Turn Off the Bright Lights: Sziget 2017 Day Five

I was thinking I’d spare you the how could this be the last day lament, but I simply can’t. Time is crazy, crazier still when on the island and you always get to the moment when you realize this is it. All the little hidden stages you planned to visit this time around, not gonna happen, the friends you were supposed to meet, well, hardly saw some of them because they ran off to other stages.  Still haven’t tried that sausage place that looked so nice and spent only a few moments lounging on the beach. Missed some concerts too, because you’re app wouldn’t beep or you held your Sziget passport open at the wrong page. Didn’t have time to decide which T-shirt to buy either, so you’ll just snap up one in a frenzy and realize it’s the wrong size. 

On the up side, the last day brought some of the best concerts of this year’s edition, which, admittedly didn’t have an atomic line up. The organizers acknowledged this much, and the number of szitizens also decreased somewhat compared to last year. Which wasn’t unpleasant to those of us who spent time on the island. On the contrary, this year’s edition felt easier to navigate, breezier and altogether more livable. From a lucrative point of view though, the management will definitely look for ways of making the festival more attractive next year.

The Kills, for one, were attractive enough in spite of the early hour. They’re probably attractive at any hour, because they’re rock’n roll at any hour. When Alison Mosshart lights a cigarette on stage, it doesn’t feel like she’s trying to prove anything (totally thinking of Mac DeMarco here, yes), it’s simply that she suddenly felt like it. Same goes for Jamie Hince’s guitar solos. There’s ease and chemistry in everything they do, and it rubs off, to their music, and their fans. 

I feel bad for offending such a nice young lady, but I felt zero to negative values of chemistry in Birdy‘s gig. You can do the girl with a piano shtick right, Regina Spektor showed us how to on the very same stage a few years back, but Birdy’s set felt as dull as a pencil last sharpened in the 50s. People in A38 were much better off with Alex Vargas. Though there is a scary side to him too, in that he has an unnerving tendency of hitting very high notes. Thus, the songs for which he uses The Voice sound like Denmark’s worst attempt at winning Eurovision with a power ballad, whereas the more rhythmic tracks are fine examples of enjoyable Nordic electronica. 

Something rather apocalyptic unfolded in front of the Main Stage at 7 PM. Innocently named colour party, the event involves people throwing colourful, and hopefully only slightly poisonous dust at each other. This sounds like a fine idea for exactly that fraction of a second in which the Sziget drone’s camera captures the explosion of colour, and then it all turns into a dusty inferno in which coughing people take selfies and ambush you with leftover packs of dust. 

This was also the strangest of preambles to ALT-J, who were back on the island after a somewhat muted first show in the headline slot. I keep saying that youth is often overrated and time makes us wiser and better at what we do. Thus, since their last visit to Budapest ALT-J have finally figured out how to translate their idiosyncratic music into an efficient live performance.

They’re still lined up like birds on a wire, Joe Newman is still the gauchest lead singer out there, though Gus Unger-Hamilton got a degree better at onstage banter. But their light show is now perfectly tailored to punctuate their music, and they have just enough hits to keep the set alive for the entire running time, with uptempo tracks such as Hit Me With That Snare or Left Hand Free causing outright hysteria in the front rows. No one can contradict me in my belief that ALT-J are one of the most inventive and interesting bands out there right now, but I had a small doubt about them being able to pull of a festival performance, especially ensconced between a dust party and a knob fiddler. Every now and then being proven wrong feels as right as it gets.

I will quickly glide through the rest of the evening, which included Jesus on keyboards in what the blog’s industrious co-photographer assumes might have been Dutch band De Staat, Portuguese singer Marta Ren in a spectacular golden dress, Italian veterans Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti inciting the audience into liberating screams of vaffanculo, and Leningrad doing what Leningrad does best, namely the kind of music which feels a bit odd when sober, but just the thing you need after downing half a bottle of vodka. 

It was almost midnight, the lights of the A38 stage went a dim blood red and it was time for Interpol to close the festival in absolute style, with a basically faultless rendition of their seminal Turn On The Bright Lights. Almost faultless, because we must again mention that A38 sound system which loves to act up when you least need it to, and exactly because of this I will blame no band for it. They just have to soldier through, and by the time Interpol were done with the opening section and started playing the tracks of TOTBL in exact running order, the sound had also settled nicely.

And it’s really amazing to think that this is but one album- it goes from strength to strength and sounds like somebody else’s collections of hits. It’s also true that Interpol might never have hit such heights later in their career, but then again, this album is history, and you can feel they know it by the passion with which they storm through it. I had promised myself not to go for the easy way out and choose Interpol’s gig as the best show of the festival yet again, but I am afraid I might just have to. Because they made me do it. 

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