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Earth Garden 2024 Closes with the Triumphant Return of Xtruppaw

Updated: Jun 24

photo: Raffaela Zammit

Sunday, June 9th marked the closing of this year’s edition of Earth Garden, a festival that surely needs no introduction. Since its inception in 2007, Earth Garden has stealthily gained a reputation as one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, basking in the radiant allure of the sun-soaked island of Malta. Garnering recognition as one of the top 20 festivals in Europe on two occasions, Earth Garden stands as a testament to its unparalleled charm and magnetic appeal. But the day will remain special for the return on stage, after five years, of one of Malta’s iconic bands, ‘Xtruppaw’.

The rumours that this might happen started during last year’s edition of Rock The South, but none of the band members or any of the organisers from both festivals ever confirmed any of the rumours until announcing them earlier this year. Although they were not billed as the headliner (Kula Shaker headlined Sunday), the news caused a furore amongst music lovers from all genres.

photo Andy Fava

Of course, putting on a show after years of hibernation is no small feat. Once this was confirmed, the band started planning, but rehearsals came first. This was not as easy as one might think, with two members of the band living abroad, Rex in Saudi Arabia and Jeffrey in Spain. The time when the individual members started practicing varied, but they began a few months earlier. The members in Malta started rehearsing one month and a half months before Earth Garden. Rex joined them three weeks before the concert. As for "full band rehearsals," all the members were in Malta two weeks before the gig, rehearsing almost every day. Rehearsals with the session musicians were conducted separately.

Although the buzz that Xtruppaw was playing live again had been stirred months before, the festival grounds had a certain atmosphere since early Sunday afternoon. The build-up for Xtruppaw actually, commenced a few days before when a hilarious advert popped up on Facebook. Most of the metalheads were spotted mostly at the Music Playground, where some of the best jams took place during the four days of the festival. They made their way towards the Roots Stage, where preparations were underway by a numerous group of hazmat suit-covered stagehands, plus the band members in incognito, hurrying to set up the stage. Once done, it was time for the show.

Of course, an explanation of why Xtruppaw were not seen around was necessary, and a small docu-film was presented on the big screen on stage. In short, the narrator asked about the band members, ultimately showing that they had been cryogenically frozen for five years. A lab assistant searching for a wall socket to charge his Nokia 3310 accidentally unplugged the one giving power to the cryogen units, thus five thawing guys were assisted on stage with a ‘Sci-Fi Opening Theme Song’ in the background, prompting the band into one of their most famous songs, ‘Diska Cool Għar-Radio’.

photo Andy Fava

We asked the band whose idea was the intro and choreography during the concert. They replied, “We wanted to come up with a funny concept of why Xtruppaw 'vanished.' During group chats and calls that we made regularly for the preparation of the concert, we came up with various ideas, but the idea that we were cryogenically frozen stuck the most. Then we started trying to come up with ideas of how we could present ourselves during the concert. Jeffrey had the idea to make it a form of a television program. But the other pieces, such as the mobile phone and someone cutting the light of the tanks where we were frozen, etc., which together created the opening of the concert, came from brainstorming and collective ideas from all members of the band.”

photo: Clint Cassar

From the first notes of the first song, it was clear that this was not going to be just another Xtruppaw gig. Maybe the long wait to see them perform again, maybe the alcohol, or the heat of that afternoon, but the energy shown by the crowd was amazing, and I have not witnessed it for a long time at any concert on the island. The crowd (probably in thousands) danced, crowd surfed, jumped, cheered, and sang every lyric with every song the band performed on stage. The setlist was as follows: Diska Cool Għar-Radio, Ħabbtu ma’ Rizza, Min Ħexa Mexa, L-Avventuri Meraviljużi ta’ Żaren Elvis Ciappara u Ħrejjef Simili, Rajt ma Rajtx, Frutsalad, El Cupa Hangue, Dear Poni, (Ewro) Viżjoni ta’ Mħabba, Hot Rock, Ġibtha B’Idejja, Dlam Cappa u Riħa ta’ Ħara, Għanja ta’ l-iXtruppaw, Il-Puberta’, Pudina, Iċ-Ċawl Iċul, Glorja Tonna, Għana, Malta, Innu Marċ (Viva l-Kbir San Ċipress), Ġenerazzjoni ta’ Meqrudin: basically the best from their releases: ‘Is-CD Ta' L-iXtruppaw’ (2006) and ‘Xtruppozitorju’ (2013).

We again asked the band, “Surely you expected the people in front of you, but did you expect how you were welcomed?” to which they replied, “Although people's comments in the weeks and days before the concert were very positive, we were not expecting the crowd participation and buzz to be so great. Of course, we are very honoured, and we greatly appreciate the support we have had.”

photo: Clint Cassar

Unfortunately, the time allocated for the band ran out, and they had to vacate the stage for Kula Shaker. They surely were a hard act to follow. Everybody was left with the same impressions after that ecstatic show, and not even one from the crowd was disillusioned. The band gave their best, and the crowd reacted to both the show and the music, making it an evening to remember.

Hopefully, the show was recorded for the future. It would be nice for the fans to have a memento of the night, maybe on DVD or just a CD (double probably) to remember the evening when Xtruppaw returned from the depths of the cryogenic abyss. As mentioned before, two members work and live abroad, thus making it very difficult for us to get another performance soon, hence a memento of the gig would be very appropriate.

The hazmat suits - photo: Xtruppaw Facebook

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