Denmark have had their own showcase festival, Spot, for some years now, just like Norway have by:Larm and the US have SXSW. The festival was held in its home town Aarhus this wekend, and many talented bands performed. The idea about festivals like this is to attract both the best talent and also the music business, to see if there might be any possibilities for both parties to luck out. This means that the festivals have a seminar program at daytime and many concerts at night. All the bands play 40 minutes shows, enough to get a feel of their repertoire and for them to show what they are worth. (Picture above: Kristine Stubbe Teglbjaerg)
The first time I was at Spot was in 2004, and the last time before this year, was in 2009. There have been some changes since then. Since the festival is open to the general public, they must have an attractive lineup to sell tickets. Most festivals like Spot have some bigger acts play to attract those who don’t necessarily come to see the new bands. At Spot this year it didn’t seem like they had any big headliners, except Mø, who are already well established in Denmark. That concert was also packed, and many didn’t get in.
The young Dreams
The reasons for this might be many. One explanation I heard was that many bands who are touring in the summer don’t want to ”blow” their show at a showcase at Spot, a month before they start touring. To me that sounds defensive. I would rather think that doing a 40 minutes show at Spot might give the possibility of trying out new material, doing it as a dress rehearsal before the tour. But that’s just my opinion. As long as the festival sells tickets, it might not be necessary to have the big names.
Jonas Alaska, from the Pstereo festival in Trondheim 2012
Another reason might be the economy, bringing on bigger acts usually costs more money. Whatever the reason, the festival is also good for business, and for me it is a great place for networking. There are always representatives from different countries and from different parts of the music business. I have always found it useful to compare notes with colleagues from other broadcasting stations and to get others’ perspective on different Norwegian issues.
But the main focus of a music festival should always be the music. What does Spot 2013 tell us about the state of the music in Denmark? I got some answers, but not many. The main reason is the gap of four years since the last time I visited Spot, meaning I don’t have any continuity in their music. But I noticed a lot of great talent, specially in the more acoustic, folk-rock, americana oriented part of the music.
I also noticed that DJ sets are popular in Denmark. Personally I don’t have any love for DJs as live concerts. It’s the same with rappers who come with one DJ and no band. This might be conservative of me, but that’s how I see it. What puzzled me was that of all the bands playing, only one played metal rock, By the Patient. I had expected more, but maybe this is one of the big differences between Denmark and Norway?So which bands and artists did I see, and what didi I think of them?
On Friday I had one very positive surprise, and some I had expectd to be good. The positive surprise was Fallulah. She is an artists who are going her own ways musically, but at the same time knowing what makes a hit. Her stage show is also good, with an enviable confidence that is very much present.
I started the night checking out Jonas Alska’s concert at Voxhall, and he always deliveres top quality. The venue was packed, and the audience liked what they got. After Alaska I saw Fallulah, then I saw Folkeklubben. This is a trio of very competent musicians, leaning heavily on the heritage after Gasolin’ and Kim Larsen. Not very musically exciting, but nevertheless very popular among the audience.
The rest of the evening I saw three Norwegian acts. First Highasakite, whose live performance gets better and better as they get more confidence to do their things. Their music is not necessarily what I prefer to listen to, but there is no doubt about their qualities, and it seemed like the audience liked what they heard.
The next band out was Young Dreams, and they play music that is close to my musical heart. They know their 60’s history, and many times they remind me of what the Beach Boys might have sounded like today. It isn’t every day you hear harmony singing like Young Dreams do. The band have got rave reviews on their debut CD, Between Places.
The last artist out for me on Friday night was Einar Stray. His project is very different from Young Dreams, and his songs often appear as musical impressionistic paintings. On stage he plays the piano and sings, together with bass, droms, violin and cello. The audience sat still during the whole concert and Einar Stray got well deserved applaus.
Saturday started with By the Patient who had got the ungrateful job of playing on the stage in the foyer of Aarhus Music hall. With the sun streaming in over the stage, it was difficult to go into the band’s dark an heavy music. Still they made the best of it and played a solid set. I feel the band have some potential in getting even tighter. The instrumentalists are good, specially the main guitarist, but together they aren’t 100% together yet.
After By The Patient I saw Cody. They are an Americana band with some great songs in a folksy mood with some strong inspiration from the British islands and also from The Faroe Island, mixed with good old songwriting. Their stage show isn’t very ”sexy”, but it is good to see a whole concert wth just good songs performed by a professional and competent band.
Alina Devecerski is a Swedish artist who had a summer hit last year, Flytta Paa Dej (Move over). Here I have to admit that I might be too old, but her kind of pop music isn’t attractive to me at all. 99% machines, an uninspiring stage show, and lots of clichés in the songs. But there will probably always be a market for this music, so the problem can just as well be mine.
Penny Police is another interesting artist in the singer songwriter, folk, americana tradition. The artist name is Marie Fjeldsted’s alter ego, an here too there is a great singer who also write good songs. She has a beautiful voice and plays piano and autoharp. Penny Police also have an intense presence on stage without seeming any stressed at all.
Last out Saturday was Kristine Stubbe Teglbjaerg. I have seen her a couple of times before with her former band The Blue Foundation, and I liked that band a lot. Solo she had an interesting approach to her music. Much of it sounded very good, but I felt it lacked some variation in dynamics and also to let it flow more freely. With a good producer, she could really make it good. Visiually the show was good, but with some dreadful backlights that flashed up at times and made it impossible to look at the stage.
All in all Spot 2013 has been a good experience. I saw some good talent, and I also missed out on some. The festival is extremely well organised, and everything runs smoothly. The festival attracted many international music business people, and is a good place for networking. I hope to go bak again in 2014.
All the pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.
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