Arriving on the island on what is supposedly the first day of the actual festival (which is totally silly, by now it feels like we’ve been there forever) it dawned on me that this will be a walk down memory lane. For in the early days, more often than not, we would show up, get glued to the fence in front of the Main Stage, bravely soldier through various acts whose sonic assaults ranged from the mild to the heinous (Sub Bass Monster, I am thinking of you) and then get all sparkly eyed when one of our beloved bands would finally start their set.
Mando Diao, for one, were a constant fixture. And how could they not be- wholesome looking young men coming all the way from Sweden, the mother land of wholesomeness in general and ludicrously catchy pop songs. They also had a propensity for losing some of their clothes as the set went on, somewhat akin to browsing through an H&M catalogue and getting from the casual section to underwear. Plus they had two front men which is great if you want to share groupiness with a friend, and will divide adulation in a sisterly manner.
Sadly, nothing lasts forever and one day, long after Mando Diao had slipped away from the top spots of my listening statistics, Wikipedia horrifyingly told me that Gustaf Noren is part of the band no more. At least I had the consolation that Björn used to be my Mando and the new tracks weren’t all that bad either- I assume Swedish musicians who write uncatchy songs are immediately deported to Finland where they start a minimalistic doom metal act.
I managed to arrive to the island a bit late-ish, because these days instead of the free sauna on the HEV I prefer to leisurely cruise in by boat, and therefore had to do one of those Super Mario dodging obstacles races to make it on time. I would say it was worth it- while I might grumble about the prevalence of recent songs, Björn did delight me with a rendition of one of my old favourites, Ochrasy. He hasn’t aged very visibly either (guess the Swedes have some wonder cremes made of lingonberry, salmon extract and fairy dust) and still gets rid of the shirt as soon as he can. There’s one point when they go full electronic DJ-ing over a table which looks like a glorified IKEA hack, but otherwise this is as good as a 4 PM slot can ever get.
Given the tantalizing later offer of the Main Stage, my old self would have carelessly exposed itself to Rudimental. My new, much improved self, however, decided that I am too wise for this shit, and in a very adult manner only stayed around for the flag party (I have new shades in the collection!). Then it was Bear’s Den in A38- lovable, generally slightly chubby and variously bearded young men with a very soothing folkesy vibe, though perhaps not best suited for an overhot summer afternoon at a festival.
An even more evident case of things not suiting each other was PJ Harvey‘s Main Stage show. It will perhaps sound stuck up, perhaps it even is, I do not care: much as I love my fellow szitizens, this crowd did not deserve PJ Harvey. Nor did those who love her deserve the oafishness of people playing cards or sitting on the ground and making everyone around them miserable. These people happened to be Kasabian fans too, and I was a little ashamed on their behalf. She is obviously not a festival crowd pleaser- as a matter of fact, she wishes to please no one, just make music on her own terms. A slight figure all clad in black, her voice raising above the darkness of what felt like a funeral rite, she felt otherworldly, and if you let the melody carry you, in spite of all the bustle around you, every now and then you felt otherworldly too.
Kasabian then, are her absolute opposites, though ideally, one should learn to appreciate both. Sometimes, within the space of two hours, you might feel funereal, and then suddenly more like crashing into a pub with your friends, all the confidence of the world in your stride, downing some pints, talking nonsense (read: Premiership results) and being ridiculously happy to be alive, as if living was always this eez-eh. And for this feeling, in spite of having told myself I’d never do it again, I shuffled to the front row, held on to the fence for dear life (Kasabian fans can and will jump) and when Serge said we should all get down, well, I got down. Just a day before I’d stood defiantly upright in a similar circumstance, smiling at the follies of youth.
But then here come these two guys (see, they come groupie suited as well, Serge was (is) mine if anyone’s interested), and they’re silly happy that they finally got to headline, they do that bromacing shtick that makes girls scream as if dissected by an alien, then make the ridiculous hungry for more joke, Britishly complain about the heat, get offended about being told Leicester won when in fact they haven’t, and suddenly life is a breeze. (Must mention that it’s Arsenal who made the lads miserable, I see a trend here of the Gunners ruining a perfectly fine festival.)
Industrious co-photographer’s note: He is not a groupie, and never spent time plastered to fences, in fact, before being sucked into the whirlpool he’d only been on the island once and got sick during Tool (which make sense). He has thus gone stamp hunting for the day and visited the Luminarium, the Art zone and the sports zone, where everyone, himself included, had a splendid time. Since Saturday feels pretty much like a downer musically speaking, visitors are warmly encouraged to follow in his footsteps.