Sunday morning greet us with an overcast day – a blessed relief after three days of relentless sun. Last night’s late activities have taken their toll and it’s a shaky State that shuffles up to Peter Doherty in the Arena tent. Shockingly, he is actually a few minutes early on stage and relatively fresh. It’s a solo, acoustic show but his guitar comes across loud and dirty and the mood of it all suits our condition very well. He makes two attempts to play that oh-so-obvious cover, ‘Billie Jean’ but justifiably abandons them as they veer into something not at all right. We get a few Libertines songs for our troubles and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ (one of the greatest British songs of the last 10 years) is especially enjoyed by the assembled, even if it feels a bit thin with just a guitar. We go looking for something profound in his version of ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ but fail to find it, especially after he replaces “every junkie’s like a setting sun” with “…like a fucking scum”.
There’s some Balkan-esque hip-hop reggae party going on over in the Cosmopol tent as Greeks Imam Baildi have the entire tent of withered, day four-ers jumping around with ‘heys’ and ‘hos’ and what not. A rousing start and now we’re back on the horse. We are lucky enough to have some time in the Astoria tent with Hanggai, who have dug into their past and found original Mongolian sounds and deliver them with all the trimmings (beautiful old Chinese outfits and instruments made in part from horsehair). But there really is some lively rhythm in their re-envisaging of the music and they get cheers, mid-number, for just sitting there and playing. The throat singing also goes down a treat – these guys are much less a novelty and much more a discovery.
With one of the best albums of the year in their back pocket White Lies have no trouble getting a lot of Danes into the Odeon tent for their 5pm slot. Their set-up looks nicely colour-coded with a white Marshall amp sitting high beside a translucent drum kit. The drummer is elegantly dressed but the others haven’t made any major effort and you really have to wonder where bass players go to get those sloppy, ill-fitting t-shirts they wear? We want them to raise the roof so much that maybe we expected too much but the London boys still haven’t got their live chops yet and there’s just something about the playing that isn’t quite flowing yet. The strong, bold sound they have on record doesn’t come effortlessly live and front man Harry McVeigh may be lacking a little confidence which he should justifiably have considering the songs he’s written. Things really do come together, however, when they cover Portishead’s ‘The Rip’, maybe just a bit more easy delivering someone else’s songs. They take this energy through ‘The Price Of Love’ and finishing on a high with ‘Death’. They have the songs, and hopefully the fluidity will come (as well as a t-shirt that fits the bass player).
First trip of the weekend now to the Lounge, which has hosted a number of relaxed, low-key music and djs. Our favourite Swedish instrumentalists Ass are playing to a chilled tent, people so chilled in fact (after the previous nights of trying to sleep in hot tents) that maybe 80% of the audience is asleep on the tent’s cool sand floor. This creates a quiet air of reverence and gives us a bit of time to put the feet up as Andreas SÃ¶derstrÃ¶m strums out some soft, lush sounds as his companions tap and stroke an unusual collection of instruments to complete this.
Mentally re-grouped we knock up to Arena where we get just what we expect from The Whitest Boy Alive, that being a fully engaging, funky dance-athon complete with a crowd battle-royale (“I’m done with you” from the right, “I’m sailing my own” from the left). The stage set-up for the band is a closed-in affair, with the drummer and keyboard player bracketing the guitarists from two risers. This leaves the people even slightly towards the wings with a very obscured view of main man Erlend Ã˜ye and frankly, a little left out. It’s odd for this band whose trademark is making everyone feel a part of the gig. We soon get over it though and while some friends claim they get a bit sloppy (possibly due to consumption of the rider) we are jigging about to mostly songs from the first album, as well as ‘Show Me Love’ and a nifty bit of Prodigy’s ‘Outer Space’. Rousing the audience to clap and sing along to one last beat, they come out from behind the instruments and have a little dance at the front out the stage only to dance off to our provided rhythm. Book them for your wedding now.
Over in the Cosmopol tent Diplo is doing what Steinski couldn’t do yesterday – he’s being riveting while DJing. The dancer who appears during Major Lazer, this new digital dancehall project of his, moves like a snake and we could just watch her all day. The visuals are epic and make full use of the tents clever caterpillar lighting screens. The Caribbean sounds that lie under and sometimes above his wall of digital sound has made a party of the tent but if we don’t have a sit down in the sun we’ll never see the evening out. Madness are our soundtrack to this sit down, doing exactly what it says on the tin. It seems that the favourites can still bring the forty-somethings, relaxing with their prams at the back, dancing about like 20 years ago.
Time is never on your side with so much to see and though we miss M. Ward and I’m From Barcelona we have the good fortune to catch the pit gates opening for a few seconds as we’re off to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs and next thing we’re up close beside Karen O, clad in a flowing typo-print dress, her sweaty hair obscuring her face save for her mouth which, when not singing, is either smiling or laughing. She’s having a ball and you just can’t take your eyes off her. State scolds itself for not getting hold of the new album yet, but live they have excelled so much since that wonderful but shambolic show in The Shelter in Vicar St., Dublin about five years ago. An acoustic ‘Maps’ is sweet, but we long for the fully plugged version too. O takes to stabbing herself in the heart with the microphone and suddenly appears in a full headed mask of snaking neon. Who wouldn’t just want to party with that girl forever? Faultless.
There’s a speech by Dr. Muhammad Yunus before Coldplay come on, and it should alter our lives but we were so glued to Karen O on the other side of the site that we remain unaltered, save for the effect Ms. O has on us. Stealing from the Flaming Lips, Chris Martin’s lot begin proceedings with a melee of large, bouncing balloons which shower confetti upon bursting. The concert is being videoed by the band and it’s a run through the hits without any doubt. Mr. Martin and his high connections seem to have organised a most perfect full moon to rise beside the ferris wheel behind the crowd and we’d expect to see that image on a Live DVD cover in the near future. The pit was impenetrable for this one so we had to be content in the middle distance while the crowd lapped up -Violet Hill’, -Clocks’ and -Fix You’ up the front with the band lashing out the energy as usual, though Martin’s constant pegging about and oft-repeated profound thanks to the crowd got a little much for us. ‘Viva La Vida’ is the big unifier though and it sounds impressive, as do the audience as they give it the full lash too.
Now stealing from U2 they walk a very long path through the centre of the crowd to appear miles out in the assembled masses with acoustic guitars for ‘Green Eyes’. Then in a case of Grand Theft Larry Mullen Jr. they even let the drummer sing a song! This whole acoustic bit is badly played and arranged and is the sort of thing you wouldn’t get away with in a pub. And then just when they could save something out of it, they go and absolutely murder ‘Billie Jean’ (second time that song was butchered today) and we have to turn to the bar behind us for some sort of solace. They return back and seem to begin ”¦La Vida’ again but it may a refrain. Soon we enjoy ‘The Scientist’ and spend a few minutes being impressed by the stage lights, which they certainly know how to use to full effect. From where we stand we can see, in the distance behind the stage, and quite by chance, a few piddling fireworks go off for some reason or another. Agreeing that the review of the gig was practically writing itself now we slinked away as the band said their goodbyes with ‘Life In Technicolor II’ and ‘The Escapist’.
Pushing the body’s limits, our festival closed at the Arena tent’s Rub A Dub night, a successful Sunday club night in Copenhagen whose motto is “Rub A Dub Sundays Fuck Up Your Mondays”. We can claim that as an undisputable fact for as we let all the dust of the last amazing four days fall around us we were suddenly taken drunk while the bar behind the stage battled on till 6am. We even danced with Karen O in the throngs and drank wine from a milk carton. Put €20 in a jar each week for the next year and blow it all over here in 2010 at one of Europe’s finest festivals.
Photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen