Hove Festival took place on the idyllic island of Tromøy, near Arendal in Norway, last week. DiS was there, and soaked up a glorious four days of sun, sand and bands. If you've not been - and we're hazarding a guess that many of you haven't - then trust us when we say it's an altogether more civilised, sunny alternative to that English festival we've heard so much about these past few days. Here's DiS' highlights.
Fleet Foxes (Main Stage, Tuesday)
This writer's had his reservations about Seattle's new favourite sons, stemming principally from a largely tepid headline set in Sheffield last year, but this evening, in the baking sun, their folky melodies translate perfectly to the big, big stage. Head 'Fox Robin Pecknold possesses a voice just as potent live as it is on either of their recorded works to date (the Sun Giant EP and self-titled full-length, both 2008), and though the band aren't the most charismatic of performers, it's testament to the sheer quality of the music that we're left spellbound by what we hear, with Pecknold's solo acoustic segment midway through taking as many, well deserved plaudits as the full-band showing. Sandwiched between The Killers and Hockey, Fleet Foxes are the perfect, lilting antidote to corporate indie's greater excesses.
Lykke Li (Amphitheatre, Monday)
Ahh, lovely Lykke Li. Aren't we a bit bored of her now, though? We've seen the Swedish pop princess do her sultry thing an awful lot over the past twelve months, and she's been peddling the same soulful pop wares each time with nary a change in setlist or stage-show. Surprisingly though - particularly given this writer's current short attention span - the answer's 'No'. Headlining the Amphitheatre on the first night of the festival following earlier performances from Eagles Of Death Metal, Jadakiss and Fat Joe (Hove's music policy is nothing if not eclectic!), Ms Li - or Zachrisson, as she was born - once again captivates. The stages get bigger, but her star quality continues to shine through. There's a new cover, too: last time we saw her it was Vampire Weekend, tonight it's Lil Wayne's 'A Milli'. Her own material, exemplified by 'Little Bit' and 'I'm Good, I'm Gone', sounds none-too-shabby either.
M83 (Amphitheatre, Thursday)
Playing the same stripped-down set we witnessed up in Manchester last month, Anthony Gonzales and co. truly blow our minds here with a flawless display in the Amphitheatre, Hove's best arena, surrounded by hills and trees, and one ideally suited to their electronic charms. Though band and crowd both take a little while to warm up ("Wow, it's crazy out there" jokes keyswoman/vocalist Morgan Kibby), from 'Kim & Jessie' onwards the atmosphere is transformed into an early evening dance-party, with a hard-hitting take on 'We Own The Sky' and fellow past single 'Couleurs' ramping up the tempo. Much of the set comprises reinterpretations of tracks from 2008's Saturdays = Youth because, as Gonzales explains before the set, the band wanted to keep things fresh and interesting. Certainly, those boxes are left more than ticked this evening.
The Prodigy (Amphitheatre, Thursday)
Where were you when you found out the King Of Pop was dead? 'Going wild to The Prodigy in the middle of a forest in Norway' isn't a response you're likely to hear often, but it's the bewildering predicament we find ourselves in on Hove's concluding evening. Later, we'll hold an impromptu, candle-lit vigil on the beach with clocked-off festival workers, but, for now, this is our - perhaps highly inappropriate - send-off. If they're aware of the sombre news, which we later hear they were, MCs Maxim Reality and Keith Flint don't let it show - they're both in rampant form, and the already charged atmosphere is ignited by a slew of classics: 'Breathe' and 'Poison' are dropped hard early on, 'Firestarter' and 'Voodoo People' come later, with the brutal coup de grâce arriving in the encore courtesy of a turbocharged 'Smack My Bitch Up'. Unfortunately, Maxim's call for "Norwegian warriors" is heeded by a dozen or so bare-chested brawlers in the circle-pit next to us; an isolated moment of madness at an otherwise serene and relaxed event. Maybe they were just miffed at the amount of tracks aired from recent Prodge LP Invaders Must Die?
Q-Tip (Amphitheatre, Wednesday)
Live hip-hop can be a difficult thing to pull off on a festival stage, but when you've got a performer with Q-Tip's credentials (MC in A Tribe Called Quest, successful solo artist and producer) and repertoire, you can rest easy knowing you're going to a get a good show - and so it proves, and then some, tonight. Flanked by a band comprising a guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and the legendary DJ Scratch, 'Tip performs material drawn from his envious back catalogue, including several ATCQ numbers, and it's their showmanship, plus the MC's undiminished rhyming ability and crowd-hyping, that makes this a truly memorable occasion. He ends up delivering final number 'Life Is Better' from amidst the throng, passing the mic around and letting the audience deliver some decidedly off-key backing vocals. But, like the rest of the set, it's all good. Then, when the lights come up, the stage's DJ drops - of all things - 'Billie Jean'. Cue much dancing. We weren't to know then, but RIP MJ.
Best of the rest:
- CasioKids (Marquee Stage, Tuesday) - home-grown electro-pop par excellence.
- Faith No More (Main Stage, Thursday) - that man can really sing!
- Franz Ferdinand (Main Stage, Monday) - just not the latest stuff.
- Ratatat (Amphitheatre, Tuesday) - bring the dance party, again.
- Slipknot - (Main Stage, Wednesday) - pure metal theatre.
Photos: Erik Five Gunnerud (Fleet Foxes), Hildegunn Larsen (Lykke Li), Lars Olav Dybvig (Crowds)