After getting utterly defeated by Day One, I had decided to take it as easy as possible on Sunday. I wanted to spend as little time around the children as possible. Last year, Day One was the clearly way more bro-y day because the big finish was Jay Z. And with that, I think I just had an epiphany: This year, both closing acts weren’t very bro-y at all. Beyonce charms the gays and the girls, and NIN rallies the weirds—the good weirds. Meanwhile, the bro-friendly artists are packed in during the day with big, muscular and cathartic finales at the Liberty Stage both nights with Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris. It was almost sad how little the youth cared about Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails on Sunday night, but we’ll get to that in a few.
Even though I was excited about the idea of seeing Gaslight Anthem, there was no way I was gonna start my day at 2pm. Solange was at 3:45, and AlunaGeorge was right behind at 4:15, so I started with a fairly easy stroll through the Liberty Stage crowd. The crazy part of the day was yet to come, with Kendrick going on at 4:30, so everyone was already piling up at Rocky, which made for a very sparse crowd gathering as AG soundchecked the Freedom Stage. They played an electric set of mostly their new and outstanding LP, Body Work, including album standouts “You Know You Like It,” “Attracting Flies” and “Your Drums, Your Love.” But perhaps what took it to the next level was the album’s bonus track, a brilliantly kitsch cover of “This Is How We Do It.” Aluna Francis danced like she was really into the music that George Reid had produced, as a badass bassist and drummer supported her grooves and her moves.
This was AlunaGeorge’s second domestic concert. Their manager, a great dude named Jonny, set up a brief interview for PW, and they were downright adorable. George plays synths and guitars and produces lots of deliciously weird sounds inspired by minimalist hip-hop, instrumentals and stuff like dub-step and trap. Meanwhile, Aluna sings like a budding pop diva and writes killer hooks. I didn’t take notes.
As I made my way back to the press area, I noticed they were being interviewed by someone holding a microphone to their faces as a cameraman loomed over their seats, rather stiff-looking grilling. They looked tired; having performed three hours earlier and, what I could only imagine, was followed by an endless stream of press gigs. I knew it’d be best to keep it light.
They were gracious and friendly. Jonny asked me if I wanted a beer when George said he wouldn’t mind one, and Aluna opted for a can of Coke and a bottle of water. She still wore a rather Rocky-inspired stage outfit as the sun set, and the first few notes of Queens of the Stone Age made us talk a little louder and lean in closer to hear each other. Aluna rather humbly suggested that their spot on Disclosure’s breakthrough record, Settle, was just an easy happenstance. The scene’s pretty small, she suggested, and when you have the time to go into the studio together and play, you use it. When pressed about their most exciting accolade (there’ve been many), Aluna cited the BBC Sound Of poll where they finished second behind HAIM, and George couldn’t believe they’d been asked to be on Jools Holland. I asked Aluna if she was aware that gays have their eyes on them, but her in particular. She said she had a hunch when, at the Chicago show—their first of their domestic run that’ll take them around Canada and America—she caught eyes with some fit, young, enthusiastic men in the audience who gave her eyes that weren’t so much “I want you” as “Bitch, I see you. Werk.” Playing to massive audiences hasn’t always been their bag, but the Disclosure exposure has put them in front of tens of thousands at festivals like Leeds and Reading. Aluna confessed to nearly needing to be pushed on stage when 70,000 people are chanting in anticipation, but since then, it seems like those hesitancies are weakening. They’re picking up steam, confidence and, hopefully, material for a new record in 2014 or 2015.
These guys are a band to watch. Oh, and I mentioned that, here in America, those of us over 26 tend to think of the phrase “EDM” as a dirty word. They seemed a little perplexed. “Better than IDM,” George said. What’s that? “Intelligent dance music,” he said, and they both laughed. “We just call it dub or house or garage,” Aluna explained (pronounced GAA-rahj). Maybe I should see what London’s like.