All photos provided by the festival.

Belgium’s biggest festival, Pukkelpop, has been descending upon the sleepy upmarket city of Hasselt for over 30 years now. In that time it has become a staple of the festival circuit, establishing itself among the other large European names that cluster around mid-August. It has become one of the most well-known and well-attended of the bunch, due to its centrality in Europe, the passion of the fans coming from the Belgian capital just an hour away (and many more from beyond), and its generosity in terms of options of entertainment for its punters over the three-and-a-bit very long days, where music started around noon and went on until 4am daily.

The festival has obviously morphed and changed with times and styles over its three-decade run, and the 2017 edition’s lineup found itself largely on the forefront of current musical popularity. It currently hosts 7 stages, and while it may have originally been started as a rock festival, the popularity of more electronic and dance oriented acts has certainly been acknowledged by the festival organisers, with 3 stages dedicated to electronic acts (the Dance Hall, Boiler Room and Castello stages), while bigger electronic producers like Nicolas Jaar and Flume were pushed to the largest venues, the Marquee and the Main Stage. Of course, there were also plenty of guitars on show, from PJ Harvey on the Marquee to Preoccupation in the Lift Stage, and plenty of other bands giving the Club Stage a good rumble.

Needless to say, the three days and nights at the festival that I was in attendance for went by in a flash of diverse and uniformly enjoyable music. Full of new discoveries, rediscoveries and re-affirmations of previously loved artists, here is The 405’s review of Pukkelpop 2017.

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Day 1 - Thursday 17th August 2017

ABRA @ Castello Stage

ABRA

The first act that I caught on the Thursday afternoon was ABRA, who got things moving on the Castello Stage. I hadn’t really intended to see her perform, as I was previously unfamiliar, but in getting my bearings on the sizable Pukkelpop arena I found myself wandering into this tent in the farthest corner of the site, and was instantly mesmerised by the young pop singer. I clearly wasn’t the only one in the crowd who was captivated by the cultured singer’s delicate electronics, breezy voice and slinky bodily movements. In her skin-tight cat suit her slender body was genuinely turning the outside’s dampness into clouds of steam as the crowd breathed and stepped along in time with her, cheering each time she’d drop her ass right down to the floor and back down again. She finished with ‘Fruit’, deservedly garnering the first crowd sing along of the weekend I witnessed.

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Intergalactic Lovers @ Marquee Stage

Intergalactic Lovers

Another act with whom I was unfamiliar beforehand, Intergalactic Lovers were a recommendation from our driver to the festival as a Belgian act worth checking out. Throughout the weekend the Belgians turned out in force to support their local acts, with enormous crowds for indie band Girls In Hawaii and 17 year old whiz kid Petit Biscuit having already formed earlier in the afternoon. It was no different for Intergalactic Lovers, who treated the big crowd to a set full of confident and propulsive alt-rock. In singer Lara Chedraoui they have a front woman with a powerful voice who cuts a commanding figure on the stage, on this occasion wearing a long black cloak and moving around the stage just enough to keep the crowd whipped up without compromising any of her vocals.

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Omar Souleyman @ Castello Stage

Omar Souleyman

Hanging around outside the Castello waiting for friends before going in, you could sense the genuine excitement in the air for Omar Souleyman’s set, which seemed for most people to be the party-starter for the evening. After a slow, blessing-like introduction, for which we were all greatful, Souleyman and his synth man kicked things into action with his hypnotic house blasting forth to whoops of delight. Throughout his show Souleyman didn’t do much but walk around clapping and encouraging the crowd to dance, interjecting some vocals when and where needed. Although the act was diminutive, the effect on the crowd was undeniable, as they bounced along absolutely loving every wiggling synth line and kicking beat. The wealth of admiration for the Syrian artist seemed so great that I’m sure even if he’d just sat yawning in a wicker chair in the middle of the stage, everyone still would have been enraptured.

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Vince Staples @ Dance Hall

Vince Staples

Coming from Omar Souleyman, Vince Staples was quite a contrast, as he pelted around the stage throughout his set. It was also fairly different from having seen him supporting Gorillaz earlier in the summer, before his latest album Big Fish Theory had been released. With that LP now out in the world, Staples obviously felt more confident in playing the songs from it, kicking off with the massive ‘Party People’. He fully embodied the impassioned artist of his songs, darting and twirling while he rapped, cutting a dizzying blur across the front of the huge glowing background as he did so, and intermittently stopping to survey the crowd as if challenging them to match his energy. They did their best to keep up, cheering loudly for the explosive ‘BagBak’ and thriving on the surprise inclusion of ‘Ascension’, his feature from this year’s Gorillaz album. With the crowd fully ensnared in his glare, he took a couple of opportunities to get moody on the likes of ‘Fire’ and ‘745’, bathing the crowd in the enormous synths of his producers. A wholly impressive performance from the young rapper.

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PJ Harvey @ Marquee Stage

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey and her band announced themselves powerfully, with an interjection of bassy brass that seemed to grasp the grey atmosphere in its power and force it away, revealing the cowering sun and creating a rainbow over the very tent in which they were playing. This imperious sound was maintained throughout their set, with Harvey leading them like a bannerman, expressively lurching forth with saxophone in hand or just her mannerisms, accompanying her inimitable voice. For the majority of the set, this rabble-rousing ensemble performed songs from her last two albums, The Hope Six Demolition Project and Let England Shake, with ‘The Wheel’ and ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ standing out. But, it was towards the end when she delved decades back in her catalogue that the crowd got most excited. She did not disappoint, with an effervescent rendition of ‘50ft Queenie’ followed by a moody double salvo of ‘Down By The Water’ and ‘To Bring You My Love’. It was the kind of performance that reminds you just how much she has done in her expansive career, and just how excited we should be for anything she does in the future.

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Solange @ Main Stage

The Main Stage is the only outdoor stage at Pukkelpop, so playing it at sundown should be reserved for an artist who’s going to hit exactly the right mood. That’s exactly what we got in Solange, who, along with the 8 other members of her band, brought soul and style to Thursday evening. “I need everything up in the house, this is R&B music baby,” she said after the first couple of songs, settling everyone in. Beyond the quality of the songs performed – largely from last year’s excellent A Seat At The Table - Solange and her 8 fellow performers seemed to resonate a sense of unity and community. All dressed all in red, they played and danced together, in such a delightfully simple-yet-engrossing manner, with many of the members only needed for individual moments but staying on to remain an important part of the movement of the ensemble. Together they floated through the likes of ‘Cranes In The Sky’ and ‘F.U.B.U.’, blanketing everyone in warmth.

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Interpol performing Turn On The Bright Lights @ Marquee Stage

Interpol

My excitement to see Interpol perform their classic debut album Turn On The Bright Lights cannot be overstated, as it is one of the formative albums in my listening history. So, I was a confused and a little perturbed when they kicked off their set with ‘Not Even Jail’, from Antics, and followed it up with ‘Evil’ from the same album (which got a huge pop from the crowd at its unmistakable opening bass notes). I wondered if somehow the message had been lost on the band that they were supposed to be performing the album, but this was soon soothed as Paul Banks then announced “This is what we came here to do,” and led his band into the dreamy wash of ‘Untitled’, while all the lights went red to mirror the album cover.

It was a glorious ride through memories from that point on, as the almighty trio of the cathartic ‘Obstacle 1’, the transportative ‘NYC’, and the booming ‘PDA’ flew past in a blaze of triumph. Many bands performing albums in full in order have to deal with the difficulty of playing all the best-known songs at the start and then subject the audience to a bunch of “lesser” songs (see: U2’s The Joshua Tree tour), but the Turn On The Bright Lights has always been an album that adds up to more than the sum of its parts and that became even more apparent as the band brought each track out magnificently in the mammoth setting. ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ scythed through the tent, and rarely played cuts like ‘Obstacle 2’ and 'Roland’ stood up impressively next to their counterparts. Truly, the only complaint I can have at the end of the day is that Banks didn’t fill his mouth with ice and announce “This one’s called ‘Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down’” at the start of that song, but that’s probably unreasonable to expect. Overall this was one of the absolute highlights of the festival for me, capped off by the absolute dedication and delight the three original band members took in performing these songs that are now 15 years in their rearview, as if they’d just written them last week.

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Ty Segall @ Club Stage

Ty Segall

Having been blown away by Ty Segall and his band a couple of years ago, I was ready to be impressed once again by the outfit – but I still had my expectations blown out of the water. Walking directly across from where Interpol concluded Turn On The Bright Lights into the midst of Ty and co. ripping through ‘Break A Guitar’ was a truly transcendent festival moment, where I suddenly felt I had the energy of a thousand men. This was maintained throughout the hour-long performance by the band, where Ty commanded his counterparts (including the likes of Mikal Cronin and Charles Moothart) through cuts from his recent self-titled album and from further back in his extensive collection. The quality of this band as a performing rock’n’roll ensemble simply cannot be overstated; virtuosic, explosive and tight-as-fuck in every single song, they crushed their way through endless drum fills and rolls, monster riffs and scorching guitar solos, without ever losing sight of the other members. This was best exemplified in ‘Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)’, which came hurtling forth like a steamrolling monster truck, before gliding out into a more expressive middle section and then brought the band thundering back in magnificently. I can’t state it enough: there is not a better rock show on the planet, seize any opportunity you can to see them - even if you have no idea of any of the songs, the sheer raw energy of their collective brilliance will leave you utterly stunned.

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The xx @ Main Stage

The xx

My expectations for The xx, the first major headliners of this year’s Pukkelpop, were tempered; I had enjoyed but not loved either of their last albums and wasn't sure I would be that entertained by seeing the songs played live. I needn’t have worried, as the trio put on one of the most impressive performances of the weekend and fully justified their position on the bill and the large crowd that gathered to see it. It started auspiciously enough for my tastes with the double header of ‘Intro’ and ‘Crystallized’ from the debut, both sounding much bigger than I remembered, bursting memories of it being a very bedroom-produced affair. Things got rolling in an even grander manner when they shifted gears to songs from this year’s I See You; ‘Say Something Loving’ setting the tone and another song from the debut, ‘Islands’, really showing the statuesque performing abilities of the adored group.

They used the crowd’s rapture to their advantage, with Romy performing ‘I Dare You’ solo, helped by a large boon of voices from the crowd. The tender ‘Brave For You’ made the whole stage swell with its delectable low-end, while it was our hearts that were swollen as Oliver led the crowd in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for Romy, who turned a year older as the band were stepping on stage at midnight.

They then took things to an even higher level of bliss when they let their ace-in-the-whole Jamie xx really start to express himself. This started on the new beatsed-up version of ‘Shelter’, taking the skeletal version of the original and broadening it into a full-on club ready number. This slid magnificently into ‘Loud Places’, from Jamie’s solo album (made clear by the rainbow lights now streaming across the background), with Romy singing her guest vocal and Oliver contributing bass and backing vocals. Finally they shifted into I See You highlight ‘On Hold’, breathlessly rounding out a trio of slick house productions guided by the prodigiously talented producer in the background.

As if knowing that the crowd would be fully drained by this point, they concluded their set with the subdued ‘Angels’, like blowing a delicate and romantic kiss to the audience, and sending them off to their beds for the evening.

epic haze

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Day 2 - Friday 18th August 2017

Oh Wonder @ Main Stage

Oh Wonder

Entering the festival on the very grey and rainy Friday, it was impossible to miss the unfaltering beam of sunlight radiating out from the Main Stage that was Oh Wonder’s performance. The young British duo brought so much life and energy to the stage that they warded off all bad feelings, both figuratively in the form of their sprightly songcraft, and literally, as singer Josephine Vander Gucht pranced about and sang, and dedicated the song ‘All We Do’ to any in the audience not feelings themselves.

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Forest Swords @ Castello Stage

Forest Swords

Right at the opposite end of the festival at the same time as Oh Wonder, Forest Swords was putting on a very different show, perfect for those wanting to embrace and enfold themselves into the darkness. Hopping around to the beats and chanting along to the samples, Matthew Barnes was an infectious force as he brought to life songs from recent album Compassion. Bolstered by live bass from his touring partner, and classy, impressionistic, colourful imagery perfectly tied to the beats, the set was extra dimensions of hypnotic upon the already intricate Forest Swords sound. The crowd was engrossed, and Barnes showed his genuine happiness as he earnestly thanked the crowd for coming out early to see them play.

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Clark @ Castello Stage

Clark

The Warp Records stalwart Clark has such a deep back catalogue that before starting we couldn’t be sure what he’d play, but from second number one it was obvious that he was not going to give the crowd any respite from dancing, even at this early point in the day. Making no bones about it, he kicked straight into his fuzzy thumping techno, with a couple of faceless dancers energetically keeping pace. Throughout the set they brought shape to his grand and pulverising electronic soundscapes; as he took us through mountains of sound culled from recent albums Death Peak and Clark they kept pace with him, and in turn translated the energy and wondrousness of the sound to the audience.

When it came time for them to set up additional lights on the stage to dance in front of, there was a technical difficulty when the lights didn’t illuminate. There was no time to stop and fix the situation, Clark was on a steady downhill run through searing techno, and his dancers were compelled to keep pace while crew members scrabbled around to eventually fix the situation – although we had remained entirely enthralled nonetheless. As the hour-long uninterrupted flow of beats passed, the dancers’ moves and outfits got gradually more ornate and their additions to the visual elements of the show became grander along with the music. And Clark himself ran the show like the seasoned pro he is, taking the crowd deeper and deeper into his crumbling and quaking sonics, somehow finding further depths as each moments passed. By the time the set finally closed we felt drenched in sound and all our nerve ends enlivened.

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Perfume Genius @ Club Stage

Perfume Genius

Since there were so many options at this time at Pukkelpop (including Halsey on the Main Stage), the crowd in the Club for Perfume Genius will not by any means be the biggest that they play to on their current tour in support of the excellent No Shape. This didn’t matter to Mike Hadreas though, who still gave as committed and captivating a performance as ever. This started right from the off, when we were introduced to one of the most surprisingly loud sets of the weekend through ‘Otherside’, Hadreas contorting and writhing his body in time with the blasting instrumentation of the chorus. This involvement in his performance remained full-on throughout the slot, going into perfect wordless falsetto ejections, and dancing along to the pulverising choruses of ‘Wreath’ and ‘Slip Away’. They of course finished with the immortal ‘Queen’, Hadreas strutting and stomping around the stage, fully embodying the spirit of the anthem.

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The Flaming Lips @ Marquee Stage

The Flaming Lips

If there’s any band who knows how to bring the festive atmosphere it’s The Flaming Lips, and they exploded out of the gates with the unmistakable opening riff of ‘Race For The Prize’, accompanied by copious confetti, giant bouncing balls and Wayne Coyne riding a pink unicorn. From there they shifted into ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ and simultaneously the heavens outside the tent seemed to open, forcing hordes into the tent to escape nature’s tempestuous mood and be welcomed into The Flaming Lips’ omnipresent love. With the speaker stack on the roof swaying and rain being blown sideways into the tent, the Lips played on unperturbed.

After the opening salvo of two of their most beloved tracks, they perhaps tested the patience of the crowd by playing some of their more involved, noodling tracks. But, when Wayne Coyne got into his signature sphere to roll over the crowd and the opening chords of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ rang out, the crowd was fully back onboard for one of the most uplifting moments of the weekend. After everyone’s hearts had finished brimming over at the conclusion of the song, Coyne explained that they started playing ‘Space Oddity’ after Bowie’s death and hadn’t intended to still be playing it almost two years on, but “every night we come out we think ‘fuck it, we’re gonna play it again,’” and it was evident why, with the whole atmosphere having been lifted beyond any other point in the festival. The Lips maintained this level of joy through the rest of their set, with favourites like ‘Are You A Hypnotist??’ and ‘The W.A.N.D.’ ringing out triumphantly. Then as they unfolded a huge rainbow, like a giant homophilic statement, and launched into ‘Do You Realize??’ to conclude, a perfect festival set was memorably capped.

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Mount Kimbie @ Castello Stage

Mount Kimbie

Although the release of their third album Love What Survives is only a few weeks away, it’s been over four years since Mount Kimbie put out an album, so I was surprised by just how big a crowd they managed to draw to the far-fliung Castello stage on Friday evening. Those in attendance were treated to one of the most shapeshifting and interesting performances of the weekend. The duo of Kai Campos and Dom Maker were bolstered by two more musicians onstage, giving their sound a much more driving, rock edge. The female member of the band in particular proved to be an ace in the hole, rushing back and forth between different keyboards and synthesizers mid-song, and contributing vocals. They played many of their instrumental tracks, which had their slightly prog elements emphasised in the live setting, with propulsive percussion higher in the mix than on record. Then, when it came to playing the songs with vocals, which are mostly contributed by guest vocalists on the recorded versions, they got around the problem by combining voices to make a decent facsimile of Micachu’s androgynous mutterings on ‘Marilyn’ and King Krule’s inimitable drawl of ‘Blue Train Lines’. The best was saved for last though, as the duo sprung out with ‘Made To Stray’, immediately eliciting whoops from the crowd and even saw numerous people getting up onto shoulders to sway along with the song in a very unlikely festival moment. It was the dance party that many had come to see Mount Kimbie for, and they did not disappoint.

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Sampha @ Club Stage

Sampha

While Bastille took to the Main Stage for their headline performance, there was a great bit of counter-programming at the Club Stage, where a large and tangibly excited crowd waited for Sampha to take the stage. High on the hype train around his finally-released debut album Process, Sampha and his band seemed to still be loving every second of performing these songs that they’ve already taken around the world and back. They started steadily with ‘Prisoner’, and it was immediately impressed upon me just how detailed the sound being created by these four band members was; on record Sampha’s voice is so rich and overpowering that it can be easy to forget just how much detail is in the actual production – not so in the live setting. Watching the multi-instrumentalists backing up the singer bring to life the likes of the stuttering ‘Under’ and the bassy ‘Reverse Faults’ was illuminating – even more enjoyable in the latter as Sampha got up from his seated position to flounce about the stage, invigorating the crowd.

Of course, Sampha and that voice were the main event, and when he took a couple of opportunities to go solo on piano with ‘Too Much’ and ‘No One Knows Me’, the crowd was in awe of his prowess. This all proved that Sampha is not only a naturally talented singer and musician, but showman too, as he and his band finished off explosively with ‘Blood On Me’ ringing out like a riot, and sending the crowd into a messy rave up finale.

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Nicolas Jaar @ Marquee Stage

Nicolas Jaar

Nicolas Jaar was handed a 90-minute late night set in the biggest tent at the festival, and you just knew he was going to make a spectacle of it. This was my third time seeing the Chilean producer in the last 9 months, and each time his performance has evolved into something bigger and better. Jaar is all about taking the audience on a deep and murky journey through his psyche; there might be elements of the songs you know in amidst the long descent, but moreover you’re just enthralled by the layers of beautiful sound created by his assembly of synthesizers, voice and occasional use of tenor sax.

For the first half of the set, many may have been a little perturbed by the gravity of the sound, but as he moved us into the back half of the set he started catering more towards those looking for a good dance, and he did not disappoint. Elements of ‘The Three Sides of Nazareth’ and ‘The Governor’ could be heard amidst the pinging and electrifying wash of techno experimentation, but the overriding feeling that he’d brought to bear was that of pure bliss and disconnection from the outside world. By the time he brought around the thwacking ‘No’ the crowd were harrumphing along with their entire bodies, and then when the unforgettably huge squelch of ‘Space Is Only Noise’ finally landed on our heads from heaven we could do nothing but launch ourselves around uncontrollably in time with the ecstatic aura. From that point on he spent the last 20 minutes shifting between a series of bleary Balearic beats, sending the crowd into frenzy, and fully using up any last stores of energy they may have had left at the end of a long second day.

festival rainbow

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Day 3 – Saturday 19th August 2017

Migos @ Main Stage

”Migos"

The final day of the festival saw a relatively early start for a lot of punters, as one of the most hyped acts of the moment, Migos, were set to open up the main stage. Before they came on, the big screens showed shots of the swelling crowd appearing from their tents to see the Georgia rap group, and there were many with signs in the audience looking to express their love for the members (“Quavo pipe it up with me backstage”).

Finally, the screens came to life, and the bass was dropped, to huge roars from the crowd. Their beatmaster, DJ Durel, started up the show by getting the crowd excited with a set of bass-heavy recent rap cuts from the likes of 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and Migos themselves – and judging by the amount of rapping along coming from the crowd about me, this was a very savvy and excited group. Sadly, DJ Durel’s set went on for way too long, taking 20 minutes of Migos’ allotted 50 minute set. What at first started as a genuine frisson of anticipation, eventually dissipated into a series of questioning glances between friends – would they actually come on? Eventually, of course, they did, to huge explosions of confetti and the introductory beats of ‘Get Right Witcha’. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was the trio of Quavo, Offset and Takeoff who could’ve used the last 20 minutes of hyping up, as they walked listlessly about the stage, rapping their verses.

But, with a few tokes of a blunt, a cold rain coming in, and a proper appreciation of just how many people had come out to see them and how excited they were, Migos grew into the show. This started with the much more dynamic performance of ‘Slippery’, including an impressive acapella outro. During ‘What The Price’ they whipped up enough excitement to induce mosh pits on command, though they were more just kids bouncing around than swinging elbows. And in ‘T Shirt’ they were on fine form, commanding the crowd to completely fuck off the rain and dance. Of course, ‘Bad & Boujee’ precipitated the biggest and brashest reaction from the crowd of the whole set, and the Migos seemed genuinely pleased that they could say they’ve conquered Belgium.

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Car Seat Headrest @ Club Stage

car seat headrest

Having seen Car Seat Headrest at the 100 Club a year ago, right around the release of the breakthrough album Teens Of Denial, it was immediately apparent to me in seeing them at Pukkelpop just how much they’ve grown in confidence as a performing band. Their year on the road in support of the album has given them a genuine heft and swagger on stage, as was obvious from their kickoff one-two punch off ‘Vincent’ and ‘Fill In The Blank’, which had a small hardcore contingent in the front singing and bouncing along. Their movement then into a much older and less known song, ‘Maud Gone’, was entirely assured and appreciated by the audience, and when they upped the gear straight into ‘Hippie Powers’ without pause, the crowd went nuts. Of course, it was the playing of ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ that brought the biggest excitement, with many people visibly moving closer to the pit to jump along in time with its inexorable refrain. It was an enormous performance by Car Seat Headrest, only slightly scuppered by the bewildering finale, wherein (having not announced it was their final song) they started packing up their gear while it seemed like the song was still playing. And then as the sample faded and the drumming stopped they just continued packing up without any message to the bemused audience. Except, I suppose, that they’re hard workers and they have places to be.

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Preoccupations @ Lift Stage

preoccupations

Canada’s Preoccupations drew a decent crowd to the festival’s smallest tent, the Lift, for what felt like a genuine punk rock show, despite it being a sunny Saturday afternoon. Kicking off with the lumbering ‘Anxiety’, they weren’t helped by a dodgy mix in getting the crowd going. They quickly turned things around with fan favourite ‘Continental Shelf’, scything its way impressively into the crowd, and preparing them for an epic, steady-building new song that was played next. They sprinted through sparky performances of ‘Bunker Buster’ and ‘Zodiac’, urging the crowd to slip and writhe around to their hypnotic noodlings. This was furthered by another fast-paced and furious new song. With 20 minutes left to go in their set, they went headlong into ‘Death’, the epic closer from their Viet Cong album, and stretched it out for the remainder of their time, led on by their machine of a drummer Mike Wallace. With militaristic precision he guided his sweat-drenched band mates through the frenetic start stop of the protracted song, raising the volume and cutting it off, raising and cutting, like a torture device of pure forceful noise. Finally, they squeaked out, rattling their way to a heroic close in the song’s denoument, leaving the crowd screaming.

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The Salty Dog – Secret Cocktail Bar

the salty dog

With a gap in my schedule, there was some time to do some exploring of some of the site’s less obvious spots. I found myself walking between a blue glittery curtain that turned out to lead into a secret passage – dark and lit by red lights, actually reminiscent of the Turn On The Bright Lights Cover. There were people in line, waiting for entry to one of the festival’s best kept secrets: The Salty Dog, a tiny, enclosed room that hosts live music and has a couple fine cocktail experts mixing up drinks behind a bar. Once inside the cramped space, which was probably suited for 20 but holding 30, I situated myself by the bar to wait for a drink and enjoyed the bluesy piano and voice duo performing mere feet away in the dim room. Once with delicious cocktail in hand, I managed to find a seat at the foot of the performers, who quickly changed to a new band of guitars and banjos. The few songs they played truly set the atmosphere of a little speakeasy hidden from the world. But, once my drink was done, I decided to get back out into the festival and give more people a chance to make the secret discovery for themselves.

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BADBADNOTGOOD @ Club Stage

badbadnotgood

Pulling one of the biggest crowds seen in the Club Stage the whole weekend was Canadian avant-jazz quartet BADBADNOTGOOD, and it was obvious why, as the band was vibing perfectly with the sun down outside, and the crowd in turn vibing with it all. They thanked the crowd for coming along with them on their “exploration” and the crowd seemed naturally induced to do so, as their seductive sounds resonated out. Such was the power of their spell that during the final song they got the whole crowd to crouch down, despite their legs aching from three long days at the festival, and all jump up and go crazy in time with the drop. It was a moment of pure euphoria that felt like it might take the roof of the tent off, and galvanised those in attendance for the final evening of the festival.

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Talaboman @ Castello Stage

talaboman

As night descended on the last day of the festival, Mumford & Sons were taking to the stage for the final headline set. Obviously for many, this is not the way they intended to see out their weekend, they’d much rather be somewhere dancing away the last of their energy and drug stores, and Pukkelpop had plenty on offer in that department. On the Boiler Room Armand Van Helden and Jackmaster were playing B2B, nextdoor at the Dance Hall Fritz Kalkbrenner was putting on intense techno affair, and all the way down at the very end in the Castello could be found the finest purveyors of fun of all: John Talabot and Axel Boman taming up as Talaboman.

For their two hour set (the entirety of which I was there for, unable to pull myself away), they took the crowd on a deep and cosmic journey through their record collections. Echoing the tribal and cross-cultural productions of their debut album The Night Land from earlier this year, but with a funkier, boomier undertones they kept the party expanding from minute one to 120. Their selections managed to be both cerebral and spacey, but equally hefty, ensuring bodily movement was a must for anyone in the vicinity. They proved themselves to be masters of pacing, as you’d expect from two cultured DJs, taking the set gradually upwards over the course of their slot, with a particularly huge jump in energy around the 45-minute mark, which the crowd responded to rapturously. They stayed entranced for the remainder of the duo’s set, after which they handed over the decks to the more than capable hands of Ben UFO. But, for this old fan, the energy was fully drained, and it was time to think about going back home.

talaboman