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Northside Festival

Northside Festival 2014

in Photos by

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Mew

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A$AP Rocky

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Baby In Vain

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Baby In Vain (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

The Brian Jones Town Massacre

Brian Jones Town Massacre (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

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Röyksopp and Robyn

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Röyksopp & Robyn (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

The National

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Lana Del Rey

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Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

 

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Mount Kimbie

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Reptile Youth

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Cold Specks

Cold Specks

Pixies

Pixies

Pixies

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow

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Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts

Nabiha

Nabiha

Royal Blood

Royal Blood

Royal Blood

Royal Blood
The portrait of Royal Blood explained in a tweet:

 

LIVE REVIEW: NorthSide Festival Day 3, 15.06.2014

in Blog/Live Reviews by

After the crush of the last two days, the first few hours of day 3 of Northside feel empty. There are plenty of people, but it’s easy to walk around. There are no queues anywhere for anything. It’s possible to walk down to the barricades at any of the stages, which makes it a tough gig, as usual, for the artists with early slots.

Such is the case for Royal Blood, a duo from Brighton, UK, whose sudden rise comes on the back only three singles and an Arctic Monkey wearing their t-shirt. They’re on the Blue Stage with a small audience assembled before them, the detritus of yesterday’s confetti cannon is still under foot. Frontman Matt Kerr plays bass like it’s lead guitar, tuned and distorted to sound like it’s lead guitar. The crowd is impressed with his tapping solos as well — not something you typically on a bass. Not bad for a band that’s only released an EP.

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Royal Blood (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Much has been made of the gradual decline of the Pixies, and how ten years into their reunion, they have mentally checked out (or in Kim Deal’s case, physically checked out). It’s true that there are moments when Black Francis/Frank Black seems to be trying to get through songs as quickly as possible. Then there are times like when he’s playing the intro to “Ed is Dead” or performing the more recent “Bagboy” when he almost looks like he’s enjoying himself, and maybe more new material in the set is what’s needed to keep the band engaged. The most enthusiastic of the bunch is bassist of the moment Paz Lenchatin, who perhaps has the most at stake. She also does a pretty good approximation of Deal, and rather adorably has a ribbon tied around one of her tuning pegs. It would be great if more musicians could do that, please. Joey Santiago spends the last minutes of the bands set getting his guitar to feedback, either by holding another guitar to the fretboard or smacking it against his body. The audience is into it initially, but you can tell that people have gotten their 15 minute warning for Arcade Fire as they begin drifting away towards the other stage.

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Pixies (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

It’s really for the best that they do, because Arcade Fire’s set is possibly the most widely attended of the weekend. The cynical belief is because there’s no other set conflicting, but it doesn’t take long to see that this was always going to be a festival highlight for many. They open with “Here Comes the Nighttime” and confetti cannons, with Win Butler saying with delight, “We played it first because we know the nighttime is never coming.” There is a platform built out into the crowd that allows band members to come out a little further into the crowd, and is actually a point of performance for songs rather than just a one-off tease otherwise blocking people from the rail.

In terms of visuals, the spectacle is unparalleled. Whether it’s the colorful fringe on Régine Chassagne’s costume or the mirror-suited person who comes out to pivot on the platform during “Afterlife” or the conga line of people in paper mâché heads dancing to “Normal Person,” it’s a level of pageantry sometimes bordering on the surreal that not even Röyksopp’s glittery masks or Robyn’s wild outfits can beat.

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Arcade Fire (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

After the spectacle and frenzy of Arcade Fire, the set from Wild Beasts is positively intimate, and has the vibe of an after party. They ease into their set with swooning, down-tempo synth-pop, initially going for the light touch instead of impact. Frontman Hayden Thorpe raises a glass of wine to the audience, saying “It helps us dance better, it helps us look better, it helps us sing better.” And there is plenty of room for people to dance. The tempo picks up, the bass picks up (and occasionally is bolstered by thunderously loud programmed bass), and slowly but surely people’s feet pick up. It is an excellent comedown after a long weekend.

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Wild Beasts (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

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LIVE REVIEW: NorthSide Festival Day 2, 14.06.2014

in Blog/Live Reviews by

Day two of NorthSide began for us with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and specifically with frontman Anton Newcombe remarking to the still-assembling audience, “Party over here, fuck you over there.” Watching them play their thick, jangly guitar pop under the intense sun might be the best way to begin day, unless you have a hangover, in which case it probably just hurts and dehydrates you further. But without such impediments, there is a  certain joy and fascination in deciphering any one of the four guitar parts, and watching their delightfully smug tambourine player who is clearly having a better time than anyone at the festival. Newcombe is a bit combatively, stopping in the middle of a song to berate his bandmates about tunings and passive aggressively moving his mic stand to the back of the stage saying, “I’ll just sing from back here if you can’t get that feedback under control.” It’s either hilarious or obnoxious depending on your mood.

Brian Jones Town Massacre (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Brian Jonestown Massacre (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

After the curmudgeonly  the youth exuberance of Baby in Vain is refreshing. Guitarists Lola Hammerich and Andrea Thusen Johansen are lunging around the stage producing sounds that are a pleasing amalgam of sludge and crunch. Their fried vocals come together in twisted, cheeky harmonies. Baby in Vain would be at home on Sub Pop’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s roster. Since we can’t have that, can someone get them on a tour with Mudhoney quick?

Baby In Vain (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Baby In Vain (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

On a predominantly rock line-up, there’s always some question of how a crowd will react to a different genre. In the case of A$AP Rocky, the audience collectively lose their shit. Some of that may have to do with the fact that nearly as much time is spent hyping the crowd as rapping, including repeated directives for them to shout “A-SAP!” It wears thin, which is a shame, because as a performer Rocky is anything but boring. He jogs across the stage as he sings “Fuckin’ Problems” and “Purple Kisses,” pays homage to A$AP Ferg and recreates the mix tape feeling by playing samples of “Jump Around” and “C.R.E.A.M.” He repeatedly emphasizes that it’s not a concert, it’s a party, encouraging mosh pits, crowd surfing, and women to “show your titties if you’re over age.” The crowd only complies on the first two points, making securities job a little harder with the no crowd-surfing rule. At the beginning of the set, however, Rocky did emerge from the barricade before the crowd swinging a bra over his head, so he’s knows what he’s going for.

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A$AP Rocky (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

From the outset it’s clear that Mew’s set is going to be an emotional highlight of the weekend. They begin by bringing bassist Johan Wohlert to the front of the stage to announce that he has rejoined the band after leaving 2006. And while the announcement makes jaws drop, it’s a best-of setlist including and “Am I Wry? No” that has people falling on each other in big, swaying hugs. They play a new song as well, though they don’t name it, and remind the crowd that a new record is coming. By the time their final song, “Comforting Sounds” builds to a dramatic close, men and women alike are seen wiping tears from their eyes.

Mew (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Mew (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)
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Mew (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

If Mew was the emotional outpouring, then Röyksopp and Robyn is a blissed out catharsis. It’s immediately apparent that this is the wrong place to be if you’re protective of your personal space or object to having beer spilled on you. But if you can stay on your feet and avoid getting elbowed in the face by the people who only know how to dance by pumping their fists in the air, Röyksopp’s beats and airy, surreal synths help you transcend the mental fogginess settling in, while the crowd physically carries you somewhere else.

Röyksopp & Robyn (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Röyksopp & Robyn (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

It’s 40 minutes into the set when Robyn takes her turn, bouncing across the stage in a pair of platform sneakers. She twists around in yogic poses, and turns her back to imitate a make-out session during “Dance on My Own” while the crowd sings the chorus on her behalf. The trio mark a change into a joint set with Röyksopp donning glittery balaclavas and Robyn a puffy jacket that looks like armor. The crowd is thinning, but those that remain are as frenzied as ever. So is Robyn, who continues to contort herself in an array of dance moves that defy description. The set ends just past the two hour mark with “Do It Again” and confetti cannons. An elated, exhausted crowd makes its way out of the festival grounds, trailing confetti behind them.

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LIVE REVIEW: NorthSide Festival Day 1, 13.06.2014

in Blog/Live Reviews by

It should’t be surprising that a sold out festival is difficult to get into. The queue to enter NorthSide stretches well past the main entrance and down around the road, the wait half an hour or more even hours after the gates open. People are in good humor despite the crush, drinking cans of beer they brought along for this inevitability.

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Reptile Youth (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

When finally inside the festival grounds in the early evening, it’s Reptile Youth who are on stage. And though it’s not the start of the festival day, it’s the perfect start to our day. Their percussive, high energy music is precisely what’s needed to get you into the spirit of the weekend. Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen is flailing across the stage, and the audience is mimicking his energy in waves of pogoing heads. He crowd surfs during “We Are the Children” before the strict “no crowd surfing” rule is enforced later in the day, and the band ends the set in an ecstatically received rendition of “Speeddance.”

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Mount Kimbie (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Mount Kimbie, in comparison, are completely chilled out. Their dark, somewhat gothic electro, suitably played as clouds offer some respite from the intense sun, is pleasantly lulling. Bolstered by a live drummer, they are a band of more equipment than people, and spend most of the set hunched over tables of electronics, even when playing guitar or bass. It’s groovy in a slightly sinister way, but it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t really translate well to a festival, at least not a large outdoor festival. Really, how much good does a smoke machine outdoors in broad daylight really do?

Franz Ferdinand (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Franz Ferdinand (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

It is obvious, however, that Franz Ferdinand have studied whatever textbook material there is on how to perform a festival set. Alex Kapranos packed the hour with scissor kicks and gratuitous dropping of “NorthSide” into songs. They move so seamlessly between songs that sometimes it borders on a medley. At a club or theatre show it might be disappointing to have so little interaction, but in this setting, it’s best to (as James Murphy would say) shut up and play the hits. And it’s hard to deny the appeal of the mass of dancing people or the echoing sing along of “Take Me Out.”

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Lana Del Rey (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Which is why the set from Lana Del Rey that immediately follows is a tremendous buzz kill. There is initial exuberance from the crowd — teenage boys down front forming hearts with their hands like One Direction fans, Lana descending a ladder to meet the crowd, kissing girls, signing autographs like it’s a red carpet film premiere and not a gig — but it dies down quickly. There is a lot of silence from the crowd, and total silence from Lana between most songs. It’s telling that most of the shots for the screens are extreme closeups of her face: There she looks perfect, grinning coquettishly as she sings, but the wide shots show her band exuding more energy than she does. She moves in long, graceful steps across the stage as she sings, but she doesn’t really engage. She doesn’t even tap a foot. It’s like taking a Valium; you don’t just feel sedate, you feel nothing. Lana looks like she feels nothing, too.

 

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The National (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

And it’s not a question of genre. Goodness knows that headliners the National have their fair share of moody broody indie pop, yet they are totally compelling, even at one in the morning. It helps that singer Matt Berninger , slamming his mic stand into the stage like he’s trying to do damage. Aaron and Bryce Dessner keep pace, but don’t try to compete with Berninger crawling around to corners of the stage while singing “Abel” or nearly being sucked into the crowd when he stands up on the barricade.

Such intensity is necessary to compensate for the fair amount of nuance is lost (that is, most of the horns), but on the whole the sound at NorthSide is better than can even be optimistically hoped for at most festivals. So it’s appreciated that the National get the crowd clapping along, which is vital not only to the rest of the set but also for keeping awake and keeping warm. Those who stuck it out past two in the morning were treated to Berninger leaving the stage and security behind and wandering the crowd, nearly strangling your correspondent with a mic cable that, to the best of the tech’s efforts, couldn’t be kept over everyone’s heads. Which is certainly another way to keep people awake.

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