After the last tones of FIB 2012, it's time to take stock: here are the ten concerts we liked the most, in alphabetical order, starting with A for At The Drive-In and ending with Z for Zola Jesus.
FIB is possibly the toughest festival on the summer agenda: four days in the sun, hours and hours of concerts of some of the international music world's biggest names. It also is the festival that, apart from the sun, has a beach nearby, which makes the music marathon slightly less stressful. But we're not here to talk about the beach. We're here to talk about the concerts. So here's a list of the ten live shows we enjoyed the most at FIB 2012 (in alphabetical order).
You can look at the FIB pictures in our photogallery.
1. At The Drive-In
Of all the names on the bill this year, At The Drive-In was by far the most unexpected and impressive one. The El Paso band's reunion tour only had a few dates, so FIB was a must-see for many people. And the truth is, even though they disbanded over ten years ago, they still have it. Cedric transmitted all the songs' rage, many of them part of the classic post-hardcore songbook, with outbursts of uncontrollable insolence (there was no need to spit, hit the cameras or throw water on the photographers) and some weirder moments, like sipping from a coffee mug with a tacky Jesus Christ picture on it in between screams. Jim Ward gave it his all in the backing vocals, too. They played the exact same set-list as at Coachella, including the essentials from “Relationship Of Command”, “In/Casino/Out”, and “Vaya”. They finished, of course, with “One Armed Scissor”, which made for some savage moshing at the front. It was a pity they forgot about Iggy Pop's intro of “Enfilade”. “ This station is now operational”, but until when?
2. Django Django
Let's be honest, what the people wanted at midnight was to dance, and to see four blokes in shorts who would allow them to. And that's why Django Django were there. During Bob Dylan's gig we already heard that the stage where Little Dragon were playing was rammed, but we didn't think so many people would show up for the Scots, who started when the Minnesota singer-songwriter began the final part of his performance. However, when they asked the audience what they thought of Dylan's gig, the crowded booed, and we got it. They played almost all of their eponymous debut album, sounding like a more organic and accessible version of Animal Collective at times, and didn't step on the brakes once. If the success of a song should be measured by the amount of jumping and screaming among the punters, “Default” would be the track of the year. Other highlights were the chaos of “WOR”, the ultra-synthetic end of “Waveforms”, the schaffel outburst of “Firewater”, and the percussion instruments they used (including a giant tambourine). They didn't bring their trademark Venetian blinds, nor did they wear their usual weird costumes, but they didn't need to, anyway.
3. Kurt Vile
It's hard to say where Kurt Vile's influences come from. The former The War On Drugs member takes his pick from the best rock has offered over the years. For example, on “Freeway”, from his solo debut, he was reminiscent of the Bob Dylan of forty years ago, while “On Tour” was a beautiful tribute to Fleetwood Mac (it's astonishing how many bands remember the recently reformed London band). He showed of his excellent guitar playing skills on “Jesus Fever”, with an incredible riff ending the song. The tracks from “Smoke Ring For My Halo” sounded brilliant, and proved that, as far as live shows go, the album is among the best of 2011. Especially brilliant was the part where the band connected Bruce Springsteen's “Downbound Train” with “Hunchback”, featuring some great feedback. And of course there was the sax moment on “Freak Train”.
4. Miles Kane
Miles Kane is one classy Brit. He proved it when opening for Arctic Monkeys, earlier this year, where Kane and his band were the kings of the evening, and it was confirmed once again in Benicàssim. Surprisingly (seeing as what time it was), the Briton managed to fill the Maravillas to the brim, when it was still hot as hell. But it didn't matter, with rocking tracks like “Better Left Invisible”, and irresistible dance tunes like “Quicksand”. Dressed impeccably according to the classic rock they play, much in the vein of Scott Walker, they played almost all the tracks from “Colour Of The Trap” (with a breath-taking final part: “Inhaler” and “Come Closer”), and two unexpected covers: “Looking Out My Window” by Tom Jones, and “Responsible” by Jacques Dutronc. Their stage presence is quite surprising, as Kane's solo project only started two years ago. His past in a harmless band like The Rascals didn't forebode such a brilliant present.
5. Pony Bravo
The first contact with these Spanish talents couldn't have been better. Pony Bravo proved the Maravillas stage wasn't too big for them, with a surprisingly eclectic repertoire, mixing influences from ESG to The Clash, The Doors, and Spanish singer Manolo Caracol (who they covered, with “Ninja De Fuego”). The Seville band played Lee Perry-style dub with “El Guarda Forestal”, and touched the sky (or maybe that should be hell) with “Noche De Setas”, the psychedelic piece that could have been from the soundtrack of “Abierto Hasta El Amanecer”.
6. The Antlers
It's a mystery to us why The Antlers didn't play anything from the beautiful but devastating “Hospice”; maybe they thought one kick in the nuts like that was enough. Their new album, “Burst Apart”, released last year, followed the same path as its predecessor. However, there's more light on it, more air, and that had its repercussions on stage. Their show was some kind of liberation, though never euphoric, contained, serene and incredibly beautiful. “No Widows” was mesmerising, with that pause between slowcore and quiet shoegaze in the vein of Slowdive. Peter Silberman offered some great vocal moments, with a moving, but never gratuitous falsetto. They offered suggestive moods in “Rolled Together” and aquatic moments in the recent “Drift Dive”. “Parentheses”, supported by a potent rhythms section, reminded us of Bristol twenty years ago, and “Putting The Dog To Sleep” was the darkest moment, closest to the obscurity of “Hospice”, with some waving guitars taking the track almost to the ten-minute mark.
7. The Horrors
It looks like The Horrors have found their spot. Some may think “Primary Colours” was the sole responsibility of Geoff Barrow, and not really an effort by the band as a band. But, to take away any possible doubt about their talent, they produced their third album themselves, “Skying”, and found a good balance between the noise-rock and Kraut-rock from their previous album, and the newly incorporated stadium epic and baggy Madchester beats (even the new T-shirt on sale at the merch stand reminded us of a band from that era). While last year, the live show wasn't yet fully oiled, with things not taking off until well into the concert, at FIB 2012, even though the set-list was similar, they were impeccable; playing the songs from their second and third album (omitting their first completely) brilliantly, not letting their hair down too much but very self-confident. Some might say they were playing on auto-pilot (they only improvised during the electrifying and tremendous central part of the already colossal “Sea Within A Sea”), but if what they wanted was to sound good and transmit their energy to the crowd, they did a brilliant job.
8. The Stone Roses
Judging from the videos of their gigs at Heaton Park in Manchester, and Ian Brown's solo appearance at FIB 2010, there were fears that The Stone Roses' show would be a bit of a fiasco, due to the king monkey's sometimes terrible singing. But nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, our man isn't exactly the world's greatest singer of all times, but he did just fine at FIB 2012. He was on top form, flashy as ever, spitting on stage and kissing his own arm. This time, at least he wasn't wearing a track suit, though the band's look still left something to be desired, except for the elegant John Squire, and with a special mention for Reni's hat. They played everything they should, but the second half was heavenly. Squire was incredible on “Fool’s Gold”, playing stunningly well and giving us unexpected waves of reverb. It was The Haçienda all over again. They played “Waterfall”, and that kind of reversed cover that is “Don’t Stop”. The last half hour was one big climax, with “Love Spreads”, “Made Of Stone”, “This Is The One”, “She Bangs The Drums”, and “I Am The Resurrection”, taking no prisoners. Historical.
9. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is incredible. Whatever he plays - house, electronic pop, 2step, batucadas, or just dirty beats - the man walks away like a champion. His performance was overwhelming, so much so that, in hindsight, it should have been the closing party of the festival. Although his set, festive as it is, is perfect for any time of the day or night. It just needs a crowd of people willing to party, like in Benicàssim. Fully aware of the fact that live sets with laptops and machines are usually utterly boring, Orlando added some colour, and quite literally, too. With his traditional extravagant outfit, confetti canon and two dancers with cheesy clothes, a lot of booty shaking and hard to follow dance moves, he tore the roof off the sucker. The punters went berserk with the beat on “Garden” and stompers like “Household Goods”, which could be an Ed Banger tune, yet very 'now' sounding. He sang and played with the start of the beat on the ultra-sexual and very apt “Your Love”. An absolute triumph.
10. Zola Jesus
I can hardly think of a better way to start the festival than with Zola Jesus. The American perfectly adapted to the difficult circumstances (her music isn't exactly sunny), with a completely different stage setup from her Primavera Club gig. Instead of bringing the music pre-recorded, she came with a band consisting of drums, keys, and strings. She started out modestly, without the usual possessed movements, but during her present single, “Seekir”, she sought, and got, the punters' love, driving security mad. Her voice sounded impressive on tracks like “Lick The Palm Of The Burning Hands”, one of the numerous tracks she played from the excellent “Conatus”. She also chose the calmer pieces from “Stridulum II”, and she enchanted us with “Trust Me”, on which she proved that, even without the epic, she can cause giant goosebumps. Short, but intense.