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LIVE REVIEW: Wasn’t Born to Follow, Pumpehuset, 09.08.2014

in Live Reviews by
Perfect Pussy (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh / mortenkrogh.com)

Wasn’t Born to Follow, a celebration of all things progressively out-of-step in music, took over a day at Pumpehuset with a strangely diverse but suitable line-up. An earlier, free portion of the day included a set from the Garden, a duo consisting of drummer an bassist, invoking a goth image, playing stuttering punk, with the exception of a hip-hop interlude. The pair tumbled around the stage pulling ridiculous faces, often shouting absurd lyrics about rainbows. It’s intentionally ridiculous, but undeniably entertaining, if for the wrong reasons.

After a break for some rock ‘n’ roll bingo, the main portion of the event begins with Chelsea Wolfe. She walks on stage to a drone of bowed bass and viola, which immediately silences for her to perform a wordless vocal loop. She’s an enigmatic performer, a single muttering of “thanks” is her only audience interaction, but she’s still mesmerizing. There are minimalist moments when the noise breaks, when her guitar is prevalent, when keyboards provide atmosphere, but it slides back into droning for her departure from the stage. It’s also necessary to mention that her drummer is incredible. There are times when you’d swear it was a preprogrammed track if you weren’t watching him play. Even then, there’s a cognitive dissonance.

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Chelsea Wolfe (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

There’s a huge shift in pace to Big Ups, a New York hardcore punk band bringing a completely different kind of noise. In between songs their singer talks about how excited they are to be playing the show and makes self deprecating comments about the band’s technical skills. While they do embody certain DIY ethos, they are also more tuneful than an amateur hardcore band, and at least embrace dynamics between the singer’s quiet, half-talk singing style and his full on screaming. It’s youthful and angsty and satisfying in the way that sets that expend their performer’s energy are.

Compare that with the youthful energy of Canadian indie rockers Ought, who end up being the most pleasant surprise of the evening. They play bouncy, jangling pop music, delivered by a singer affecting Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes while he moon walks in his socked feet. While his bandmates serenely bob up and down, he’s flailing his arms around and breaking the strings on his guitar, and then on the guitar he kept in reserve in case he breaks any strings.

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Ought (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Alternating between the two stages at Pumpehuset, there are times when the main room feels too big, and other, such as when Lust For Youth play, that the smaller stage feels way too small. The space is packed for the Danish representatives of the evening, and there are a lot of familiar faces dancing along to their dreamy, New Wave-inspired set. Everyone is swaying into one another, and in the moment it feels like they should be in the other room. But everything runs to schedule with enough time in between to get a drink, so there isn’t much to complain about.

Back upstairs for Perfect Pussy, the room is mostly empty for the DC-inspired punk group. Singer Meredith Graves channels no one as much as Henry Rollins, straining her voice and her muscles, and posing a very real threat of a boot to the face to those down in front. Any of ideas of having seen energy or flailing limbs in the course of the evening are completely mistaken when compared to Grave’s wild kicks and lunges across the stage. The problem, however, is that for all of her straining, her voice cannot be heard over the crunch and drone of her bandmates. Even when she asks the sound man for more vocals, there’s no improvement. It’s a shame, but a technical problems aside, there is the feeling that those who skipped this set really missed out.

View the gallery here

LIVE REVIEW: Neutral Milk Hotel, Store Vega, Copenhagen 07.08.2014

in Live Reviews by
Instruments sans players, Neutral Milk Hotel, Store Vega. Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh

Having long been confused and surprised by the concerts that Copenhageners seem to completely ignore, there is some satisfaction in finally coming across one that people have come in droves to see. It is cult 90s folk-rockers Neutral Milk Hotel, favourite band of Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate, that drive an already frenzied audience to distraction by revisiting their tiny, if influential, discography.

There are no two ways about this, this is a reunion tour, but it is not exactly a nostalgia-fest. The material focuses very heavily on songs from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, but it is a testament to the quality of the material that nothing sounds remotely dated. Which is not to say that this reviewer was instantly taken in by this set. The posters banning photographs are both welcome (countless gigs have been ruined by a sea of screen occluding the actual band) and at the same time worryingly earnest and serious. It turns out that this ban is extended to professional photographers, which explains the absence of pictures accompanying this review.

As frontman Jeff Magnum takes the stage alone and opens with “The King of Carrot Flowers Part 1” the atmosphere of erupting anticipation is infectious. Justifiably so, since the band’s 15 year hiatus means that for the younger members of the audience this is the first time they have ever had the opportunity to see them live. This is a concert that to some extent cannot possibly go wrong: the material is so familiar to even the casual listener, and the band is made up of musicians who have all had their separate prolific careers. And for the most part it is indeed a complete success, though the man at the sound desk managed to completely fudge up the mix on “Holland, 1945”, which should earn him 13 life-time’s worth of bad luck.

Even in their recordings, Neutral Milk Hotel have always had a ramshackle quality, teetering on the edge between disaster and brilliance. Though time has not mellowed them, the sense of risk is not quite as evident. Instead the drones of brass instruments, distorted acoustic guitar, and the bowed banjo and musical saw of the pixie-like Julian Koster, all merge and swirl wonderfully with Magnum’s nasal singing. This is, effectively, acoustic noise-pop. From this perspective, even moments of solo acoustic guitar share in this tone, driven by Magnum’s voice and the slow chord changes. No matter how revered their recordings are, they are a poor substitute for the band in their living, panting presence.

Though there is almost no talk between songs, except for a couple of brief thank-yous from Koster, the sense of engagement with the audience and the music is undeniable. Whenever Scott Spillane isn’t busting his lungs into one of a myriad of different horn instruments he is chanting along, vigorously though inaudibly, and Koster himself spends entire songs jumping clockwise like a whirling Dervish. From Magnum we only get a few bows, but in the absence of anything else, they feel genuine enough.

Trailerpark Festival report

in Live Reviews by

Arriving early at a concert in Copenhagen is tremendously unfashionable, and at a festival doubly so. The benefit of being at Trailerpark in the afternoon is being able to explore the various tents, trailers and assorted installations before they are covered under a mass of pretty people. The festival focuses as much on constructing creative and comfortable spaces as it does on the music, and this year is no exception. As well as the eponymous trailers—one made up to look like a Lynchian crime scene, complete with smoke machine and eerie music, another a Tinder-sponsored shag-shack—there are swings made of recycled pallets, surrealist plush sculptures, rum cabañas and a tent devoted to what can only be described as audio-visual terrorism.

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The Tinder-trailer during a quite moment.

Fans of poor decision-making are welcome to try a spot of tattoo roulette—quite literally spinning a wheel to decide what image will be indelibly etched onto your skin—and in the wilder hours of Friday even an over-cautious curmudgeon like yours truly has to exercise a significant amount of self-restraint to avoid it. Those in search of less permanent damage can get a lopsided haircut and a single leg shaved by a bunch of clowns in bondage gear. Pretty standard fare, really.

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There is perhaps no better place than here to take stock of the quality and diversity of the Danish scene, the line-up consisting almost entirely of homegrown talent. This, however, is the only constant. One can wander away from a hip hop act at Royal stage and suddenly come across an emissary of the Mayhem/Posh Isolation scene at Outdoor stage. Throughout, DJs and smaller electronic acts are blasting away in the intimate enclave of Rebel stage.

Thursday

The day starts relatively peacefully with Alice Boman’s wistful folk pop, which transitions neatly into the music of CODY, Copenhagen’s post-folk collective and arguably one of the most talented groups of musicians in the city. Drawing primarily on material from Windshield, their latest album, the six-piece (but depending on the day there could just as easily be eight people on stage, or even just the one) manage to work their wealth of instruments into a beautifully simple whole.

The rest of the day is devoted mainly to electronic acts. Among the most promising newer artists are Mont Oliver, who add a touch of Madchester swagger to their performance (seriously, the guy at the keyboards is even wearing one of those floppy 90s fishing hats). Later on, Ice Cream Cathedral filled Outdoor stage with their pop pyschedelia, followed by a mesmeric Sekuoia.

Ice Cream Cathedral
Ice Cream Cathedral
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Cody

Baby In Vain did their best to convert the crowd to Satan, before Julias Moon could do is darndest to become the Danish equivalent of Michael Jackson.

Friday

Though every day at Trailerpark has its moments, Friday is the one that does its best to physically and mentally destroy festival-goers. In the most positive sense of the phrase, naturally. Hand Of Dust and Get Your Gun bring a dark and twisted version of Americana to town, though their early slots mean that only a handful of the most dedicated are able to witness any of it.

The tone for the rest of the evening is set by New York rapper Le1f. Preceded by a brief display from an acrobat in bondage gear (a phrase I don’t get to use enough), Khalif Diouf exudes equal parts sexuality (consider that barely an hour later will see a DJ set from someone called DJ Cockwhore) and flighty exuberance.  Cutting songs short when he gets tired of them, Le1f makes it clear that he is here to have as much fun as the audience.

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Le1f

Though Sleep Party People’s mix of lullabies and post-rock is both a visually and aurally captivating experience, the true energy of the evening is found with two bands:  Reptile Youth and Broke. Though the former is considerably more famous, the two share similarities in sound and attitude, guitar-led dance music and physicality. I can personally attest to having had Reptile Youth’s frontman Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen land on my head twice during improperly announced stage dives, and Broke’s frontman developed a liking for humping one of the central tent poles of Outdoor stage.

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Reptile Youth

All this can only be topped by the utter perfection (in the eyes and ears of this reviewer at least) of The Felines, who bring wide smiles and awkward attempts at the twist to the 4am crowd.

Saturday

Fans of Danish “pop sensations” and hip hop acts must forgive me, but the real stars of the final day of Trailerpark are all at Outdoor stage. First Hate are possibly the dorkiest duo I have ever seen, which automatically makes them cooler than anyone in this tremendously well-dressed audience. It helps that they almost flawlessly channel Speak and Spell-era Depeche Mode, down to the Dave Gahan-esque vocals and dance moves. It’s pure and unabashed synth-pop, and it instantly converts all those present.

If prizes were being awarded, one would have to go to Communions, who have transformed into a much more mature band in the intervening months since our last encounter with them. The punk attitude is still there, but it no longer has a stranglehold over their sound, and finally they devote themselves to the wiry jangle-pop that was always lurking underneath the discordant tone and shambolic compositions. Those of us who spent the bike-ride to Enghave listening exclusively to Felt (or is that just me?) are in for a very pleasant surprise.

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Communions

As people gather to watch Shiny Darkly, it is evident that they are precisely the same hand-picked audience that attended First Hate and Communions. Apparently I have become a stereotype, though what that might be is unclear. Though perhaps the most obviously post-punk oriented of all the acts at Trailerpark, Shiny Darkly do not simply emulate their elders and betters. The raw riffs and chanted vocals are driven by a spartan and effective rhythm section, and on occasion even joined by a violinist or a trumpet player. The extra instruments are used with an ear for noise and harmonics as much as they add an extra layer of melody to the songs. At any rate they bespeak a level of ambition that is the mark of a healthy music scene. The likes of S!vas and Christopher might bring in the punters, but visitors looking for the true energy of the city should follow the leather jackets.

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Shiny Darkly

 View  the galleries from Trailerpark Festival here:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

All days

Thanks to Sony for letting us try the new Sony a7S camera.

All photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

PHOTOS: Trailerpark Festival, Day 3, 02.08.2014

in Photos by

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Communions

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Indians

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Shiny Darkly (w/ Nils Nils Gröndahl)trailerpark_saturday-5726

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Giana Factory

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Trailerpak Festival ambience

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S!vas

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Gold Lip

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Christopher

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Thanks to Sony for giving us the opportunity to try their new Sony a7S camera

PHOTOS: Trailerpark Festival, Day 2, 01.08.2014

in Photos by

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Get Your Gun

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Hand Of Dust

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Sea Change

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Le1f

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Reptile Youth

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Emil Germ

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Sleep Party People

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Broke

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Ghost Venue

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Thanks to Sony for giving us the opportunity to try their new Sony a7S camera

PHOTOS: Trailerpark Festival, Day 1, 31.07.2014

in Photos by

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

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Cody

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Ice Cream Cathedral

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Kill J

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Gäy

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 Baby In Vain

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Julias Moon

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Sekuoia

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Mont Oliver

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Thanks to Sony for giving us the opportunity to try their new Sony a7S camera

LIVE REVIEW: Television, Pumpehuset, 29.08.2014

in Live Reviews by

It’s understandable why bands have whole albums tours. Maybe it’s an anniversary, maybe those are the songs the crowds shout for at gigs anyway, or maybe, in the case of Television and Marquee Moon, it is a landmark work worth trotting across the globe decades later. Whatever the motivation, the formula makes sense.

But why do crowds go to whole album shows? Even if they saw the band when it originally toured around the release of that album, this is not the same effect. What in this nostalgic urge makes seeing the whole album performed live better than reminiscing at home with the record, knowing that other favorites only have the slightest chance of making it into the encore?

In the case of Television, it helps tremendously that they play Marquee Moon out of order, and thus makes the evening at least somewhat less predictable. They do begin with album opener “See No Evil,” and it’s not the strongest of starts. Tom Verlaine’s voice sounds shaky on the chorus, but as they recover from this, it becomes apparent that his voice is no longer able to hit the high notes.

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That’s hardly a death knell for the performance. Guitar solos are more integral to their sound, and it’s so easy to lose yourself in any of their ambling outros. There are a few surprises, such as the outro of “Torn Curtain” where Verlaine scratches his guitar strings and unexpectedly affects the sound of violins. It is no surprise, however, that “Marquee Moon” closes out the main set. It is the logical conclusion, and really, a ten-minute epic — stretched to 13 minutes on this occasion — would have been the logical conclusion to the recorded album.

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There is one thing making it difficult to enjoy the show, and that is the overwhelming heat. Though it’s breezy and cooler in Copenhagen than it’s been in a week, it is Seventh Circle of Hell hot in Pumpehuset. It’s sweat dripping down every inch of you even though you’re not moving hot. People are standing as far away from each other as possible, and the air is so thick and so still that there’s a breeze when a person walks past you. How much this contributes to the general low energy in the room is hard to say, because it’s kind of hard to breathe. But that’s hardly the fault of Television.

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Photos by Ronald Laurits Jensen

Roskilde Festival 2014 (PHOTOS)

in Photos by

Photos by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com) and Morten Aagaard Krogh (www.makrogh.com)

Earl Sweatshirt (Photo by Tom Spray)

Earl Sweatshirt – Photo by Tom Spray

Earl Sweatshirt (Photo by Tom Spray)

Earl Sweatshirt – Photo by Tom Spray

Electric Wizard (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Electric Wizard – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Outkast (photo by Tom Spray)

Outkast – Photo by Tom Spray

The Rolling Stones (Roskilde Festival 2014)

The Rolling Stones – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

The Rolling Stones (Photo by Tom Spray)

The Rolling Stones – Photo by Tom Spray

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

The Rolling Stones – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

The Master Musicians Of Jajouka with Bachir Attar (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Master Musicians Of Jajouka – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Roskilde Festival 2014

Roskilde Festival – Photo by Tom Spray

Connan Mockasin (Photo by Tom Spray)

Connan Mockasin – Photo by Tom Spray

Warpaint (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Warpaint – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Haim – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Haim – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

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Atmoshpere at Roskilde Festival – Photo by Tom Spray

Deftones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Deftones – Photo by Tom Spray

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Deftones – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Damon Albarn (Photo by Tom Spray)

Damon Albarn – Photo by Tom Spray

Damon Albarn (Photo by Tom Spray)

Damon Albarn – Photo by Tom Spray

Damon Albarn (Photo by Tom Spray)

Arena Stage at sunset – Photo by Tom Spray

Darkside (Photo by Tom Spray)

Darkside – Photo by Tom Spray

Darkside (Photo by Tom Spray)

Darkside – Photo by Tom Spray

Darkside (Photo by Tom Spray)

Futrue Islands crowd- Photo by Tom Spray

Future Islands (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Future Islands – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Future Islands (Photo by Tom Spray)

Future Islands – Photo by Tom Spray

Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor? (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Atomic Bomb – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Omar Souleyman (Photo by Tom Spray)

Omar Souleyman – Photo by Tom Spray

Omar Souleyman (Photo by Tom Spray)

Omar Souleyman crowd – Photo by Tom Spray

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Festival goers – Photo by Tom Spray

Manu Chao (Photo by Tom Spray)

Manu Chao – Photo by Tom Spray

Mano Chao (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Manu Chao – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Arctic Monkeys – Photo by Tom Spray

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Arctic Monkeys – Photo by Tom Spray

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Arctic Monkeys – Photo by Tom Spray

Spids Nøgenhat (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Spids Nøgenhat – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Interpol – Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Interpol – Photo by Tom Spray

The Men (Roskilde Festival 2014)

The Men – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Slowdive – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Deerhunter – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Julia Holter – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Kasabian – Photo by Tom Spray

Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Kasabian crowd – Photo by Tom Spray

MØ (Roskilde Festival 2014)

MØ – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

MØ (Photo by Tom Spray)

MØ – Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Forest Swords – Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Forest Swords – Photo by Tom Spray

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Jack White – Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Roskilde Festival 2014, Sunday 6th July

in Live Reviews by

Deerhunter

After several days of stage theatrics and moody band introductions, it’s a surprise and a pleasure to see Deerhunter conducting their own soundcheck. Frontman Bradford Cox’s awkward charm does more to connect with the audience than any set of laser displays or smoke machines. As the band launch into “Agoraphobia”, the refrain of “comfort me” seems particularly apt, a love letter to the warmth and comfort of the shoegaze bands that inspire it. But Deerhunter replace the ethereal quality of bands like Slowdive with a certain degree of quirkiness which is clear in Cox’s stage banter as much as in his music. After regaling us with a description of a 4th of July celebration chez Deerhunter, the band launch into “Nothing Ever Happened”, drawing out its motorik energy until it starts to melt into a cover of Patti Smith’s “Horses”. A moment of brilliant free-association genius, and a great begging to Sunday at Roskilde.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Julia Holter

The warmth and energy of Deerhunter are replaced with an almost unbearable heat and humidity inside Gloria, where we wait for Julia Holter. But that same discomfort put this reviewer into a mind frame that perfectly suited the David Lynchian-quality of Holter’s music. The avant-garde singer-songwriter is accompanied by a drummer, a cellist, a violist, and a tenor-saxophonist. The effect is altogether different than that of her latest record, Loud City Song: the noise, reverb and general swirliness of the album are replaced with a crisp, stripped-back sound, as intimate as it is unsettling. “Maxim’s I” is transformed from the kind of song you’d expect to be heard in a Twin Peaks road bar into something closer to jazz or minimalist classical music. The intimacy is helped by Holter’s approach to her audience: offhand questions about what wine people in the front are drinking turn the affair into a secluded, friendly if off-kilter microcosm.

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Julia Holter (Roskilde Festival 2014)

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Kasabian

I have this image in my mind of Kasabian sitting around a few weeks before a tour or album release. Guitarist Sergio Pizzorno turns to frontman Tom Meighan and says “mate, why are we still doing this? We’re not even that great.” Meighan puts his hand on Pizzorno’s shoulder and says “Serge, it’s because we’re massive LADS!” They then discuss ‘banter’ or something. At Roskilde, the vision becomes reality as Meighan makes exactly the same motions with his (relatively sparse) audience. It’s about half an hour before their set is due to start, and they’ve summoned only a few dozen to wait in line for the pit. This is the same band who closed Glastonbury. Why have they failed to crack Denmark? The majority of the small group waiting are all British. The lone Dane standing next to me says his friends didn’t even want to come with him to watch. Maybe Danes don’t really go for lead singers who look like Eye Ball Paul from Kevin And Perry Go Large, but it’s entirely their loss.

Meighan is unashamedly confident and cocky, but he justifies his behaviour onstage, introducing the band as ‘The Mighty Kasabian’. He engages with the audience by pointing and waving his tongue at them, and between songs stands pouting triumphantly on the edge of the stage, beckoning the crowd to shower him and his band with all the woops and claps they can muster. Basking in praise comes naturally, he relishes it, and shows enough vitality in everything he does to make it work. Who gives a fuck if his audience is only half full; as long as a few people are enjoying it, he can hype them up enough to adequately rub his ego.

From opening track ‘Bumble Bee’ taken from new album 48:13, to closing number ‘Fire’, which is extended and dedicated to Leicester, the performance is unfailing. The final track sees Meighan and Pizzorno telling everyone to bounce on the ground for the guitar riff, before jumping incessantly for the rip roaring chorus line. It’s got even more energy than the actions for ‘Vlad the Impaler’, which followed a similar routine. As the rest of the band depart, Meighan sings, surprisingly well, the chorus line from ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ a capella. A few punters are still screaming the riff from ‘Fire’ after the band have left and the hosts have stepped on. The only disappointment is the lack of encore.

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Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

 

MØ: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your plait and scrunchie combo. I love the tennis skirt and dirty trainers you’re wearing. I love your complete disregard for the ‘No Crowdsurfing’ rule. From kangaroo jumps three feet in the air to sprawling onto the ground and singing from the floor, watching MØ perform is a visual spectacle. It’s tiring just looking at her, as sweat drips from her forehead. Always in control, her voice never once falters or fails; it stays completely powerful and enchanting, as she accompanies herself with looped “huh”s and high pitched “ow”s. She’s a beautiful clash of soft feeling and urban style, both in look and sound.

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MØ (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

MØ (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Stevie Wonder

If there’s a place for legends, the Orange Stage is it. From The Rolling Stones on Thursday, to Stevie Wonder on Sunday, it was the performance space for two entirely different but well loved acts, and the latter’s evening set brought the festival to a joyous end before a few thousand punters stayed on for Jack White. Wonder’s band is so extensive it takes several minutes to credit them all. For the entirety of the two hour set, the singer remains enthusiastic, engaging and encouraging of the audience to partake in his soul celebration. He introduces all his tracks with an invitation to “sing this”. The chorus forms the base of a hit track for him to sing over. This is not Wonder’s show alone; he ensures it belongs to the tens of thousands of tired, dirty spectators too. As he moves into ‘Ebony and Ivory’, the musician asks the crowd: “can you imagine how much people have missed out on because of the prejudices we have in this world?” and once again beckons for Roskilde to join him. “If you agree with me, sing… You can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it.” Whether the subject matter is love, adultery or racism, for Stevie Wonder, music is the channel through which people should come together and reach greatness, solidarity and power.

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Stevie Wonder (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords

If Forest Swords’ Matt Barnes feels hard-done-by in his allocated slot—playing Gloria at the same time that Stevie Wonder and Moderat are playing the Orange Stage and Arena—he certainly doesn’t show it. The space that isn’t occupied by the scattered but enthralled audience is instead filled up with the Liverpool-based producer’s approach to dub music: lung-fizzling bass, unsettling samples, sharp keyboards and even the odd spaghetti-western-influenced guitars. Barnes is accompanied by a bassist, and divides his time brooding over the sampler, hunching over the keyboard or swaying around with his guitar. Tracks like “Thor’s Stone” and “The Weight of Gold” from his debut Engravings are without doubt some of the standout electronic songs of 2013, and are even more effective live.

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Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Jack White

Those of us who watched clips from Jack White’s set at Glastonbury last week knew what to expect for this, the concluding set at the Orange Stage: an expansive retrospective of his work, from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs and his solo work. His band band, including a fiddle-player and a lap-steel-guitarist, help to reinvent as much as they reproduce the sounds from his back-catalogue, adding a certain amount of country twang to the overdriven swagger of much of his later work. A slight hint of reserve blends in with the excitement as White begins his set with a drawn out jam of the White Stripes’ “Icky Thump”: is this going to be a display of utter indulgence, an artist at the height of his success revelling in his apparent freedom to do whatever he likes? That reserve is also to be found in White himself, who largely refrains from talking much in between songs except to get a little annoyed when the crowd doesn’t seem to know the lyrics to “Hotel Yorba”. “You guys speak English, right?” This is going south fast, but a split-second later White recovers by making some quip about his own level of English. Thankfully, the experience seems to humble him enough to really begin engaging with the crowd, rather than taking their adulation for granted. The extended jams end, and are replaced by a quick series of White Stripes medleys that drive the audience forward through slower songs from Lazaretto.

Throughout White pays tribute to fellow Detroit-native and predecessor on the stage, Stevie Wonder, and even makes the odd joke about sharing his doctor with Drake. It is clear in these moments that Jack White’s ability as an entertainer take precedence over his sometimes rather insular and self-aggrandizing approach to his “art”, and that on stage he is able to fully embrace that. A festival crowd might not know the lyrics to all his White Stripes songs, but they can end Roskilde on a jumping high with set closers “Steady as She Goes” and the obligatory, perennial “Seven Nation Army”. But even in this last instance, White doesn’t rest on his laurels, but reworks the song in such as way as to work best with a band of six rather than one of two. We can only apologize to poor Londoners, from whom apparently we snatched him at the last moment. Such is the power of Roskilde.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Roskilde Festival 2014, Saturday 5th July

in Live Reviews by

Bottled in England 

Bottled In England is perhaps an unorthodox band name choice for a pair of Danes. They’re loosely described as “electro punk”, but this is a thin disguise for their brand of high energy, imaginative and exciting drum n’ bass. But instead of plugging in laptops and pratting about onstage, August Dyrborg and Daniel Vognstrup play all their instruments and mix their beats live, with an almost continuous conveyer belt of collaborations. There are vocalists, male and female, including Zambian born Lucy Love. Singers are then replaced with an electric guitar, the distorted strings of which sound like screaming. Then comes a trumpet trio, who instead of bringing a big, brassy jazz note, carry a soft ambience to the performance. They are slow and subtle, whilst the drums remain frantic and paranoid in anticipation of the drop, or, in Danish, the ‘fucking klimax’.

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Psyched Up Janis

Before there were The Raveonettes, there was Psyched Up Janis, both created by Danish noise rock musician Sune Rose Wagner. Their last performance was in 1999, also at Roskilde Festival, so there’s a lot of pressure to make this homecoming performance one of their finest. Crashing, clashing and overdriven-into-the-ground guitar is fuzzy with the wailing vocals of the duo. The concert is heavy with reverb, drenching the Orange Stage area and everywhere surrounding it with sticky grunge. The slightly lighter, melodic tones of hit track ‘The Stars Are Out’ seem out of place with the rest of the set, but manage to bring the concert to a neat finish before the encore.

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Omar Souleyman

It’s been a great festival for international music (never, ever refer to it as “world music”) this year, and Saturday is no exception. While Mali’s Les Ambassadeurs play the Arena stage, Omar Souleyman is playing at the more humble Apollo. The audience throngs around the small stage, making it look tinier and more like a magical pumpkin than ever. The Syrian singer is not one for great stage theatrics—not much interaction with the crowd, and only a producer pressing play on the backing tracks on the desk behind him—but the manic quality of the music wins through. Towards the back of the audience several apparently spontaneous dance circles form as “Wenu Wenu”, the titular track of his debut album, erupts with its techno beats and lightning-fast keyboard scales. The definition of party music.

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Omar Souleyman (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Omar Souleyman (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Manu Chao

In 1986 José-Manuel Thomas Arthur Chao underwent a series of drastic medical procedures in order to become a super-being known as the “6 pesos man”: a human genetically engineered to be amazingly popular at music festivals throughout Europe. Little did he know then that this was to be a curse as much as it was a boon. His fingers were bent out of shape, allowing him to play only three chords, always in the same sequence. He didn’t notice this affliction for twenty years. But listen, I’m sure we all have moments when we want to listen to “flamenco-tinged ska” (or whatever verbal wallpaper you wish to use to hide the fact that this is some real hippie shit), and thank god this usually only manifests itself during festivals. Imagine a place where people listen to this all the time. Sigh. Pass me the siren and the whistle then.

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Manu Chao (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Manu Chao (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Mano Chao (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh 

Arctic Monkeys

The things I’d do for Alex Turner. The leather jacket, the cuban heels, and that quiff. And I’m not the only one; the pit queue for Arctic Monkeys is stretching so far back I don’t even know where it ends, but once it’s cleared, I find a nice spot of my own underneath the screen to see his greaser locks blown up several times over. Behind the stage, the album artwork for AM is lit up, flashing and rushing through the sound waves like a heart scan. I get flashbacks to their headliner show at last year’s NorthSide Festival in Århus, where Turner was powerfully in command of the entire crowd. But when he finally enters the stage with his band members in tow, it’s more of a stumble than a sexy glide. The band slightly awkwardly open their set with ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and ‘Snap Out Of It’. By the time they’ve reached ‘Arabella’, he’s lit up either a self rolled cig or something else, and drawls the words out with low, improvised licks and brooding murmurs. Even when he appears high as heaven, his voice is still warm as honey, if not better for the differentiation from the record, the lyrics are still genius and the melodies still hit precisely the right point. The song finishes, he looks dazed and holds the microphone to his mouth as he decides what to say. An awkward pause. “We’re the Arctic Monkeys, baby,” he says, like a drunkard impersonating an old Hollywood Movie Star.

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

“This one’s called ‘Brianstorm’,” he continues. It’s the first old track they’ve played, and it goes down a treat with the Roskilde audience. But Turner’s heart isn’t in it. He stares into the audience with a glazed look. It’s a song from the past. Now he seems older, more mature, but for the first time in a long time, frightened. The same thing happens when they play ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, which has been slowed down to match Turner’s bumbling pace. The woozy sound of ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ sees the frontman closing his eyes and summoning his words slowly. It’s genuine, emotional, and cuttingly beautiful. At an earlier point in the evening Turner told the audience that the Arctic Monkeys were “having a good time.” But as the Sheffield band juggle old, fast-paced indie with more balladic new directions, they appear disillusioned, and I wonder whether his remark was genuine.

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Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Arctic Monkeys (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol

Four rather dapper looking gentlemen take to the stage at Arena, reminding everyone that in the great Interpol-Editors war of the mid ‘00s it was the Americans who got the more good looking band. Weaving the odd piece of new material in with the ‘hits’, the set is something of a walk down memory lane for people in their mid-twenties, albeit a glamorized, slightly artificial walk. Interpol certainly have their sound locked down, with real confidence and precision, but that same precision has the undesired effect of making many of the songs sound identical. Though I listened to Interpol as much as anyone when I was 15, I find that I can only identify a song by the lyrics in the chorus. But it is undeniable that the band is as slick as frontman Paul Banks’s hair.

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Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Interpol (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Slowdive

Anyone remotely interested in shoegaze music will have felt a thrill when it was announced that Slowdive would be replacing Chromeo at the Avalon tent. The recently reunited quintet are second only to My Bloody Valentine in their hold over the genre, and a fair number of Roskilde’s hippest have been draw away from the likes of Major Lazer to be able to witness tracks from Souvlaki played live. Unlike MBV, Slowdive retained some of the influences and sounds of 80s jangle-pop, and temper their moments of pure, joyous noise with delicate, almost clean guitars. “Allison” and “When the Sun Hits” punch and swirl, and the magnificent “Souvlaki Space Station” features a delayed guitar sound that might be better than the one on record. Slowdive might not have the most commanding stage presences (the only interaction is a couple of thank-yous from singer Rachel), but their sound is unlike anything you will hear at this festival, pure and simple. Audiophile- and guitar-fetishist-heaven.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

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