Ciúnas – the acts that need some hush,
When you’ve had enough pushing and beer-flinging why not go for an act that requires just a little bit more attention, writes Lauren Murphy
YOUR FESTIVAL experience doesn’t have to be about dodging human stacks of GAA jerseys, balancing on tip-toes for a two-second glimpse of Beyoncé’s bum, grappling through Coldplay’s retina-burning light show, or taking your life in your hands by squeezing your way into the moshpit for Foo Fighters. From time to time, amongst the grandiose Main Stage spectacles, there’ll be a performance that requires a little bit of understanding. A little bit of reverence. A little bit of respect. Yes, acts like this exist even at Oxegen, believe it or not.
Yet these are not artists and bands that need a brigade of shushers to usher them on stage; just ones who make music that require a bit of ciúnas and attention to fully appreciate. Trust us, when you’ve had enough of the pushing, pogoing and beer-flinging (let’s face it, we’ve all had the foul remnants of someone’s pint hurled towards us at a festival), you’ll be glad that there are acts like the ones below to provide some soothing balm for your frazzled mental state. It’s not for nothing that Conor Oberst (see interview, page 8) was saddled with comparisons to Bob Dylan before he’d even hit his twenties. The Nebraska man has been writing and performing since his early teens, releasing his first album under the Bright Eyes pseudonym at the age of 18. Since then, his lyrical prowess has grown sharper, as heard on songs like Bowl of Oranges and First Day of My Life. Musically, he’s a bit of a chameleon, too, going semi-experimental on albums like Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, as well as with his side projects Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk and The Mystic Valley Band. Oberst’s Oxegen set will probably draw mostly from the recent album The People’s Key. It’s rockier than the rootsy Americana he excels at, but keep an ear strained for those remarkable lyrical couplets – they’re still in abundance. We know that Eels aren’t primarily known for their sedate moments, but hear us out. Mark E Everett’s band have been around long enough to know how to work a festival crowd, and that means plenty of uptempo tunes from his recent triptych of albums. Yet, given his life’s misfortunes (documented in the highly recommended Things the Grandchildren Should Know autobiography), he’s also capable of writing songs of sadness, self-destruction and redemption. Everett’s a masterful storyteller and one of the best writers of skewed love songs, so let’s hope he throws a few of those quieter moments into his set; That Look You Give That Guy, Railroad Man and Grace Kelly Blues would sit just fine alongside Dog Faced Boy and Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living). Most importantly, have you seen that bloody beard? It’s worthy of a minute’s awed silence alone. Forgive us a moment while we swoon. Jenny Lewis, is there nothing you can’t do? Rilo Kiley haven’t released an album since 2007, but their frontwoman’s solo output has been tiding us over just fine. Her latest endeavour, following collaborations with The Watson Twins and contributions to albums by Elvis Costello and Brandon Flowers, is Jenny & Johnny, the duo formed with her Scottish-American boyfriend Johnathan Rice. Their album is a gorgeous blend of melodic pop with an indierock heartbeat and swoonsome harmonies; in other words, it’s not exactly mosh-friendly music. Songs like the laidback Animal, the gorgeous Switchblade and the funky Slavedriver will sound perfect in the presence of hot sunshine (right?!) and a cold beverage. She & Him may be absent from the Oxegen bill this year, but Jenny & Johnny are the
next best thing. We’re not trying to tell you that you have to stand crossarmed and po-faced during the Durham siblings’ set. In
fact, you probably won’t be able to stay still if you tried; the trio, whose live show is supplemented by their musician parents, make the sort of danceable vintage rockabilly that suggests they’re from another time. That’s exactly why you should, if you’ll excuse our bluntness, shut up and listen to Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. They’re not the kind of band who’ll use volume and a flashy stage show. Instead, their charm lies within the nuances of songs like I’m Going Back and Goin’ Up the Country, as well as Kitty and Daisy’s vocal interplay, and their brother’s brilliant guitar-playing. Dance your legs down to your knees – but don’t forget to listen, too. Any regular gig-goer has been there. You’re enjoying your favourite band’s set when all of a sudden the crowd shifts and you’re standing beside the person who knows every word to every song. Oh, and they’ll make sure that everybody knows it, too. We’re not usually ones to condone violence, but if you find yourself standing beside this person at a National gig, you have our permission to take whatever action is necessary to shut them up. It’s not because Matt Berninger and his cohorts need hush to cause that ripple of electricity that spreads through the crowd every time they play, but their songs are beautifully slowbuilding affairs with raw, emotional peaks that require attentiveness to fully absorb. Besides, how will you be able to enjoy Berninger murmur lines like “I was afraid I’d eat your brains” if the mouth-breathing idiot beside you beats him to the punch? Speaking strictly in terms of decibels, Noah and the Whale are probably one of the quieter bands on this year’s Oxegen bill. The London band are known for their songs of lovelorn anguish (as heard on The First Days of Spring), rather than their uncontrollable rock wig-outs. It’s all that Laura Marling’s fault; she had to go and break poor Charlie Fink’s heart. Then again, maybe she did them a favour, since that album plucked Noah and the Whale from the overcrowded pen of contemporary folk bands and installed them as a band with real lyrical competence. Sure, they have plenty of uptempo tracks, but it’s the lush instrumentation and lyrics like those of Our Window that resonate the loudest. With any luck, the quintet will play their set to a crowd who appreciate the subtleties of their music.