In Wine There is Truth, in A38 There is Music: Best Concerts of Sziget 2018 Part Two

#5 La Femme

As a part of my Summer of the Ignoramus project (the season is interchangeable, the ignoramus remains) I arrived at the La Femme gig knowing principally that they were French. As in did not just have a French name because it was cool, in the way all high street store T-shirts have French phrases these days- I kept flirting with the idea of just printing one with the random French words of the day circulating on the Internet, say, le bricolage, and waiting to see what people read into that. La Femme are seriously French, founded in Biarritz, right at that Bay of Biscay that I know so well as backdrop to another of those quintessentially French things, the Tour de France and by God they arrive with Sacha God sporting a beret and having a glass of red wine on his keyboard. And in the stage’s floodlights the red becomes almost translucent, shimmering, the kind of red that you try to name in some other way that fits it better, and you say, rouge. They also sound very French, an almost toxic mix of so many things, pop, psychedelia, yé-yé even a bit of punk for good measure, and while you and me doing that would sound like we try so hard and fail so miserably, the French of course have a je ne sais quoi and they make it sound effortless, natural, comme il faut,  and not just any comme il faut, but that of the sexy variety. There’s also a welcome visual balance to the show, unlike with many acts where there is a front(wo)man stealing everyone’s eyes, with La Femme there seems to be a frenzy of everyone looking both ridiculously moody and nonchalant and quite incredibly energetic at the same time and it’s all crowned by a deliciously Frenglish speech about how one of the members was once in Sziget’s audience and is now on stage. Try to top that, I dare you.

#4 Slaves

Perhaps you can’t necessarily top it, but you can sure counter it, with let’s say some quintessential Englishness of the rougher sort. The kind of Englishness that left us gobsmacked when on one fair morning a young man entered a cozy café on the körút, went straight to the bar, and without saying hello or drawing any unnecessary breaths expelled his battle call: lager! It may be my mind playing tricks on me, but Isaac Holman even looks a bit like the lad who in a happy twist of events did end up with his much coveted lager, or at least I would not be surprised if he asked for it in the same manner, possibly got into a brawl as well if he were denied his request and then evaded the police while running shirtless across people’s tables. Which is not a polite thing, and that’s the whole point to the Slaves, they’re loud, primal, unfettered by society’s expectations, feeling earnest in their punk attitude at a time when the genre usually feels either dated or faked. In another contrast to La Femme, there’s also only two of them altogether, Holman wreaking havoc on drums is complimented by Laurie Vincent on guitar, but they feel at their best when, to the increasing panic and bafflement of the security guards, they invite a bunch of fans onstage for a dance routine which seems to actually have some rules that the dancers are familiar with.

#3 Sofi Tukker

I may be getting old or too picky to listen to the radio (likely both), and this summer does have an anthem, but it just slipped me by, though I would have probably noticed if something of the incredibly silly catchiness of Lambada, Macarena or Asereje hit the airwaves. In an intriguing way the song that did become my personal summer anthem, albeit released in 2016, does have a one-word title, Matadora, which could be either Spanish or Portuguese, it’s the latter, and contains the odd sounding ‘chorar’, the pronunciation and meaning of which, uttered at the beginning of Lambada, was one of my pre-Google childhood’s enduring mysteries.  (It means to cry, for anyone still lazy to google.) Sofi Tukker, who hail from New York but profess a love for all things Brazilian so much so that they often sing in Portuguese, are the epitome of a sun-drenched summer anthem band, whose sounds induce a state that requires flip flops, Mai Tais and beachwear. A state which will work perfectly well in the urban concrete jungle too: a pleasant, almost joyful longing for the ocean, a Brazilian longing which takes Portuguese continental misery and melts it under the scorching sun into a shape that’s bearable somehow. That’s probably the reason why Sofi Tukker (made up symmetrically of one girl, Sophie and one boy, Tucker) bounced their smiling tropical way straight to number three: there was a fortuitous convergence of the weather (hot as hell) and the boisterous festival atmosphere with their music, and they obviously reveled in the opportunity they were given.

#2 Arctic Monkeys

So I have come to realize I don’t have much extra input to add about the Arctic Monkeys concert, as I had expressed the gist of my thoughts in the day seven round up. In the time that has passed since, I have however talked about it with a wide array of people and received reactions which vary from the deeply disappointed through the sad they didn’t play the songs I liked and the witty ‘four out of five’ to the absolutely ravingly adoring. It’s as if people watched different gigs in different dimension of being, with one person actually claiming she hardly noticed there was any rain- her excuse was that she was stuck in a tent until the headliner, but I really do think that in her case it’s probably finding a secret wormhole somewhere on the island, perhaps connected directly to the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. And this might be key to understanding the essence of what makes Arctic Monkeys different from most bands: they never cease to be divisive, even among people who call themselves professed fans. Sure enough, many bands have records considered to be duds even by their closest followers, but there seems to be a general consensus over which album is the dud, whereas five Arctic Monkeys fans are likely to give you five completely different rankings of the band’s albums. And if you were to ask me why they’re second on this list, I’ll just say it’s because they didn’t play my favourite track off Humbug but actually I’m exactly as clueless as Alex Turner during 97.5% of his interviews.

#1 Tom Grennan

I do however know why Tom Grennan is first, and then that probably might also explain why Arctic Monkeys are exiled to second: this was the one show that felt special and I can also make an always welcome footballing comparison to Denmark coming off the beach to replace Yugoslavia and going on to win the European championships in 1992, as Grennan was added late to the lineup to replace Yellow Days. This was however one of the additions that made me happiest: at that point I had been listening to his debut album, Lighting Matches, on very heavy rotation and was actually thinking he is one artist I would love to see live, because I felt he must translate well to that environment. I was therefore filled with expectations for the show, and of course expectations can often choke a decent concert, so he had to go one better, and sure enough he did. His babyface (yes you can have a babyface AND a beard) and curls don’t immediately prepare you for his voice, which is a thing of wonder and feels imbued with a wisdom well beyond his years- as noted by a friend, we start to sound like mums when describing upcoming acts, which is both scary and weirdly liberating. A strange but potent mix is thus born, an artist who seems genuinely fresh and almost surprised at his rising popularity, still undamaged enough to revel in every bit of it, taking starstruck pictures with Alex Turner and Liam Gallagher in the backstage but who at the same time has an album full of brilliant songs and the stage presence to make them ever more poignant. One is almost afraid that things won’t work out as well for him as they should, and rooting that they will. Either way, Monday afternoons are rarely a state of grace. This one was an exception. 

 

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