Midway through their triumphant early evening set in a packed Alter Stage tent at Poland’s blockbuster Open’er Festival, Idles frontman Joe Talbot appreciatively eyes up the packed crowd spilling out into the night air. Dedicating ‘Love Song’ to then, he says: “I don’t know if you know but there’s a lot of Polish people where we come from. They’ve made it a much better place! Thank you!” Predictably, all hell breaks loose: Lee Kiernan crowd-surfs playing guitar on his back, while being pawed at like he’s a food parcel that’s been air-dropped into a war-torn country, while guitarist Mark Bowen, wearing just his boxer shorts, climbs over the throng, as they hold him by his feet like a human Ninja Warrior assault course.
But it isn’t just their kecks that the Bristol band wear openly: it’s their hearts too, as Talbot gobs his way (literally – as a front row soaked in spittle know only too well) through cathartic rage mired in personal experience, from the musical scar tissue of ‘Mother’ (introduced by him screaming: “I AM A FEMINIST!” to applause) to the depression-tackling ‘1049 Gotho’ He psyches himself up like a boxer by jogging up and down on the spot before the Nancy Sinatra-filching ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, and nonchalantly drops lyrical one-liners like cigarette butts: such as ‘A heathen from Eton/On a bag of Michael Keaton’ – which sound like the qualities required to qualify to be a candidate in the Tory leadership election.
“This song is a celebration of one of the best things about the United Kingdom. That’s its immigrants,” says Talbot, to rapturous approval, before the band blitz through ‘Danny Nedelko’. “This is a celebration of every foreign person that came to the United Kingdom and was brave enough to start a new life and make our country a better place!” As Talbot tub-thumps and screams at his microphone like it’s personally offended him – and sugars the pill with genius covers of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ – they create a real contagious communal feel among the audience. And, in a week when newly elected Brexit Party MEPs decided to turn their backs at the playing of the European anthem during the parliament’s opening ceremony, it’s heartening to have Idles – with their raucous pro-immigration, pro-equality , anti-Brexit message – to make a Brit abroad’s heart finally swell with patriotic pride.
Forget toxic fossils like Ann Widdecombe (a woman whom you wouldn’t let near your dalmatians unsupervised or accept an unsealed apple from), can we send Mark Bowen in his pants over to Brussels to represent us?
Earlier in the day, Idles had been pictured with Caleb McLaughlin and Finn Wolfhard – stars of Netflix’s Stranger Things – who attracted a sizeable crowd of fans (some cosplaying characters such as Eleven) to their Q&A event, 24 hours before the new series dropped. On site a Stranger Things arcade – filled with eighties classics like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong where high scores can be exchanged for merchandise – is doing a roaring trade, with queues snaking around the block.
But then even that arcade isn’t as eighties as Julian Casblancas’ second band, The Voidz. Playing in front of a garish neon background that looks like the entire decade threw up on a wall, he’s doing double-duty as The Strokes also grace the festival the next day. Whereas The Strokes specialise in in brevity, The Voidz feel like a sprawling mid-life crisis band in the best possible way – rooting down the back of the taste sofa to discover the decommissioned sounds of the ‘80s, from Visage-like electro to hair-metal. All backed up by a vocoder-favouring Casablancas (just when you thought the arch mumbler couldn’t be any more indecipherable onstage). At times, it veers into Mighty Boosh territory – you can practically hear Vince Noir’s silver catsuit shimmering in approval to ‘Qyurryus’.
After the sonic wig out of recent single ‘The Eternal Tao’, he spots a few people leaving. “Where are you going guys?” he enquires. “Something cool going on over there? I wanna come! Alright! Leave then. I don’t care. Flee and they will pursue, pursue and they will flee.” Those who stay are treated to a band playing at ear-rupturing volume (particularly on the nu-metal ‘Pyramid of Bones’) and more jams than Jeremy Corbyn’s kitchen cupboard. Unlike The Strokes who’ve made a career of never looking like they’re trying too hard, Casablancas’ second marriage band throw everything at the (garish) wall.
Today is something of a ‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’ reunion, with dependable gloom-mongers Interpol performing at a heaving Tent Stage at 11.15pm, bringing their well-honed festival set to Gdynia. Subsumed in trademark moody lighting, frontman Paul Banks whips up the crowd with the evergreen likes of ‘Evil’, ‘Slow Hands’ and ‘Not Even Jail’, and reminds everyone why they were such game-changers with ‘Leif Erikson’.
Vampire Weekend, meanwhile, arrive onstage an hour late, due to a problem getting their equipment there. “Thank you for waiting!” says frontman Ezra Koenig, looking increasingly like a preppy Ramsay Bolton. “We weren’t going to let anything cancel our first show ever in Poland.” Patience is rewarded by a set that begins with ‘Bambina’ and causes delirium with the joyous musical piñata of ‘Horchata’, ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Oxford Comma’.
Whereas Travis Scott’s excess-ridden US tour in support of his seminal third album ‘Astroworld‘ saw him bring fairground rides along (he even rode a rollercoaster suspended over the audience at one point), his Open’er headline performance is a relatively more stripped-down affair, where the Disneyland-esque experience is created by eye-popping visuals of carousels and popcorn stands. Opening with a flurry of pyro, he commands: “Poland! Make some motherfucking noise! It’s time to get rowdy tonight!”, as he launches into ‘Stargazing’, lighting the torchpaper for a high-energy set that draws heavily on ‘Astroworld’ and acts as a coronation for the king of rap. There’s none of the behind-the-velvet rope guest stars – no Drake or Frank Ocean etc – brought along, but with the baying audience singing every word, he doesn’t need them. Before ‘Highest In The Room’, he commands the audience to “see who can get the highest in the room! Get on each other!”, as they clamber on each others’ shoulders and topple over in a bid to ‘win’. He and DJ Chase B further ramp up the energy with the time-honoured festival trick of splitting the audience in two for a face-off before ‘No Bystanders’ with its incendiary Waka Flocka “FUCK THE CLUB UP!” sample turning a rainy former military airfield into a sweaty club. Wearing a jacket emblazoned with ‘STOP LOOK LISTEN’ on the back, he strides around his amusement park-themed stage like a rogue Walt Disney. ‘I hope you’re not tired baby, we’re just getting started,” he urges, as ‘90210’ drops, while the ecstatic response to closer ‘Sicko Mode’ proves that Travis Scott, even without that rollercoaster set-piece, is providing white knuckle thrills and leaving his peers eating his dust.