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Hydro Connect 2008 Review – Part 2

So onto Friday evening. Next up was legendary American slacker Stephen Malkmus and his backing band, the Jicks. The erstwhile former Pavement front man still looks about 12 and came onstage to launch into a brutal, frenetic and frankly untuned mess of a song. The ELM posse was split on this one, the old Pavement fans amongst us loving his frantic, form-altering weirdness, others describing the sonic cosmic assault as ‘tuneless shite’ and ‘repulsive’. Takes all sorts, but he sounded pretty thrilling from where I was. That said, it is extreme and it is highly unlikely to get on the Radio 1 playlist next to Alphabeat soon.

Malkmus softened throughout the set, to even the grudging respect – well, tolerance – of the non-believers. What I love about him is he is still genuinely innovative and genuinely hardcore – this is music that scares parents. There are a lot of moments of beauty in the maelstrom.

In what was a deep and unmistakeable thrill to the old ‘Alternative’ fans in the crowd – if the cap fits and all that – The Breeders were up next. The lovely surf-pop of their new album was intermingled with the usual Deal cuteness on stage, the two of them still, in their forties, resembling the kind of chicks that Richie Cunningham and pals would try to date in ‘Happy Days’. If, of course, ‘Happy Days’ had been obsessed with skulls and drugs and guns. But hey, they do it in a cute fashion.

Sound problems mar their set, which is a shame as there are so many great moments in here. ‘Here No More’ is brilliant, as is ‘Aloha Ha’, but let’s be honest, it’s ten o’clock and we’ve been drinking since 12. We want ‘Cannonball’, and boy, do they deliver an emphatic version which gets the crowd moving. It simply is one of those songs which blows you away regardless of when you hear it.

Rumours circulate the site that Snow Patrol have been spotted in the festival. Could they do a surprise set? ELM decides to find out where the power sockets are, just in case.

So then on to Mercury Rev, who are headlining the second stage and very well aware of just what it takes to close a set. The great thing about this set is that it feels like an event, like they realise that they need to deliver more than just a set of great songs. The band are captivating, the show sublime and the songs…what songs they are! ‘Holes’, ‘Opus 40’, ‘The Moon is Rising’ – epic, whirlpool-like baroque pop masterpieces which pack a hefty emotional punch. They cap an extraordinary performance with an incendiary version of ‘Goddess On A Hiway’ that prompts the first mass festival sing-along. Mesmerising.

It comes to ELM’s attention that we are really, really drunk by now so miss Sparks, which is a pisser, but we are assured the next morning that they delivered, if a little heavy on the recent stuff. Still, they did ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ so it had to be pretty decent.

Saturday afternoon reviews follow tomorrow…..

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2 Responses

  1. Malkmus didn’t do it for me I have to say, I thought it was self-indulgent musical wanking, but as you say each to his own. And as I only know one Pavement song perhaps that explains it.

    Crystal Castles were the biggest disappointment of the festival for me – they were rubbish – just a lot of electro noise and Alice wailing over it. I had been expecting them to be a bit mental but still able to play a wee tune. Crimewave is one of my fav tracks of this year so far but I don’t think I’d have been able to recognise it if I had stayed long enough to find out, but my ears were bleeding too badly so I had to leave half way through. I was gutted they were so awful.

    Sparks however were astonishingly good. Ron has a keyboard appropriately called Ronald (and not Roland, maybe you have to be a keyboard nerd to appreciate this gag particularly) but anyway it made me crack up whenever I looked at it….now that I come to think of it maybe I was a bit drunk by that time….. because no-one else wanted to see them I went by myself so clearly every nearby thought I was a mental laughing to myself.

    oh well some things never change

  2. I would have liked to have seen Sparks. ‘Good Morning’ is a great song.

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