The fourth day of the festival proved to be the polar opposite of the third when it comes to concerts, as if it was trying exceedingly hard to make up for being a Monday-not that you really know what day of the week is when you’re on Sziget: from 4 PM both the main stage and A38 had a pretty strong showing basically in each time slot, thus prompting frequent commutes which proved to be ever more challenging as the day progressed. Festival commuting is a questionable, albeit natural behaviour: you start developing a sort of musical ADD, especially towards the last days when you get increasingly tired: you give an act five minutes, and if they can’t win those, to the bin with them. Sometimes you stay undecided, linger longer at a gig than expected, then wander into the next one without a frame of reference- oddly enough, you may miss a large chunk of shows and still have a decent idea about them if you catch either the opening or the closing track.
We were therefore on duty at 4 PM when Years and Years pulled a minor Rihanna and came (un)fashionably late, but lead singer Olly Alexander is as charming as he is slight and seems to genuinely enjoy being on the island, so they’re off the hook for this one. He has all the right to be pleased, as the crowd assembled in front of the stage is pretty staggering for such an early slot, and will not be replicated during the day until Sia’s headline show. The groupie brigade is on the barricades, looking all flowery and glittery- a great match for the band’s bubblegum electro, which nevertheless seems to grown on you in the balmy afternoon breeze. Quite unrelated to the band’s otherwise strong performance, the weather is basically festival perfect, warm but timidly overcast, so you can comfortably hang out in skimpy outfits without getting lethally sunburnt.
Next up are the Kaiser Chiefs, returning to the island minus their classic drummer Nick Hodgson, but with a re-invigorated and slimmed down Ricky Wilson sporting a rather splendid yellow jacket, fresh off his stint as a coach on the BBC’s The Voice, which I find somehow puzzling for someone vying for indie cred. I was also pretty doubtful about their more recent material, which consistently failed to live up to their first two records, and especially the first, as I do consider Employment one of the often overlooked minor classics of noughties guitar music. In a therefore somewhat natural way the intensity of the concert seems to waver when the band plays newer material, but you really can’t go wrong at a festival when you deliver zingers like I Predict a Riot and Oh My God. It also helps that Wilson is in constant connection with the crowd, cajoling them into singalongs- since I was already musing on the strange nature of festival performances I can now venture into concluding that the Kaiser Chiefs ticked all the right boxes.
In a case of the above mentioned ADD, we briefly left the main stage to check out The Neighbourhood in A38, and I kind of wish I didn’t as what I saw of their gig couldn’t shake off the feeling that they’re one of those typical okay bands. There’s nothing inherently wrong with their music, but they never do anything exceptional, releasing scores of very similar songs which will result in a small but religious following and hardly anything else. The followers were in the crowd, the tunes were delivered, many people were happy and I grabbed a coffee and returned to the Kaiser Chiefs, both of which had the welcome effect of jolting me back into life.
At 7 PM there came a confetti party, and we had some new masters of the ceremony. Here I must confess criminal ignorance- ever since the special parties were added to the festival bill, we usually had the same person leading us up to the throwing/shaking/rattling of colourful somethings, he loves to talk about peace, unity, friendship, in a somewhat annoying but also very fitting way and I have no idea who he is. I could of course resort to google now, but won’t, because we all know ignorance is sometimes bliss. Suffice to say that two new people entertained us yesterday, it was pretty cringe-worthy, and I want the previous person back pronto.
Since it’s confession time, I will also admit to having had mixed feelings about Noel Gallagher showing up with a band that is not Oasis- because I am such a nice and fair person, I harbour exactly the same feelings about Liam’s band which is not Oasis. I love them both to shreds, Oasis was one of the defining musical experiences of my teens, and in Noel’s case you can’t but notice just how amazing he is as a musician- he writes great songs like you and I breathe. It’s just that these songs are not anthems anymore and although I found the show perfectly enjoyable it was also a bit sedate, something akin to a Ferrari with a hand break on looking for a comfortable parking spot.
Noel was therefore left to his own devices while we checked out Chvrches in A38 and I am happy to say Chvrches, while not being exactly a musical Ferrari, did not have the hand break on either. Lead singer Lauren is a bundle of energy running up and down the stage, and as the gig progresses the energy becomes contagious and you suddenly feel like dancing a bit, then a bit more, and of being transported to a temporary happy place. Lauren’s overwhelming stage presence does have the downside that, when the lead singer role is temporarily switched, a rather large number of people decides to leave the tent, but the show soon recovers pace and finishes off nicely with the band’s best known tracks.
In the meantime this day sells out as well, and we’re ready for the main stage headliner. Or most people though they were ready but had no idea of what was coming their way. Sia has always been a slightly puzzling presence: she’s been releasing music for almost two decades now and is the writer of some of the most popular hits out there, but only found real fame recently and seems as uncomfortable with it as could be. She therefore landed on Sziget’s main stage with a show which consisted of her sporting her now classical wig hiding her eyes, standing very still for the whole time, belting hit after hit while dancers performed around her and leaving those in attendance somewhere between the incredulous and the delighted. I myself am exactly halfway in between: the performance piece itself is great and I would have gladly watched it in a smaller venue with a a good view of what’s happening onstage being available to all those present.
But on Sziget, late in the evening, somewhere in the darkened distance of the main stage’s bowels it just fell flat on it’s face. I would have also really enjoyed a live band, which I don’t think is too much to ask from a live concert, after all. At the end of it I felt like someone who wants to cross a river, and instead of a boat is given a golden butterfly: the thing is most definitely beautiful, but it just won’t get me to the other side.
The day ends with this edition’s French love in in A38, and my delight at having correctly predicted that the tent will reach full capacity and thus rushing there on time to catch M83. Quite fittingly for a band named after a galaxy, their deep space inspired visuals are splendid and perfectly complement that kind of electronica which seems to be an exclusive talent of the French- it’s catchy enough to almost enter the realm of pop, but also cold enough to appeal to those with more outré tastes.
Later, as our boat was slowly rocking downstream the Danube, it of course dawned on me that this was the last but one day, which is frankly ridiculous. But that is nothing new, each year, although you get increasingly exhausted and your body signals that this insanity has been going on for too long, you still feel as if it’s only just began and want more of it. Much more.