Then, at the other end of the field, the Arctic Monkeys unceremoniously strolled around, sang the slinky riff from 2013 single Do I Wanna Know, and the crowd went wild. Girls were climbing on boys’ shoulders, phones were bobbing in the air, everyone was singing. The Monkeys are a band that just have that indefinable “it”, almost to their detriment. Their set was oddly split between crowd-pleasing hits and downfalls that sounded like something out of a David Lynch nightmare set in a cocktail bar on the moon. Their video screens were decidedly lo-fi, projecting hazy images that sounded like overused VHS tapes of the Old Gray Whistle test circa 1979, an impression made worse by Alex Turner’s pinstripe jacket and blow-dried hair.
The dazzling complexity of Turner’s lyrics, the intricate interweaving of guitar and keyboard parts, and the tendency to shift tempos during songs suggest the band might be more comfortable playing with goatee caressing musos in a seedy basement club, but they also have a bunch of generations. hymns in their locker that inspired the biggest crowd at the festival to roar in joint joy. Yet despite playing their rambling rock art as if they didn’t care what anyone else thinks, Arctic Monkeys have the arrogance of a gang confident in their status as the greatest British band of their generation.
On Sunday, The 1975 did enough to suggest they are serious challengers for that crown. Stepping in as unlikely last-minute replacements for American heavy rock monsters Rage Against the Machine, the Manchester band won over the festival crowd with a streamlined set of hits delivered with gleeful exuberance. The 1975 indie piece that fused so tightly with digital pop that it’s indistinguishable, but their live sound proved harsh and tight, while frontman Matt Healy was awkwardly cool and charismatic. It’s hardly rock like older music fans might recognize, but judging by the happy young faces singing along to the effervescent melodies of the 1975s, the guitar music still has life.