In partnership with Sziget Festival
For six days in August, an idyllic wooded island in the middle of the Danube in Budapest is transformed into the Island Of Freedom. It’s home to Sziget, a festival that lays claim to being Europe’s Glastonbury but is, at the very least, Secret Garden Party to the max.
Last week a world-class bill topped by Kings Of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber and Tame Impala made Sziget the grooviest place on the planet, and an incredible array of theatre, dance, discussion, art, comedy and music made it one of the most intriguing too. Here’s a lens-eye’s view…
The Island Of Freedom
On a sun-soaked week, the Szitizens of the island bask in the onsite water-cannons outside the Samsung Coliseum, a dance arena built entirely from wooden pallets.
The skies are alive
Between the spectacular performances at the Cirque De Sziget tent, the crews of towering African stilt-walkers wandering the Global Village and the aerial acrobatics of the nightly Giant Street Theatre show, resembling ABBA doing a spacewalk, Sziget is full of death-defying wonders.
Dua versus lobster
Headlining the first night, Dua Lipa’s set involved rollerskating dancers, a video appearance by Elton John and, during ‘We’re Good’, a comic book attack on our heroine by a giant inflatable lobster. And, honestly, we were pacing ourselves.
Long live the Kings
“I don’t always have fun up here, but this is nice,” Caleb Followill told Sziget as Kings Of Leon kicked up the island’s dust with a Thursday headline set that saw them back on peak form. Opening with ‘The Bucket’ and transformed into golden guitar gods on the screens, they concoct a dynamic set where classics like ‘Taper Jean Girl’, ‘Molly’s Chambers’ and ‘Sex On Fire’ merge perfectly with latter-era bangers ‘Waste A Moment’ and ‘The Bandit’.
The statues fight back
Out by the Theatre And Dance field, Sziget played host to the Living Statue Championship, where Charlie Chaplins, Popeyes and Amazonian forest warriors faced off in an epic battle.
Justin turns Sziget into Belieber Island
Breaking out Space Invader street-dance moves, an acoustic interlude (‘Love Yourself’, ‘Off My Face’) and some of the most ubiquitous pop hits of the past ten years in ‘Sorry’, ‘Ghost’, ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Baby’, a tats-out Justin Bieber brought his ‘Justice’ album tour to Sziget on the Friday with a message of unity and acceptance: “You and I get to be the difference-makers…” Sixteen again, Sziget swooned.
Beach bods ready
It was more dust and pebbles than actual sand, but with its sun loungers, cocktail bars and boats, Sziget’s beach was the perfect place to chill to the sound of hand-pans, join a blindfold spiritual rave or just lie back with a cold one during the day.
Lewis Capaldi holds nothing back
Talking openly about the terrifying lavatorial effects of a recent bout of food poisoning, Lewis Capaldi nonetheless charmed his enormous Saturday crowd with singalongs such as ‘Someone You Loved’.
Calvin Harris gets those hands in the air
Then, digging out the likes of ‘Giant’ and ‘You Got The Love’, superstar DJ Calvin Harris turned Saturday into the Night Of The Living Raveheads.
While Calvin Harris catered to the dance maniacs on the main stage, Beabadoobee was busy blowing holes in the FreeDome tent with her phenomenal modern grunge pop and a low-key rendition of ‘Coffee’, the Gen Z version of Dido‘s ‘Thank You’.
Step into the sun
In the Artzone – out by the covers band stage where tribute acts to Nirvana, Queen, ABBA and more play long into the night – Szitizens can get selfies in a giant metal sun, facing an enormous, faceless orange woman. Just because.
Always akin to the sun coming out herself whenever she steps onstage, Sigrid lifted Sunday’s hungover spirits with her charming party pop.
Anne-Marie gets cruel and cuddly
On a stage festooned with inflatable teddy bears, Anne-Marie delivered a set of pure pop vengeance, “mugging off” ex-boyfriends aplenty in song.
Tame Impala open up a disco wormhole
With 60,000 heads well and truly scrambled by Sunday, who better than Tame Impala to blow them completely with their 12th dimensional takes on classic soul, pop, glam, disco and Motown?
Caribou bring the electronic sunshine
Its mind crowbarred open by Tame Impala, Sziget was in the perfect headpiece to lose it to the future electro evolutions of Caribou in the FreeDome tent.
Humberstone saves the (final) day
The Monkeys steal the show
Arctic Monkeys closed the week with a career-spanning set that shed no light on the direction of their forthcoming new album but illuminated two decades of shape-shifting brilliance. They jump from frantic opener ‘The View From The Afternoon’ to the suave and considered ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’, via desert rock behemoths, power rock R&B, and Lynchian surf rock.
Fontaines send Sziget off with a bang
With their post-punk powerhouse of a show and blitz of balloons, Fontaines D.C. attack the second stage in the closing hours of Sziget 2022 in a valiant attempt – in a week of such varied and spectacular music – to be the only act anyone goes home talking about.
Setting sail for 2023
This chicken will be back next year, as will we. See you there?
Sziget festival will return to the Island of Freedom, Budapest between the 9th and the 14th of August 2023.