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LIVE REVIEW: Haven Festival, 11-12.08.17

in Live Reviews by
Iggy Pop live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

With the disappearance of Trailer Park and Vanguard, Copenhagen has been missing a localised music festival that caters to more than just electronic music. On the face of it, this year’s Haven Festival is here to fill that void. Located in the post-industrial landscape of Refshaleøen on the outer edges of Copenhagen harbour, the festival is spread over a field (or Meadow, as they would have it) and former docks. The fetishised grittiness of the crumbling warehouses is juxtaposed by the view across the water, of the cruise ships at Langelinie, the Little Mermaid, and the custard-coloured Royal Yacht moored nearby.

The food and drink has been as much a part of the conversation in anticipation of the festival as the music, if not more so. Provided by mostly by Mikkeller and Meyers bakery, you can get all the microbrewed beer and organic barbecue you want, provided you are willing to cough up, queue for an hour and get lectured on the evils of supermarket bacon by a man in a leather apron. With a lineup including The National, Bon Iver, Feist and Iggy Pop, Haven is very consciously catering to an older, more moneyed crowd than most other Danish festivals.

Feist live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

With a unique and visually interesting setting, some of the most talked-about food in town and some big names, the worst you would expect to say about Haven is that it is expensive and a little on the dull, safe side. Unfortunately it ended up being a victim both of the weather and its own success. Funnelling crowds through a single bridge that connects the main field with the food court is hardly great crowd management, and failing to provide any shelter from the rain on Sunday hardly helped matters. This will get chalked down to inexperience, and is unlikely to do much to damage their ticket sales next year.

Friday’s lineup starts on a relatively mellow note, with folk-tinged indie from Conor Oberst and Lisa Hannigan, but in fairness all pales when compared to the main course of the entire festival, our main reason for being here at all: Iggy Pop. I have genuinely never witnessed a human being spread quite as much joy to a crowd as Professor Ignatius Pop himself, who very literally runs on stage, does a few odd pirouettes and hollers as mangled series of “fuckfuckffuckmotherfuckeerrrr” before launching into I Wanna Be Your Dog. It’s a ballsy move to have the Passenger within the first four songs of your set, but then again it’s ballsy to have not worn a shirt in about half a century. Everyone around me is sporting a perma-grin for the entire set.

Perfume Genius live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

The next day feels like a comedown from Iggy, and is certainly not improved by the rain that peppers Feist (light drizzle), Perfume Genius (moderate), and Liss (absolute fucking downpour). Feist makes the most effort to repel the weather, sometimes by claiming to see sun (sheer optimism) but mostly via her infectious good nature. Changing lyrics to celebrate three girls in the front row who are singing along to every line, or to recommend that people don’t take her words too literally (at the line “I would leave any party for you”), she almost succeeds in making us forget the rain. Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius has increased both his profile and the size of his backing band since we last saw him at Roskilde Festival, and Liss are sounding smoother than ever.

Sets at the two main stages are staggered in such a way that every hour and a half the entire festival decamps across the bridge in one direction or the other, and our only change to eat is by missing Bon Iver entirely. The shiitake okonomiyaki is worth that omission. Unsurprisingly, the National’s closing set is all bells and whistles and guest appearances. The band’s musical core, brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, are the cofounders of the festival alongside Claus Meyer and Mikkel Borg Bergsø, so naturally theirs is meant to be the crowning set of the festival. Joined on stage by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, This is the Kit and Kwami Liv on “I Need My Girl”, the National manage to sum up the day with the blessed absence of rain.

The National live at Haven Festival Copenhagen

Photos by Amanda Farah

LIVE REVIEW: The National, Forum, 02.11.2013

in Live Reviews by

Four months ago, The National sold out Loppen. Capacity: 400. This evening, they sold out Forum, reputedly their biggest venue to date. According to the website, Forum can hold 8500 people. Though this is obviously a considerable milestone for the band, something is lost in a venue this size. Despite the name, the National, even in their most grandiose moments, have always channelled their power with intense intimacy.

Openers This Is the Kit are the first victims to the room. The volume is too low, and the band has to fight against the chatter from the back with nothing more than banjo, bass and guitar. This doesn’t seem to faze lead singer Kate Stables at all, as her voice slowly starts to fill the place with impressive power and delicacy. “Earthquake” in particular has a great groove that thumbs its nose at the stupidly big venue.

The introduction to the National is a giant projection, a live-stream of the band hanging out in the dressing room, before casually strolling towards the stage. I’m not sure if this is cleverly self-deprecating or insulting the audience, who impatiently look on as lead singer Matt Berninger checks his phone.

National 4

This is a gig of two distinct parts. The first half left me cold, partly because I am not a fan of their latest album, Trouble Will Find Me, but certainly also due to the weirdness, which the band openly acknowledge, of playing in Forum. Opener “I Should Live in Salt” has people singing along, but it feels diluted, like another band trying to write a National song. But the evening picks up rapidly as they move on to material from Boxer and High Violet, and as Berninger downs more and more wine. Everything centres on him, and it becomes apparent that he has decided on a way to counteract the lack of intimacy, and it involves broken screaming and liberal misuse of liquids.

I’ve been waiting most of the evening to hear “England”. It is probably the most suited to the surroundings, a heavy burden of a song, which takes flight thanks to a small brass section. A string quartet lurks in the back, inaudible, for which I am thankful. Towards the end Berninger, still singing, takes a walk among the crowd, followed by a cameraman and some guy from security awkwardly trying to drag the seemingly endless mic cable. You have to hand it to Matt, for all his moody walking to and fro on stage, he understands how to overcome any barriers with his audience.

As the band closes with an acoustic rendition of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” (“This is probably the largest venue we’ve ever tried this at”), the strangeness of the concert is at its most apparent, but so is its ultimate success. The National are a good band. One slightly boring album and one huge venue won’t change that.

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