We entered to the strains of Fucked Up who framed everything perfectly with their hardcore sound and vision, with Damian Abraham in particular giving a stellar, entertaining and energetic performance. Then Real Estate appeared, who continue to thrill. There is something special at work with the five piece New Jersey band, who seemed genuinely delighted to be there, moving between their records Real Estate and Days with ease, and from heavy indie rock through to a kind of jangly shoegaze, surveying elements of psych, garage rock and classic pop on their way – and I couldn’t help but pleasingly think of Pavement at different turns.
Ernest Greene and his Washed Out troupe then tried to set the very restrained audience alight, though Greene gave it everything he had, and seemed more comfortable on the bigger stage than anywhere else. Since his Dublin date, his confidence has really grown as a performer, and there is a genuinely joyful kinship between him and the rest of the musicians. His youthful exuberance won people over in the end, as he came out to the front of the stage to encourage some movement, and his searching synths and depth of his compositions was easy to hold on to, surprisingly, in such a huge live context.
Then it was the turn of Wild Beasts, who were a delightful surprise, in that their own live show has grown in stature and now ably illustrates the layers of sound that goes into their music. Hayden Thorpe has an interesting charisma, and is possessed of a vocal that can veer from Jimmy Somerville to Alison Moyet in a moment, sharing something in common with Samuel Herring of Future Islands, who constantly tries to push and punch the limits of what his voice can do. There were many moments of lovely harmony, but there is also a grandiosity to Wild Beasts’ sound as well, containing a romantic, howling goodness, kept steady by driving rhythms, and a ‘bigger take’ on folk-rock, which at times entered tropicalia territory. Then Thorpe asked, very politely, if everyone had their “dancing shoes”, and it thankfully happened that the French crowd did, responding to their epic pop, which at times seemed to contain genuine grace, and at one point a sound that was like Dr. Who’s Tardis, which is really what they finished on, and like Real Estate, they lost themselves in their instrumentals; the reverb, the baying guitars and romantic atmospheres.
Then it was time for Parisian Modkopf. Because France does a certain kind of pop and dance music really well, the hope was that Modkopf would somehow surprise, but billed as someone who has “given new definition to France’s typical club sound”, it didn’t bode well, especially since I am not sure what France’s “typical club sound” sounds like. He had collaborated with multimedia agency Trafik to “create a live experience that rekindles the sensations of a rave for both ears and eyes”, which sounds odd in itself, but what followed wasn’t in any way electrifying, instead nullifying, and the mind wandered. The visuals were essentially just one white fizzing line on a black screen that changed with the tempo in the music. It was a strange way to frame Aphex Twin, but perhaps he likes it that way.
Richard James seems to really understand the interesting relationship that can be had between the visual world and the musical one, particularly in a live context, and his collaborative work with Chris Cunningham and others ably expresses the less subtle, darker side of his compositions. With three huge panels framing him, he carried away imagination with his driving, shapeshifting music, and tailored many visuals for the French audience, making reference to classic French pop stars and Nicolas Sarkozy on his way, to roars of appreciation from the crowd, who by this stage had swelled to capacity. However, by the time he had finished, we were too, and eschewed the remaining acts Pantha Du Prince, Cut Copy, Four Tet and Erol Alkan (the last two were doing DJ sets) to cycle off to bed, ultimately getting very lost, for a very long time.