When I decided to go to this festival I had no idea that ‘pukkel’ meant ‘pimple, spot’. Yep, the place was full of teenagers, young teenagers. The ones that make you feel old even if you’re only twenty-something. But heh, we got over that by the time the first show began.
The program would start rather early every day, at 11 am. The first band we saw were The Invisible, who were pretty good. We skipped Vetiver to go for breakfast, next up were The Juan MacLean.
They began with saying that it is early and that they had probably never played a show that early and stuff like that. The lady just passed by the microphone saying ‘Good morning’ minding her own business. All in all, things didn’t look very promising. But when they started playing… Oh. My. God. They were f***ing great! The Juan MacLean weren’t exactly one of the bands I was looking forward to the most, but that ended up being one of the best shows I’ve seen at the festival. Hell, maybe even one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The band that made me dance like crazy at 1 pm, after just having had my morning coffee –> AWESOME.
After the lunch break I had to choose between Bon Iver and The Big Pink. I don’t know if The Big Pink were any good, but seeing Bon Iver was definitely a bad choice. I thought of For Emma, Forever Ago as an intimate record, best to listen to at home, alone, on a rainy day. Or something like that. However, most definitely not the sort of thing you’d want to sing out loud along with a couple of thousand people. Yep, the dude kept asking the audience to sing along with him. And they did, at least the part of them that didn’t feel confused. For me it just felt completely out of place. The atmosphere ended up being strange and Mr. Vernon was generally quite irritating. The only big disappointment of the festival. Also, I had no idea that he was that popular – the place was packed even though it was early afternoon.
Dizzee Rascal opened his set by stating that ‘It’s Dizzee Rascal, it’s Dizzee Rascal’. That went on for a couple of minutes. The next few songs weren’t very interesting either so we left. Lots of people came to Pukkelpop that day just to see Wilco, one of the very few bands who got to play for more than an hour. And I managed to miss them. Win!
Grizzly Bear were pretty good. The new songs sound less boring live. Of course, for me the best moment of the show was when Victoria Legrand from Beach House popped out to sing Two Weeks with them. They seem to bring surprise guests to every show, it’s starting to gett out of hand. Also, Ed has a really big nose. At one moment, the dude turned his back to the audience and I could still see it!
I wanted to see Booka Shade but it was too crowded so we only stayed for one or two songs. Also, all the teenagers on the festival seemed to be at that show. But like REALLY young ones. I think I witnessed some first kisses and first cigarettes. Sweet. On our way back we caught a bit of Beirut. Nice amusement park music. Ha-ha.
And then… The moment we’ve been waiting for all day. My. Bloody. Valentine. Do I need to say that they were the best? And certainly the loudest – their morning rehearsal was the only one we could hear all the way from the back of the camp. The staff was pretty aggressive, they kept insisting that we all take the ear plugs. All in all, it was just wonderful. And those 10 minutes of pure noise… Ah! Loved it.
We started our second day at the festival a bit later than the first one, seeing
Snow Patrol Future of the Left in the early afternoon. They were great. And funny – a rare phenomenon in the indie world. ‘Thanks. We’re Snow Patrol.’ Bill Callahan was great, too. He mostly played songs from the last two records, closing the set with the good old Cold Blooded Old Times. Lovely. The Jesus Lizard were okay, not all that great as I’ve read they’d be. Then came Patrick Wolf. Oh my. What a guy. He came out with long blond hair, wearing some tight golden clothes. There were people holding ‘Marry me, Patrick’ banners in the audience. The show itself was very good and definitely an interesting visual experience as well. Haha. Health were as great as I’ve expected them to be. The new songs work pretty well live.
And then… The moment I’ve been waiting for for the last few months: Fever Ray. The only source of light on stage was from old lamps, everything looked dark and mysterious. Band members wore some strange outfits and Karin came out wearing that shaman costume thingy. She later took it off, but you could still hardly see her. It was an amazing show and definitely the most interesting one, different from everything else we’ve seen. It was more of an experience than just a concert. Karin = GOD.
A funny thing happened when the next act on that stage, dEUS, had Karin join them on Slow. It was totally bizarre seeing her on a fully lit stage, still wearing the long black dress with her face painted white with a black triangle across it, singing with a couple of regularly dressed guys. It looked like a photo montage on that big screen. I don’t think she’ll ever join them on stage again.
Before stopping by to see that strange dEUS + Karin moment, we saw the Crystal Antlers. I heard that their live shows were awesome. I don’t think I’d go as far as to call it awesome, but it was pretty good. We ended the night by seeing Kraftwerk. That was cool, especially those old school animations on the screens, hah.
Telepathe played at noon. I was really interested in seeing them, as I’ve heard they suck live. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. They did start off a bit clumsily at first and, true, it did seem like they could play those synths a bit more instead of just playing the pre-recorded parts, but what do I know – they sounded really good altogether. They played one new song and as for the old ones, Trilogy was really awesome live. I tried to get to talk to them after the show, in short:
‘Do you have a couple of minutes for an interview?’
‘Do you have a backstage pass?’ –> Interview: FAIL.
Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that, this is just for the drama. I still like them and all.
Micachu & The Shapes were cute. Micachu had her first attempt of asking audience to participate in the show and, fortunately, it failed. She said she wouldn’t try and do that again. Good, they should learn not to do that while they’re still young.
Some genius put the Deerhunter and Gang Gang Dance shows at the same time. The Deerhunter show was on 5 minutes earlier than the GGD one, so I decided to start with them. Another genius, one of the terribly irritating announcers, threw water balloons into the crowd. One of them got thrown back on stage so Bradford Cox opened the show with thanking the audience for making his guitar wet. A couple of songs in, a bra flew in at Bradford and he got it on with a little help of some guy from the stage crew. A nice show, also – unexpectedly fun. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay till the end ’cause I had to see a bit of Gang Gang Dance as well. They were pretty cool, ending their set with some awesome techno jam. At one point, a guy with a flag made out of black trash bag came out. He also joined them on stage at the Primavera festival earlier this year. I asked GGD’s Lizzi Bougatsos what’s the thing with him, she said: ‘He’s our spiritual advisor: Babylove. We call him Baby. He’s part of our band.’ Well, alright then.
We caught a bit of the Rolo Tomassi show. The singer can really scream, too bad all I could hear her saying was ‘quack quaaaack’. Another tough choice was between Dinosaur Jr. and Fennesz. So the best thing to do was to go out for a drink and see neither of them. (I’m not an idiot. I saw them a few times already…) We did catch a part of Fennesz’ show on our way back. It was really nice, although for me it’s not the sort of thing to see at the festival. I don’t know. There were no more moments I’ve been waiting for for I don’t know how long and next up were some things I wasn’t too eager to see so we just walked around checking out a bit of everything.
The Whitest Boy Alive seemed really nice. Too bad I don’t dig them that much. I also went to check out the Peaches show, only to hear some sort of punk version of Set it off. Right. The Bug wasn’t very interesting, as weren’t the Klaxons. Little Boots‘ show seemed really fun, though. I had never listened to her, but it was interesting to finally see someone not having to beg the audience to sing with them, she had complete control over the audience – they just did everything she had told them to do. Neat.
Ellen Allien made a great party. I felt really bad for not being able to dance, as I was dead tired. Tortoise played an excellent show. But I knew they’d be good. The last thing we saw was Moderat. I haven’t listened to that record of theirs yet, but I’ll have to as the show was awesome. A really nice way to close the festival. Well, at least for us. Some of the headliners were still on, Arctic Monkeys I believe. I could have swore I heard them singing opera while going back to the camp. What a shift in style.
I’m beyond satisfied with what I’ve seen. The festival had some expected and some unexpected highlights. All in all, there was a lot of really good shows. I forgot to mention – the sound throughout the entire festival was really great. As in, it made even the worst bands sound okay. Whoa.