Richard: Saturday dawned bright and clear and we thought it not displeasing to visit the village in search of baked trout and boiled spuds. Boy when you get addicted it’s like no other sensation, eh, compadres?
Damian: A cheesy roll and a cocktail was good enough for some of us.
Richard: And to top that, we actually got into the Pop Bar on time. Dutch noise duo, Death Letters were first up. And as you do, they had brought a lot of marketing stuff along. As with a lot of Dutch acts, everything was just so, the artwork and haircuts and teeshirts are just netjes, nothing is unplanned, everything carefully in place to look careless. At times this welter of planning and information (NL acts are adept at telling you what they are all about, giving you monikers like “surfwave” or some such before you hear them) can be bloody soulless and too close to a marketing exercise. But never mind; here, Death Letters kicked off in grand style, making a big noise for two. Actually they were damned loud, the drummer can kick out a BEAT if you get my meaning. Some of the tracks had very well crafted hooks and chord runs, and the band thrashed it out as if it was their last gig: overall it was a very appealing sound to take on board. But there was something too declamatory, too breast beating about it all, a veritable sound and fury that signified not a lot if you really need to know… like a politician trying to win over a crowd with emotion alone it quickly began to feel a bit flat. I think it was to do with the lad’s voice; it was brilliant, soaring, note perfect, an item to be exhibited and admired, like a statue carved from the finest marble and burnished lovingly in the craftsman’s studio. But like marble, something that felt cold and unapproachable and something that gave nothing to the audience. I think they’d have been epic if the lad singing had knocked out his lines in a flat, out of key Joey Ramone-style mumble. But maybe that was just me, the bar loved it. I’m always wrong in these matters.
Damian: I liked them a bit more than you did, if only for the first half of the gig, then it all started to get a little repetitive. What I did like was their no nonsense, ‘metal’ approach to making a racket and when the singer, who oddly reminded me of David Mitchell, started to scream every now and again I found myself nodding along like a good little rock lover. the thing is, while the two of them make a good little racket, they could do with a third dimension to them. Their stuff is pretty good, but it has two distinct shades – let’s go Emo and let’s go RAWK! Personally, I preferred all the screaming but they started the day off well enough.
Richard: Off to the main festival site for us, just in time to see Duologue walk off the main stage, which is a pity as I wanted to catch them, but no matter, we’d take in Dan Croll in the tent. Hmmmm… Whilst enjoyable and a perfectly good gig (no doubting the lad has talent and can play) everything sounded a bit too Liverpool for my liking. I mean I love bands from that town, my fave band of all time is from there and it’s not the Beatles, but it was all too Liverpool; you know what I mean.
Damian: Strange. I thought he sounded a bit like Prince, but without all the sex. That’s not entirely hard to understand because he’s not old enough to really have much sexual experience. And his hair and clothes aren’t daft enough to pull off the comparison either. In the end I thought it was all a little too polite and charming but if he falls in love and gets his heart broken in the next couple of years, we could have a winner on our hands eventually!
Richard: Tripping over to the main stage again we caught the beginning of Ebbot Lundberg with Trummor & Orgel‘s set which was underwhelming to say the least. Lundberg’s ditched the mighty Soundtrack and hitched up with what looks like a chamber orchestra – albeit one manned by Swedish loons. Fair enough, but a sort of David Axelrod work out to start with followed by an insipid cover of Golden Brown did NOT bode well.
Damian: the instrumental intro was ok, but I don’t think there’s ever a good time to bring out a cover of THAT. It’s certainly not one to get your pulse racing.
Richard: Again, like Villagers, it wasn’t getting across from the front. And we were disappointed, as this combo looked on paper to have a real promise. We decided to walk back to the press tent and at that point (and only then), did it dawn on us just how fucking GOOD the gig was. Lundberg has one of the truly great rock voices in that his diction and delivery is superb, regardless of content and tempo, and he can convey meaning and emotion like few others. When he started doing his own songs, we stopped in our tracks and drank the sound up. Brilliant.
Damian: I’m so glad I decided to have a wander too because suddenly, as soon as I decided to stop watching Ebbot umm and ahh about whether or not he wanted to play guitar on each song, it all started to make sense. This wasn’t really a gig to watch (which is weird as Ebbot Lundberg is one of my favourite front men of all time), instead it was one to experience and just let it wash over you. All of sudden, my mood lightened, the sun warmed my face and just mingling around the main field with a few thousand smiley happy people completely made my afternoon. What a wonderful Haldern moment. Again, unexpected.
Richard: A further note, the further up the hill we went, the more the audience dug it. Somehow having this bear of a man on your face at 3 on a broiling afternoon is not that appetising a proposition. Still, weird things happen with the running order at this festy, and we should be used to it.
Now, we are not often excited enough to stand at the front of a gig anymore but we made an exception for Anna von Hausswolff, whose LP is a strange and often brilliant mix of screaming noise and enjoyably pretentious nonsense. Standing at the front did negate the fact that she’s a slip of a girl, and not that tall either, but also meant that when the band cranked out their noise we were deafened. Apparently (on talking to them later) they couldn’t hear themselves, and kept asking for the sound to go up some. For us in the audience it felt as if we were just about to be run over by a 747.
Damian: For those of us at the back of the tent, who couldn’t see a bloody thing apart from the top of her baseball cap, it all ‘went on a bit’.
Still (once ear plugs were snapped in) soaking up the cascades of white noise was a great experience, the sound in the same ball park as the chaotic noisy bits on the Faust Tapes, and threatening to take the gig somewhere else entirely. I would have been quite happy listening to that R.U.K. style wig out for 40 minutes, but a lot of the crowd were here for something else, namely the winsome, sometimes overblown but often magisterial ballads and requiems, all of which utilise her magnificent voice and sense of theatre. There was a lot of expectancy for this gig, she is a nom du jour, but I think it’s justified, as the talents are there for all to see, and there’s a sense of mission about what she does. The incredible racket did wear a number of people out but fine, sometimes it’s good to go all the way.
Damian: I have to admit I just lost patience with it. It was just all travelling at a speed far slower than I wanted to be moving at. So I decided to step outside and soak up some more atmosphere. In the beer garden, most of the crowd under the tv screen were falling asleep in the sun.
Richard: We were worn out so missed Kettcar and stuck about the tent waiting for Ukraine’s Dakhabrakha. I was unsure about this, not because of any dislike of Ukrainian music, far from it; rather, the band’s promo shots showed off a lot of traditional costumes and for some reason I always feel slightly uncomfortable when people dress up in national dress for a gig. It’s either a gimmick or shows that they’re not sure whether their music can carry the day, especially when it’s supposed to be one of those acts who “mix old and new”. And on they trouped, wearing full Ukrainian kit. Hmmm…. Ignorance on my part can’t describe the girls’ hats as anything but flattened busbies. And the lad wore some kind of embroidered smock. Things started at a quiet tempo, it all seemed to be the sort of reverential stuff you see at “Gypsy Nights” (sic! sic!) in provincial community centres in Holland. Fair enough, this was doable, enjoyable, a comedown form the aural battering Miss Von Hausswolff had dished out. Then something happened. A couple of tracks in and Dakhabrakha slowly unlocked their beat, allowing strong and hypnotic rhythmic elements to creep into their sound and completely take over, mesmerising all present with their fluid, mercurial nature.
Busby babe (sic)
Damian: I was feeling quite restless when we entered the tent for this. It was one of the few shows that all of our team were present and correct for and I’m not sure if any of us really knew what to expect. Looking around the room, the crowd didn’t either. The fact that all members of the band were seated made things rather surreal. From my vantage point, between the shoulders of a quarreling middle aged German couple, the band appeared to be a collection of decapitated heads in large hats, allchanting at me.
Richard:What made this special though were the counter melodies, and “call and answer” style harmonies dropped into the sound. To say things got shamanic is an understatement, and it became increasingly apparent to us that Dakhabrakha looked to utilise the sounds of Ukraine; bird calls, barks, whistles, hoof beats (the drumming sounded like hooves thundering across a grassy plain), you name it. It also became increasingly apparent that their music had some real fucking soul. After about 20 minutes of this sonic excursion, things in the tent were loose, bordering on emotionally frayed. Given the incredibly evocative nature of the sound, and given the obvious spirituality in the music’s delivery, the whole thing was moving, and I mean really moving. We were all in bits, tears were in virtually everyone’s eyes around us, as this gentle hopeful music enveloped the tent; with the sun shining through on its last evening blaze the atmosphere became that bit more special. A completely zonked out groover next to us grinned and swayed along oblivious to all in a world of his own. And Incendiary fought back the tears as – as I have said – this pure, gentle and otherworldly music took over everyone and everything.
Damian: That couple I was telling you about? They were arguing when the band came on. It seemed clear that the bloke wanted to go elsewhere while his wife told him, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted to stay and watch this collection of floating heads and daft hats for a while. He wasn’t happy. He stood with his arms folded. For the first song, he was unmovable. Then, the real chanting and squirrel noises began and he took the occasional glance over to his wife, who simply smirked back at him in a wonderfully snappy “I told you so” kind of way. About half way through the gig, they made up; the man simply reached out his hand and took hold of his wife’s hand. That did the trick, all of a sudden, she started swaying; dancing slowly along with this enchanting music. By the end, the two were embraced in each others arms. The wife had tears flowing down her face. Tears of happiness. The man told her he loved her, stroked her face and the two wandered off out of the tent arm in arm, her head resting on his shoulder. Dakhabraka healed relationships. With bird noises. Amazing.
Richard: The weight of emotion in the room was palpable. When the band said it was time to dance the place went MAD. Beserk. A crazy and completely incomprehensible track about the Ukrainian police, an encore (which the band did NOT expect at all) and a lot of thanks and emotion from the stage crowned an astonishing gig. Oh my word, what a moment.
Damian: Team Incendiary were in tears. Well, most of us. Chirps, clicks, whistles and lots of biddly bong had reduced us to a collective, blubbering mess. Dakhabrakha were simply astonishing. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and this show, that FEELING, will live with me for a long, long time. Thank you Haldern. Thank you very, very much.
Richard: A note. A big “hahahaha! more fucking fool you!” to the blokes who pissed off after slagging the band (and talking at length through the first three numbers, oblivious to all around). Good things come to those who wait. And to those who aren’t ignorant, arrogant arseholes. Carry on wasting loads more of your time talking at gigs you paid to see.
Damian: After that, we needed a bit of time to pull ourselves together, so Local Natives were left to their own devices.
Richard: Oh dear. Despite Rubik wearing ridiculous cowboy and indian outfits, and despite them having a song about the world being shit, I have to say they were poor. Maybe it wasn’t their day but their insipid Todd Rundgren style work outs went nowhere fast.
Damian: Togas can’t disguise everything.
Richard: We quickly strolled over to take on Alabama Shakes who knocked out a crowd pleasing blues rock / bluegrass set on the main stage; the singer lass has some presence and a great voice, and it was what the crowd dug too, but personally speaking, once you’ve heard one band do this kind of thing, you feel as if you’ve heard them all.
Damian: Maybe so, but listening to this kind of thing as the sun begins to go down can make for a pretty entertaining half an hour or so. I had a great deal of fun with them.
Richard: So, back it was to the tent to see Denis Jones play a great set, quiet, interesting and very much the sort of thing we needed at that point. Jones is at first glance a card carrying member of the legion of one man bands with laptops. But on closer listen his music showed off an astonishing array of intermeshed sounds and patterns, not to mention a number of unexpected sonic twists and turns, all seemingly at the drop of a hat. His sound is sinuous, sensual, and often happy to veer off the leash to explore unexpected rhythms and textures; all despite our feeling that he’s really got this act down pat. It did feel very brittle at times too, maybe that was the strong linear element which does seem to underpin a lot of his sound coming into play a bit more. I’ll admit that though we were pretty tired and emotional by this stage, we dug this gig a lot.
And what do you know? Glen Hansard was great. I’m no big fan of any of his music I must say, but his show was effortless, groovy, feel good, funny and impeccably played.
Damian: I’m glad I persuaded the rest of the team to give him a shout as I’ve witnessed him perform live a few times and he’s always been great. We stood near the back of the crowd, joined by some of those Haldern friends we meet only once a year and, let me tell you, we had a blast. We laughed till our faces were sore and tears rolled down our cheeks (the reasons why we shall not fully disclose in this article) and listened to Hansard’s admittedly large band belt out one heck of a show.
Richard: Frankly this was the best show on the main stage all weekend, even if only in terms of being able to get the whole crowd on your side, and creating a brilliantly warm and mutually appreciative vibe. This is what festivals mean to a lot of people and Hansard is nothing if not “a man of the common people”. A great Marvin Gaye cover and a whole rack of encores meant an utterly triumphant gig. I can’t believe I enjoyed it so much. Getting a lass on stage to sing Falling Slowly with him at the end was a real crowd pleasing moment too; it could have been as corny as hell but it wasn’t, it was great.
Damian: She knocked it out of the park. For me, I’ll remember this gig not only for the music – which was great – or the girl getting up on stage – which, again, was brilliant – but also for just sharing that moment with a bunch of friends. We laughed, we cried we, well, we had a whale of a time. And that’s exactly what festivals are for. Great stuff.
Richard: After this it was hard to concentrate. Hansard had – unbeknownst to me – socked me one with his showbizzy schlock. I mean, Half Moon Run were okay, fun, but okay, and despite giving it her all and having an appreciative crowd Regina Spektor bored me (sorry) and The Staves underwhelmed in the tent after starting brightly. And yet again I missed Efterklang and Brandt Brauer Frick. But who cares?
Damian: Efterklang sang Happy Birthday to Haldern, which was a nice touch but to be honest, we were simply worn out. Glen Hansard’s set had seemed like such a perfect moment everything afterwards simply felt unnecessary. For team Incendiary, the festival was already over. It was time to simply take a seat, drink the last of our beer and share a few more dirty jokes with our friends.
Richard: Haldern, you naughty, mystic trip you. You could have organised a weekend comprised solely of singing nuns and brass bands from Sheffield and I’d still go. It’s over and out from the land of faerie for another year.