Welcome to part two of our Pukkelpop review, which this year focused on only three stages: the main stage, the Marquee and the Dance Hall. Sadly this meant being unable to see a couple of concerts I really would’ve wanted to see: Tunng, Nina Nastasia, Martina Topley-Bird at the Chateau and The DØ and Blood Red Shoes at the Club? The latter playing on the same stage as The Ting Tings on Thursday night. As Friday’s line-up was unfulfilling, we moved (albeit virtually) to the Netherlands: the Dutch organize Lowlands in the same weekend as Pukkelpop (but from Friday to Sunday) and with often a lot of similar bands. Speaking of which, that this was an exceptionally poor summer for music is proved between how many bands appeared at Rock Werchter (Belgium’s biggest festival) and Pukkelpop (Belgium’s biggest alternative festival): Tim Vanhamel, Hercules and Love Affair, The National, Soulwax, 2manydjs, The Black Box Revelation, Hot Chip, Editors, Sigur Rós (yes, even the same headliners), Roísín Murphy and MGMT. The times when people cried murder when one band played two concerts are apparently over.
Anyway, Lowlands… in an interview with The Ting Tings the band said they’d feared they would have to play for an empty Club at Pukkelpop (because they played at the same time as The Flaming Lips). It turned out “okay”, the band reviewed their own concert and crowd. I hope they didn’t notice the twat in the audience with a Flaming Lips balloon with the words “The Ting Tings suck ass” scribbled on it. The Tings even played a session for the Dutch tv, reducing their songs to two vocals and two guitars (and sometimes even less). It proved that calling them just another poppy duo with a cute face is doing them unjustice. “Great DJ” and “Shut up and let me go” were okay, but “That’s not my name” became a cute lament when only sang by Katie and backed by Jules De Martino on guitar (and occasional backing vocals). Furthermore, I saw the footage of “Great DJ” being played live. Yes, the first minutes gave you the impression it would’ve been better to listen to the cd, but once the crowd interacted with the song, Katie and Jules found extra energy and gave the song a boost. From what I read, this was similar for the rest of the concert. Some critics said the band had their success because Katie is cute, which I hope is not true. Definitely not for me: I’d heard the record for a month before I saw their first video and her looks. Unless their songs contain a subliminal message: “I’m cute, I’m cute, I’m cute.”
Back to Belgium for day two of Pukkelpop, which was all about one band: Metallica. They’d claimed the main stage for nearly two and a half hour, but didn’t feel obliged to be on stage for the first twenty minutes. And to think this band made the tickets three euro more expensive. Did the people get good value for the money? Let’s review the Pukkelpop Friday.
And it’s good morning to you. The American band State Radio (marquee, 12.20) kicked off the concerts at the Marquee tonight, with rock music you’d forget the minute after it’d penetrated your ears. Until they dedicated a song against the current President of the USA. Which only proves that anger is good for rock.
STATE RADIO – Gang of Thieves
Raise your hand if you want dance for lunch (or breakfast)? It’s 12.30 and the Dance Hall’s second act (Autokratz didn’t allow footage – well, boo hoo to you) is Dusty Kid. The (live) addition to his name means he’ll tweak his buttons in front of the audience. There was cheering from the crowd and some danced their butts off, but a lot of them just nodded their heads and upper bodies to the sounds. The camera noticed the giant clock on Dusty’s table, which informs you of this guy’s biggest enemy: time. It was nice, but I won’t remember this forever. Let alone a week. And what does a Dusty Kid do when he thinks the audience could be more enthusiastic? Raise his hands above a semi-sour face (was it boredom or concentration?) and clap. And of course the crowd will follow.
Dusty Kid – Milk
One might be excused for thinking Michael lives in the fields of Hasselt because Michael Franti and Spearhead (main, 14.35) played Pukkelpop yet again. Even if the first notes weren’t in the key they should’ve been, one can forgive Franti because he was singing off stage. Which was a little odd. Anyway, Franti appeared on stage and managed to captivate the audience within the space of one single minute. The bravest question: “Is there anyone who likes reggae?” on a stage waiting for Metallica. And while the folks may not be big fans of reggae, they like Spearhead and its message of love and peace. One of the few bands who manage to combine a message with funkiness. Franti and band have been playing on status quo for several years now, but their level is high enough to keep appreciating the band and their message. Peace and love.
Michael Franti and Spearhead – Say Hey
The Wallonian band Girls In Hawaii (marquee, 14.40) greeted the audience in Dutch after being annouced as “the most stupid name on the festival, but one of the best bands in Belgium”. Just two hours later Deadmau5 would play and what about Plain White T’s? Those are my favourites for most stupid name. The Girls are the sort of band that are successful because they’re good, but not globally because most countries have a few of those good bands. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a handful of Girls In Hawaii songs on your MP3 player/iPod. And no disrespect to the singer, but the band’s best song… was an instrumental. I wasn’t sure whether this concert was a 6 or 7 until the singer explained that, due to having to drive to another concert in France, they weren’t able to see Metallica and he was gutted. So a 6 then.
Girls in Hawaii – This farm will end up in fire
Next up in the Marquee: A Brand (15.50). Their logo resembles an aspirin tablet, which was what I needed after the godawful introduction by the announcer (shouting bad jokes doesn’t make them better). Which reminds me: I neglected to complain about a late addition to yesterday’s line-up. Mostly because I tried to ban Adriaan van den H. from my memory. Yes, you can be an actor who hosts a tv show with stand-up comedians and you may think you are funny, but your stand-up lines are written by others. The main proof is that you hosted another festival with your own jokes and everyone I know who attended Werchter has complained to me about the incredible lack of comedy you displayed. Adding this **** to the line-up was what kept me from running after a ticket. Pukkelpop, you should know better.
Oh yeah, weren’t we here to talk about today’s line-up and more importantly the band currently on stage? Forget about the awful introduction, “Hammerhead” opened the set and created for instant good vibes. Though it is of course dangerous to start with your biggest hit. But it’s a good way of starting a concert on the day you release your new album (Judas): start with a hit, an uptempo song from the new album and a new song which is a slow starter. Everyone but the drummer dressed up in their best white suit and A Brand delivered a tight and professional set. Even if the highlights were the hits from older albums (“Hammerhead” and “Riding Your Ghost”) and some songs were a big letdown (I fail to remember the title of the track, but it’s the one with the lyrics “Would you like to hear a guitar?”), the band proved they were Belgian subtop hoping for a chance to get international recognition.
A Brand – Hammerhead
Over to the Dance Hall or was it the Kindergarten Stage? Some DJs try and conceal their identity: Dr. Lektroluv has an exuberant outfit and wears green paint on his head. And then there’s Deadmau5 (16.40). You move to the Dance Hall with a heavy heart because of the foolish name and then you see a guy with mouse mask on his head. Well, I deduct it’s a mouse’s head because of the guy’s name. It looks as if a mentally handicapped five-year-old was forced to draw a mouse after playing too much Pac Man. After ten minutes he changed his stupid mask for a stupid baseball cap. Sometimes it helps being blind, it would’ve kept me focused on the music. Now I just can’t…
Deadmau5 – This Noise
Foals (marquee, 17.20) is one of those bands who allowed live streaming and then asked to see the material so only the best songs would be kept. The first notes of the first song sounded technically more daring and okay than a lot of what we’d heard before. Still, it took me a bloody long time to get into this concert. But just when you’re thinking “Good: yes. Memorable: no”, the band geared up and gripped me.
Foals – Balloons
Meanwhile on the main stage: Cold War Kids, quite a popular band with kids these days. If the question “Did you see X at Pukkelpop 2007?” was asked ten times, nine times the X would’ve stood for Cold War Kids. The band’s biggest claim to fame is the single “Hang me up to dry” and this was the penultimate song of the concert. Like the last song (“Saint John”), all I could think of was: what’s the fuzz about? Did this deserve a 5.30pm spot on the main stage?
Which brings us to the next question: do Stereophonics deserve to be on the main stage at 7pm? Don’t ask me. The answer has always been no and my nickname for the band is Stereophoneys. Still, a large crowd watched them (though some were probably there to get a good spot for the headliners of the night), so good for them.
“Who’s that girl?” That’s what it said on Robyn‘s T-shirt. Reminds me of a Madonna song and so does Robyn’s poppiness. Combine that with the Roxette hairstyle. What’s the difference between me and thousands of people at the Dance Hall (19.55)? They seemed to like it, I didn’t. I listened for two and a half songs because I’d told myself I couldn’t dislike them more than “Who’s that girl?”. And while that’s technically true, that still doesn’t mean I liked them. Well, the second one was bearable.
Thank the Lord for the Dance Hall, the only stage that allowed those who couldn’t make it to Pukkelpop’s biggest day ever (a crowd of 57.000) to watch a bit of the festival. Before we continue, let’s boo Metallica, Within Temptation, Tim Vanhamel, The Breeders, Tindersticks and The Gutter Twins. Anyway, the time is 21.45 and the Dance Hall opens its doors to Miss Kitten & the Hacker. Behind their names the word ‘live’. Well, we’ll take their word for it: it was hard to see anything behind the light effects and enough fog to think you’re in Beijing.
Miss Kitten told the audience it was a long time since she’d been at Pukkelpop but that it felt like coming home. Good for her and to be honest, it’s good the Miss Kitten hype is over. Now people can see the act for what it’s worth rather than having to complain about the undeserved hype. Maybe not the best act in the Dance Hall today, but one of the most professional if you looked at creating an atmosphere (with the smoke and the lights). And as for a bit of self-awareness, here’s Miss Kitten to the crowd regarding their productivity: “We are preparing our second album. Better late than never, eh?”
Anyway, I don’t know if it was me or them, but after twenty minutes (when the hyperannoying track “Frank Sinatra” started) I felt I’d had more than my fair share of Kitten and her Hacker. Stupidly enough, I waited for the next two tracks which were equal insults to my ears. So the first third was okay, the second third annoying and the final third… don’t know, didn’t stick around.
Miss Kitten & The Hacker – 1982
Though I did return to the Dance Hall for the evening’s finale. Yes, the final minutes were just Boys Noize (dance hall, 23.00) playing a record (The Prodigy’s “No good”) but in order to get the audience to freak out you’d better have a damn good set in the previous 115 minutes. By the way, what a curious way to thank the audience: “You’re no good to me / I don’t need nobody” The Boys must love irony. Anyway, did the crowd like Boys Noize? No, they went berserk to a band that sometimes sounded like a punchier Daft Punk (e.g. & Down – see below). The crowd reacted as lyrical as that other crowd was probably doing at the main stage (Metallica), while over at another tent people revived the forties and fifties (you could listen to music or have your hair done to fit the soirée). Pukkelpop couldn’t be more different that night. As for Boys Noize, they didn’t do what I hate about this sort of act: stopping records all the time to get more interaction from the crowd. No, Boys Noize provided a two-hour-long rollercoaster, were quite successful and not undeservedly so.
Oh, and you couldn’t get these dancing teens to listen to some experimental music, but if Boys Noize mix some Laurie Anderson into their set (“Oh Superman“, of course), the hipsters lap it up as if were nectar from the gods.
Boys Noize – & Down
Day two of Pukkelpop: the biggest day if you look at the crowd, the most expensive day ever and the poorest if you look at the quality. Let’s go to bed and sleep this one off.
2. BOYS NOIZE
3. A BRAND
4. MICHAEL FRANTI AND SPEARHEAD
(Yep, nothing worthy of the n°1 spot, but then again here’s my top ten of missed artists:)
TUNNG – Bullets
BLOOD RED SHOES – ADHD
THE DØ – On My Shoulders
THE DØ – Playground Hustle (no video, hence my cheating)
NINA NASTASIA – This is what it is
GET CAPE, WEAR CAPE, FLY – Find the time
DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? – We Are Rockstars
CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN – Is That Lady Sniff?
MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD – Poison
LADY LINN AND HER MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – Cool Down
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