Inevitably, after they expressed fear and loathing about the horror of global warming and devoured the words of Naomi Klein, in some quarters there have been questions about Radiohead’s environmental credentials.
After all, when it comes to global warming, bands criss-crossing the globe with their instruments, set and entourage tends to belch out a hefty amount of carbon.
Having reportedly ruminated about not touring at all as a possible answer, the inevitable has happened and Radiohead have again indulged their love of live, with all the carbon emissions that entails. Well, nearly all. See, at this festival there are no plastic beer glasses dispensed to sate thirsty punters, only to end up in landfill sites in their thousands. Instead, a euro’s deposit gets you a green beaker with a handy little clip.
This you present to one of the plentiful (and beautiful) bar staff and say: “Feel ‘er up, si?” in your best Spanglish. Barcelona’s finest Estrella Damm cerveza will thus magically appear in your nice new vessel, and you’ll feel all green and hippyish. If you are English and in your 30s, this beaker is the sort of thing that would remind you of school dinners. Emblazoned on it is the event’s name and line-up. A souvenir du jour, if you like. And if you don’t you can give it back afterwards and reclaim that euro. Now you love Radiohead even more, don’t you?
So what is all this about a daydream? In the nutshell, Daydream’s origin can be traced back to (amongst other events) the South Bank Centre’s annual Meltdown jambouree and ATP’s various holiday camp escapades. In both cases, bands or artists of note are offered the chance to programme a “festival”. The inaugural Daydream event, in Barcelona’s purpose-built (for events, anyway) Parc del Fórum, would be programmed by a band certainly of some note.
Thom Yorke and friends are not new to the concept. Back in 2001 they programmed their own one-day festival in Oxford’s South Park, inviting bands and artists they’d worked with or admired to share a stage with them – the bill ranged from the late, great Humphrey Lyttelton to Sigur Rós. This time, three stages were to be filled by artists who’d had some form of relationship with the Oxford quintet.
What that relationship was for each was at times difficult to guess. Bat For Lashes, currently touring as Radiohead’s main support act, briefly shared a record label with Radiohead – Parlophone. But almost as soon as Natasha Khan was toasting her new deal with the EMI boys, Radiohead had quit, indulged in a rant about plantation managers or some such, gave their new – some would argue best – album away for free online and, months later, offered it as a physical product through an assortment of indie labels scattered across the globe.
M83 and Liars are also on EMI, albeit the Mute label, as is DJ Christian Vogel. Less obvious was the connection that brought Clinic, Low and Faust to Catalunya. Perhaps it’s general, mutual adoration. An orchestra were trapped in the auditorium stage, playing Johnny Greenwood tracks and interpreting OK Computer too. So far, so homagey.
Sadly Clinic had been and gone by the time we arrived at what we thought was right early, and we’re not even Spanish. A mere smattering of early arrivals were looking on bemused as Liars front man Angus Andrew pranced about the main stage in white trousers and a blazer, wiggling his bum while his band occupied the foremost section of the cavernous construct. They seemed to be enjoying the chance to camp it all up, despite playing in broad daylight on a Thursday when, it seemed, a fair few people had yet to leave their offices.
Beneath the colossal elevated grandstand, assorted ‘prenza’ and VIPs’ posteriors availed themselves of a smattering of deckchairs, enjoying a perfect, if distant, view of the main stage. That wouldn’t do for M83 though, whose set was down the vertiginous steps at something called a Fly stage, right by the Med. (Surely it’s not those Barfly/Channelfly/Fly/supafly guyz again?)
Pint-sized Frenchman Anthony Gonzales played guitar for most of the time, and his silver instrument reflected beams of sunlight as he wended his way through choice moments from current M83 album Saturdays=Youth to a happy crowd. With a second guitarist, drums and a keyboard player adding to his own synth, vocals and fretwork, M83 looked more like a band and less like the solo project of a stargazing boy from Antibes. The uplifting melodies were perfect for the late afternoon light and the happy-go-lucky mood.
At least the mood was light until the moment when the speakers were switched off, save for the monitors. The band were none the wiser, despite “Your speakers est kaputt” being hollered in a selection of languages in their direction. His time was up, and he didn’t know it. We assumed. Two songs were performed with monitors only, the band gaping in incomprehension at the gestures and yells from their audience until finally a tour manager appeared to impart the news.
Bat For Lashes had already started up at the main stage. Natasha Khan’s latest guise is heavier and a little less female this time round, with electric guitar forward in a mix unafraid of beats and bass. Somebody somewhere has told her she needs to beef up her live sound to avoid being talked over, one suspects, and the new arrangements of old material worked a treat. A sprinkling of new songs – “some of you won’t even have heard the old ones,” she quipped – offered a taster of Khan’s development as an artist since those predictable Björk comparisons stymied critical appreciation of her own individuality. True, there’s a fair bit of Björkitude still about her, but given her age and Björk’s long-lasting and influential career, it’s neither surprising nor a bad thing. Horse And I closed the set and the sun was still in the sky.
Back at the downstairs stage, Kieran Hebden is pawing something that’s making a noise. The Four Tet live experience seems oddly like that of a DJ set from the front of the stage, but his beats are the first to properly get an audience dancing. Pulverising basslines, Max Tundraesque metallic whirls and squelchy beats are the order of the day from Hebden, whose jacket is half on, half off and whose hair adds to the impression of a zany professor at play. It would all be appreciated more in a later timeslot, but it was good nonetheless.
Which just leaves our headliners. Somewhere amongst vertical tubes of light are Radiohead who, reasonably, get the sundown-to-dark slot and set about underlining a feeling of money’s worth being had with a set that runs well past the two-hour mark and kicks off with the intoxicating beat of 15 Step.
Material from In Rainbows – arguably their best yet – provokes as many singalongs as earlier work from the tuneful Catalan crowd, though it’s the established favourites – Paranoid Android especially – that elicits whoops at the sound of their first chords. Each piece melds into the next seamlessly, each song registering, making its mark and building to an incredible whole. Yorke has an upright piano to hand for Videotape and Pyramid Song (both stunning) and his voice is as emotionally charged as on record, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi being a sonorous call offset by its rattling and addictive rhythm which Yorke can’t help but dance to.
The set adds to the sense of drama, turning a sinister green during Jigsaw Falling Into Place, but the band are well versed in creating their own drama too. At the mid-point, Greenwood and Yorke indulge in an acoustic guitar dual-off on the gorgeously garage House Of Cards, while the rest of the band disappear for a quick breather. Later, additional drums are brought on for them, and Bangers And Mash gets a rare wheeling-out.
Paranoid Android’s entreaty “rain down, come on rain down on me” fails to elicit a cloudburst, thankfully. Nothing could dampen this balmy Barcelona night with one of the greatest bands in the world at the top of their game indulging their audience with a set that ticked every fan’s wishlist boxes.
And then they’re gone, despite the night being yet young. Yes, it’s a schoolnight and yes, there is an after-party called Nightdream, at which other bands doubtless with some relationship or other to the headliners appeared. But this leg (toe?) of the event seems to be in four venues scattered somewhere in Barcelona, there doesn’t seem to be a map detailing how to get to any of them and the only name playing at any of it that we’ve heard of is Plaid. But, sated by Radiohead, we decide to take a whole box of new memories – and our treasured green beaker – home.
Daydream 2008 @ Parc del Fórum, Barcelona
Preview: Daydream 2008