There’s always a band who’s trajectory seems to shoot directly upwards, who festival organisers think will be at a particular level when booking the lineup but end up far surpassing that, with crowds on a scale that no one expected six months ago. That band this year may well be Wet Leg. Getting to The Park stage is a challenge – ignoring that it’s an uphill walk, thousands of people are trying to get to a point where they can see the stage and it’s so rammed full of people that it’s hard to move. It doesn’t take long to see why, their fun brand of indie pop is just a joy to listen to, with witty lyrics really sealing the deal. They look surprised to see such a big crowd when they walk out but, honestly, they could be playing one of the main stages and it still would have been busy. By the time their excellent debut track Chaise Lounge wraps up the set the crowd is going crazy, a giant metallic D balloon floats over the park. The lyrics on this track are brilliant and even the little lead part just feels great to listen to.
Over at West Holts there’s a real feel of nostalgia in the air, the crowd for TLC is massive, knowing just how many hits they can pull out the bag – I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect this big a crowd for them but clearly I’m not clued up as to just how big a group TLC are. Before they even walk on stage the DJ is already getting the crowd hyped up, playing banger after banger for a few minutes and ramping the excitement up on the microphone. By the time the two members of TLC walk on stage the crowd is ready to explode. Their set really reminds me just how many hits they have – Creep goes down a storm and by the time they get to No Scrubs and Waterfalls they leave the crowd satisfied.
Moving to the other side of the site, Kojey Radical is playing an incredible set over at the Lonely Hearts Stage – he’s backed by a brilliant live band (the drummer has one of the most crazy setups I’ve seen, of any genre) which certainly helps with a festival performance but, even without them, he’d have been excellent – his lyricism is phenomenal and his voice is totally unique. This is essentially a warm up for his Other Stage set on the Sunday which is certain to be incredible based on this.
Phoebe Bridgers seems to have gotten bigger and bigger over the last few years and, unsurprisingly, she’s got a sizeable crowd waiting for her at the John Peel Tent. I like that, despite this being a festival set, her team have still put considerable time and effort into creating an interesting stage design – the two layered approach works brilliantly with the projected backdrop creating a real atmosphere. Of all the sets I’ve seen so far this weekend the crowd singalongs for this were louder than any other – the fans are committed, know every word, and are happy to show it. The tracks I know best come early in the set; Motion Sickness is an incredible way to open the show, like a statement of intent. Kyoto is performed with such passion that you can’t help but get swepped up in it.
I run from there across to the Other Stage just in time to watch St Vincent who is, in my opinion, the best musician on the day’s lineup. The live show is flawlessly crafted into a theme, the backing singers are incredible and everything sounds amazing. A funk version of Digital Witness kind of sets the tone of what we’re going to expect – updating classic songs from her repertoire to fit the theme of the set. The arrangements of each song are utterly brilliant and having the guitar techs in costumes and (at least I think I saw) a stunt double who came out on stage first really just helps wrap the whole thing up. Best set of the weekend so far.
My choice of headliner for the day was Little Simz, over on the West Holts Stage. She’s another artist who’s had a hell of a career trajectory, surpassing herself with everything she does. Opening the set with Introvert she makes herself exposed from the get go – Little Simz is someone who’s got a lot to say and who can command the language to really get it across. It’s something that happens time and time again during the set but doing spoken word pieces as part of her set is incredibly brave at a festival but the crowd is respectful and you can hear every word clearly. My personal highlight was might bang, might not – the bassline in that song is just unrelenting while vocally Little Simz sounds like a force to be reckoned with.
But the night isn’t over yet – the Truth Stage has a surprise headliner in the early hours of the morning, this year’s Eurovision winner, Kalush Orchestra, the first UK show for the Ukrainian current champions. I arrive to the Truth stage to be greeted by a large number of Ukrainian flags ready to great the band. There’s always a risk that Eurovision bands won’t be able to deliver when it comes to a full set but thankfully Kalush appear to have a decent number of tracks under their belt. Of course, when they play Stefania the crowd goes wild and we’re brought together in a huge singalong – certainly it’s the track that most people know but clearly there’s material worth digging into their back catalogue for. And with that, knowing the sun will rise in a couple of hours, it’s time to declare Friday over.