After a long day at the campsite avoiding the mid-30s sun with the odd beer but the campervan fridge is broken, the gates open on Day Two and Broken Social Scene kick things off. 'How was Jay Z?' asks Kevin Drew and the small crowd cheers. 'How was Missy Elliott?' 'Booooo.' He's taken back. Songs from new and old mingle through the collective's set like 'Texaco Bitches' (new) and the brilliant '7/4 Shoreline' (old) that leaves me hanging for those punchy horns through swooning vocals over riffing indie guitars.
Mixed in with the hip hop, rock and dance is almost equal amounts of world music and experimental to check out. Omar Souleyman is Arabic electro, with a young guy on keyboards and what might be his dad, in the full sheik style: headdress, aviator shades and Tom Selleck 'tache. The tunes are cool, if not cheesy, with enough pop and bass to make you wanna try partying in Syria for a night.
Airbourne are loved in Europe. I feel there's a tongue firmly in cheek with their AC/DC-lite schtick that they themselves may not be aware of it. Marshall stacks, at ten by two, cover the main stage. In their scuzzy white NB trainers, black jeans and no shirts, they lap the stage with their cordless guitars as the French audience lap them up like Angus Young never existed and after every song he screeches a loud, high pitched 'Merci'! like Bon Scot screeched 'THANK YOU!'. Liz is fairly certain she hears singer Joel O'Keeffe rhyme the lines 'Chewin' the fat' with 'Havin' a chat'. Matt and I try to get involved; devil signs, head bangs - Matt even rips off his press-stud shirt whipping it to the ground in a frenzy but it's all a bit too contrived - then again so is the music. Down on the beach Radio Radio mix English and French for frivolous uptempo party hip hop. It's the perfect stage and time for them. They get their crowd going but it's not too riveting.
Having recently seen (and enjoyed) Memory Tapes, foremost exponents of blog-genre-of-the-month 'glo-fi' (though some blogs are calling it 'chill-wave'), I opt for the always entertaining Specials with Rhys. Thirty years of ska (give or take) draws a large afternoon crowd ready for a sunny summer skank. Classics like 'Message to You Rudy', 'Ghost Town' and 'Too Much Too Young' are obvious hits with the crowd, all delivered by a deadpan Terry Hall.
It's during The Specials a political movement takes hold. Sponge Bob Square Pants helium-filled balloons had already been released from their strings which prompts a revolution over the festival. Chants circulate through the festival to Libere Bob l'éponge ('Liberate Sponge Bob Square Pants') when someone is caught with a Bob on a string. Sporadic releases saw Bob, Patrick and sometimes even Dora, explore the world beyond Eurockeennes. During The Specials numerous balloons rise and spin with a mesmerising rotation. Patrick particularly, off kilter with his wide bum and arm out waving, he danced into the stratosphere serenely. It was real life American Beauty shit. Vive l'éponge!From the UK, The XX's brooding, down-tempo trip hop has been well received over the last 18 months through rigorous European touring. It's paid off, they've got the word out with a large crowd amassing under the Big Top. Opening with favourite 'Islands', they move through 'Shelter' 'VCR' and 'Crystalised'. Never too jovial or hyperactive on stage, their music is reflected their solemn live personas. As a result Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim come off kind of humble but also kind of pretentious - Sim shows his appreciation through Gere-esque, hand-clasped Buddhist bows.
Though I'd been expecting to see The Hives who are headlining the main stage we all decide to take up Liz's suggestion and see new R n B artist Jonelle Monae. On the beach stage with a storm brewing overhead, lightning in the clouds are putting on a threatening show. But Monae won't be upstaged. A protégé of Outkast's Andre 3000, she's crazy, sexy, cool. Elements of all the best who've come before her are incorporated into the Monae package. With costume changes and art-diva sensibility of Grace Jones, she rampages the stage with river deep soul like Tina Turner and when she slows it, she hits every note, elevating to the next, all the while keeping it in the bounds of a singular artist.
Two dancers, hooded and masked like an Eyes Wide Shut scene accompany Monae, as does a top-hatted ringleader. 'Cold War' is upbeat like Gnarls Barkley's 'Run (I'm a natural disaster)' as she shadow boxes through the dry ice while the loungy other-timely 'Locked Inside' provokes an impromptu finger clicking and backing singer styled shimmy from us. 'Tightrope' (which on record features Big Boi), brings that Motown jive via Andre 3000's production filter and the wet sand dance floor is stirred up and churned over. The raw punkabilly strut of 'Come Alive (War of the Roses)' summons the lightning and thunder cracking overhead and the sky opens up on us as the voice from the diminutive body creeps from whispers to boisterous rock wails that could rival Airbourne's squeels. Her quiff comes undone as she shakes loose, all the while her band are tight time keepers.
The guitarist's hair, like a black Johnny Ramone hangs down in his face and his swagger and swing, it seems familiar. I don’t know how much of the audience caught on, but certainly once we clue in that that is Andre himself, he holds our attention almost as well as the beautiful and captivating Monae. He's electrifying on guitar, somewhere between Chuck Berry and Prince.
Nevertheless Monae is the star and shines she does, through smoke and lasers, on the beach under a storm about to break, she summons the lightning and the thunder with this high energy soul. We're blown away - the kids didn't stand a chance. Though Afrodizz and Vitalic are still ahead we call it a night ending on a great note - weary from another hot, thirsty day of beers and great music.
Read Day One
Lords Of The Synth Podcast #170: ITCZ
4 weeks ago