Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Eurockeennes Day Three

How we're running late after sitting around the campground all day is beyond me, but we find ourselves missing most of Townsville Australia's The Middle East who, it seems, inspired enough other festival goers to reasonably fill the Big Top with their folky and graceful forest rock.
PhotobucketMartina Topley Bird, maybe best known as Tricky's female voice on Maxinquaye, has a much sunnier side. On the Loggia scene, tucked among the trees, her trip hop influence shines through on cute art-pop ditties. With a ninja backing her on drums, both kit and djembe as well as, err, whirling vacuum hoses (remember those plastic tubes you'd play with as kids) she builds tracks from vocal loops, Casio strings and echoing wood blocks. She sparkles with a red bandit-mask styled make up, flowing red dress and sunny demeanour. Sadly no 'Black Steel' though. She'll appear later with the impacting Massive Attack.

On the main stage The Drums and their feelgood hit of the summer 'Let's Go Surfing' keeps me watching only for a short while. Their songs are boring bits of regurgitated pop done better by others far less retarded. And watching singer Jonathon Pearce strut like a really camp Morrissey meets Ian Curtis (again, nothing new here) sends me off to Ethiopiques.

An east African version of the Buena Vista Social Club, Ethiopiques draws on a historic line of artists who released music through the '60s and '70s and are now re-releasing compilations through a Parisian label dedicated to the era. Out first, like the African Elvis, Alemayehu Eshete opens the set. Crooning by the beach, he's all smiles, all lounge. Alternatively, Mahmoud Ahmned's sound and stage presence is more traditional and organic. Upbeat in the summer heat, we're on a trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea and my tastebuds salivate for last night's delicious dish from the Ethiopian stand.
PhotobucketWe move from organic roots music to raw punk power. It's the running of Gallows, more dangerous than the running of the bulls. Plumes of dust flies from a stampede of fans in 'the largest circle pit France has ever seen' as demanded by singer Frank Carter. Aggressive yet humble, they thank their fans as well as those who've come to see what all the commotion is about. It's vicious punk rock cut from the same stone as the dissidence and agitated energy that spawned the British scene in the 70s. And at that, Carter explains, 'You may not know our music and that's fine, but if you don’t know this next song you have no fucking right being at a rock festival.' The drums roll into a raucous rendition of The Clash's 'I Fought The Law'. It's 2:39 seconds of gut-wrenchingly basic rock n roll rebellion, a mix of quintessential anti-establish-mentality, and dropped-out loser-dom. Goosebumps run up my spine, across my shoulders and to my fingertips manifesting into fist pumps and loud shouts. It's basic and you clap and sing along to its sentiments. Frank couldn't be more right - if you don't see the raw beauty in this song, you shouldn't be at a rock festival.
PhotobucketThe Stroke's Julian Casablancas in hi-tops, red jeans and puffy red leather jacket, not to mention his pasty, spotted face looks like Michael Jackson in Thriller. His band are a ragtag posse of musos rather than the other stylish Strokes, an indie-styled mutli-instrumentalist girl, an old rocker on guitar, and the leather bikie from Village People. Nevertheless Julian is indie cool with his Sunday afternoon attitude, chatting between songs, the girls are eager for his flippant slacker charm. For those that had hoped for a stroking were instantly delighted when he opens with 'Automatic Stop' from the band's second record 'Room On Fire'. Of course he's here for his solo album, performing the electro pop single '11th Dimension' is a treat while the soulful '4 Chords of the Apocolypse' and cheery 'I Wish It Was Christmas Today' are also highlights. Nevertheless another Stokes tune 'Hard to Explain' is the standout as the spunky pop gives us enthusiasm for a return of the band.
One of the festival's big draw cards, that had us drive through four countries to get here is LCD Soundsystem and 'the time has come' as they open with 'Us V Them'. James Murphy and friends coerce out a tribal rhythm of hard grooves and repetitive intensity from indie-dance that other bands in your playlist can't quite grasp. On the strong rhythmic backbone and almost paganist trance, 'over and over and over again' as 'Us v Them' goes, they weave an indie woolly sweater, a mosaic of fuzzy sounds, of cowbells and handclaps to fill out and dress up the groove in hip rags that we kids will recognise as our own. Mix this with Murphy's idiosyncratic lyricism that finds poignancy in the life of a shallow hipster and you've got one of the finest festival acts around. Likewise This Is Happening's lead single 'Drunk Girls' does all this in spades, building on their hard groove; the festival atmosphere and hipster motif - it's a great call 'n' response for the audience as we shout the chorus. 'Tribulations' is a massive tune, an all out rave, and the four-to-the-floor punk beat of 'The Movement' doesn't quite garner the moshpit of a couple of months ago when we saw the band in Amsterdam but it's urgency is no less. This is Happening's 'I Can Change' shifts gears into mellower melancholy and shows Murphy can hit all those recorded high notes live. It's gripping and beautiful - I catch myself swaying. Meanwhile, 'All My Friends' brings fake piano hands and group hugs as we wail 'where are your friends tonight'. Worth the drive.

A friend recommended I catch singer/songwriter Woven Hand, and teamed here with Hungarian folk act Muszikas, it could be something interesting so Rhys and I check it out as others move on. On the plage scene, a blondie-gray haired man topped with a ten-gallon hat holds solemn vocals recalling Nick Cave or Jim Morrison and it's immediately an improvement on what I was expecting. Together with the eastern bloc collective, they create brooding country soundscapes like the score to a Balkan cowboy film not yet made. It’s stories of hard luck and misfortune that are tense, gothic and expansive courtesy of both Mr Hand and the trembling and warbling Ottoman Empire era instruments Muszikas play. It is perfect dusk music.

Over on the Laggia stage is an intensity of another kind about to take hold with a one-two-three punch of Health, Action Beat and Fuck Buttons (BYO ear plugs or let them bleed). Firstly, four-piece Health make caustic industrial noise coursing below melodic and ethereal vocals that feel like the bad comedown of a night spent on glo-fi. A decent crowd are rattling free their cobwebs via the thundering drumming, tense and warping guitar and epic synths (the young chap kneels on the ground to play) of tracks like ‘Die Slow’ and ‘USA Boys’. We're all pretty impressed.

Immediately as Health finishes on stage, no wave band Action Beat turn the crowd’s attention around to below the sound tower. Equally intense, the instrumental Action Beat’s army of guitars pump through jagged riffings. There may have been two drum kits in there as well but I couldn’t see for the lack of stage and swarming crowd.

They fill the sound and drown out Mika who is prancing about in the distance on the main stage until Fuck Buttons replace Health on stage, ready to test mine and Matthew's IBS with their gut-rumbling search for the brown note. It began as noise, thick fucking white noise, filtering out the weak. Eurockeennes put emphasis on being a festival who accommodate for the disabled with great wheelchair access and even aiding the deaf. Well this is where the deaf should be – front and centre for Fuck Buttons – my chest feels like it’s being rucked by the All Blacks. This music has it’s own force field. The two knob twiddlers who face each other on stage slowly cut the fat, parring the noise back to varying pitches that begin to resemble a melody. It’s possibly the most challenging music I experience all weekend. And it's good to be challenged. However, without earplugs there’s only so much I can take. Plus, Massive Attack are about to start.
PhotobucketI regroup with Grant, Liz and Rhys with the amphitheatre almost already full. Soon the lights go up and Massive Attack's eight-piece band take the stage including 3D and Daddy G orchestrating the electronic symphony. In the background, from long thin lights, flashing political statements and images scroll; life in numbers (Countries’ GDPs, poverty and human rights stats and gallons spilled from the BP oil well); France’s daily headlines; the logos of multinational companies (ending on again BP, the audience responding appropriately with loud boos).
3D and Daddy G sing and rap their way through a few lesser songs (but also ‘Inertia Creeps’) before Martina Topley Bird takes the stage to sing ‘Teardrops’. Hers is a cuter version to original Elizabeth Fraser’s – not quite as piercing, a little more delicate. Reggae star Horace Andy brings his stirring vocals to the fore on ‘Angel’. There’s a pleasant wisdom to his voice but it's quickly swamped as the song rises to monstrous proportions. It’s vocalist Deborah Miller however who escalates the show to another level taking the entire festival with it. The lungs on this woman are breathtaking for all around - I guess because she needs all the air.
She brings an extra gravity to ‘Safe From Harm’ as the music builds and builds like a blockade of riot police forcing their way towards me. Likewise ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is bigger than on record as Miller raises it to be spine-tinglingly operatic – it is indeed a massive attack.

With a long drive ahead tomorrow we wander home to call it a night, weary from three days of an amazing array of music, from Arabic disco to Bulgarian folk, New York hip hop and English punk rock – if only we could have swum.

Read Day Two
Read Day One

1 comment:

  1. Hell Yes Mr Delaney, good to see you keepin the dream alive and representing! Love to the clogs xxo