Every year since 1994, with the exception of 2001, the SPOT festival has been held as a showcase festival and conference in Aarhus. The initiative came from ROSA, The Danish Rock Council, and they have organized the festival all these years. In 2005 the Danish minister of culture proclaimed it to be the most important musical event in Denmark. I attended the festival regularly from 2004 and on, but I haven’t been there since 2013 until this year. (Photo above: Sigrid)
Gunnar Madsen, the CEO of ROSA, that is behind SPOT.
Aarhus is the European capital of culture this year, and SPOT is an important part of this. The city is the second largest city in Denmark with slightly below 350.000 inhabitants and a history dating back to the 8th century. There are over 50.000 students in Aarhus and the University is the largest in Denmark. The city also has a symphony orchestra, an opera and several good music venues in different sizes – a perfect place to stage a music festival.
The SPOT festival is organized like many other showcase festivals with a daytime conference program that attracts people from the music industry and media, making sure they are there to see the bands that play at night. The formula may have come from SXSW, and there are several festivals like this around, personally this is my fourth showcase festival, including SXSW, this year.
The Savage Rose
Annisette from The Savage Rose
Like most showcase festivals, SPOT also has a select few bigger names to attract a larger audience besides the hopeful acts that are allowed to perform at the festival. 2017’s crowd pleaser was The Savage Rose, a band that started in 1997 and has its 50 year anniversary with a Scandinavian tour later this year. I loved them in 1969 when I became aware of them, I loved their performance in Oslo in 2012, and I love their show at SPOT, specially the singer Annisette’s voice and performance. Hopefully I will also see them in November when they play in Oslo.
Death by Unga Bunga
Usually when I am at showcase festivals abroad, I try to check out how the Norwegian artists do compared to the competition. At SPOT there were a few of them, and I managed to see 6 acts in all. Nils Bech, Sigrid, Siv Jacobsen, Slotface, Rise Above and Death by Unga Bunga. I also saw a few of the Danish acts, like Jonah Blacksmith, Stella Lugosi and Hudna, plus Svartmalm from the Faroe Island and Alma from Finland.
A new thing this year was the Roots & Hybrid festival that was a festival in the festival, with music from different other cultures, and all bands that fuse different styles into something new. I saw two of these bands the first day, and I was impressed and really liked what I saw and heard. Latino Cubano is a Slovenian band that plays latino music with a Balkan feel that works extremely well. I also saw Addisabababand, a 14 piece band from Aarhus playing afrobeat like they were born there. I also saw a few songs by Hudna with the Icelandic singer Disa, a trio who mixes Turkish folk with americana and folk.
Alma (with some of the worst light I have ever experienced)
All in all this year’s festival was a really good one for me. The conference was good, with some high profile presenters and interesting themes for this of us who follow the music industry, streaming and the transitions we are in the midst of these days. The showcases was, as always well organized, and the level of professionalism among the artists was impressively high. My favorites, beside the veterans in Savage Rose, were Sigrid and Nils Bech of the Norwegian acts, plus Jonah Blacksmith and Latino Cubano.
Sebastian from Death by Unga Bunga
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.