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Azkena Rock Festival, public success, not so much musically | Culture

by News Room
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In terms of data, the 22nd edition of the Azkena Rock Festival, which was held in Vitoria-Gasteiz between Thursday the 20th and Saturday the 22nd, was an unqualified success. The attendance record was broken, 50,000 entries into the venue between the three days; The organization was impeccable, the artists performed professionally and the sound was excellent. The Basque capital got involved as it always does, it merged with the festival and everyone seemed to feel at home. Until the time he respected the contest. The threatening gray clouds that did not disappear did not finish unloading. It only really rained for a couple of hours on Thursday. The rest of the time, cloudy and temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees, as a Vitorian said half seriously, half jokingly: “This is what we call summer here.”

However, musically this year’s edition was flatter than previous years. We were bad used to it. Patti Smith in 2022 and Iggy Pop in 2023 gave two spectacular concerts, one of those that leave memories. But this year it has not been like that. The headliners delivered, but they did not surprise. On Friday Queens Of The Stone Age were fine, nothing more. Josh Homme’s band did not seem like the same one that passed through the same stage more than 10 years ago. That one was a steamroller, this one had less punch and more swing, nothing to object if it weren’t for the fact that it was difficult not to compare it and it didn’t come out well. Not as many people had been seen together at the Azkena as that night, in part because many people had come to see Arde Bogotá, an omnipresent group from Cartagena that was included, not without some controversy, in this year’s poster.

A moment from the concert of the group Arde Bogotá, at the Azkena Rock Festival.jordi vidal

Festival regulars take very seriously who comes each year and argued that the group’s guitar pop is not what they expect from Azkena. They are right, they are good musicians, that is indisputable, but their sound, a direct heir to the theatrical and lively style of the first Bunbury, did not convince the skeptics. It’s true, they attracted a new, younger audience. If that is what was wanted, it was achieved. That melon, that of the ever-increasing middle age of those attending the Azkena, will have to be opened at some point. L7, the female quartet from Los Angeles, which took off in the years of the grunge-, They sound so classic that at times they seemed like The Runaways. The young Spanish promise La Perra Blanco was great. Redd Kross, veterans of the power pop, they had a lot of fun, almost more than the audience. It was an entertaining day but not memorable.

On Saturday the tone was the same. Many things, good. None colossal. Nothing much happened on the main stage. Band of Horses are so bland that there is no way to get excited about them. The pop rock of Sheryl Crow, star of the night, is so adult, so polished, so lacking in edges that it neither bothers nor impresses. The contrast with the concert by Mavis Staples, an 84-year-old lady of immeasurable talent, was curious. Her live performance, possibly the best thing about this year’s festival, was all beauty and wisdom. Sometimes she had to sit down, because at her age her strength is scarce, but both she and her band gave a lesson in beauty and elegance. A few meters away, the reunion of The Pleasure Fuckers, the group of the late Kike Turmix, which has gotten back together almost two decades after his death, also sounded incredible. One remembered a rowdy and disorderly group, but this reincarnation with Scott Deluxe Drake as a vocalist was a fabulous punk rock machine.

Redd Kross performance at the Azkena Rock Festival.
Redd Kross performance at the Azkena Rock Festival.jordi vidal

If someone had wanted to get an impression of what rock is in 2024 based on the bands at the festival, they would have come to the conclusion that the youngest ones make hard rock psychedelic, like the Australians Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, a kind of harder version of Tame Impala or the Americans All Them Witches, the ones covered in this edition. Nashville’s are psychedelic, martial and hypnotic at their best. Sometimes they evoke the Pink Floyd of the seventies, other times they remind us of extreme The Doors, on some occasions it seemed that they could be compared to the Swans, but they do not reach the real and furious toughness of Michael Gira’s band. At least we went home with a delicious ringing in our ears, a sign that something had happened. When rock doesn’t reach your heart, the least it can do is physically harass you.

A moment from the L7 concert.
A moment from the L7 concert.Óscar L. TEJEDA

The overall feeling of this year’s festival is that it has been a lane contest. An edition that will not be among the greats. It had to happen sometime. Most of us who attend are so loyal that at this point we don’t even consider not returning next year. Just in case.

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