by / July 2nd, 2015 /

Northside Festival – Aarhus, Denmark

It’s Friday, the first day of State’s third year at Northside and we’re blessed with sun, no wind and 20 degrees. And, the music program isn’t bad either.  With circles around names like José Gonzales, Death Cab for Cutie, Mø, FKA Twigs, Alt-J and Grace Jones for tonight, the final piece of this puzzle is a pint – seeing how Northside is one of the more “grown-up” festivals. Organic beers, cocktail bars, wine bars, a champagne and oyster bar; we’re certainly enjoying the upper echelons of festival-going.

Last year, Ry X featured as the opening act and it seems the festival is repeating the soft beginning with a quiet and beautiful performance courtesy of Swedish singer José Gonzalez, followed by Danish pop & soul singer Barbara Moleko (a replacement for Earl Sweatshirt who cancelled at the last minute). Later in the afternoon we make a beeline for Death Cab For Cutie in the Blue Stage to give us an able mix of old and new material.

And so, tanked up on our very “grown-up”, craft-brewery organic beer and a famed Northside burger in hand, we decide between Alt-J and FKA Twigs who are tragically scheduled at the same time. We decide on the latter, who after a few hiccups, enters the stage in a transparent, white gown beset with a dramatic green cape. FKA Twigs’ fragile falsetto works seductively, making for a beautiful contrast to the heavy bass driven beats that spur her on. With ‘Video Girl’ and her sensual dancing we’re transfixed and intrigued after just two tracks, but after the fifth we’re firmly in the palm of her hand.

State are soon in for a similar experience as we head for Grace Jones (67 and performing topless, go Grace!). Wearing nothing bar high-pants and white striped body-paint, Jones’ performance immediately tows the line between concert and sideshow, but she persists with the party mentality and eventually we’ve joined her in the festivities. Her charm and eclectic style are hard to resist as we dance to her smoky, heavily-partied out vocals; she gives us the gory details with her tales of a wild-lifestyle lived between songs.

Jones rounds off our evening accordingly, and given our “mature” festival etiquette, it’s off to the hotel for a lovely wash, a lovely sleep in a real bed and a fresh start to the day that lies ahead.  No camping for State at Northside, we’ll have you know.  We awake on Saturday to find the gorgeous weather has abandoned us and for the rest of the day the rain comes’a’pouring.  Fortunately, we’ve come prepared in our rubber boots, knit-sweaters and raincoats and it’s a pleasure to see a lot of young, up-and-coming Danish bands like Broken Twin, S!vas, Scarlet Pleasure and The Minds of 99 filling the stage on this gloomy afternoon.

Again though, we’re plagued by the scheduling dilemma. Antony and the Johnsons on the main stage or Wolf Alice on the smaller P6 Beat stage? We follow our hearts to Antony and the Johnsons who are accompanied by the local Aarhus symphonic orchestra. It makes for a poignant experience as the rain becomes a befitting backdrop for Antony Hegarty’s melancholia-drenched songs, although, we’re needing a pick me up by the time he’s finished and what could be better than some Icelandic house from GusGus and the legendary Underworld to finish off Saturday with serious techno?  Not a lot. 

Sunday, and the last day of the festival, we’re immediately met by Trash-Talkers (charity volunteers who help in keeping the refuse to a minumum).   It’s all part of Northside’s strong, sustainable ethic that a lot of other festivals would do well to take heed of.  We’re enthused for today’s music program and thankfully it’s a packed schedule with all manner of genres. Soul, folk, alternative-rock, blues-rock, electronic, pop and the classic singer-songwriter vibe all see the stage throughout the day.

Firstly, American soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones give us the perfect start to Sunday and we soon forget the miserable weather of the previous day.  In Denmark they talk a lot about the weather, so State are happy to report that it didn’t rain, but was a little colder.  We’re not advocating a new career path, but we just like to make sure you know the facts. The weather facts. On a different note, it’s time for John Grant and it’s clear he has a lot of love for Denmark.  He’s vocal about it between tracks and clearly glad to be here; presumably as much as we are given Grant’s warm and energetic performances of his epic and melodic ballads before a rapturous rendition of ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.

In a similar vein, Matthew E White plays for 40 minutes with his band and focuses on latest release Fresh Blood, albeit with the same kind of stripped-back sensibility we saw with Grant.  It’s a compact performance and the joy White and band obviously take in performing is infectious.

Alas, our perfect Sunday start doesn’t quite survive in the afternoon and we’re a little bit disappointed at the performances by George Ezra and Calexico.  We have a lot of time for these guys, but something just doesn’t click today and Ezra doesn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounds him while Calexico appear quite sullen – there’s a certain enthusiasm lacking on and in front of the stage.

Maybe it was us, maybe it was the three-day hangovers kicking in early, but we’re looking for revival and it isn’t until the last act of the day that we’re reinvigorated.  It is, of course, up to the Black Keys and it does, of course, work.  Their dirty, blues-rock sound is straight out of the garage and they do it so perfectly that our recovery is nothing short of miraculous.  Frankly, it was the best possible ending to a fantastic Northside Festival 2015, but it wasn’t the best Northside we’ve been to.  There’s always room for improvement and State are confident Northside will do so as we look forward to returning next year.