Haldern 2009 Day 2

Haldern Day 2

Damian: Friday morning began earlier than team Incendiary had planned, with an impromptu performance from one of our neighbours and his Casio keyboard. I tell you, he could play Abba’s greatest hits like no other, and as for his version of Beethoven’s fifth, well I don’t think I could put it into words. As an alarm call, it worked wonders I must say and he serenaded our little area of the camp site for a good half an hour, at which point a tent zip was pulled and then our performer was treated to a tirade of abuse the likes of which would make your Grandma cover her ears and run for cover. Let’s just say that German ladies do not like to be disturbed. Anyway, with the morning’s entertainment over, we decided to head into town in search of breakfast and flushable toilets. (I’ll save you the description of an earlier visit to the portaloos, but I do worry about the health of some of our fellow campers.)


If you’re ever in Haldern, take a browse around Norma. It’s hard to believe that such an idiosyncratic supermarket could be a chain. In fact, that’s a worrying thought. The selection of goods on offer are exceptional. This is the store where, in the past, we’ve bought such luxury goods as Sauerkraut juice (which Mariska swears by and just makes the rest of us swear) and Strawberry and Pepper flavoured water (not bad to be honest). Those, however, weren’t a scratch on the Ratstropfen wine or the Aloe Vera pop that Richard once bought. That’s right, pop that tastes of shampoo! This year, we noticed they’d added circular saws and drill bits to the bargain bin, which was handy. They also had mouse traps with the word ‘Hello’ written on them, something called a “Commode Funny One” and a special offer on a wetsuit when you buy a pair of flippers. Having learnt our lesson in years past, we bought some sparkling water and then left rather sharpish.


After breakfast, we took a steady roll back to the campsite and enjoyed a lazy couple of hours scaring Germans by singing Robyn Hitchcock and dancing to Jonathan Richman. The Spiegeltent opened it’s doors around 14:30 and we, being ever professional,  were comfortably seated in a booth in time for Thonfisch, whose leader (I hesistate to call him a singer) pranced around the tent prior to their show looking like an extra from Oh What A Lovely War carrying a megaphone and wearing a look of smugness even William Shatner would struggle to pull off. This, of course, made us slightly worried about what was to come.


Thonfisch. Musical Theater for Children of 4 and above. Oh dear. What began as something pleasantly different soon turned into the German Rod Jayne and Freddy and, by the time they started singing about baguettes, Incendiary were planning a quick getaway.


Richard:  We should have known. Ah, it was fun, until the song about washing up at least, and no amount of indoctrination is going to make washing up fun…


And so, into the festival ground proper to see Asaf Avidan & the Mojos who (from the distance we were at), initially sounded like a mix of Joan Jet and Joan as a Policewoman. And for a band boasting a very male lead singer that is no mean boast. They were good, mind; in a very AOR rock way. Let’s revise the initial judgement and say they sound like a mix of Joan Jet and Joan as a Policewoman, with a bloke singer who’s sucked on a helium balloon. Okay what next? Port O’Brien, that’s what.


Damian: Now I liked this guy, if only because there’s quite a lot of Neil Young about him, particularly the voice and a little bit of that 70’s classic rock sound goes a long way in a warm German field on a Friday afternoon, I tell you.


Richard: They crafted a very good set out of initially unpromising beginnings. In a nutshell, they just keep plugging away. They have good songs (Sour Milk/Salt Water is a cracker), a modicum of charm and enough presence to keep an audience interested. On this showing, they were okay.


Damian: I’d go so far as to say they were good and I shall be checking them out another day I’m sure. From here we made a quick run back to the mirror tent to catch a bit of The Temper Trap who brought us out of the 70’s and into something more modern, in that they sounded like something from the mid 1980’s.


Richard: At this point the sun had definitely got to me, as I thought someone had slipped a CD of U2’s Boy LP on. No, impossible… And anyway, no Bono-esque bawling, as the lad on vocals has a voice very reminiscent at times of Roland whatsisname from Fine Young Cannibals, (or even Jimmy Sommerville).


Damian: I didn’t mind them that much, although it became obvious pretty quickly that the drummer knew only two drum fills and used them over and over and over again, but there was some good screaming going on and they built up a head of steam, played with a lot of energy and got the tent bouncing and clapping quite a bit so I think they did their job well.


Richard: The music is that classic major chord surge stuff, it’s been done a million times before but there’s no point complaining; essentially this is Music for the Young, full of hope, bittersweet love and tremolo ‘brangs’ and judders courtesy of the guitars. Like that can of fizzy pop, there’s a limit to what us oldies can take. But it’s great pop music and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this lot make a big mark.

Damian: Back on the main stage, it was time for Final Fantasy and I really wasn’t in the mood for him. I’ve seen him play a number of times and, whilst he’s always been very good, I simply thought he’d look lost stood up there on the big stage on his own but I cut through the field on my way to the Press Area and ended up watching about half an hour of him, he was brilliant!


Richard: He was (after a very nervous opening) nothing short of magnificent. After all, it’s one fella, the gaunt, gauche Owen Pallett, with a loop pedal and a violin. How he kept a crowd with him was by sheer force of nerve (and some charming songs like Hey Dad which Incendiary have always enjoyed). How the crowd could see the stick-thin, wilting Palett (enveloped as he was in that vast space) was a mystery in itself. Still, by the end, this was a triumph, and a true festival moment.


Damian: Back over to the tent to find Woodpigeon doing their thing and they did their thing well enough. A little too well, if I’m honest. By that I mean that everything was so well played, so precise and so well meaning that it ended up being quite flat as a gig. The band themselves looked to me like a bunch of lab workers who’ve swapped their white coats for instruments and like a bunch of chemists, they seemed more in love with how the songs are put together than how they make them feel. Don’t get me wrong, they sounded great and they played really, really well. But there was nothing spontaneous about them, nothing to make the gig truly memorable and in they end they were just nice to listen to and nobody really wants to be described as ‘nice’ do they?


Noah and the Whale entertained me more than I thought they would though. I grew weary of their debut album a lot quicker than I initially thought I would, but there’s no denying they know how to put on a performance. I may well check their second album out after all, judging by how enjoyable this set was but frankly, Anna Ternheim needs to cheer up a bit. She follwed Noah and the crew and played an interesting little song, then played something that sounded a lot like it. Then she played something that sounded a lot like that and so on and so on. To say this was a one-note performance would be unfair, but it certainly felt like a one-song performance. Frankly, I lost the will to live and had to run away.


Richard: Being easy going was not on the agenda in the Spiegel Tent, where Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were laying down a show of some thump and verve. A visual mélange of the travelling troubadours in Easy Rider and a Southern Baptist love-in, (albeit without the Christianity), Edward Sharpe’s band draw on the very ‘sixties, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat/Amon Duul 1 tradition that sees lots of people playing lots of instruments, whilst jumping around in unison. We’re always very suspicious about these kind of acts (the Polyphonic Spree springs uncomfortably to mind too), as it all seems to bloody forced. But who are we to argue with hundreds of delirious Germans who had all seemingly decided to run off and start growing beans and living in caravans? Ah, unfettered, unbridled Youth…


Damian: Patrick Watson. Thank you. Pat. Rick. Wat and Son, or whatever the hell your names are, thank you. Easily head and shoulders above anything else to have appeared on the bill so far this year, Patrick Watson blew me away. They played an immense set in the Mirror Tent a couple of years ago, which was so good they used it on posters last year to remind everybody about it, but this? This was something else. They had the usual technical difficulties that plague most bands on the main stage, but they transcended that and created a set of real power, grace and class. They left 5000 people almost in tears at certain points and when half of Loney Dear joined them on stage, all hell broke loose. Astonishing.


Patrick and friends then returned the favour for Loney Dear and what can we say about Loney Dear? Well, nobody does crowd participation like Loney Dear. None of this simple woah oh oh nonsense, Loney Dear gives the crowd an entire string section to hum and Haldern falls for it every time. He may lump round the stage like a bear with a sore head, but Emil Svanängen is something special. He certainly feels at home here in Haldern, I think this is the third year running we’ve seen him here, and he and his band (with a little help from Patrick and Co.) pulled off what was effectively a headline set with real aplomb. I tell you, I hope he’s back next year and every year after that. He’s becoming a very reliable fixture to this festival.


Richard: I can’t really say that Colin Munroe’s poppy muse grabbed us though, Suffice to say his smooth, lush textures had a good following in the Spiegel Tent and once again, who are we to judge? Athlete, too, aren’t really my cup of tea, but I was surprised by the calibre of their new tracks, which have more character and bite, so fair play all round.


Damian: I’ve known Athlete for a long time – they were the very first band interviewed in this very magazine, after all – but even I was surprised by this gig. Their new stuff is head and shoulders better than the so called ‘hits’ and I’m really looking forward to the new album now. They played a great set, but I think they suffered somewhat following on from Patrick and the Dear as their sound was a bit too polished, a bit too radio friendly and a bit slight compared to what went before. Also, they didn’t go on stage till after 1am, so the crowd was noticeably smaller than it had been earlier, but those of us who stuck around were treated to a set from a band who look like they have something to prove, which is never a bad place for a band to be. Job well done, particularly as this was a last minute thing.


Richard: Once more to the spiegel tent and the magical Gravenhurst, who has the rare knack of mixing a slightly irascible stage presence with some magical song-webs that leave the listener transfixed. The Spiegel Tent was half mesmerised and half high off the Patrick Watson gig, and to hear what was going on needed a fair degree of patience. Still, by the end, and a climactic guitar burn-out, even the chatterers were utterly won over.


After this we partied as those out in the sun all day can party, and listened to the ethereal sounds of Alexander Tucker and the Decomposed Orchestra in the backstage area. No stars to notice (save those in the sky), but given an illicit keg of beer and pleasant conversation who could wish for more? Et in Arcadia ego.

For Part three, (Saturday's events); click here

For Part one (Thursday) , please click here