Ever wanted to see Nine Inch Nails, Sonic Youth and Tool back to back? Well, welcome to day three of Pukkelpop 2007. Tool and NIN had brought so many fans the festival grounds started looking like ant hills. Yes, even the chateau was quite packed during several concerts.
But this isn’t just about the festivalgoers. Many of the artists say wonderful stuff about the artist area: good food, people taking care of you… it’s nice to be at Pukkelpop in Belgium.
For some reason, people feel a need to label everything, even days. This third day of Pukkelpop was labelled ‘the heavy day’ because of Tool, Sonic Youth and NIN. It was also labelled “the final day” for people who can count.
But we would like to think of this day as “the charming day”. Yes, above all this was the day that we felt charmed by some of the artists.
Pukkelpop day 3: prepare to feel loved, this day – contrary to what you’d expect on a day with NIN and Tool – was adorable.
We would like to offer you a genuine festival review, but first… a lot of timetable changes. Were 120 Days (club, 15.15) still reading up on their de Sade? No idea, fact is that the band were late and they switched with Belgian band The Tellers. Lacuna Coil (main stage, 14.35) had bad news for their fans: they’d missed their flight and had to cancel their concert. Their friends Enter Shikari would fill in for them on the main stage and play their own set at the skate stage (19.20). Goldie is a DJ and so he had missed his flight and told everyone he wouldn’t play full stop. And just as that news had hit the festival area, Lacuna Coil had better news: they could manage to get to Belgium after all if Pukkelpop could give them a later spot. And so Enter Shikari agreed to start their second performance a little bit earlier and play back to back with Lacuna Coil, so that the latter would still get 40 minutes of glory on Pukkelpop.
Conclusions? 1) It takes amazing skills to keep up with the changes at Pukkelpop and 2) of all the people at a festival, DJs are the most obnoxious and pretentious twits.
That said, I find the music of Enter Shikari (main, 14.35) tolerable for a couple of numbers, but that’s about all. And recently they’re getting a bit too much emo for their own good. Nevertheless, many kudos for helping Lacuna Coil out and giving the fans extra value for their money. Enter Shikari are 2007’s version of Radiohead (who, upon hearing a band had cancelled at the last minute, had offered to play an extra hour for free – as they were there anyway).
The Tellers (club, 15.15) could profit from the tardiness of 120 Days by playing their gig in a larger venue, proving these Brussels boys and their acoustic indierock deserved a bigger spot. It was alright.
Kate Nash was residing in the chateau (15.55) and the audience learned what ‘breath control’ was all about. The chateau was so packed the place had become a sauna.
Kate Nash said she’d never been to Belgium before. Not everyone is greeted this abudantly by thousands of people on their first visit to a country. On the other hand, Kate’s concert was quite good, so there was good reason for cheering. Whereas not every track made by Kate Nash can be classified as a masterpiece, this concert proved that Kate Nash has a serious amount of talent up her sleeve and that she isn’t afraid to show it to the world every now and then. Her album, Made of Bricks, is a melange of brilliant tracks, okay tracks with one or two brilliant lyrics, beautiful mistakes and songs one better skips. Her concert showed the brilliance of her better songs and made you feel kinder to the lesser songs.
Kate Nash had delivered a bunch of T-shirts to the merchandising area: the T-shirts read “If asked, I must say I mostly listen to Kate Nash. Mostly.”
Kate’s a charmer. No really.
Meanwhile on the main stage: The Streets (15.55). Yes, the overpacked chateau might’ve been a reason to see what Mike Skinner was doing, but his previous concert at Pukkelpop was so abysmal one couldn’t have dragged me to the main stage. We heard it was okay. Then again, we also heard that last time.
Streets fans really must learn how music should sound.
Which meant it was onto the boiler room for us, where Agoria vs. Oxia (15.00) had a nice set, which was even extended a bit so the last-minute replacement act for Goldie (DJ Leno) could arrive. Here’s a little question on the side: if a DJ doesn’t arrive at such a big venue, how many people would actually notice?
An hour into DJ Leno’s set we heard someone talking to a friend on the mobile and apparently the girl on the mobile was enjoying dancing to Goldie. (Unless the girl was at the same airport as Goldie, which is also a possibility.)
In the marquee Bromheads Jacket (16.45) were exposing their audience to fiery rock. We caught the last part of their concert, which included what was probably the highlight of the set: the singer dived into the public and had himself carried all over the place. Without skipping as much as a note. Respect.
This meant that the Bromheads Jacket singer still hadn’t learned from his experience in Holland last year: that night his crowdsurfing ended disastrous when the audience dropped him and he crawled back on stage, his face covered in blood and his guitar missing. Not that this stopped him from going on with the show. Again, respect.
In a recent Radio Kurtodrome (over at my site) I said Loney, dear (17.35, chateau) probably couldn’t live up to The Postal Service, a band they were often being compared to. The Pukkelpop concert highlighted what made Loney, Dear… erm… Loney, Dear, which means we’ll have to conclude: concert better than record.
Meanwhile, 120 Days had arrived and were ready for their gig (wablief, 17.55). This was a good concert, but one tends to expect a little bit more from a band that names itself after a work by De Sade. Well played, but missing a cruel finishing touch and therefore amusing me, but not blowing my mind out. And sometimes one wants to have his mind blown and doesn’t feel like settling for anything less. Call me a masochist.
Always willing to go that extra mile, sisters Bianca and Sierra had dressed up in bright clothes and put enough make-up on for ten girls. Welcome back, CocoRosie (18.30, marquee). I’d seen CocoRosie (backed by Bunny Rabbit) in April and now they didn’t have three hours to take the audience to CocoRosieLand. The first songs were a bit hesitant and focused too much on the toys the sisters had brought along.
But after a while CocoRosie managed to incorporate all the toy noise gimmicks and human beatbox Tez into their songs so well noone dared to complain. Sure, during the opera minute (in “Japan”) a couple dozens of people rushed to the skate stage to hear Lacuna Coil instead, but one doesn’t miss 50 people in a fully packed marquee (there were even tons of people following the concert on the big screen next to the marquee).
And tough on time, it only means they missed out on a staggering finale, which included an excellent version of “Rainbowarriors” (slower, sexier and superior to the record version). After which the girls returned to the backstage, only to be summoned back to the stage. Yes, had CocoRosie not returned for an encore, LCD Soundsystem might not have had a stage to play on. It was the first time that night an encore was demanded by the audience. A promising sign.
And from one highlight to another: Spoon had never played at this festival, they confessed and now they made their debut in the chateau (19.25). One critic complained that the audience reacted quite calmly to the band’s concert. Yeah, well, mate, that’s because you could watch them backstage in the press area and we were standing in the audience. There were so many people in the chateau you couldn’t have squeezed in an extra ten people.
It had nothing to do with the quality of the concert (which was very good), it was all about being unable to move an inch. I’d already regretted not having seen Spoon and now I’d like to see them again, if possible with a bit more space. Anyway, this concert proved that Spoon is even excellent music for in a sauna.
It’s not that I wasn’t aware there were eight stages at the festival, it’s that the line-up in the marquee and chateau was so good that night my attention focused mainly on those two stages. Spoon had left the chateau, which meant it was time for the next act in the marquee: LCD Soundsystem (20.25).
James Murphy and band have been to Belgium so often we’re losing count. This can also be a burden: one starts getting high expectations for a band, they certainly have to be as good as (or better than) last time.
The band visited one day after their concert in the Netherlands, where apparently they’d ruined some of their material and not everything sounded right. Anyway, this was how James Murphy apologized to the audience. As has been mentioned before, the man is capable of giving Nancy Wong the evil eye and making her readjust a couple of wires with a result that often only Wong and Murphy can hear. Perfectionists, really.
The first tracks sounded uninspired, but after ten minutes (enough time for your local reporter to go and buy himself another drink) the flash was in the pan and the high expectations were met.
All in all, not the best LCD Soundsystem concert we’ve seen, but still 80% better than most bands you’ll get to see on a stage at such a festival.
A quick check in the boiler room learnt us that Andy C. (21.00) was doing the same as in Rock Herk, only for a bigger audience. We can’t say this was not deserved, but we’d seen the man in action only six weeks earlier, so off, once again, to the chateau. If you ever want to encounter me at a festival and you don’t have my mobile number, there’s a fair chance you’ll find me in that tent.
This time I was there to look at the wonderfully charming Hanne Hukkelberg (21.30). Hanne was up against local dance/rock heroes Goose in the dance hall and the highly successful Nine Inch Nails on the main stage and seemed genuinely amazed so many people had turned up to see her play. The place was half filled at the time. Not unimpressive for an artist maybe, but to us (the people who’d survived the sauna experiences of Kate Nash and Spoon) the place looked a bit deserved. What? “Place to move? They have that here?” was a look I noticed in many an eye.
Hanne Hukkelberg is sweet and charming. In fact, so charming that during the concert innoncent passers-by were drawn into the chateau to hear the Norwegian and her band sing. Hukkelberg gave a lot of compliments to her band and also thanked the audience abundantly. It’s not often an artist starts clapping for you, but this was such a gig. Yeah, there were thousands of people in the place, but it felt like visiting a friend.
Not every Hanne Hukkelberg song is a masterpiece, but there’s so much warmth in them you’re willing to forget about rational arguments.By far the nicest experience (of all the three festival days), which is why we eagerly put Hanne Hukkelberg’s face at the top of this article. Definitely worth going to see her if she’s playing a gig near where you live.
Sadly, this meant we were missing a considerable deal of Nine Inch Nails (main, 21.30), but Reznor and band sounded like they also needed a bit of time to get into shape. The final part of the concert was definitely better and was able to send a couple of chills through the thousands of people attending with the dark and brooding sound NIN likes to incorporate into their songs.
The concert ended with “Hurt”, a track Johnny Cash had stolen from Trent Reznor. At first, one thought Reznor should’ve done the decent thing and not play his own song anymore, but as the song progressed it became evident Nine Inch Nails were stealing their own song back again. A haunting conclusion to a concert in crescendo.
And speaking of crescendos, let us hurry to the marquee once again. Sonic Youth (22.30) were back at Pukkelpop after 11 years and were going to treat the audience to a special concert: to celebrate the re-release of Daydream Nation the band would play the entire album and return for an encore with some more recent tracks (most from Rather Ripped).
The Sonic Youth concert quickly divided the people who were there because they love the band and those who wanted to look cool and go to an allegedly cool band. The latter didn’t stay that long, which is one of the better things about Sonic Youth: if someone only pretends to like the band, they’ll have a hell of a time listening to all that noise. The joke’s on them.
The band was in great form. Kim Gordon may well be in her fifties, but jumped all over the stage like a young girl. And frankly, the other band members weren’t any less motivated. A highly enthusiastic experience from a great band. Quality reigns supreme.
While the beat-inclined were dancing their soul out to Felix da Housecat (boiler, 23.00) we found that a bit too commercial to finish this long edition of Pukkelpop. The other options included Tool and Woven Hand. As Tool didn’t impress me too much at first, I went back to the chateau. David Eugene Edwards was on stage, a man you might know as Woven Hand (00.00) or from his earlier band 16 Horsepower. Or from one of his many collaborations with Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus.
Yeah, Edwards may be American, but Belgium seems to have become his second home. The concert felt like the band were coming home. The songs were kept tight and the atmosphere was cozy. It was not the first time I’d seen Edwards play, but it was one of his better performances…
… and it would’ve made an excellent conclusion to Pukkelpop 2007 had it not been for James Meynard. Apparently someone had forgotten to tell Tool (23.50, main) that Pukkelpop was supposed to stop at 1 o’clock (not counting the afterparty), because the band went 25 minutes over time.
And this would not have been a reason to complain if the concert had been amazing. But, as I’d said earlier, despite having seen Woven Hand before, I chose to see them again because Tool couldn’t impress me that much at first. And when Woven Hand had left the stage, Tool were still on stage (in fact, they’d still be there for another 45 minutes, but we didn’t know that at the time) and still weren’t too exceptional. We would like to point out that Tool had had to cancel a couple of concerts because their singer was sick and that the Pukkelpop concert was one of the first concerts after the unintentional break. I’m not sure if that was the reason, but for some reason Tool just didn’t get into it. I encountered a couple of friends after the concert and they had similar feelings (so it wasn’t just me and the fact I’d seen CocoRosie, Spoon, LCD Soundsystem, Hanne Hukkelberg, Nine Inch Nails and Sonic Youth warming up for Tool).
I found the band to be a bit too boombastic. And I don’t mean that in the most regular sense (Tool is boombastic after all), but in the sense that it sounded as if someone had put an extra layer on top of the music and the result didn’t really fit. Songs were overlong and outstayed their welcome. The concert didn’t grip you, but buzzed and hummed around you.
Quite a shame as Tool has been responsible for the boost in ticket sales, but nevermind, afer Tool had finally left the stage it was time for the traditional fireworks. Pukkelpop 2007 was over and a sign said the organisation hoped to see you again in 2008.
If that edition will have as many highlights as this year’s Pukkelpop, we’ll gladly oblige.
1. Sonic Youth
2. Hanne Hukkelberg
5. Kate Nash (her charm just beat the return performance of LCD Soundsystem)
PUKKELPOP 2007’S BEST
1. Dinosaur Jr.
2. Sonic Youth
3. Hanne Hukkelberg
7. Patrick Wolf
8. Hayseed Dixie
10. Mouse on Mars
(If Mouse on Mars now ends up in the top 10 despite just ending up below Arcade Fire in Friday’s list (and aren’t in the top 10), that is because I only had one spot left and I’d seen Arcade Fire in better shape, whereas Mouse on Mars were in great form. Sometimes rational arguments just don’t cut it.)