Paradise? Right this way. The gates opened on Monday (because Croatia rocks all week long, apparently) as 100,000 party-hungry punters descended on the sun-dappled island in the middle of Lake Jarun that’s home to the greatest bijou-fest line-up in Europe for the next three days.
The crowd lost no time in getting their rocks off while soaking up the island’s unique vibe, Talking Heads quotes and all…
3Kurt Vile & The Violators
Kurt Vile made for a perfect early evening aperitif, with his hazy, pastoral take on AOR radio rock, and occasional protest anthem against “all the corrupt politicians in America”.
Swedish “rock’n’roll masters of the universe” The Hives upped the pace somewhat, with Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist rousing the crowd with his legendary stage-owning antics.
“We are going to spontaneously combust and turn ourselves into ash and flames and explosions and all sorts of fireworks,” he claimed ahead of ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’.
According to his band introductions during ‘Tick Tick Boom’, The Hives are made up of immortal, legendary evolutionary wonders with trophy cabinets stuffed with Oscars and Emmys.
The closed with the chant-along epic ‘Return The Favour’, only growing more ferocious with age.
8The Tesla Tower
Across the site, in the shadow of INmusic’s iconic Tesla Tower, Dublin deviants were stirring…
Fontaines D.C. took to the wooded Hidden Stage for a febrile set of rant rock, singer Grian Chatten attacking the stage with his mike stand and displaying all the attitude of a cornered fox.
Over on the World Stage, meanwhile, Johnny Marr once again proved himself the Smith it’s okay to like with a godlike set taking in solo tracks alongside Smiths classics like ‘How Soon Is Now?’ and ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’.
He even threw in a cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘I Feel You’, such is his comfort with solo rock superstar status.
Foals graced Monday’s headline slot, with a fiery set of scorched disco and futuristic rock, following on from a UK tour that saw them headline two nights at Alexandra Palace.
“We’re gonna fucking do one tonight,” singer Yannis Philippakis told the crowd. And they did.
Firing up the angular moon rock of ‘On The Luna’, from this year’s ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1’ album, they mutated through the amorphous funk of ‘Mountain At My Gates’ toward the funk punk frolics of their debut album standout ‘Olympic Airways’.
‘My Number’ and ‘Black Gold’ introduced a more tropical disco feel in keeping with the sun-beaten surroundings, before Yannis told the crowd to “smoke it if you got it” and steered the set into dubbier territory with the new album’s ‘Syrups’.
“We’re gonna play you some rock songs now,” Yannis declared, rounding off the set with the AI punk ‘White Onions’, the stormtrooping funk of ‘Inhaler’, ‘What Went Down’’s dark devil blues and a frenetic ‘Two Steps, Twice’.
The second day had a lot to live up to. And it went in HARD.
18Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
An early set from Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls felt like a sunlit headline set, as he piled into energised set of raggle-taggle folk punk (‘If I Ever Stray’, ‘I Still Believe’, journeyman journal ‘The Road’), reignited ‘50s rock’n’roll (‘Long Live The Queen’), Trump-era rebel songs (‘1933’) and gigantic semi-emo anthems.
19Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
It was also a masterclass in crowd-pumping. “This is not a spectator sport,” Turner insisted, leading a boisterous crowd in hand-jives, circle jogs and general freak-outs.
20Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
It all ended in communal chaos though, as Frank crowdsurfed out to waltz with a fan during ‘Four Simple Words’.
Over at the Hidden Stage Black Honey provided some respite from the main stage insanity as they lurch from suave torch song to Tarantino-friendly southern surf rock. “You don’t have to kick and scream to be a punk,” says singer Izzy Baxter Phillips. A sultrier Wolf Alice? Go on then.
With her neon red hair shaved into sci-fi shapes, Garbage’s Shirley Manson remained the power-stance supervixen of space rock fabulousness, stomping and snarling through Garbage’s 75 minutes of tech rock savagery on the main stage.
‘Stupid Girl’ sounded positively stadium-worthy, ‘Wicked Ways’ came with a side-order of ‘Personal Jesus’ and we weren’t surprised when Shirley growls “this is the noise that keeps me awake,” during ‘Push It’ since we could still hear its monstrous electro rock squall twelve hours later.
Even Garbage’s mecha-rock paled into comparison to the wondrous art-rock spectacle that were Tuesday’s headliners Suede.
To say they were one of the best live acts on the planet today is almost selling them short: within a couple of tracks Brett Anderson is leaping like a wildcat from monitors to ‘We Are The Pigs’ and wrapping himself in his microphone cord at the end of a keening and impassioned ‘So Young’, and Suede have embarked on a non-stop hits set as wild and euphoric as any in rock.
A dynamic, unstoppable force of sheer showmanship, Brett was indie rock lightning unbottled, bawling and bouncing for ninety-minutes straight, an unbridled icon of outsider unity. As the set roared towards its close, the band dotted massive singalongs like ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and ‘New Generation’ with tender, intimate moments like ‘The Wild Ones’ performed solo and half acapella by Brett in a stark spotlight. Just phenomenal.
Even for Croatia, Wednesday was a heatwave, prompting much outdoor basking.
Defying the summer, Italian dark wave act Joycut set the day’s crepuscular tone.
American uke-opera newcomer LP is a welcome splash of colour across the main stage. Dressed like Greta Van Fleet on a Hawaiian holiday, she somehow gets away with mingling neo soul, Baltic folk, future funk, country rock and Wagnerian arias – no mean feat, you try it.
The Cure drew the biggest crowd of the weekend to the main stage, and delivered two hours plus of alt-pop majesty and sky-scorching atmos-rock, in almost equal measure.
The hits are distributed through a perfectly balanced 135 minutes like a trail of candy through some haunted woods. So ‘Lovesong’ is a gleaming treat of a song sandwiched between an intense, glowering ‘Just One Kiss’ and the thumping tribalism of ‘Last Dance’, and after the sound fails during ‘A Night Like This’ they make up the lost time with breezy blows through ‘In Between Days’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’.
Smith has the encore of your darkest dreams up his sleeve. From ‘Lullaby’ to ‘The Caterpillar’, ‘Friday, I’m In Love’ to ‘Close To Me’ and a final, calmed-with-age ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, it’s a run of tunes that confirms The Cure as bona fide rock legends.