The xx seems like the worst festival band. But The xx is the best festival band. How can this be?
The young British trio made slow, quiet music with a big sound on the main stage — the quietness due to Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim’s barely used guitars, and vocals that hovered at whisper level. The bigness was due to deejay Jamie xx’s heavy dance beats and bass, which thundered into the open air. But even he restrained his section, so the dancier stretches never went on too long. The music was mostly slow and floaty.
Wouldn’t you expect the masses to need some more obvious climax at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night?
You would be wrong. Squatchers went nuts for The xx, running down the hill toward the main stage whooping and hollering, dancing in the footpaths and rubbing up against chain link fences. On one hand it’s not crazy that for a skin-showing, inebriated audience of people in their 20s: the sound of moaning and thudding would be exciting. It’s quite sexual.
On the other hand, The xx are doing something with subtlety and space that forces a kind of meditation on the listener. And bringing that to a festival generation that is otherwise go-go-go, on the Internet 24 hours a day, listening to overproduced and overloaded EDM jams — there’s a sense of relief about it. The kind of relief you need when you’re exhausted, but not going to bed any time soon.