Northside Festival in the heart of Århus city is now in its fourth year. Having grown to accommodate 25,000 people, it has become the perfect warm-up to Roskilde and an impressive festival in its own right, with many music lovers considering this year’s programme even better than Rosklide’s with Nick Cave, the Flaming Lips and Portishead topping the bill and a lot of new and exciting performers such as alt-J, Fallulah, Mø, Jagwar Ma also in attendance.
Phoenix are rare visitors to Denmark. It has been nine years since they last played here. In that time they made a breakthrough album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and have just released their follow-up album, Bankrupt!, so their performance is eagerly awaited. Opening with the magnificent ‘Entertainment’, the band takes off elegantly. Smooth sounds, combined with a shining sun, make for a cozy, sparkling atmosphere, and third number ‘Lisztomania’ delights this huge crowd.
For the next hour, this French combo plays a beautiful tour-de-force of numbers from the last two albums. Well crafted songs, powerful drumming, and tight arrangements – all well played, making for a great show – and they have a great singer in Thomas Mars. He has a fine, unearthly voice and is quite a showman, attempting several stage-dives and constantly interacting with the front rows. Phoenix deliver delicious licks and hooks straight from the 70s and 80s – inspired by everything from funk to electronic. The crowd is left astonished and thrilled. Absolutely outstanding.
Unafraid of controversy, the Knife’s live show has become a lightning rod of opinion over the past few months, and the use of playback music has been especially divisive. This performance is no different. The duo of Karen Dreijer-Andersson and Olof Dreijer appears on the stage cloaked like druids, along with eight similarly dressed dancers.
They start playing – or should I say miming, since it was pre-recorded on laser-lit instruments like chimes, percussion and harp. There’s a huge wooden instrument that looks like something dragged off a Star Wars set being played with a bow, but after three numbers all instruments are dragged away. And for the next half an hour, the duo and the dancers dance accompanied by playback, changing costumes sometimes and at one point leaving the stage while the playback music continues. The dancers’ amateurish performance is almost and leaves the audience bewildered and disbelieving.
Only when playing ‘Ready to Lose’ towards the end of the show does Karen Dreijer sing and play the piano live. Most of the audience had at this point left the concert mentally or physically. So introvert and excluding. A friend of mine stated: “It would be great if the Knife would actually turn up next time they come to play”.
Jagwar Ma have the difficult task of replacing Modest Mouse, who cancelled just two days before the festival. Having just released their first album Howlin’, this Australian three-piece play a storming 32 minutes of psychedelic pop. The beats fall somewhere between MGMT and the Stone Roses and the music with strong Tame Impala and Charlatans influence. You might say: all the good things from the nineties. Close your eyes and you are transported to a club somewhere in Manchester in 1995. The vocalist, Gabriel Winterfield, is a great singer and does the best he can to make the audience party and dance to the hypnotic beats. The audience, at first a little resistant, let go as the first rain starts to fall outside the tent.
The rain comes tumbling down as Alt-J take the Blue Stage. But even so, there is a huge crowd in rain coats and rain boots to support this interesting band. They perform most of their brilliant and gentle An Awesome Wave, and the sound is crystal clear; at times, sounding even better than on record, letting the fragile and sharp vocal work hit the very bottom of the soul. Joe Newman is one of the best singers of recent times, and the vocals work perfectly when sung a capella, too, in many passages. Perfect drumming, also.
Midway through the set, the sun takes its hold as the band perform ‘Matilda’. And the audience gives the band a huge applause. Leaving the stage with the magnificent ‘Breezeblocks’, the crowd are in ecstasy. It will be exiting to follow this bands next steps.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The festival had an appointment with the prince of darkness on Saturday night. Mr Larger than Life takes control with the audience from the first minute. Flanked by his Bad Seeds, who looks like characters from a Tarantino western, they work their way through the dark heart of rock and roll. ‘Jack the Ripper’, ‘Stagger Lee’, ‘Tupelo’ and ‘The Weeping Song’ are delivered in an atmosphere of chaos and control.
The band, at times, are not too tight, which Cave clearly addresses with voice, eyes and nasty charisma. The audience stay focused and tuned in for this special occasion. Even though it is a little to bumpy, watching and hearing something out of this world makes us all a little better.
Many expectations and many people met at Red Stage Saturday night, and in the centre of it all was the Danish electro-soul creature MØ. MØ’s persona and music are pure fat energy. Her attitude both sort of arrogant and grateful at the same time. She is very good at connecting visually and verbally and the crowd is with her. When she plays ‘Maiden’ the tent is rocking, but as the concert evolves she loses a little of that momentum. Maybe because she plays many new things that don´t fit with a party-craving audience. Maybe because her numbers lacks consistency. The future belongs without any doubt to MØ, but she will need a little time before she is over and above the music. This concert was more a step on the way. Up and away…
Having seen the Flaming Lips many times, I was glad to notice some important changes. Gone are all animals and costumes. Also gone are all the quasi-religious and moral blessings from singer Wayne Coyne. Instead we see a band stripped to the bone, with Coyne, of course, at the centre, holding and kissing a baby puppet while performing most of the dark, new material from The Terror. And the lightshow is breathtaking.
It is amazing to see how much the multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd has grown when it comes to delivering the messages, the music and the attitude of the Flaming Lips. He is more an anchorman than Coyne now. Maybe because Coyne’s voice is getting thinner and thinner, which calls for support in many ways. Unfortunately, the new quiet, introverted material means that drummer Kliph Scurlock is almost non-present in the musical landscape with his great and powerful drumming. The noir and doomy atmosphere from the new album is broken with a poor version of ‘Race for the Prize’, the only song played from the magisterial Soft Bulletin. Followed by a great version of Bowie’s ‘“Heroes”’ and the haunting ‘Do You Realize??’, the festival crowd is alive and partying. Until then, it is more of a watch-and-feel concert but in the good and cosmic sense.
Band of Horses
Band of Horses are back at Northside after having played a fantastic concert here in 2011. And they are received very warm and confidently this time. Led by singer and composer Ben Bridwell the band plays a fine set. Great to hear the great American rock tradition being held alive. Tom Petty meets Neil Young that meets Willie Nelson.
Although Band of Horses song material is not of the same quality and calibre as the aforementioned names, it works absolutely fine and the crowd loves it. Good, country-rock versions of ‘The Great Salt Lake’, ‘Laredo’ and ‘The Funeral’ and the festival fair is rocking, clapping and stomping. Actually, it is quite refreshing for everybody to hear the sound of mouth harmonica and pedal steel on a Sunday night.
Sunday night, but the party is not over. Supported by well-dressed guys in suits on guitar, bass, drums and keys, Fallulah comes on stage with a bottle of Jack Daniels in her hand and starts out with ‘Deserted Homes’, where her great tremolo vocal gives all the Northsiders the shivers. She is in good spirits, sipping of the JD bottle occasionally, enthusiastically playing her tambourine on almost every number. The band is tight and has that crispy, classic soul sound that make her music so tempting. The crowd dances but you can sense the classic end-of-the-festival mood, which also brought on by fatigue and too much music.
She gets everybody busy singing with the Chris Isaak cover, ‘Wicked Game’. Every man and woman sings with their own voice and tone to one another, and even Falullah hits some curious and false notes. Finishing with a fine version of ‘Out of It’, the concert and the festival come to an abrupt end.
Reporting by Maximilian Kromann
Photo by Jakob Bekker-Hansen
See state’s full gallery from Northside here.