Ow, my head hurts. And my throat for that matter. Having gone to bed at just after 6am this morning I may be struggling to get a grip on the day as it’s gone noon by the time I manage to raise myself from the crypt of my bed. A hearty breakfast of sausage rolls, orange juice and tea seem to revive the spirits (urgh, don’t mention spirits) and I’m ready for the final batch of bands for the weekend.
Destroyer are the perfect soothing antidote to my hangover. On record they (or should I say he, as Destroyer is basically one man, Dan Bejar) come across similar to the Glam era Bowie and live it’s similar just not quite as camp. The band is tight but the vocals are drowned out a little and seeing as though his witty, clever lyrics are one of the selling points it sort of circumnavigates this element of enjoyment. Bejar rarely talks to the crowd too and faces the drummer whilst soloing. Despite this, the set is enjoyable and it feels as though you could be in a small French cafe on a Sunday morning.
Just to blow the cobwebs out and the last remnants of the hangover, a quick trip downstairs offers up the joy of Big Business. This is heavy rock with huge, aggressive power chords that reminds be of Queens of the Stone Age somehow. It’s very loud even at the back of the hall where I am and it has a kind of rejuvenating affect on me.
Back upstairs sees The Drones covering for Band Of Horses who had to, unfortunately, pull out. You couldn’t have had a more different band to fill their shoes. This Australian punk rock act, who echo their name on record, are an exhilarating and captivating live proposition with thrashing guitars and a thumping rhythm section. Lead singer/guitarist Gareth Liddiard is a contorting freak of a front man, telling bad jokes and thrusting himself around on stage, it genuinly looks like their enjoying themselves and the crowd are brought on side early and easily. Impressive.
We’re then treated to an impressive live performance by The Decemberists who are quickly becoming one of my favourite bands (last years Picaresque made my best of year list). This became my highlight of the weekend. They didn’t play all their crowd pleasers but were a complete joy to watch; a band that’s at the peak of its powers, captivating the audience with sea shanty’s and tail of chimney sweeps and soldiers. Colin Meloy was also incredibly personable; crowd surfing and encouraging the crowd to participate in the songs. The most surreal sight of the weekend was Meloy getting the entire crowd in the main hall to sit down during the set finisher with a movement of his hands – everyone was so mesmerised that we’d do whatever he said.
Following that was always going to be a tough ask and downstairs Clinic were a huge disappointment. Coming on late, their music rarely got above a drone of similar sounding rhythms and keyboards, with the vocals slurred and barely audible. It was enough to make me dash for the exit and listen to Dungen again who were playing their second afternoon upstairs.
Thankfully The Black Keys livened up the evening nicely and became another highlight of the weekend. They make an amazing noise for just two of them; drummer Patrick Carney is hugely impressive. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone hit the drums so hard. Their sound is in equal measures funky, metal and classic blues all drenched in the history of latter. It’s an impressive set that has me tingling and my ears ring as it draws to a close.
The same, however, could not be said for the headliner The Shins. They fast became the biggest disappointment of the weekend and bore me into leaving early for some sneaky games of air hockey in the games room downstairs. There’s no edge to their sound, nothing to captivate the audience and just sound like a slower version of their tunes on record. Judging by the number of people downstairs and leaving the hall, I wasn’t the only one they weren’t do anything for.
So the weekend draws to a close and what a weekend. Apart from The Shins, all the major draws for me were great and impressive acts. There were also some hidden gems in the line-ups and, although it might not have had as packed itinery as a larger festival, it didn’t suffer. The ability to pop back to your chalet and eat/drink your own food without paying through your nose for it was a welcome change. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in alternative music and their Christmas festival is selling fast with Sonic Youth curating and Iggy & The Stooges playing. Now where can I get the money from…