Once more, dear friends, to the island of freedom. When Shakespeare’s Caliban spoke of an “isle full of noises, sounds and sweet airs” where “a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears”, he could easily have been envisioning a night on the Bocks watching Beabadoobee at Hungary’s Sziget festival.
Dubbed the European Glastonbury or Budapest’s Burning Man, Sziget – taking place this year from 10-15 August – draws half a million revellers to an island in the centre of the Danube with its cornucopia of wonders: flying bars, ziplining and bungeeing Szitizens, theatre, cinema, dance and every style of music under the sun, played out by a thousand acts over 60 specialist stages. A tempest of treats indeed.
The main stage, meanwhile, plays host to music’s AAA-list, and the first raft of post-pandemic comeback line-up announcements already looks like a world-beater. Some of the biggest acts in rock, pop and EDM are rowing into town: Kings Of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris and Tame Impala headline the five days, with an impressive array of rising talent cramming the rest of the bill. Here are the ten acts you should, under no circumstances, miss…
The one we’re all waiting for. So low-key has the return of the Arctic Monkeys been so far that we’ve had to rely on leaks from Suffolk staycation venue Butley Priory, thanking the band for recording there for the Drawing Room acoustics, for assurance that their seventh album is making progress at all. And with 2018’s sci-fi lounge pop album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ blowing apart all expectation of what the band might do next, all eyes will be on Arctic Monkeys at Sziget.
NME’s Radar Award winner of 2020 has already revived grunge pop with her debut album ‘Fake It Flowers’, gone viral when Powfu sampled her for his massive TikTok hit ‘Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head)’ and won hearts on tours with The 1975 and Clairo. Now Bea Laus is promising to define the indie sleaze revival with a “very 2006” second album ‘Beatophia’ inspired by Stars and Stereolab. Out of all this alt-rock homage she’s forging something distinctly new and very much her own; time to join the Bea Brigade.
The Brits Critics’ Choice Award winner it’s okay to like, Sam Fender has been tearing up every festival he’s played since lockdown lifted, tracks like ‘Seventeen Going Under’ and pandemic punk anthem ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’ reinvigorating an indie rock crowd in need of a fresh, outspoken new icon speaking for their generation. A headliner in the making.
With its floating stages, laser bombardments and flying bus stops, Justin Bieber’s recent Justice tour proved a spectacle fitting for arguably the biggest name in pop music in 2022. Now it hits Sziget in an eye-frying blitz, unmissable for the dazzle alone, not to mention The Hits.
Squeegee your third eye, strap on your celestial jet pack and, on the Sunday night, enter the vortex. A bearded Australian by the name of Kevin Parker is your guide to the 23rd dimension of pop, grand seer of the Perth psych rock scene and possibly the only man on earth inspired to make music by listening to The Bee Gees on mushrooms. And such music – as Parker’s lo-fi psych garage evolved into electronic music of the spheres, Tame Impala have become the ultimate out-of-body festival experience, wild stimulation for head and hip.
The latest recipient of the re-named Brit Rising Star Award, Grantham’s answer to Lorde rocketed out of nowhere during the pandemic, amassing two albums and a set-load of singles – the Haim-like ‘Scarlett’, alt-pop cracker ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’, the gorgeous recent ‘London Is Lonely’ – that she’s yet to unravel to major continental festival crowds. Watch Sziget swoon.
The band that set the current post-punk comeback in poetic motion, Dublin’s most celebrated Joyce rockers are making headway towards arenas status in the UK, and their forthcoming third album ‘Skinty Fia’ will only accelerate them on to glory. Intense and enthralling live, where tracks such as ‘A Hero’s Death’ and ‘Too Real’ can really set about brutalising a PA system, they’re the long, dark night of the soul you can mosh to.
Kings Of Leon
On recent albums ‘Walls’ and ‘When You See Yourself’, the mighty Kings Of Leon have trimmed the atmos-rock fat and become something of a lean, mean psych rock machine on tracks such as ‘Echoing’ and ‘The Bandit’. The dynamic shift of their Sziget headline set should be a head-spinner then, as adrenalised as their early rush and as expansive as their desert rock peak. A second coronation awaits.
Making self-styled ‘Gospel For A New Century’, where Prince meets David Bowie very much downtown, Miami-via-Turin’s shock-haired future punk Yves Tumor has become one of the most vital, colourful and exciting performers in experimental music, melding electronic rock and soulful noir pop with a confrontational panache on tracks like ‘Jackie’, ‘Kerosene!’ and ‘Secrecy Is Incredibly Important To Both Of Them’. A sensation in the making.
“I ain’t nice,” admits tattooed, track-suited Viagra Boys frontman Sebastian Murphy as he dived into picnics and rode stolen scooters on fire in the video for ‘Ain’t Nice’. Sweden’s down-at-heels post-punks are clearly going for antihero appeal, with their magnificent gristle rock songs about experimental drugs and cretinous behaviour, which makes them an unpredictable Sziget must-see.