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Booked by Melt! exclusively at the recommendation of Thom Yorke, The Oweni Sigoma Band, brought a polyrhythmic fusion of jangly guitar, psychedelic vibes, and traditional Kenyan instrumentation that expressed their London/Nairobi roots. Formed out of a 2009 trip to Kenya by a group of London-based musicians who wanted to exchange skills and workshop with locals, their sound reflects their collaborative origins, with conventional drums and a range of African percussion blending with guitar, keys, bass and the arresting chants of frontman Joseph Nyamungu. Considering how difficult it is for ‘non-Western’ bands to get festival bookings, to the point where it sometimes feels like organisers don’t realise that people actually make music outside North America and Europe, it felt like a rare privilege to be able to see them, and the band themselves seemed to relish the opportunity, filling the stage with their playful presence. Here’s to more festivals taking a chance on such acts.

After a brief sojourn back to camp for supplies, I was back at the main stage in time for the inimitable Flying Lotus, who was making full use of his amazing 3D lighting rig to shroud himself and the crowd in off-the-wall visuals that reflected the oddball leanings of his wide-ranging musical material. As anyone who has previously witnessed him live will attest, no two FlyLo shows are the same, as he indulges his whims and lets his imagination run wild, endlessly tweaking and twisting the bones of his songs into new forms and combinations. One might hear the opening strains of a song like “All In”, “Mmmhmm” or “Zodiac Shit”, and just feel like you’re getting into the rhythm, when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under you, and all of a sudden it’s “Clock Catcher” or one of his more abrasive Captain Murphy tracks, which he left the decks strut around and rap to. It’s an approach that keeps you on your toes, but one that leaves you feeling like you’ve witnessed something unique, even if it’s your third or fourth time seeing him.

Most people didn’t dare leave in the period before Atoms for Peace, myself included, and in the hour or so leading up to their appearance, the air was ripe with eager anticipation. It’s hard to describe the two hours without descending into fanboy-level superlative, but it’s safe to say they met expectations, and then some. Sure, it may have veered towards self-indulgence in parts, but in a way that kind of felt like the point, and after three days of eclecticism, it was fun just to let go and let a huge band thrill you in a way that only people like Thom Yorke and Flea know how. Fronting this band, Yorke seems like a changed man onstage, full of confidence and not a little swagger, perhaps a reflection of the show’s more propulsive elements. AMOK is actually quite an introspective record in a lot of ways, but live, with a full band set-up, tunes like “Ingenue” “Unless” and “Stuck Together Pieces” are almost unrecognisable, played at a much faster pace and with more of an emphasis on physicality than atmosphere. The set was also interspersed with a few rarities, such as “The Hollow Earth”, UNKLE’s Yorke-voiced “Rabbit in Your Headlights”, and a phenomenal interpretation of Radiohead B-side “Paperbag Writer”, a song I never thought I’d have the chance to see live. As the opening riff of “Black Swan” began, signalling the imminent end of the second encore, the crowd seemed both dismayed and relieved, sad to see the end of such a definitive example of how great a headline festival set can be, but also desperately in need of a breather. I know I needed one.

Exhausted, but not quite ready to stop, I hung around for the festival-closing staples of 2manydjs, whose hit-filled song selections provided easy hits of pop nostalgia, and Ellen Allien, who, having played at Melt! since the festival’s 1997 inception, filled her traditional late slot at the Sleepless stage, as part of the Bpitch Control showcase. As I stumbled back to my tent, too late to catch the last shuttle, I felt beyond tired, but exhilarated, aware that I’d been a part of something special. It’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable festival.

 

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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