It’s my first trip on tour with the mobile company Volt and we’re headed to Sweden. On the way there I’m excited about the promise of living out my fantasy of touring (unfortunately sans rock-band) being stuck in a van with strangers with many hours of asphalt ahead of us. We go through the talk talk of getting to know one another but after a few hours I’m hypnotized by the endless amount of evergreen and fall into a series of naps. Upon arrival there’s a sense of disorganization with festival management (no toilets, no water, lack of communication) but I couldn’t care-less as long as there is food & shelter for me. The next day everything is sorted out, things are up and running, and the work I’m assigned to do is to promote the service that is Volt. It isn’t all too difficult a job, it just requires being able to hold a conversation and I’m genuinely interested in what these young kids have to say. Being a New Yorker, I always peak their interest and they are curious about me but it’s a mutual interest… I think if I set up a “Kiss the New Yorker Booth” I’d make much more dough than selling “power in your pocket”.
The first night of music, I’m exhausted from a full-day of working, walking, & holding long conversations with drunk kids who are fascinated by me. I had the opportunity to see french power-pop band Phoenix. And they killed it with great sound, innovative visual production, & a tight performance. Each sound carefully constructs the piece of music and develops into a tower of pop where everyone is allowed to ride the elevator to different heights. They opened up really strong with Lasso, a personal favorite of mine from their first album, with its uplifting chorus and great energy from behind the shells. Another track from their latest release that really brings the bounce, Chloroform, was a pleasant tune with huge synths riding a chill-wave groove. They put on a really good show and would surely see them again given the opportunity. On the way back to camp, I stumbled into a smaller tent that sheltered the madness known as, Tweak Bird, I am biased against 2 piece bands because I feel like there’s always an element in the music that is missing but this duo delivered an all-you-can-eat performance of sweaty rock n’ roll, tuned down riffs, and drunken banter. Can’t knock em too hard because they had the audience hungry for more.
The following day I saw Kings of Convenience & Arctic Monkeys. In the past years I’ve only had a spoon-sized sample of these guys and expected two very different tastes which is exactly what was served. The Norwegian duo looked super dorky up on stage and reminded me of the New Zealand’s comedy export Flight of the Conchords. The music is inoffensive, light on the stomach and perfect for digesting a hang-over on a sunny Swedish afternoon. Their sound is like eating a really good salad. Their hit I’d Rather Dance With You is a damn good song and seeing it live with their backing band really stretching at moments was a helluva good dip. Fast-foward to the non-existent night-time and the Monkeys are on stage rocking out their hits with zoot-suits and british swag. They were a top pick amongst many of the young bucks in the camp and they proved to be well-prepared for delivering the goods. It was enjoyable, great songs, impressive delivery but anti-climatic to some extent.
The last day proved to be the winner for me with being able to enjoy more performances by the likes of Kurt Vile & The Violators, Shout Out Louds, Tegan & Sarah, Band of Horses, Miriam Bryant, & Fatboy Slim. Kurt Vile is an artistic beast, he channels himself through unknown dimensions that leaves you questioning what the hell am I doing with my life? His hair is full of chi that radiates wildly. They were the band with the most interesting song-structures and guitar sounds. Shout Out Louds were a nice local indie-pop band with a number titled Walking In Your Footsteps that is still in my head. Catchy chord sequences, local pop twist and swedish flavor puts them in the appetizer menu with Phoenix being the main-course. Canadian duo, Tegan & Sarah really brought the goods with a stellar live band, I thought they were top performance next to Phoenix & Slimboy Fat. They are touring their new album Heartthrob and it translates really well into the live-show arena. Band of Horses played almost all down/mid tempo songs that got old & predictable quick, until they closed with their single Funeral which had a great performance with crowd interaction and extended play. Miriam Bryant is young pop singer with a huge voice a la Adele carrying the tunes in theatric style & strong feminine grace. Her artistic performance is one of honest story-telling with charming introductions and mature song backgrounds. And last but not least, Fatboy Slim, an exercise in the text-book of dance music. A diet for anyone who thinks they can move a crowd and keep them in the palm of their hands. My limbs were loose like jelly, my feet all over the beat, and my system was clean of any alcohol or drugs. Truly a master of contemporary dance music.
There was a lot of music that I missed out on but I’m happy to have met so many great young Swedes and taste the beautiful communion that is known through-out Europe as music festival. It was a smaller, more intimate music festival (compared to most festivals) you could run into the same person a few times and walk the whole area in 15 minutes. I had learned a lot on my trip but the most profound knowledge I’ve gained is one, swedish beer sucks, two, swedish girls are easy, and three, sweden has a lot of trees.