The best of day two in Belgium...
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Read day one HERE

After a Thursday where the number of Genuinely Great Bands was outweighed by the Not That Bad, I Suppose It’ll Do variety, Friday presents an all-action, run-between-stages bill that well and truly kicks Dour 2009 into memorable status.

Sky Larkin are the personal first-on, following an early afternoon pilgrimage to the Mecca of savings that is Lidl – props for the quality pastries and fruit, much needed after the day before’s diet of booze and frites. The Leeds-based trio draw mainly from this year’s ‘The Golden Spike’ debut, but find time to deliver a new song – the title escapes me, and just as well really as lead singer Katie Harkin informs the crowd to “forget this ever happened”. It’s the first time they’ve played it outside of the practise room apparently, but with a bolder emphasis on textural envelopment than the upbeat, spiky indie they’ve made their name with, the song is an intriguing glimpse into the Where Next? of this evolving band.

There’s time to catch a couple of previously unheard acts before some bigger hitters make their presences felt. Starving have a lead singer with a fantastic voice, but her soulful tones are rendered rather impotent by the weirdly trip-hop-goes-funk backing of the band itself. The Bewitched Hands On The Top Of Our Heads are worth a look based on their name alone; what greets me upon arrival at the Magic Tent is a multi-person band big on sing-along gang vocals and instrument-swapping playfulness. It’s a little like Los Campesinos!, albeit grown up and worrying about the mortgage rather than what pint of cider to try next.

Marnie Stern’s short-shorts get the front few rows of boys salivating – as do those of her similarly attired bassist – but close your eyes and still the experience packs a serious punch, as the guitarist’s dazzling fret-play develops standard-issue indie-rock stomps into neon nightmares of dizzying colour – a good thing, case you were wondering. She’s in good spirits, too, the banter lively and good-humoured. Deerhoof pick up from where Stern leaves off, the Californian avant-pop foursome settling into their stride swiftly, and ultimately delivering what could prove to be the set of the festival. With playground-synchronised dance moves, flashing props and lasting smiles, the quartet’s setlist emphasises the bop-friendly side of their repertoire, and the response is uniformly positive.

The Dillinger Escape Plan, into …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, into Mercury Rev (via the heavy beats of Rinôçérôse), into Animal Collective: if any other festival in Europe can string together a series of performances of that quality, I’ve not seen it listed (and there are plenty of ads for other events around the Dour site). Dillinger are on the big, outside stage – where Santigold played the night before – and keep their faithful fully engaged by playing catalogue classic ‘43% Burnt’ second. ‘Milk Lizard’ represents their more recently honed melodic side, but the progressive-hardcore troupe show no signs of slowing down physically, putting in the sort of bruising performance that has one’s knees aching in appreciation.

…Trail Of Dead balance quality cuts from their recent ‘The Century Of Self’ long-player with much-loved offerings from high watermark album release ‘Source Tags & Codes’ – the response is predictably feverous, although Conrad Keely’s destructive end to the band’s set – he pushes over an amplifier stack, prior to smashing the shit out of his guitar – is an unsettling throwback to the group’s wilder, immature days. Can they afford to wreck such gear? Nowadays, maybe not – either this is a blow-out to cherish, or there’s something not right in the band. Or, they felt they had an off night, whatever. Mercury Rev only get 20 minutes of attention before it’s time for Animal Collective, but the Jonathan Donahue-led outfit are suitably ethereal over on the Red Frequency stage (one of two outdoor stages). As for AC: if you’ve seen them live this year, you’ll already know just how immersive an experience they provide in the flesh, as snippets of songs well known blend into almost-improvised passages of luscious noise, while the accompanying visuals dance merry across the synapses. Come ‘Fireworks’, the effect is bordering on the religious.

Fuck Buttons can’t help but struggle after such an impressive, fully immersive performance, but the London duo’s singular brand of noise has its fans, and a good number flock to their seizure-beat structures and drone-blessed atmospherics. A few sound issues threaten to unbalance the relationship between the brutal and the blissful, but ties are tightened and eventually harmony is achieved. The new, punchier-of-throb material seems ready to embrace the dancefloor, and those at the front react in the only suitable way: by dancing themselves stupid.

Speaking of dance, Dour again switches from indie and rock to artists more inclined to making their audience spin around on their heels when the sun’s finally fully down and the early hours call. Diplo and Rusko are the big names performing live, with a frenetic set from Drop The Lime raising temperatures in a scene-setting fashion before either take the stage; but it’s in the DJ set of Digitalism where most find their groove as the clock ticks nearer and nearer to dawn.

And I trudge, wearily, back to my sleeping bag.

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And today? Well, try these on for size: The Death Set, 65daysofstatic, Esser, O'Death, The Gaslight Anthem, Roots Manuva, I Like Trains, Kap Bambino, EPMD, Pet Shop Boys... I could go on.
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