Solo singer songwriter with a guitar and a loop pedal. He looked so young that it seems cruel to be rude about him. And he was fine! But if he was on at an open-mic night, you probably wouldn't remember him the next morning.
Crunchy, self-serious indie rock. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with crunchy, self-serious indie-rock, but you need some sort of lyrical or melodic spark in order to stand out. I only stuck around for the first three songs.
Fantastic. Whimsical, sample-heavy mad-scientist stuff, it sounds like Alt-J when Alt-J are at their best. In between songs we are informed that some of the beats are made from US-navy recordings of fish, or that some of the melody lines are made of pitch-modulated birdsong.
Odd pop from a former member of Vampire Weekend. Lovely melodies, charismatic vocals, and the string quartet backing him are great, especially when one song blossoms into a series of country-style fiddle solos. It's a bit of a shame that a lot of this stuff is clearly tricky to arrange live: for a fair proportion of the gig he's singing to a backing tape.
This is the Kit
Woozy and detailed and layered and hypnotic. I like This is the Kit a lot, but they seemed to be playing too quietly to be heard properly under the conversation of the crowd.
Public Service Broadcasting
An absolute party. There are so many elements that should feel like gimmicks: the matching corduroy suits, the sudden appearance of a brass section or a dancing astronaut, the fact that all their songs are are built around samples from historical archives. But everything fuses together into a sustained and unrepentantly nerdy euphoria.
I didn't get this at all. She's clearly got a loyal fanbase, but to me this felt lethargic, tuneless and under-arranged.
80s-flavoured sythpop with the most barking possible frontman. While the rest of the band are crafting something clean and sparkling and finely-calibrated, Samuel T Herring is howling and sweating and dancing, pounding his chest and pleading to the audience with wild-eyed desparation. It's so incongruous that it's tricky to take seriously: there's a real emotional openness here, but it's so eccentric that it's hard to give in to that emotional openness without some ironic distance. At the very least, they're a fun curiosity, but you can see the shape of something much more complicated under the surface.
The War on Drugs
A very nice surprise. I've never really got on with their albums, but they're a different proposition live: it's much clearer that they are never about songs for the sake of songs: they're about songs for the sake of endless rolling guitar solos, locked into place by perfectly architectured keyboard parts. This music should be self-indulgent, but it's too well-crafted and too generously accessible for that. Really excellent.
I love The National with an embarassing and obsessive intensity. We were in a bad bit of the crowd, but by the time they were following I Need My Girl with Slow Show, I'd tuned out all distractions. It was a warm and rich and poised gig - I've seen them on nights where they rock out a bit more, but they were playing to their strengths here.
Country music! Surprisingly British singer, and somewhere in the middle of the scale between poppy and folky. In theory this could have been dull, but the band was exremely tight. The ideal accompaninent to cold beer and sunlight.
Punk band plus two saxophones. A wall of ridiculous noise. And a lot of fun, too, especially when they launch into an unexpected and explosive cover of "He's got the Whole World in his Hands".
The second in a quartet of Very Loud Bands we saw on Sunday afternoon. This was Japanese noise rock. Bracing and theatrical, particular highlights included a guitarist whirling his instrument around his head like a lasso, or frontman half-singing, half-rapping at speed, the words drenched in reverb.
Young and shouty London post-punks, all scrappy and grubby, this took a while to win me over. But there was a lot of charisma there: even if this is never going to be My Sort of Thing, it was hard not to be impressed by the energy on display, especially the frontman's sneering requests that the crowd stop taking it all so seriously.
My goodness this was loud. In the festival's only indoor venue, boiling hot, with the drums ricocheting off the wall. They were a lot of fun: bit accessible rock melodies sharpened into something harsher by sheer volume and intensity of attack. The highlight was when an unexpected trumpeter arrived, and proceeded to play a long, jazzy, piercingly distorted solo.
This gig performed some strange magic: before I saw it, I didn't much like her new album; after I saw it, the album was suddenly great. Barnett is one of the best songwriters I saw over the weekend (possibly *the* best songwriter?) but her live show is so lightly and unfussily performed that you can miss how great it is - all that wit and rawness and energy and superb guitar playing delivered with a smile and a shrug.
There were a bunch of odd decisions here. Patti Smith opened by performing a lengthy excerpt from Allen Ginsberg's Howl, read several of her lyrics from a battered ring-binder, told her band to stop and restart the ending of a song because it hadn't gone how she wanted to, and played another song that consisted of a long poem about Australian environmentalism and Aboriginal rights before morphing into a cover of terrible 80s pop-rock song Beds are Burning. But the oddest thing: all of this was *great*. Smith's voice is still astonishing, her band are tight and crunchy, and she has a blinding, shambolic, shamanic charisma that means she can get away with anything.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Firstly, I have enormous respect to the couple in front of me who brought their eight-year-old daughter to a Nick Cave gig (she seemed to be enjoying it). Secondly, in a moment of surreal euphoria, Cave actually brought Kylie Minogue on stage for Where the Wild Roses Grow. Later he brought about 200 audience members on stage with him for the obscene majesty of Stagger Lee. Thirdly, there was a surprising amount of terrifyingly intense Xylophone. Cave has perfected his frontier gothic horror: his sprawling band are able to crystallize their pomp into elegance and beauty (Into Your Arms was really bloody good) or devolve into furious chaos (From Her to Eternity was really bloody good). I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting anything as good as this.