SPOT Festival in Arhus: Megaphonic Thrift, Daniel Norgren and more

So, after about three days in Denmark and more than 18 hours in a bus, I am back from SPOT festival in Arhus which was the main act for me because this city is incredibly charming and beautiful. I actually took about 10 photos of bands and countless pictures of the city itself because the architecture, nature and art in this city are scattered everywhere, it’s like a scavenger hunt for photographers which I ain’t but that didn’t keep me from pretending I am one.

Anyways, I ended up in a room with 5 other girls (so no hilarious romantic comedies with three guys as initially proposed, sorry folks but this is my life and it’s devoid of romantic comedy) and was only a little introverted and weird but managed to keep a socially confident act up for most of the time. Despite that I spend a lot of time on my own wandering around the city. I don’t know why but whenever I get lost on purpose somewhere strange, I like to be on my own. Oh yes, I am made for showbusiness the way I like to be around people all the time.

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Hanne Kolsto

The bands I saw were great. I discovered Hanne Kolsto on my research for the festival and nearly organized an interview but then settled on five other acts (two of which I didn’t get, sad smiley face). Boy, was I wrong. Ms Kolsto has embellished her act in a way that I can only explain with magic. She used to be a songwriter with a loop machine and that sounded promising but not nearly as good as what we’ve seen at the musikhuset in Arhus. She has added a guitar player and a very impressive stage act, with atmospheric lighting. Her vocals are a lot better than they used to be a couple of years ago and her music has a very powerful Florence & The Machine meets Zola Jesus style to it. Very much recommended and her single “The City” is a real beauty that sounds exhausting during the first couple of seconds but then turns in a very haunting direction.

The Megaphonic Thrift

One of my interview partner-acts was The Megaphonic Thrift, a band from Norway that has a 90s Alternative style, reminded me with their new album (dto.) more of the Broken Social Scene with a lot of noise breaks. My favourite song is quite possibly “Broken Glass, yellow fingers” because you never know what’s lurking around the corner with this one.

The band was really cool and relaxed and we had a nice conversation about the producing of their album, their own musical tastes and the hard-knocked life of musicians. As soon as I cut it, I will probably post it on the LOHRO blog where you can listen to it.

Interview tip No. 73: Meeting the band while or after eating is always the best because they will be in a very good and chatty mood.

Their concert was one loud beast and therefore pretty awesome.

Sun River

Another great and incredibly new band I saw was Sun River. These guys do all sorts of other projects (actually as well as The Megaphonic Thrift, Scandinavian musicians are pretty busy) and have kind of their own label. They do mellow and very sunny guitar rock and the singer is a beast. The interview was weirdly tense, maybe I am just too neurotic but it was not nearly as relaxed as the other ones which might stem from the fact that Sun River are so new that the show at Arhus was their first and they will release their album in summer and haven’t gotten a proper press text, yet: it’s hell for a journalist because you have to ask all the lame-o basic questions and apparently I am not very good with that (or don’t feel very comfortable with it). But I was good enough to get that singer Martin learned the bass guitar when he was a kid (which the other band members didn’t know – you can call me Sherlock, if you will), which is incredibly unusual. But his mom used to play in a cool 70s girlband and played a bass guitar that she then gave to him. We were all impressed.

Reptile Youth

One very surprising interview was with Reptile Youth who I completely misunderstood from their hell of a dance song “Speeddance“. They are very ambitious, creative and serious about their music, which I didn’t expect and I am sorry for that. They actually started the band over in China for an entrepreneur project and wanted to see how big they can get there. That’s probably why they started out as a party band with this not so perfect name of Reptile Retarded. They mingled Electro with 70s rock and did a lot of shows. But the Chinese culture of youth rebellion and political oppression probably changed the light hearted start and once back in Denmark, they started to think the whole idea over. When they went to the recording studio in London (together with producers for The Cure and Hot Chip), they had some sort of metamorphosis what they wanted to do with the band (which by then they knew was a diamond in the making) and what they wanted to convey. Enter Reptile Youth which is a far better and more complex name. The “Reptile” by the way refers to the reptile brain which is responsible for the fight or flight reaction when the logical thinking shuts down in a stressful situation (like, when I have to sit in a bus with a lot of music business people and I don’t know anyone…there was a lot of blood).

Mads, the singer and what you would call in German “Rampensau” of the band also said that getting into this place where he gets at every live show is not as easy and not always comes naturally. I think a lot of people expect that those energetic frontmen and -women are always like that but they hardly ever are because if they would be, they probably would not be very nice to be around and also have heart attacks every few hours. But there he was, incredibly calm and not ripping of his shirt to crowdsurf which I appreciated.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see their show because some of the venues were painfully small and you couldn’t get in which is lucky because crowded, tiny rooms let my reptile brain kick in (all the blood, oh my god).

Thee Attacks

A very surprising moment of the Rampensau-phenomenon occurred at the Thee Attacks show. The band is on the German/Danish label Crunchy Frog and does some sort of retro rock (they are like the Hives with a little more early-60s-The-Who infusion) but unfortunately without the great heavy set monster songs and only with the catchy radio songs that won’t surpass the 4 minutes. Nothing bad about that and their music skills are nice enough but it didn’t wow me. However, they have a real Mercury as a singer. This guy is like a lightning bolt of sexual energy on stage, I am not kidding. Without his voice he would have been the perfect parody of every God of Rock ever but Jimmy has also the voice to match and therefore passes this girl’s critical music nerd evaluation. It’s a joy to watch and I only felt a little bad for the other band members because you truly don’t pay attention to them when there’s a ball of fire on stage with them.

I probably won’t buy their album but their live shows are a hoot and what is Rock’n Roll if not mainly a genre of great live bands?

Papir

My last show (and then I faltered like an old lady because somehow I was constantly tired during the whole festival) was Papir, who both a colleague and Sun River suggested (latter also because Papir are at their label). And these guys are the dream of every Zappanale fan. It’s postrock and purely instrumental. I am usually not that much into instrumental bands because I am way too obsessed with vocals and lyrics and many instrumental bands seem to me like they just ramble on (yeah, this is my ignorant blind spot in music, sorry), but Papir managed to infuse their songs, their endlessly long songs with a lot of great ideas and moments that actually added a proper story to the music.

They really should play at the Zappanale, people will love them there.

Daniel Norgren

My favourite act by far, however, was Daniel Norgren from Sweden. He stuck out at the main line-up like a golden thumb. Daniel does Blues with some hillbilly country infusions but only so light that they make his growly Blues songs more juicy. He came with two band members, one very enthusiastic young man aka Anders Grahn on the bass (an actual bass) and one at the keyboard (I think his name was Anders as well, I have no idea about the rest, oh internet, y u so scarce on information?). The lighting of the venue was horrific for a blues act, Daniel and band were drenched in a probably quite hot red light, while there was some neon green lighting around the walls that only a Klaxons concert could bare.

Despite that, it was just authentic like he was bleeding the songs out and this is something that marks certain people. They might not be into showmanship and interviews (I wanted to but didn’t get it…dang) but they get on stage and pour their hearts out and no one doubts that their music comes from deep within.

Mads from Reptile Youth talked about live shows and said that he respects artists like Nick Cave and Neil Diamond that just go on stage and share something with the audience, something personal and raw. And Daniel is one of those artists. And you just hear it, that’s the beauty of it.

You listen and it moves you, even through recordings you feel a connection that goes deeper than just liking the melody and the lyrics, it resonates. That’s what counts.

(the repetition of the guitar line gets you into a very spiritual trance – but not the crazy kind)

And that was it. On the bus tour back I wondered whether my enthusiasm about festivals is finally over because this binge-watching of concerts was a little tiresome for me and all these people – will they ever not be annoying and in the way? But the experience itself was a good one, the people I was with were also actually very nice and I can evaluate my personal festival-crisis at least two more times this year at the Immergut and the Zappanale – hurra.

Next up: That was the month that was: April. Who knows when I will put that up.

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