It’s fairly easy to pick out the day-trippers from the weekend warriors on the last day of a music festival. The whole area around the main stage looks like there’s been a gas leak, with semi-conscious bodies flopped on the ground or on their Hula Hoop cardboard seats, the remains of curries and burgers scattered hither and thither. Meanwhile the day trippers are exploring the forest, trying out the karaoke in Heineken Sound Atlas arena and dexterously balancing pints on their way back from the bar.
It’s in this context that Wild Beasts must somehow rouse the listless masses. On their side is the weather, which continues to surprise in its t-shirt appropriate pleasantness. Sure enough, opening with Mecca from last year’s ‘Present Tense’, the crowd begins to stir with the uplifting chorus. Hayden Thorpe’s distinctive vocals sound great, the falsetto floating over Marlay Park. In fact the sound for the whole band is great, and kudos must go to the sound engineers manning the sound tent at main stage, which is a notoriously difficult place to get it right. The superlative Hooting & Howling lifts things again, fans and newcomers alike being drawn closer to the stage. No strangers to Ireland, no doubt they will be back again soon.
Drenge tick a lot of boxes, but they are the same boxes ticked by most of the bands of their ilk. A punk-grunge hybrid they originally comprised the Loveless brothers, Eoin and Rory. They have since added a bass player, Rob Graham, perhaps to distinguish themselves from the increasingly competitive two-man, guitar and drum configuration which has the Black Keys as their godfather and Royal Blood as their stepbrother. Here they seem to be going through the motions, though the fans in the mosh pit will surely disagree. There is very little to hang on to, nothing memorable about the performance except the slightly ungainly attempts at pogoing by Graham. Tour fatigue perhaps?
The Heineken Stage is the busiest it’s been all weekend for Tove Lo, with the crowd extending all the way outside of the tent (although, as always, once you get inside it’s not quite as jammed as it looked). It really is impressive pulling power for the Swedish pop songstress. SBTRKT had roughly half this many people in this same tent on Friday night. Hit song Talking Body has the young crowd in raptures, with one of the highest ratios of people up on shoulders that we’ve seen. On paper, what makes Tove Lo stand out above her contemporaries is difficult to discern, but on stage she is warm, animated and engaging, exclaiming that “You’re going to make me fall in love with you, Ireland” before breaking into another synth-heavy pop tune straight out of the hit factory. Falling somewhere between Ellie Goulding and Katy Perry, she even manages to keep a notoriously fickle crowd’s attention for slow song The Way That I Am. Outside the sun is shining but inside no one cares.
Back on the main stage it’s the turn of James Blake to try to breathe life into proceedings. A big roar erupts when he begins with the a capella vocal loops of I Never Learnt To Share from 2011’s eponymous debut album. It’s just as powerful four years later. With vocoders galore and freestyle jazz-stylings on the synths, there’s never a dull moment with James Blake. You would be equally happy panned out on the grass as right up the front getting down. Limit To Your Love, his ever-popular Feist cover follows, triggering a mass singalong. This is definitely a festival set. Lindisfarne I & II take on an incredibly emotional hue performed live, Blake remarking that every time he opens his eyes there seems to be more people in front of him. Not afraid to play new songs either, he quips after one “One day when you know that song it’ll make sense”. A master at the top of his game.
The Chemical Brothers
And so to the main event. Arriving late to the stage and with only one of the “Brothers” (Ed Simons is replaced by Adam Smith who works on visuals for them) but nobody really cares. Especially when, to a sky full of green and red laser beams, the familiar high pitched drone that begins Hey Boy Hey Girl sounds out and the Main Stage faithful start to lose it. It’s a brave start, particularly when, as they are building up to the second drop, they click into another song. Is there anything worse than an expected drop that never comes?
Oh yes, they’re teasing us alright, but they’re also testing our patience when the same thing happens for Go. Stunning and sometimes disconcerting visuals abound throughout the night, featuring dancing robots, slow motion panicked running and laser beams slicing through the dry ice. Setting Sun gets a rapturous welcome, and all the while you have to suppress the little voice in the back of your head that wonders how much of this is being rendered “live”. But then you look around and realise no one cares and you shouldn’t either. Just enjoy the greatest hits set from the Masters of Marlay.