Nicholas Jaar, Clark, Boys Noize, Anna of the North among other highlights at relentlessly fun Belgian festival
Cai Trefor
16:43 19th August 2017

With the rain lashing down when we arrive onsite, everyone seems to have flocked inside the nearest tent for Swedish pop star Tove Lo. Packing the Dance Hall with synth-led, sensual pop whilst flashing during 'Talking Body', she demonstrates a proper popstar swagger, ending on the witty 'Cool Girl' and her biggest hit 'Habits'.

Later in the day, Halsey - aka Ashley Nicolette Frangipane - continues the pop vibe on the Main Stage, stalking the stage whilst delivering well-produced singalong hits like 'Now Or Never'. "Some songs are about being really good at fucking, some are about being not so good at it," the American songwriter reveals, unafraid to share intimate details before a guitar-heavy and sexual 'Eyes Closed' during which she gets face to face with the crowd and leans into the front row's arms. Closing with the empowering 'Hurricane', cannons shoot out American coloured confetti over the crowd as a rainbow spreads across the sky and the sun beams down: a fitting end to a triumphant performance.

Another artist who could/should be just as big as Halsey or Tove Lo is Anna of the North.

Competing against London Grammar and Mount Kimbie performing at the same time, it's unsurprising that the Norwegian artist's show is an intimate one. With less than 100 people in the crowd, Anna's dreamy electronica is captivating. Starting off quite slow and shy, vocalist Anna's confidence builds along with the size of the audience, getting everyone singing along to her icy bangers 'Someone', 'Lover' and new single 'Money' - she even jokes that she'll marry the guy on the front row with a proposal sign.

In stark contrast to the sugary pop just passed are off-kilter leftfield electronic music stars Clark, who is signed to Warp Records. Clark challenges the ears with punishing, pace-shifting, shape-shifting electronic beats - somewhere between techno and IBM. Two hypnotising, in-sync dancers ensure there's something for the eyes to focus on as well as the ears. Visually it gets as intense as two neon flashing cages are wheeled onstage, the beats get increasingly out-ther and the faceless dancing more like a fine art performance. 

More easy listening is Nicolas Jaar, who intricately builds up bleeping lasers and synths whilst smoke covers the darkened stage: it's all very atmospheric and gradual. Layering his own voice over bass-heavy synth crashes, it's worth the wait - especially to feel the floor shake from the heart-pounding bass.

Later on, Germany's Boys Noize takes no prisoners with his harsh and punishing live set. Bringing his dystopian 'Mayday' vision to life with a dark and industrial fusion of electro, acid and techno, Alex Ridha's productions appeal to bearded older guys and younger techno heads. Essentially, it's a deliberate pulverisation of all the senses, complete with flashing red warning-like strobes: a proper electronic rave.

Halfway through the day the heavens open, quite apocalyptically, leading everyone to take shelter from the returning grey clouds. Consequently, we find ourself getting lost in the multi-coloured balloon-covered psychedelic universe of The Flaming Lips. The weather is fittingly surreal for the trippy show that's developing onstage as eccentric glitter-faced frontman Wayne Coyne brings a giant 'Fuck Yeah Pukkelpop' balloon onstage. A few minutes later he's riding an inflatable unicorn over the crowd: it's brilliantly bonkers, and quite magical, as the sun starts beaming down. The next he's whacking a giant gong with strobes flashing a rainbow of colours... Completely unlike anything else we've seen at Pukkelpop.

Closing out on Friday are Dutch 'future house' producer Oliver Heldens - who unexpectedly veers away from his usual pop/EDM style in favour of a techno-leaning set in the Boiler Room, keeping the party going until 2am with star-like strobes glistening on the roof - and electro swing band Parov Stelar on the Main Stage, who get everyone dancing to their unique sound - even the security guards.

Migos, Cashmere Cat, PVRIS, The Pretty Reckless, Marshmello and Flume will close out Pukkelpop festival today.