Pukkelpop 2009: day three

Hi, I’d like to apply for a job as security at the Pukkelpop festival.
– Certainly, Sir. Are you unfriendly and arrogant?
Yes, I am.
– Good, good. One other question: 2 plus 2 equals how much…?
Erm… five?
– Congratulations, Sir. You’ve got the job!

Little BootsAm I getting grumpier or is Pukkelpop’s security becoming less mannered and less friendly every year? What a shame really that every year you have to spend the first minutes of the festival getting rid of your irritation after being treated badly by a monkey with a superiority complex? Then again, once you’re inside, the fun and the good atmosphere really start. This was my 13th visit to the festival and it didn’t bring me any bad luck.

This year we’ll follow the cliche “Time is money”. Why spend lots of time trying to come up with stuff to say about bands that don’t really deserve ten lines? Being brief can be a blessing too.

The Glimmers present Disco Drunkards (15.25, dance hall) is a dance project by a couple of DJ’s and Tim Vanhamel (Millionaire). I can’t say the couple of songs I heard tremendously impressed me, even though I did catch the moment where the Drunkards throw their cd into the crowd. You see, selling cds is so passé. Apparently it’s cheaper to distribute your cd for free to the fans who come to your (paid) gig. That is actually more noteworthy than their project.

Onto the Marquee then… Deerhunter (15.25) proved there’s still a place for melodious music in 2009. And had it not been for the genius of Wilco that played on the same spot two days earlier, we would’ve liked it even more. Now it’s just “good”.

I wasn’t the only one on the train going to the festival and some of the travellers were downright idiots. All of those looked forward to Rusko‘s concert (16.15, chateau). That – and the fact the tent was quite full – made me give that a pass. The Wablief tent did even better and had to hang out the ‘full house’ sign. So no Creature with the Atom Brain then. As a consolation, here’s a song:

Anti-Flag (16.05, main) was not an option and so it was time to visit the Shelter. Rolo Tomassi played there and the band was loud, friendly and energetic. The guys in the crowd may not have heard too much as they were busy wolf-whistling at Eva Spence, but it was a more than decent concert. Maybe Oh, Hello Ghost will end up in this year’s chart. For now, here’s another track:

This was the third time I’d see Hanne Hukkelberg (16.55, club) play live. The first time (on Pukkelpop, a couple of years ago) Hanne was too shy for words. She was more at ease the second time I saw here (at a regular venue) but now, on the third biggest stage of the festival, Hanne Hukkelberg looked really confident and played a great gig. It’s a bit odd for me because I still love her oldest songs most, but it’s nice to see her no longer making excuses when she receives applause. Hanne may be less experimental these days, but the songs are good enough to spend 40 minutes listening to them.

Do Ed Rush and Optical (17.30, boiler) live on the festival grounds? They play there every year. Anyway, nicely done, lads, once again, but don’t hate me for skipping to the next act… Dinosaur Jr played the main stage this year in the bright and sunny afternoon (17.40).

I saw the band before at the same festival (in 2007) and they were exciting to watch. From one of the best concerts in 2007 to this rather mediocre one. I don’t know why, though. Maybe the band had an off-day, maybe Dinosaur Jr is the sort of band which works/performs better in the evening in a smaller tent than at 6pm on main stage? Make no mistake, it was still a good thing to watch, just as long as you didn’t have their 2007 concert in mind.

At one point Lou Barlow said it was always nice to play at Pukkelpop. Mascis, unaware the camera was pointing at him (not that he might care though) gave an odd “Really?” look, a bit like Webster in Different Strokes.

Still, at a festival with (for once) older names like The Jesus Lizard and Faith No More, Dinosaur Jr was a necessary inclusion.

At the same time in the Shelter: Hayseed Dixie (17.50). Excellent fun to see once or twice, but this is their third performance at the festival and some of the introductions are still the same as they were in 2007 (e.g. the intro to “Poop in a jar”). Nevertheless, the duelling banjoes were good fun, I only hope they’ll write some new introductions if they’ll be at the festival again next year. Incidently, it was fun to see how the crowd had grown from 150 people the first time to a semi-packed tent this year. Let’s celebrate that with a song:

Onto Florence + The Machine (18.35, club) then. Florence, Last.fm informs me, is an art school dropout who was discovered drunk in a toilet, singing Motown covers. Her “Kiss With A Fist”, one of our 2008 favourites, suffered from overplay, not in the least because of a commercial it was used for. This show did what it was supposed to do: show Florence is so much more than this one hit.

Blessed with a good voice, she went from her own rock to poppy covers. And she might’ve been the only one in the tent who wasn’t hot, as a fan was blowing her way. Her hair blowing in all sorts of directions, her dress in Marilyn Monroe mode, Florence also made it a spectacle for the eye. But, first things first, she has a good voice and deserves the attention she’s been getting, overplayed single or not. So here, as further proof, her brand new video.

Another admirable thing about Florence is that she ended her concert five minutes early, which gaves us just enough time to leave the main stage and club field before 50 Cent (awful, always) hit the stage. More about this turd later on. Thanks to Florence, I also managed to catch the last five minutes of The Whitest Boy Alive (18.40, marquee), a band I’d hoped to see more of. Actually, I’d read the band had okayed their concert to be streamed after the festival, but they must’ve changed their mind. Well, the joke’s on you, guys, as this means you won’t get praise for your concert now.

As if eight stages wasn’t enough, Pukkelpop also has a Moroccan mini-village (where you can sample local food and tea) and a Petit Bazar. This is where you find a couple of performances (not stand-up comedians, they opened for other artists in one of the 8 tents) and a cinema. Amongst the screened movies were The Wrestler and Paprika, so it’s not just any old garbage they could find. As a closed dark tent proved to be the best protection against 50 Cent, I gave it a ago. Maybe I just don’t see enough films in real life. The film in question was the recent documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. I might talk about it here, but I think it deserves a mini-review of its own. Here’s the film’s trailer to wet your appetite.

So, was I successfulin avoiding the excrement that is 50 Cent? No, the pompous twat found himself important enough to play ten minutes longer than scheduled. As if that in itself isn’t enough of a crime against nature, it also meant Little Boots had to cut her first Belgian concert (19.25, club) a bit shorter. Fatwas have been issued for less good reasons.

Victoria Hesketh a.k.a. Little Boots had jumped to our attention last year with her excellent performance on Jools Holland‘s show: she played the piano, sang, clapped and played the tenori-on at the same time. (In case you missed it, here’s the video.) This stellar performance gave her a n°8 spot in our 2008 list and a place in our heart. And even though some songs are weaker, her debut album Hands may contained some of the tracks I played most often this summer (rivaled only by Mowgli’s Road by Marina + the Diamonds).

So let’s face it, my expectation was way too high for Little Boots… or was it? No, it wasn’t. Little Boots had brought a band, her tenori-on (hurrah!) and an bottomless barrel of enthusiasm. Boots danced around on stage, was seriously surprised by the enthusiastic crowd, was blown away because someone had made a Little Boots sign (she said it was her first one – I find this hard to believe), whipped up the crowd when she’d gotten used to the enthusiasm (trying to get the audience to sing’n’dance along)… at one point she said Pukkelpop had beaten the concert in Austria the day before with their audience participation, near the end she dubbed it her best festival of the entire summer. Now as cynical as we normally are, for once I didn’t want to think this was the regular performer’s lie (you know, how bands like to tell you it’s the first time they’re playing a new song?), mainly because this was such an energetic, fun and frankly brilliant concert. It would’ve been even better if Little Boots had played my personal album favourite (“Ghost”), but it may not have fit the energy of her other tracks and, of course, there wasn’t enough time to play every track. Thank you very much, 50 Twat!

Have I said all about this concert? No, there’s two more things to mention. First and foremost, you should definitely check out her YouTube channel with bedroom performances of her songs and covers. Not only for the music but also for the lovely banter she uses in her descriptions. And the second thing is not really a statement, but a question: Victoria, would you like to marry me?

Pop quiz question: I brought a novel to the festival, Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. Why was this a good choice? Answer: because another of his novels, Gravity’s Rainbow, inspired the band Klaxons (20.20, marquee). Due to complete overlapping with Little Boots (apart from the fact that Klaxons didn’t have to wait for 50 C*nt), so no review here.

Ellen Allien did a decent job of dj’ing in the Boiler Room from 9pm to 11pm (which is why you got to see the video above), but we also spent quite a lot of time in the Wablief tent where Nid and Sancy (21.15) were performing. Nid and Sancy are a couple (Belgian Bart and British Tania) whose raunchy beats were excellent to dance off your greasy dinner. What a shame though that Bart’s microphone was so badly tuned. It was impossible to understand what he was saying, which meant the tracks with less vocals were the best of the concert. Then again, the kidz won’t complain: they want noize.

dEUS had the wonderful opportunity to play at Pukkelpop twice. Their first gig was on Friday, the day I had to follow the festival via internet streaming. That isn’t a medium the singer of the band likes. A lot of bands didn’t like that, actually: hardly anything was allowed to be shown that day. Placebo were quite nice and changed their ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ at the last minute and even dEUS seemed to have a good day. We might not see the entire gig, but three songs were allowed to be streamed. And then the concert began… fifteen minutes of dead air before the first song was allowed to be streamed. Then it turned out the three songs weren’t back to back but spread over the entire 75 minutes. And while you can do other stuff while your stream keeps showing an empty page, it is quite frustrating. Especially if, after 70 minutes, it turns out the third song is not allowed to be shown in full (only just over a minute). Worse, that song is the band’s anthem and they’d invited some rapping friends for a mash-up (a bit like combining God Save The Queen with Lily Allen‘s Fuck You – it doesn’t sound good and it’s immoral).

Also, the ‘three’ songs showed there were parallels between dEUS and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. A lot of band members came and went, but at one point you realise The Bad Seeds don’t really sound as good now that Blixa’s gone. And so, in a stunning move that went completely against my musical history, I didn’t go to the second dEUS concert.

Instead, Tortoise (22.15, club). The band sounded talented and melodious, but it may not be too bad that they acknowledge there is such a thing as an audience. The entire 70 minutes (they also played 10 minutes extra, but didn’t force another band to wait… yeah, let’s bring up that accusation once again) the band had only eyes for themselves, keeping the audience participation to an ultimate low. Come on, guys, even Dinosaur Jr’s Jay Mascis managed to utter a ‘Thank you!’. Only at the end the band members joined hands and gracefully bowed to the audience. Still, they gave a pretty good concert (8/10, we’d rate it) and ain’t that the most important part?

Onto the headliners then. After Faith No More (day 1) and Kraftwerk (day 2) the choice for the headliner of the final day looked a bit bleak. No, we don’t dislike Arctic Monkeys (23.20, main), but are they good enough to be the closing gig of a festival? Personally, I’d have them as headliner of the second biggest stage or, more appropriate, the penultimate band, but that’s just me. Still, even their Nick Cave cover (‘Red Right Hand’) seems to be missing the final bit of quality Cave does manage to deliver. Overall, the Monkeys were okay, but I may be old-fashioned in desiring a bit more of a headliner…

… so this was as good a reason as any to spend some time in the Chateau. The people who turned the lights off there were Moderat (23.25). Moderat is a collaboration between Modeselektor and Apparat. I guess you can figure out where they derived the name from. The best way to describe them is as a B-grade Mouse on Mars with better video graphics. Just listen to the track below and you’ll understand what I mean. Thanks to their persistance, it did become one of the more suprising gigs of the day and a nice way to end the festival.

Well, not really… Pukkelpop isn’t over till some acrobats have given a performance and a tremendous fireworks display has made the ground tremble. (Even then, there’s still an after party that’ll last until 4a.m.) But we returned home, a smile on our faces. Pukkelpop 2009, my 13th visit, proved to be a good edition. There’s no need to say more…

PUKKELPOP TOP 5 (day 3)

1. Little Boots
2. Hanne Hukkelberg
3. Florence + the Machine
4. Tortoise
5. Moderat

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