Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lowlands 2006 - pt4 Sunday

As with last year, the local economy based on beer allowed for a little bit of entrepreneurship by the temporary subjects. Glasses and trays collected could be redeemed in local currency. That is two trays or ten glasses could be redeemed for one beer. It means that many people supplement their festival funds by going round picking up discarded glasses. It meant also that others supplement their festival enjoyment by tying string to glasses and pulling it away the instant someone went to grab for it. I saw this last year, but this time at least one person bought a fishing rod for this express purpose.

Due to the lack of sun on this Sunday morning, we were not forced out of bed ridiculously early by the tent doing an oven imitation. This did start to happen, but a touch later than usual which allowed us to lose less sleep than we would have. Throughout the morning, clouds were forming and stories were reaching us of flooding in Amsterdam with the storm heading this way. I am not sure how these stories travel, but it seemed to go round the campsite. In the end there were a few downpours, some of which were quite violent, but it was much better than the stories of Amsterdam submerged in water would have lead us to expect.

And on the third day, there was rain.

The rain meant venues were often much more crowded than they normally would have been, especially earlier on. The clouds were quite fast moving and after each downpour, there was often a patch of sun, which gave most bands a point where they could claim to have brought the sun out. Although the sun only really emerged properly ironically during The Twilight Singers, adding more evidence to the fact that Greg Dulli is God. Should you require any more, that is.

ﺃForward Russia! are another batch of Siouxie-esque art punkers at full speed. What is it about Siouxie and the Banshees? Are they back in? Are they back in on fast forward? ﺃForward Russia! are all about numbers. Their song titles are simply numerical. However they don’t play them sequentially, as can be seen from the track listing of their first album:
1. Thirteen
2. Twelve
3. Fifteen
4. Nine
5. Nineteen
6. Seventeen
7. Eighteen
8. Sixteen
9. Seven
10. Fifteen
11. Eleven
(I assume they realise Fifteen is there twice, but I would understand it if nobody realised.)
I am aware this is the sort of thing I would do as a joke, but I am entrutherating. Ask Amazon if you don’t believe me. Not only this, but at least one song involved two members of the band counting, I don’t know the name of this song, and even if someone told me I’d forget because I have a terrible memory for numbers.
Because of the vocalist’s screaming style and the uniform all-out attack approach to the songs, and of course because of their titles, the songs all tend to blend into one. I suspect this is a deliberate nod towards Stalinist communism where all songs are created equal and those that stand out are removed from the band’s repertoire. I expect somewhere there’s a band called ﺃSiberia! who play all of these memorable, dissident songs. After all, what happened to Eight and Ten? Only later I realised the perfect heckle for the band is something like, "I am not a number — I am a free song!" But they’d probably just laugh at me.
But it sure was highly entertaining to watch them enthuse and it was certainly a very energizing way to start the day.

ﺃForward Russia! blur into the white of the lights, aptly enough.

Because we were taking it easier today, there was a lot more of hanging around the same tent rather than traversing the whole ground several times a day and killing our legs just for a few minutes of another band. This is how we came to hang around for Broken Social Scene. These Canadians are another 70s soft rock band with art rock tinges. They have two drummers and had up to 10 people on the stage at one point. I don’t recall any of their songs, but did recall that their idea of audience participation involved throwing things for the audience to catch. When a kiwi splattered into the back of the tent, a few water bottles were thrown until one was caught which apparently meant the sun would emerge soon.

Broken Social Scene keep it all together.

We popped out for a bit to catch The New Generation Big Band (actually we popped out to see Pete Philly and Perquisite, but they seemed to have not showed up). NGBB play genial jazz soul with some relaxed rapping that would have worked amazingly well on sunny day, which unfortunately it wasn’t at the time. And for a ‘big band’ seemed to actually have fewer members than Broken Social Scene.

The Kooks (which they seemed to pronounce ‘Kinks,’ not that they sounded anything like them, or perhaps they said ‘Keeks’) filled their tent aided and abetted by a rather hard downpour of rain. Actually they more than filled their tent and despite the terrible weather, a veritable throng thrung outside the tent to catch an earful of them. The Kooks play fresh, energetic rock. Sometimes they were somewhat Free-like and occasionally had a touch of the old Clash. Enjoyable even from just outside the tent with the whole of the rain from the tent dropping onto the top of your hat, down your raincoat and onto your trousers.

For those of you who don’t know, here is brief history of rock: In the 1950s rock and roll gelled from elements of blues, folk and whatever else was lying around; it ruled the world for a bit; transformed into rock which fragmented into so many different forms from AOR to death metal; a few notable groups emerged such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Extreme Noise Terror some of which did very well; in 1986 The Afghan Whigs formed and rock history ended.

Okay, this isn’t completely true because rock history has since been torn in two when the band went their separate ways. Lead singer Greg Dulli went on to form The Twilight Singers and to continue writing songs about the murky side of love and dark days of despair.

Starting out with some of the more rocklich numbers from the new album, the set soon proved to be one of the most polished of the festival. Mr Dulli loves to squeeze in other people’s lyrics when he’s singing his own song. For example, this time he slipped in a snatch of Shine On You Crazy Diamond as an introduction to one number.
A lot of people in the tent were clearly fans from the Afghan Whigs days, but there were also a few there to catch a glimpse of the great Mark Lanegan who came on for the middle section of the gig, sang a few songs of his own, and of other people such as Marvin Gaye. He was in great, gruff voice and his presence was statuesque. When he left, with as little fuss as he’d made walking on, I wondered, can it continue now? But it did. Greg’s soulful, jaded yet hopeful, voice is what the band is about. The gig built up until Greg slipped in his final homage in the last number, by slipping in a good chunk of another band’s song. The song, If I Were Going by The Afghan Whigs. It actually brought a lump to my throat. Best set of the whole festival, but then I’m somewhat biased.

The Twilight Singers with Mark Lanegan save the world. Greg Dulli’s head must be white in all pictures for contractual reasons.

The moment when Greg Dulli was beamed down from outer space to perform for us. (Do tell me if I take this fan shit too far.)

After the highs of The Twilight Singers, we hung around for Morningwood. Morningwood are a light-hearted student band who are a cross between 1980s heavy metal and new wave. They are a huge amount of fun. To themselves. I’m sure they went down a bomb at their own university ball. We wondered off to eat.

Even my mum has heard of The Arctic Monkeys. They get a lot of press with their age, their distrusting attitude to fame and they’re sardonic Northern humour. A serious percentage of the campers turned up to see everyone’s favourite school band.
I saw them last year and thought although they played well, and have some top tunes, they were a little blasé and failed to live up to the hype - which is exactly what they keep saying, but nobody believes them. It was going to be interesting to see them in a huge tent. The audience was pretty frenziedly for the Minkeys from the start. In fact I realised where these extra 5,000 Brits were from - they were part of the Minkeys’ loyal following which thinks nothing of travelling anywhere in the world to see them. Even if they do play exactly the same every time. The Minkers don’t go in for too much messing with their songs. Whereas older bands might try out a new arrangement or something of an old classic, the Munksters don’t have old classics as they’re 17 and only wrote the songs a couple of years ago. I only really noticed one song where they seemed to veer from the album version and extend a little.
But with the rambunctious support already there to cheer them on, the band could have just phoned it in and still gone down well. I’m not sure they didn’t.

In juggling the need to eat and rest and the need to experience every musical offering there is, there are always going to be casualties. It soon emerged that to eat AND see Muse was not going to work. Something had to give. Muse I am sure are a great band live - a kind of nu-metal Queen - but they are not a plate of noodles when you’re hungry. Plus having escaped the mud around the Alpha tent, wading all the way back through didn’t seem appealing. I assumed Muse would forgive my absence. I seem to have forgiven their absence from my CD collection.

Whilst eating, we caught a little of Belle and Sebastian. Lots of people whose musical taste I respect have been into Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian, yet I have completely failed to be taken by them. I think I find the coating for their thoughtful pop songs just a wee bit too sugary. Plus they have a stupid name. So not knowing hardly any of their songs, for me the gig was like being at another family’s wedding. Pleasant - it was nice to see people having fun - but it was hard to get involved. No doubt serious B&S fans enjoyed it and swayed themselves into a frenzy.

There was another time to strut our so-called stuff on the silent disco floor before the groups divided into those demanding bed and those demanding the party continue for more hours than a single night could possibly hold. Following the second camp, but knowing soon we’d be with the first, we went to Bravo tent. Here they played hard-edged, gilt-leaved, hand-pumping trance. You know the kind of music that goes thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump only broken by the occasional Weeerp. Actually now I think about it, sometimes it veered towards hard-chair techno-bap, which goes thump thump thump thump thoomp thump thump thump thoomp only broken by the occasional Wooerp.

The music was hypnotic; the images on the many screens hypnotic; in fact even though I’d only had a few beers all day, I was feeling mesmerised. The place had the feel of a cult, with welcoming, smiley people as you entered and everyone facing front towards the priest behind the twin-decked pulpit. Preaching the word word word word word word word word word word word.
Actually, with everyone dancing facing forward in an energetic way - often similarly to the person next to them - it looked like an attempt at mass hypnosis through aerobics.

One girl near us was going through a range of emotions. Presumably aided by some emotion-enhancing substance. Ordinarily she was quite friendly, but when someone tried to collect glasses or trays from the floor, she went mental and destroyed them. I am not sure what her beef was with the practice, but I suspect she considered it unsuitable behaviour in a church. Or mass aerobics tent.

We soaked up some of the at at at at at at at at at atmosphere and then wondered slowly back to the tent with some tea brewed by hippies.

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