Festivals

Wet Leg, Yard Act and local talent battle the heat: Pohoda 2023

5th - 8th July 2023

An idyllic weekend in a beautiful part of the world… tarmac ‘n’ all.

First-time visitors and performers alike are quick to point out Pohoda’s picturesque surroundings: located on a sprawling military airfield, it conspires with the West Carpathian mountains, silhouetted by the setting sun, creating the sensation that you have stumbled upon a tipsy colony of partygoers on a distant planet; a location that feels entirely islanded from the rest of civilisation. It makes for an enticing stop-off for any artist.

After a selection of late-evening performances from local artists initiate Wednesday arrivals, Thursday marks the first days of an impressive haul of imported names. with Sleaford Mods taking to the main stage, named in sponsorship with Slovakian beer brand Urpiner. Divisive as their music may be, Jason Williamson and Andrew Farn can scarcely be accused of lacking entertainment value; moreso now than ever with an upgraded live setup which sees the Nottingham duo backed by a formation of strobe lights. The pair tear through their set with a infectious brand of spitting, bubbling urgency. Jason tugs at his t-shirt and throws stuttered sidesteps in his cargo shorts while his bandmate gesticulates wildly behind between cueing hypnotically minimalist beats from his no-frills laptop rig. The ‘Mods may be departing to Wembley immediately after this performance in support of Blur, but if they are withholding any of their energy in favour of that booking, then they hide it convincingly.

Perfume Genius later takes to the Orange Stage awash with a warm glow of yellow and red. The floating falsetto and shimmering harpsichord of ‘Jason’, from 2020’s ‘Set My Heart On Fire Immediately’ stands tall as a high point In a performance featuring spritely pop melodies and some expansive slide guitar-driven interludes.

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Following a day of 28-degree weather, Swedish powerhouses Viagra Boys take to the stage on Friday in the glow of the setting Slovak sunshine. Frontman Sebastian Murphy, seemingly in a constant state of clutching his final breath, proves impossible to avert your eyes from; no mean feat in a line-up boasting short shorts, cowboy hats, sunglasses and full body tattoos. “I’ve noticed there are a lot of athletic-looking people here tonight,” he calls in his Americanised Scandinavian growl. “I’m sure you’ll be into this next one,” before ‘Sports’ stirs the audience into a frenzy. The ensuing whirlpool of activity is a near-peerless festival experience, as a rippling sea of bodies are showered in €2 pints of pilsner in the gradient glow of a yellow and blue skyline.

Wet Leg draw the first mammoth audience of the weekend with a performance that opens with gothic organ notes, before slipping into ‘Being in Love’. “We’ve never been here before. It’s fucking beautiful!” proclaims Rhian Teasdale, mirroring a sentiment shared with an astounding number of other artists on the bill. Ridiculous global success and GRAMMY win aside, there are still hints that Wet Leg are finding their feet as a live group. With Hester Chambers still seemingly too shy to speak, the rest of the live band – who don’t appear in any promotional material - take on the responsibility of providing stage dialogue. Meanwhile ‘Too Late Now’ is performed at an ever-increasing tempo until the outfit are helplessly chasing their own composition down a hill; watching it gain more and more velocity and roll out of site. Rhian’s persona offers a lot to proceedings and the reaction to ‘Chaise Longue’ alone testifies just how much potential Wet Leg have as they turn their attention towards that looming second album.

Festival staples Shame close the evening, taking to the Europa stage at midnight. Circus-style seating allows for an enticing vantage point from which to watch the commotion that Charlie Steen and co. whip up from the off. Offerings from this year’s ‘Food For Worms’ receive a hefty reception, the frontman tearing off his shirt for ‘Six Pack’ while the rousing ‘Adderall’ takes on a life of its own as an unlikely singalong anthem.

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Crowd sizes for the outdoor showcases on Saturday are severely affected by the unforgiving sunshine, as audiences favour congregation in patches of shadow cast beside stages and screens. It allows for taking in some of the Slovakian talent on show. Waterbased are a duo consisting of Julls Mihalyiová and Ľubo Krajňák. Their cold, industrialised electronics are neutralised by warm vocal melodies as the duo pair a melodic, shoegaze-adjacent delivery with abrasive punktronica performed with cymbals which are bent out of shape to underpin tracks with an intoxicatingly deadpan thud.

The props which make up rapper Gleb’s stage scenery alone, which were revealed by roadies removing cover sheets, draws a roar of excitement from a sun-beaten audience. He repurposes a Slim Shady-era aesthetic with a hefty wink to UK Grime, trap and drum ‘n’ bass, expelling a contagiously enjoyable canon of tracks which feel wholly his own in a territory which could easily slip into pastiche.

Yard Act’s James Smith has sensibly eschewed his usual trench coat today as he delivers stage patter which combines his regular wry charisma with a rich dose of Englishman abroad: complimenting the region with slowed annunciation and sincerity. After garnering a reputation as one of the hardest working bands on the circuit, tracks from last year’s debut ‘The Overload’ refuse to succumb to stagnation and hit spectators (who are furiously squished into slithers of accessible shade) with as much might as they offered upon the band’s initial post-lockdown breakthrough.

Prior to their closing gambit, the frontman soaks in the scenery; the never-ending sprawls of unspoilt land which lay at the feet of the mountains and the town’s castle which watches over from the horizon. Taking in the panorama, the frontman talks about the magnificent spectacle. He talks about appreciating the moment and making the most of the cards we’ve been dealt, before the band close with ‘100% Endurance’, punctuating the tone for what is an idyllic weekend in a beautiful part of the world… tarmac ‘n’ all.

Tags: Perfume Genius, shame, Sleaford Mods, Viagra Boys, Wet Leg, Yard Act, Pohoda, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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