There was a point in the run up to this year’s Sziget when I felt I am somehow less happy with the lineup compared to other years, maybe I still feel, just a little, that this is the case. Nevertheless, I did manage to summon five names that I’m really looking forward to seeing, and I’m also hoping to be positively surprised by others. We shall call this the Sziget of great discoveries. Until then, here are the five concerts I picked and some pictures from moving in day number one, when I went over to the island to get my bracelet hoping to avoid the Wednesday onslaught of the Golden Horde of Ed Sheeran Fandom.
Franz Ferdinand, Thursday August 8, 17:45, Dan Panaitescu Main Stage
Because you must have that one concert that is pure nostalgia, tinted with the rosy-golden colours of being young, happy and naïve. Remembering how you almost missed one of their gigs because of a delayed plane- your first ever delayed plane, back in the days when delayed planes made you happy, for they meant life, real life, was happening to you. Remembering how you were first faced with an actual flesh and bone Scotsman speaking with a thick Glaswegian accent, understanding nothing of what he said, giving him random answers, hoping they’d be fine. He was drunk, so they were fine. Remembering how Sziget legend had it that the band’s members queued for burgers after the show, and you thought that was so cool, so real, and wished fate had taken you to that queue too. So hell yes, if any classic noughties indie band will take me out to Sziget again and again, that’ll be Franz Ferdinand.
The National, Saturday August 10, 21:30, Dan Panaitescu Main Stage
And I want it to rain (the met office says it won’t), but I still want it to rain. I’m not even sure The National should be headliners, I mean they are the only real headliners to me and should headline everything ever, but in the grand scheme of current things I can already hear people complain that they weren’t upbeat enough, you couldn’t party to them (Thank Lord!), this just didn’t feel like a glowstick thing, because of course The National are indeed not a glowstick thing, they are a thing about how it aches to be alive, it always did, it always will, but that’s beautiful, that is the whole point to it. And I wish it would rain, and maybe I could cry a little, and my tears would be lost in the rain, like everything there ever was, even beautiful festival nights like these.
James Blake, Saturday August, 23:45, A38 Stage
There were some weeks this late winter/early spring when all I listened to was James Blake’s Assume Form, ceaselessly amazed that something seemingly so sonically fragile, even disjointed at times, like a beautiful firefly with large, silky, shimmering wings balancing itself on the narrowest of surfaces, would eventually become whole and take flight. It would, put simply, assume form, as sound, and as a feeling. When his voice, almost chocking mid-sentence, whispers ‘I’ll leave the ether’ I would sometimes murmur along, probably scaring the living daylights out of people on the metro. And there, on the platform, with the screeching of the metal doors forcing themselves open to let people in, for a second, I felt like I saw creation, an act of creation, instantaneous or willed to life, the moment when things leave the ether. If this doesn’t explain why I’m looking forward to this concert, nothing ever will.
coma_cose, Saturday August 10, 20:30, Europe Stage
Everything happens on the Saturday, doesn’it? I was about to say at least none of it clashes, but it actually does, I won’t make it to Son Lux playing head to head with The National. But this is about coma_cose, and if you don’t know them it’s because they’re Italian, and fairly recent, and in all honesty the kind of band you listen to so you can feel interesting, like your mate joins you and says what are doing and you go well listening to this Italian rap band, you don’t know them, they sing in Italian. It’s a bit of a downer when your mate is Italian too and was listening to them before you did, and points out it’s not really rap, but something more and something less. And the way they play with words is so refreshing, there’s a vibe and rhythm to it, and whenever you hear a really good piece of wordplay you go damn I wish I’d written that, but you didn’t, it was too easy to come up with it, the best, purest things are the easiest ones, which makes them the hardest. So you have a good four days to learn Italian and come to coma_cose, then again, come even if you don’t, vibe doesn’t need translation.
Hearts Hearts, Saturday August 10, 18:00, Europe Stage
I really wanted to have a fifth band playing some other day, but that would have been faking a feeling, and Sziget is exactly the place where you do not have to fake feelings. Don’t blame me, anyway, blame the scheduler. Hearts Hearts you see are Austrian, and I had one of their songs sent over by a friend, then I listened to their album on repeat and discovered they had filmed a video in my favourite hotel in Vienna. This, I felt, was a fateful connection and when they asked people to vote for them in a competition that would propel its winner to Sziget, I pretended I understood the German terms and conditions (I do not believe anyone has ever fully understood a complete set of German terms and conditions) and voted for them. And I got the power, because they will be here, and they’re still fresh like chickens out of the shells and excited to play a major festival and please come to the Europe Stage to give them a proper welcome, you will not regret it.