Preamble. A young man is lying on the grass, close to the entrance, looking worse for wear. His friends arrive, take one look at him, and exclaim: man, you look like you’ve been lying here since last year’s Sziget. To which he replies: Well, I feel as if I’ve been doing it since day one 25 years ago.
Everything on Sziget feels both instant, and an eternity, but a week of festivalling is obviously showing its effects all around the island. And while many szitizens might be tired, there is no change in their thirst for illegal alcohol and in their ingenuity when it comes to ways of smuggling it in. We’ve seen the Pringles boxes with tiny bottles inside, the rum laced coke, the mustard tube and yesterday my lens got carefully inspected, lest it be a fake plastic one containing, god forbid, vodka.
Being correctly identified as a law abiding szitizen, I made it to the Main Stage for a George Ezra concert which should have been about us patiently waiting for the man to play Budapest. Only, as it turns out, George had several other aces up his sleeve. He now comes band in tow, and thus songs which might have sounded frail in their acoustic delivery suddenly become mightier, very deservedly drawing an ever larger crowd, to form what was probably the most consistent 4 PM audience of the festival.
George also comes armed with a lovely accent, is very affable and makes friendly banter, going as far as to tease with another city-themed song, Barcelona, which many assume would be Budapest and then it isn’t. That will be the singalong of the encore, George all smiles, a sunkissed angsty troubadour perfect for our times. Also, I demand to know what beverage he had in his keep cup, which happens to come in a similar colour range as mine. Is it coffee, really, or has George unsuspectedly gone one better in the smuggle game? Those big questions of life which will probably stay forever unanswered.
Theoretically, of course, you could smuggle drinks in a pineapple shaped flask as well, and then go to the Glass Animals concert and join in the magnificent pineapple cult which has grown around the band’s Pork Soda lyric ‘pineapple in my head.’ Reading and Leeds festival has apparently banned them, in a move which the band have described as ‘fruitist’. Sziget is, on the other hand very pineapple friendly, and Glass Animals reveled in the love.
I’ve always felt them to ride in ALT-J’s wave, borrowing the quirks and seemingly dissonant melodic lines, but lacking the mathematical rigour, a pineapple facing a triangle in an odd battle of sorts. They’re great on stage though, chirpy, funny a times, and successfully juggling slower and more uptempo songs for another strong afternoon showing. And, in a long expected newsflash: the Russian groupies are back. Order of the universe restored.
Over in the A38 tent, another small triumph: Jagwar Ma putting on the kind of electronic music show with brains and guts which in an ideal world would go on the Main Stage and have fireworks shot out to it into the sky, and people would not need to dance themselves silly to Major Lazer putting on Daddy Yankee and waving a flag while screaming come on Budapest. I staunchly refuse to come on, I even refused to go on to the pom pom party, through no fault of its own really, I am sure it was alright, but one must have clear priorities.
Two Door Cinema Club are not one of those priorities, but I made it to the Main Stage nevertheless, fundamentally because Ireland. I was thus rewarded with a ginger man in an impeccable shirt and matching guitar strap, leading a band playing indie laced with electronic sounds exactly as much as to make it apparently interesting, with the emphasis on apparently. I could have been more forgiving were I holding a stout, but as it is, it was a spritzer, the dusty dusk, and finally an urge to get away.
Since we had a couple of hours on our hand before the next show of interest, we wandered around for food, found a sausage stand where Dutch people had a small and orderly civil war around queuing, and visited the Travelling Funfair where an Indian man was walking around dancing while balancing glasses on his head. A novelty act then, into which category I could happily fit the next phenomenon we witnessed.
It’s Mac DeMarco and it puzzles me to no end. Here’s a very compact looking Canadian man, in a T-shirt akin to the one everyone’s dad is wearing when tending to the garden, taking plentiful swigs of Jameson and casually smoking while doing his own sound check. So both the Jameson and doing your own soundcheck are grand, yet I can’t help but feel there’s too much posturing here from a very real rebel without a cause. Sorry Mac, but being Canadian kind of takes the edge out of wrestling with the world. However, it would all be acceptable in case he played interesting music, but as our on site fellow critic remarked, he sounds like damn Holograf. (If you are Romanian, you know and fear it, if not, google at your own peril.) The amount of frantic people in the audience is a further puzzle, but I concluded that the ‘macdemarco’ is something like an infectious disease, you get it, and then you carry it for life.
Running away from Mac DeMarco lead us first towards Major Lazer’s show, but I really feel tired insulting it. There should be no reason why a man gets paid to steal other people’s songs and then mix them into pulp while occasionally blowing confetti, but life is strange like that. It’s also beautiful, because on the Europe stage we bumped into Italian band Cosmo, made up of a man simultaneously channeling Eminem and Toto Cutugno while being very angry with the world and two gents who look like they ran away from Diplo’s crew on account of having principles. It might sound scary, but it’s actually intriguingly addictive- while on Sunday I left the island humming White Lies songs I’d known for ages, my boat trip home this time around was punctuated by Cosmo’s Dedica, which I had heard for the first time about an hour before.
Generally, a person coming alone on stage and rapping around while obscured by orange lights, with the musical themes being blasted at us from the big nothing (punctuated with the now infamous A38 stage killer bass) would not go well down with me. Yet Vince Staples‘s tunes are simply too good to ignore and I suddenly feel forgiving and in tune with my surroundings-the tent is positively raucous, with the first rows going into total frenzy. (Sidenote here: someone had been removed from an apparent Mac DeMarco moshpit during the previous show. Again and again, proof that Sziget is the land of the surreal and the impossible.)
I had dismissed Monday as a bit of a limbo day, and the universe was trying to prove me right (my phone half died on me and my pants got ripped by a photo pit railing). But Sziget proved me wrong, throwing at me perhaps the most constantly good concert line up so far. Let’s due this final Tuesday thing then and see what it brings.