Thursday was so implausibly good in spite of the rain that Friday seemed to be doomed to the fate of a bit of a letdown- or a slower day in the least. This was well reflected in the dwindling number of people arriving to the main stage for the 4 o’clock slot, held by German usual suspects Die Fantastischen Vier. They are of course an acquired taste- which you can probably acquire only if you are German yourself, or at a native level of German, which of course no non-German ever attained, so well, people from Stuttgart were happy- and so were we to see there are so many people from Stuttgart coming to the island.
We left the main stage around the time when people started wondering why they are vier when there’s three of them on the stage -well, three of them were rapping, and then there were several others in the band, so no matter how you added and extracted, the four remains a mystery. The A38 stage was hosting the Palma Violets (who are actually a foursome, sublime victory for maths, finally), who for me are the epitome of the „bands NME hypes but I just can’t get the hang of” label. They sound so much like all other raucous indie acts that I simply cannot remember any of their songs- I have listened to the album several times, I have now seen them live as well, yet would not be able to recall one chord- not even if my life depended on it, so I can just hope it never will.
The main stage area became decidedly more animated when an infectiously cheerful Cee-Lo Green showed up in an Emperor Palpatine meets silk nightgown ensemble and was accompanied by a group of wonderfully skilled female musicians- in their undies. My feminist side should probably go on a rampage right now, but it won’t, because there was something utterly charming and quite harmless about the whole act- a perfect dose of sugar and funk for a Friday festival afternoon.
Having the Manic Street Preachers come on after Cee-Lo is probably akin to landing on Cardiff airport in the middle of an autumn drizzle after a holiday in the Bahamas- it’s somehow good to be back, but you’d rather it wasn’t happening. I always get this unsettling feeling when watching the Manics live- I love their records, and on paper their set should be brilliant, and it actually sounds alright, and they are of course extremely skilled musicians, but the spark just isn’t there. Maybe it’s something related the lack of connection between them and the crowd- very few people are actually aware of the band’s back catalogue, and most just idle away with a beer, waiting for whoever’s next. It is probably unfair to the Manics, and I always feel a bit sorry for not being more excited, but this concert didn’t send shivers down my spine either.
Counting this year’s disappointments, I would say Angel Haze is somewhere on top of the list- though maybe it’s not entirely her fault- it’s just that the bass was pumped so loud in A38 during her gig that it was hard, if possible at all, to distinguish the tracks and you could barely hear the rapping- which is a total pity in her case. She did look ill at ease for the entire show and finished quite early, leaving a gaping whole in the programme, which was made to bleed even more by Kelis arriving (un)fashionably late.
The only excuse I can accept is that she was fixing her hair, or had an army of minions fixing it for her- it most definitely looked amazing, like a sublime halo of otherworldly auburn flames. Her dress was also impeccable and she seemed moderately pleased to be there- moderate being the word for her entire performance: she slowed down most of her tracks, turning them into somewhat jazzy lullabies. Yes, you can make a jazzy lullaby from Milkshake, trust me. Which is a fine intention and would have worked wonders in a smoky little club, but fell a bit flat and awkward in a festival tent, with the public being at their wits’ end already.
When Kelis strutted of with a moderate smile, it was time for the Klaxons, who were back on Sziget after a gig that no one seems to remember- not even themselves, though they confirm remembering the parliament, which would suggest them having been here, though maybe in another dimension. In this one, however, we might not recall the new concert either- it did have some strong points, but overall it somehow falls short of memorable, you keep getting this eerie feeling that all their detractors were indeed right, and the Klaxons are more hype than music. Time will maybe tell- provided we remember the Klaxons at all.
While we were being moderate in A38, there was indeed a Korn concert on the main stage, of which people in the know speak as having been much better than their 2012 Sziget affair, though that might be a confusing snippet of information, since that outing is known as one of the basest in the festival’s history. Given that we are not experts on Korn, nor do we wish to be, we can only conclude that based on this satisfactory result, they’ll be back to torment us into the darkness of A38 sooner that we’d like.