The xx @ Lucerna, Prague
The first Night+Day happened in Lisbon last week and it was so much fun! To see it for yourself and to get an idea of what to expect from Berlin and London, take a look at this video. xx The xx
The xx’s reluctant frontwoman on dark nights, darker attire and the pressures of hosting your own festival
The Guardian, Thursday 9 May 2013 05.31 EDT
What was your first festival experience?
Oliver’s mum took us to Reading when we were 14, which, when I think about it now, is pretty hilarious. She was a massive fan of the White Stripes. She saw that Oliver and I were falling in love with live music and took us along. She was way more hardcore than us: she stayed down at the front through punk bands like Dropkick Murphys to watch the White Stripes. I remember being amazed by it all, but at the same time thinking: Get me away from this place.
You’ve gone from the mid-afternoon siesta slot to headliners in a short time. How does it compare?
It’s been quite sudden but although it’s more pressure being high on the bill, our band is better suited to night. We’re awful in daylight – there’s a lot of bumping around and I feel so exposed. We put on a much better show in the dark. I feel more comfortable surrounded by lights and the smoke.
You’re quite shy. Do you find the intensity of festivals hard?
You can try and hide, but actually I find it more relaxing to watch the other bands on the stage I’m about to play on. It makes me feel calmer than sitting backstage thinking: Oh my god, what am I about to do?
Who is your ultimate festival act?
One band who are always incredible to watch at festivals are the Kills. It’s not like they’ve got loads of stage production, it’s just them on stage, going for it. Seeing the two of them side by side, boy and girl, with no obvious lead singer – it inspired the xx hugely. Alison Mosshart came to watch us recently and I could see her from the stage with her new tequila sunrise hair. That was quite a big moment for me.
You’ve just come back from Coachella. What are the differences between UK and US festivals?
I feel like it’s normal to see English people going crazy, but in the US it’s a different kind of wild. There was a lot of screaming at a show we played in America recently and that wouldn’t happen in England. I came off stage thinking: What band were they watching? It shocked me, it was a proper One Direction scream!
How do you manage to reconcile rain ponchos and wellies with your all-black band uniform?
You’ve got to wear wellies. It would be a mudfest without them. Oliver and I went to Glastonbury in 2011 just for fun – the weather wasn’t good, so we bought wellies and got involved like everyone else. If it was raining, I think I’d wear a poncho. I would be happier if it was a black one, though.
You’re curating your own Night + Day festival this summer. As it’s your party, can you sit back and relax for once?
Oh, not at all. It’s our party down to every little detail. We’re considering everything from the atmosphere to the kind of food we want to the DJs we get to play. I’ll be well prepared for my wedding after this •
The xx play Night + Day, Glastonbury, Pukkelpop and Positivus
9:21AM BST 07 May 2013
The typically musical festival vibe of mud and warm beer festival vibe doesn’t really fit London art rock trio The xx, so they curated their own series of live “experiences” this summer, called Day + Night.
The xx, Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim on guitars and vocals, Jamie Smith (better known as Jamie xx) on synths and percussion, all 25, played the first one in Belém, a suburb of Lisbon with a tower that overlooks the Tagus River like a 16th-century chess piece.
Sim described the gig as “like [their] wedding” – it had been over a year in the making and an impressive vision for a band who came to critical attention just four years ago with their Mercury Prize-winning debut album, xx. An eclectic collection of DJ sets, including an awkwardly executed effort from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, emanated from a nearby bandstand.
As is written into their contract, The xx came onstage once darkness had fallen to the eerie, bold synth intro of Try, a track from their second album, Coexist, released last year. Despite being clad in black, the band were blanched out by elaborate, incandescent lighting, which was fiitting with The xx’s live tradition of transforming their bedroom music back catalogue into something rowdy and unrecognisable on stage.
Although Madley-Croft’s husky yelps and Sim’s softly snarly vocals were smart, this show was Smith’s work for the unexpected extras that kept the crowd on their toes. In three years Smith has become a recognised producer and DJ, bringing Gil Scott-Heron a new audience with a remix album in the year he died and producing R’n’B star Drake’s title track, Take Care.
On Sunday, he broke into his cult solo hit Far Nearer, after an underwhelming rendition of Reunion, and shaped the performance with dramatic kettle drum solos, helping to create seamless synthy connections between performances of Missing, Fiction, Night Time and Shelter as cloud-patterned lasers passed overhead.
But The xx’s musical prowess won out through the smoke and mirrors, as was proved by the brave decision to encore with the instrumental Intro, and Angels, into which Madley-Croft poured genuine vocal adoration.
After a setlist of songs about heartbreak, it was a fitting ending. To paraphrase their love-struck song VCR, the band were half in the daytime, half at night, finally by the sea and in the company of hundreds. More festivals should be like this.