Rounding off day one at INmusic festival, Zagreb, Croatia, Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler took the opportunity to criticise President Donald Trump, telling the crowd: “We’re starting to get organised in the US because we’re not gonna out up with another four years of this garbage.” The sentiment was met with a roar of approval, before the band performed ‘Windowsill’ from their second album Neon Bible, which includes the lyric:“I don’t wanna live in America no more.”
Earlier in the day, the festival, held beside the placid Lake Jarun on the outskirts of the city, stirred to a sleepy start, punters lounging in the blazing heat with bottles of booze outside the main gate before heading onto the site. Now in its 12th year, INmusic boasts two main stages, the ‘Hidden’ stage for up-and-coming bands and, crucially, a dome-like karaoke tent, which mainly consists of the most gloriously pissed people you’ll ever meet belting out ABBA and Oasis until 4am.
The Legendary Shack Shakers, who formed in Kentucky the ‘90s and are a favourite of horror novelist Stephen King, brought their heady blend of southern gothic and rockabilly to the Main Stage, with frontman J.D Wilkes stripping off his floral cowboy shirt to dive shirtless into the crowd.
Later, over on the slightly smaller OTP World Stage, it was up to Angolan/Portuguese trio Throes + The Shine – who combine rock, electro and the buoyant, dancy Angolan genre of kuduro – to don colourful outfits and raise the audience’s temperatures higher still with an energetic dance-off.
Over on the Hidden Stage, London indie-pop five-piece Haus, who released their debut self-titled EP this month, played an encore after rounding off their set with the intense, atmospheric ‘Oblivion’. It was the band’s first time in Croatia and they vowed to return to INmusic.
Back on the OTP World Stage, the UK’s Michael Kiwanuka performed lush neo-soul songs such as ‘Cold Little Heart’, ‘Rule The World’ and ‘The Final Frame’. Bathed in orange light, he told the audience they looked “amazing”, his voice breaking with emotion on the line “Maybe this time I can be strong” from ‘Cold Little Heart’. The crowd’s biggest response was reserved for ‘Black Man In A White World’, the line “I found peace but I’m not glad”sounding even more bittersweet and wistful in this jubilant atmosphere.
Kiwanuka promised to “mellow it out” with ballad ‘I’m Getting Ready’. Things were pretty mellow already, but the acoustic guitar-led song, backed by a sedate, rolling bassline, certainly delivered on the promise. Unlike the recorded version, this rendition included a sprinkling of piano, which contributed to the folky, intimate atmosphere.
There was nothing mellow about Arcade Fire’s set, which packed more emotional clout into a 90-minute set than most festival bills manage in their entirety. The Montreal group, soon to release fifth album Everything Now, opened with the recent single of the same name, a joyous pop behemoth about living, fully, in the moment and embracing life, the good and the bad.
Guitarist and synth player Will Butler waved his arms like the conductor of an orchestra as the crowd chanted along to the epic ‘No Cars Go’; singer and multi-instrumentalist Régine Chassagne jumped and danced around with colorful pom-poms in a display of unrestrained glee; and Win leaned with his back against a speaker, overcome with emotion, during the disco-influenced ‘Afterlife’.
The night’s rendition of ‘The Suburbs’ was curiously retrained, with Win sat the piano as the audience took over vocal duties, though ‘Month of May’ was furiously punked-up, guitarist Richard Reed Parry bellowing the chorus through a megaphone. A new song continued the disco theme the band explored on 2013 album Reflektor and the whole place exploded with the opening chant of ‘Wake Up’, taken from their first album Funeral, during the one-song encore. Leaving the stage, Win insisted: “We’re not worth one-tenth of this [applause]. Thank you.”
Arcade Fire played:
Here Comes the Night Time
No Cars Go
Ready to Start
Month of May
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Signs of Life
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)