Malmö festival was the self-prescribed experience for festival withdrawal. It produced euphoric effects in small pockets and nourished cravings but there was a price to pay in kicking the habit. Unforeseen challenges and general naivety made the trip memorable with brute intensity in a dead city. What I mean by dead is that I didn’t see any edge to the place, nothing was really happening (besides for festival), the living stay home inside their coffins while the dead play in moderation before the swedish reaper politely asks em to return home. The one and only liquor store closes mid-day, the bars close shortly after midnight and the store-beers are just awful. Searching for excitement in Sweden is like looking for good basketball players in Denmark. On any given day, there’s a 25% chance someone might show up and a 50% chance they’re decent so usually you end up shooting hoops with no one to challenge you but yourself. What I mean by intensity is going for a ride with little money and surviving on the streets. The first bad omen was losing 10 kr. to a coffee machine and not being able to make sense of how to get the money back. Not a big loss but a loss nonetheless. We learned that most places accept our Danish crowns but the exchange is received at a one to one ratio with the Swedish krona. So, any time you buy something you pay the higher swedish prices and lose a little extra on top with the exchange. It’s a lose lose situation. We were forced to count every crown, luckily we saved money sleeping around town.
Stepping off the train into Malmö central station had me gung-ho about the next 24 hours. Nothing was planned and the only item on the itinerary was hard alcohol. A bottle of whiskey is like bringing an extra sweater to wear underneath your skin. The hard lesson we learned is hard alcohol is not easy to get. There’s one store, owned by the government, and it closes around 5-6 pm. The control over alcohol shows up on the faces of the citizens. I’m the only guy beer in hand during Mikael Wiehe‘s main stage performance. He’s an older fella, playing music your grandparents can enjoy. Good sound, good songs and good musicians. His stage banter danced around like the tip of a conductors stick and all I could understand was “Bradley Manning” and “Julian Assange”. Getting fizzled off 2.5 % alcohol beverages we venture further into festival area and are struck by two beautiful sirens killing it softly on stage with chill-wave sensuality and steamy soft-core vocals. They’re called Say Lou Lou and that’s either a french expression or infant yap. The best part was how beautiful these girls were and I think 100% of the male audience thought so too; daydreaming of sharing an early morning vanilla yogurt with these girls in a white room on an all-white bed. I left reality with a blood alcohol level of .01 and thought I might never come back. I fell further into hypnosis by Anna Viser‘s gyrating hips at an oriental dance exhibition. Lovely ladies young and old, of all pan tones, moved them bodies to an ipod bumping world music with the accompaniment of a live percussionist who gave the doumbek hell. Shifting rhythms and alternating currents produced a visible connection between body and sound. The crowd of Malmös minorities yelped, hollered and whistled with cheer. These dancers would have been exactly what the saudi prince had ordered. Capping off the night of music was Linnea Olsson and she hit a grand-slam, an expression nobody here understands. There’s a young princess on stage with her cello, looping bass lines, laying melodies on top and delivering a powerful vocal. Each number is stunning, the crowd responds with standing ovations and she is in total control of her sound. She’s a cleaner version of Björk armed with a big classical axe. I felt beyond satisfied by that performance and so began the exploration of a non-existant night-life. With no money and no where to go, we crashed by a coffee shop that had suitable ikea furniture outside. It got damp and chilly before I could count to 2 am.
Waking up in an over night freeze, we had to go to the nearest indoor facility open at dawn. McDonald’s welcomed us in with open arms. Hot coffee and a cheeseburger was like taking a hot shower after a week long grind. No one is about but the alcoholics, homeless, and employees of this sanctuary. Walking around sleepless in the early morning felt like being in the perfect movie where everyone is fulfilling their script and nailing their roles. The bus driver arrives at 8:55, picking up tired actors and dropping off the new cast into our scene. I’m not part of the movie, I am just an observer but I can’t shake this strange feeling any longer and it’s driving me up the coconut tree. I want to break free, improvise off the script and piss on the director. I had lost my wits so I drowned myself in a Zywiec and took a nap riverside. The stale jazz music sure helped me in to a state of intense day dreaming right until the sound of a distorted guitar had shaken me out of unconsciousness and my operating system hit reboot. From Dead Air shook up the festival with heavy riffs and an inspired performance by a growling vocalist. They seemed young, like they were just beginning their studies at university and deciding if rock n roll is a plausible life choice. The drum/bass mix wasn’t right but the performance was exciting, relaxed and full of good humor. With friends moshing, older folks curiously observing, and me getting energy from the band it was time to go and explore for more. I had found it in Klubbkören, a 30-piece choir providing a nice mix of RnB, dance, hip-hop, and world sounds conducted by a hipster band leader. The band leader is bringing energy to the choir with his funky dance moves, cueing vocal lines with flamboyant hand gestures and flashy movements. I was fascinated by the concept and the vocalists as individuals proved to be very powerful. A good-time was had and a cheeseburger was well-deserved. The final band, The Driftwood Sign, was not anything spectacular, just young fellas doing a heavier Pearl Jam. The drum sound was particularly disappointing, a non-existent kick drum ruined the whole sound for me and the band. The tent was packed and people enjoyed it but I was ready to pack it in and get back to the Mediterranean of the North.
Overall, it was more of a cultural learning than a music festival. What really irked me was how much street food you could possibly pack into a city center. I guess food festival is part of the package, among the art stuff and other important happenings. Just a handful of stellar moments among the throngs of beautifully restrained Swedes. The inability to get inebriated gave me the sober perspective of everyday culture. You need to make some money to enjoy all the expensive food and drink. To make that money you gotta find a producer who’ll give you the role. Feels like a weight on the soul that I’m not particularly interested in. I wish I liked making money and some people think that’s a poor excuse but maybe it’s a poor motivator. I don’t really know where I’m going with this but I don’t think I would go back to Malmö as I much rather spend time in Copenhagen where things are happening. You can make shit happen without money. But you’re in shit when money doesn’t happen. Invest in yourself, your soul, and a money tree.