Those two pairs of white dots are Orbital.It’s possible that Orbital could never have lived up to my expectations from having wanted to see them since I was 15, in 1995. It’s also possible that they played too early (9:45pm), that it was at the Paramount instead of in some British field, that I was too sober or frustrated trying to find my date, or any number things. For whatever reason, though, Orbital left me sadly unmoved. They played a fine mix of tracks from their new album Wonky, which I dig, and their old stuff, and everything sounded great. The sequencing was maybe a little weird, though: they played “Halcyon + On + On” as their second song (so, just before 10pm), and somehow the live version’s mash-up of “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” and “Shot Through the Heart” just sounded like the incredibly cheesy stadium rock it is, rather than the cool, wholly unexpected move it did when you first heard that version on some CD single. They played “Beelzedub” and I kept waiting for them to cut it into the original “Satan” but they never did. Probably the closest I got to really losing my shit was for the fairly epic Brown Album cut “Impact (The Earth is Burning)”–and for their mix of the Dr. Who theme. It was, sensibly enough for a big headliner, a show of very big gestures–massive hooks and breakdowns, the Hartnoll brothers waving their hands in the air goofily behind their headlamps–but ones which left me feeling out of step rather than swept up. Maybe I just should’ve gone back and seen them in ’96.More my speed were the parties on either side of Orbital Thursday… On a boat party that afternoon, UK dude Star Slinger ramped a party up from chill disco to Miami bass and trap music, highlighted by a mix of Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony’s “Crossroads.” Lots of people dancing, unseasonably late sunny weather–you couldn’t beat it. Also incredible was the vibe at the semi-secret Boiler Room (http://boilerroom.tv) party, where XXXY played a fine housey set to a friendly and at enthusiastically dancing crowd around 7pm. After Orbital, at Re-Bar, German DJ/producer Robag Wruhme played a sustaining set of reverent house tracks, mild techno, and maybe one or two of his own acoustically spacey cuts. Pachanga Boys’ slipstreaming “Time” was a highlight. He opened with Roland Clark’s “Speak Lord (I Get Deep)” (later sampled for Fatboy Slim’s “Song For Shelter”) and closed with Chuck Roberts’ immortal “My House” (“let there be house!”), effectively bookending the set with two sermons on house music itself. At 1:45am, house lights already long up, he ended his set with a shrug that suggested he could have easily kept going for another 6 hours. If only.It just goes to show you that Decibel isn’t all about a couple big headlining acts, that the best stuff can often be found at the smaller parties on the periphery, and that part of what really makes the festival is that whole cumulative party-hopping experience. And there’s three more days of it yet.