time pressure as the evening gathers pace and we trek out to the campsites again towards the Apollo inflatable tent. A big pumpkin-like structure it moved about the campsites on the week up to the festival proper but has been anchored out at one area for the last four days. With an impressive album of darkly atmospheric electronica and behind them in the last few months there’s every chance that Blondes, appearing on this odd stage, could be unmissable. What we arrive at is the most depressing scene imaginable. The two guys are in the pumpkin with the perfect sound carrying some solid live mixing but what is in front of the stage is the shock. No-one. Well, not no-one to be exact but one naked guy, about 20 or 30 people standing far back listening curiously and about the same amount of the seriously tired and emotional hovering around the littered camp grounds. It’s basically a scene from The Road. We could only dream of what these guys could have done the night before, on-site, at 2am but this was like punishment for the eyes.
It’s with a large degree of comfort we are welcomed into the buxom of Alabama Shakes in the Odeon tent. Brittany Howard’s voice of pure blues DNA sounds as good live as on the record, and watching the tight band play through the Boys & Girls album was as warm and comfortable as an old jumper. A trot to the other side of the site was worth it for a late glimpse of Santigold. Friendly and open without being “you guys are awesome”, she’s also serious enough to have the most perfect two dancers never miss a move. A flash of gold leisure-wear, the show is a high benchmark in how to fill a stage and get the tired sunday thousands to fall in love with you.
The final hurdle almost there, it’s not leisure-wear but a dress made out of some HR Geiger plumbing and mental orange hair that Björk appears in, to close the festival. Surrounded by the Greek chorus of an all-girl choir, the constant re-invention of her live show (and recording process) is always interesting and impressive. She mixed in a variety of songs from her large canon as well as the current Biophilia, re-inventing the older songs with the choir and backed everything with a vast wall of video and 3D animation. Instruments on stage seemed to included a machine that generated a note when an arc of electricity jumped between given points, differently spaced out in a chromatic scale so what we were looking at is Björk in macro and micro, as well as in person. Sometimes the small clustered group seemed a little lost in the big stage, often a more pastoral introspective thing that would have been captivating inside a club, yet she turned on the spectacular too. Dedicating a song to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, it concluded in eruptions from the stage and a massive retina-burning wall of sparks, showering down. Too clever, seasoned and unusual to be anything but captivating it was an ideal closing show. An Icelandic circus and seance to soothe the four-day bruises, and see us safely home.
All photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen except Bjork by Steffen Joergensen