It’s always delightful to start a post with breaking news, so here we go: the lava hot dog is back. It is less delightful not to be able to provide photographic evidence, but our sheer joy at encountering the sublime food item combined with a devastating hunger made us realize only too late that, before all else, food must be nicely arranged, lit, and instagrammed. We vow to make up for this most unforgivable sin in the days to come.
Before encountering the eighth wonder of the world we made another trip to the Europe stage- and almost got lost, which is a feat given that it is basically in a straight line from the entrance. But yes, we were just trying to disprove the fact that a straight line is always the shortest- on Sziget it most definitely isn’t. As a pleasant “overheard on Sziget” anecdote we can also share the epochal words of the security guard who, confronted with a jar of ajvar by two seemingly clueless Dutch damsels who pretended not to know the item is radically forbidden, promptly exclaimed: no making of stupid, this glass!
So back to the Europe venue, it was time for Tony Baboon of Romania, who had the misfortune of going on stage in the most merciless post noon sunshine- a special shout out here for those who danced through the whole gig in the sun, you know who you are. The rest of us mere mortals hid in the shadows- it must be said that the crowd was actually pretty numerous, but huddled to the left side, under the trees, which must have been awkward to see from the stage. This did not stop the band in their tracks though, and I never ever thought I would see the day when the folk tale Mioriţa, previously dusty school book material, would be belted out over the island of freedom and sound pretty amazing. Welcome to the world of Sziget epiphanies. And if this made you think that Tony Baboon plays folk music, you’re totally wrong, and you should hop over to youtube for some edifying material.
Since there wasn’t much action going around at 3 PM, we checked out French songstress Joe Bel, up next on the Europe stage. She’s doing a rather straightforward girl plus guitar thing, but luckily of the better variety. Her set also brought along a horde of Frenchies bedecked with Native American headdresses- Sziget will probably be the last stand for them among the major festivals, as similar headdresses are being banned all over the circuit for cultural appropriation. But as there are pretty few Native Americans roaming around Hungary, it’s highly unlikely the will complain any time soon.
There was still a gaping hole until the next interesting act, so we decided to drop by Sziget beach. Which in such torrid weather is about the best idea one can have. The Cökxpôn ambient tent was also shifted to this area from its traditional close to the exit spot- while it pretty much makes sense to combine the two, Cökxpôn used to be a wonderful last resort to crash in before heading home, so insert small grumbling here. There were of course many revelers lounging at the beach, but there were quite a few quiet spots as well for some afternoon reverie far from the madding crowd, doing some reading and planespotting- insert geeky silliness here: to add to Sziget’s awesomeness, it’s straight under the descent line of most flights heading for Budapest aiport. The total zen however made it triple difficult to head back into the burning jungle.
But head back we did, to check out Asaf Avidan on the main stage. Now Asaf is of course best known for the ubiquitous remix of his tune One Day, and there was a distinct feeling that lots of people were around specifically to catch that one, and of course it arrived only for the encore. so after a rather energetic start the concert wavered a bit halfway through to then pick up pace again towards the end, building up for the previously mentioned climax. As a very relevant snippet of information, we must however coo over how impeccably dressed he was and give bonus points for the roaring twenties meet cave woman outfits of his band- lots of girls in there indeed, something we definitely approve and support.
Up next in the main stage area- soap bubbles. I was wondering what remark of great philosophical and socio-political importance I could add to soap bubbles, and to prove that with a bit of effort and perseverance one can achieve anything here it goes: while animating the audience for the bubble extravaganza, the Sziget master of ceremonies noticed that there aren’t so many people from Africa on the island, so Hungary needs more immigration to solve this problem.
Somebody in the government office should be in for sleepless nights on hearing that, but we can’t really feel for his pain and head on to Quimby– who are, alongside Tankcsapda, among the very few Hungarian acts who can still claim a main stage spot, to the overall bitterness of some. The thing is, if you’re a hardened Sziget goer but not an uber Quimby fan, you do by now feel like you’ve maybe seen them one time too many, and make your escape to, well, warmer climates, namely the positively sweltering A38 tent- more Sziget benefits in a heat wave: when you leave A38 in the evening, you suddenly realize how cool the outside air actually is. Another big thank you to the island- putting things into perspective.
And in A38 we made one great, pivotal discovery: there are very high chances everyone on the island is secretly Belgian. Tricky people, them Belgians: by their speech you often take them for Dutch or French respectively, but when there’s a Belgian act on the bill, they suddenly reveal their true nature. So after the full blown Belgian apocalypse of Stromae last summer, we had the mini Belgian apocalypse of Selah Sue. Whose soul and reggae tinted music might not be our specific cup of tea, but it’s one we’re glad to have every now and then for a change.
The evening’s main stage attraction were of course Florence and the Machine- whom Sziget signed as a pretty big act back in early spring, and then got themselves a Glasto headliner come June. But the most important question is, of course, what do the Robbie Williams disapproving aliens think about Florence. And the answer is comforting: maybe, just maybe, the planet will be spared, because on the stage we have a high priestess of some sorts, clad in translucent white, who has a sublime voice which entitles her to lead her people based on solid grounds.
It’s uplifting to see a female lead deliver such an energetic and self assured performance, adding in the personal and emotional touches that make the experience feel raw and real. My only slight concern were the songs from her recent album, which is good, no doubt about that, but a bit too monotonous in the long run. So it was great to see her end with the superb Dog Days are Over from their debut, and arguably still best album, Lungs. And as another very relevant snippet of information, Florence’s groupies are among the most lovely to the eye, covered in glitter and gold, wearing flowy dresses and flower wreaths in their hair, like some crazed pixies who escaped through Sziget’s secret dimensional door.
The most painful time slot clash of this year’s festival came early on, and while we had planned to jog over to Future Islands at some point, Florence’s set was too intriguing to let go. Based on the last song of the set, which we did manage to catch, it must have been a blast, so we can only hope to have them back around here as soon as possible to make up for our loss. Right after the show, there were some pretty transfixed people wandering around the tent in a daze, murmuring ‘future islands future islands’- and that’s one of the loveliest feelings you can have when it comes to music, a live performance that sends you places, something a recorded version cannot ever replace.
Our last act of the day were Jungle, who managed to viciously drop the bass right at the beginning of their set, sending the people in the proximity of the sound system into altered states of mind and body. Since they are Brits, we will grace them with the nation’s favourite adjective- interesting. Must be our slight alienation from soul, classical or modern, that stops us from totally buying into their music, intensive and well crafted as it might be.