This morning I looked out the window and I saw rain. If you're a festival-goer or a mountainbiker, rain is the last thing you wanna wake up to. I braced myself for the worst, but the rain wasn't too intense and it stopped pretty soon.
Several hours later I'm riding the suburban railway to the festival entrance, surrounded by people wearing wristbands of various colors. A teenage girl stands near me, earbuds blazing. I immediately recognize Matt Bellamy
's voice, and soon the song as well; it's Uprising
We're complete strangers with a common goal.
The festival is like all festivals. It's hot, crowded, smelly. I hate that smell. The nauseating stench of the overused mobile toilets mixed with the odor of all the greasy crap that people eat. Me, I don't want to eat. My appetite is stifled by the heat, the humidity & the excitement which grows with every passing hour.
Everyone's sweating but the sky is overcast, gloomy even. I'm still hoping it won't start to rain because I'm wearing light summer boots instead of the sturdy steel-toe ones I should be wearing.
There's not much to see on the island („Sziget” means island, and it's just that, a patch of dirt in the Danube river which is crawling with music-hungry people for a week each year). Apparently preventive measures have been taken, so there aren't any mosquitoes. THANK ZEUS! I hate those little bastards, they've tortured me so much during this insane summer! It's the final day of the festival & the kids who've spent most of the week camped out under the droopy trees and partying around the clock are looking all kinds of nasty & dirty. Some of them came from as far away as Canada to sleep in tents and sweat and eat shitty food for days. My love for music is endless but I'd never degrade myself like this.
I wander around for a while, holding my breath & quickening my pace whenever I'm passing by rows of mobile toilets. I snap very few shots, saving the cam's batteries for the events to come. I especially like this photo of French circus performers relaxing between shows.
Other memorable things I see include this amazing Carbon Saurus (representing fossile fuels & greenhouse gases) made of scrap metal near the Greenpeace tents; and a pair of charming hipster bikes.
I'm determined to take decent shots of the biggest event & the rest of the evening's performers, which means I have to get my ass in front of the main stage early-VERY early, in order to secure a front-row position. My companions aren't willing to suffer, so they stay behind. By the time I get there the 1st row is already tightly packed with devoted fangirls (with almost 5 hours to go!), so I have to stand right behind them. I hate them because they got there 1st. They stand shoulder to shoulder, leaning on the security railing, determined not to budge. Oh well, at least they're much shorter than me...
Heavy noise is already slamming against my chest-Danko Jones
are halfway through their performance. I wasn't really familiar with them until now, all I've seen was the hilarious & disturbing King of Magazines
video (cool song, BTW). I greatly enjoy their no-bullshit, ballsy hard rock. Jonesy says a lot of funny shit & shows us how long his tongue is. Daaamn.
After DJ is done, an excruciating pause follows as a tech crew swarms the stage. Busy bees. The crowd grows thicker. Everyone around me is chainsmoking. I hate their guts for it & hope they'll all end up coughing up pieces of their lungs.
At long last Billy Talent
's show kicks off, I've never heard their music before. They're OK, nothing extraordinary but entertaining enough to make time go by faster. Frontman Ben Kowalewicz reminds me of Mel Gibson in his Mad Max days of glory (ie. I think he's handsome). The songs kinda sound the same but it's fun nevertheless. The spectators are diggin' it, euphoric crowd surfers appear, hardcore fans (including Canadians) sing along to Ben's every word. The reactions please BT & the band promises to revisit Hungary.Kasabian
is up next. Another tech crew, another loooong wait and my feet are starting to hurt. It's pretty gross to be sandwiched in between so many sweating bodies. I stare at the stage & attempt to visualize what's to come.
Another band I'm not familiar with, Kasabian is a pleasant surprise, even though this has gotta be far from their best performances. Their use of a trumpet player once again proves that classical instruments add tons of depth & substance to modern music. The songs are good but the band looks a tad slow, even sleepy. Singer Tom Meighan spits a lot and wears an unnecessary jacket over his shirt, probably to conceal his small paunch. Overall it's a decent show, although it's almost ruined by the screaming psycho fangirl behind me. I kinda wanted to hurt her.
Major case of HERP DERP on Tom
Kasabian bids farewell & another crew takes over the stage, but this bunch of guys is special. Everyhing they do is wonderful and amazing because they're preparing the stage for Muse
. The minutes go by very slowly and the air vibrates with tension and anticipation, it's like subtle electricity. There's shouting, clapping and chanting, again & again. MUSE! MUSE! MUSE!
By the time the stage is prepared & the lights go down, it seems like a compressed century has passed in our microcosm. There is an overwhelming, immense mechanical roar, like a giant machine powering up, everyone screams like their lives depended on it, the hexagonal screens come to life and a small figure appears in the blue light, merely 4-5 meters away from me but he could just as well be on another world.
Uprising is the opener, of course, and the ensuing insanity before the stage defies description. It's not just the smell of festivals I hate-it's the crowd, especially intoxicated, massive assholes pushing and shoving their way through people who've spent hours waiting to see their favorite band. Soon I find myself wedged in between a shirtless neanderthal (he rubs his sweat all over me) and a female whose stature puts Brooke Hogan
to shame. I sure as hell haven't seen them around during the many hours I've spent in waiting, but they act like they own the place. Luckily I'm strong enough to stand my ground, nothing matters now; I'm close enough to see Matt's every gesture, the way his fingers dance on the strings of his guitar, the passion on his gaunt face as he closes his eyes & lets his voice soar. He wears glittering silver pants + a white T-shirt with a death's head moth on it (now I want one too). He seems to change his guitar after every song & each instrument is more extravagant than the last. Dom Howard's tight gray costume makes him look like a superhero academy reject, while bass player extraordinaire Chris Wolstenholme is clad in a cheesy zebra suit which doesn't really conceal his belly and growing double chin. Time to hit the gym, Chris!
is a standard Greatest Hits deal, no big surprises here, but this is a festival gig after all. Supermassive Black Hole
blows all my discomfort away, and from that moment on I mosh, jump, dance (although it's more like squirming because I'm like a sardine in a huge can) and flail my arms all the way to the end, without giving a fuck about anything. It is all perfect, it is all as it should be, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world.
Matt is the antithesis of the „rock star”, with his teenage-boy-physique and strange facial features, but his stage presence, charisma & passion makes up for it, and then some. His apparent frailty makes him even more otherworldly, dare I say angelic.
One of the few shots I got of Dom, it kinda sucks because the stage was so large & tall and he was always far away
Before the last 2 songs the band pretends to withdraw. Of course they have no intention of leaving just yet, they merely wanna torment us a bit more. The encore is spectacular. The intro for Knights of Cydonia
is a cool spaghetti western-style harmonica solo by Chris (a la Ennio Morricone
), followed by 6 minutes of bliss and insanity. Then they wave goodbye, for real this time, and leave a gaping emptiness behind. The great machinery powers down.
As much as I wanted it to go on forever, it is over now. Best gig of my life? Quite possibly yes. My feet feel heavy as lead while I shuffle along with the slowly advancing human mass that is leaving the area before the main stage-my head feeling huge as echoes of wonder and dazzlement flash across my retinas. Soon I detach myself from the bulk of the crowd and somehow end up in a more secluded area that smells of piss. The stench pushes me back into reality and I crash-land in dirt. I look down-the sand beneath my feet is soaked with urine. Damn beer-drinkers.
PS: Less than an hour later the mother of all rainstorms swept across Budapest. We got SO lucky.