by / June 20th, 2014 /

Northside Festival – Århus, Denmark

Located in beautiful settings in the heart of Århus city, the festival has grown in five years from 5000 attenders to this year’s record attendance of 35,000 people. Three days with fine weather, cozy atmosphere and a musical offering that makes Northside a luxuriant city party and a worthy competitor to the Roskilde festival. With top brass names like Arcade Fire, The Pixies, Lana Del Rey, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Queens of the Stone Age headlining and the likes of Mø, Franz Ferdinand and James Vincent McMorrow featuring highly too. We caught some of our favourite acts over the three days.

 

James Vincent McMorrow
No one can deny the beauty of McMorrows falsetto. Prince and Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley connotations are obvious. But it works better on record than live where the detailed and spheric richnesss of the arrangements, becomes hard to transfer to an audience that seems to want something more direct, less complex, something rockier. McMorrow performs mostly from the beautiful new album ‘Post Tropical’ but it proves hard for him to convert the delightful eeriness into the hearts and minds of the crowd. McMorrow finally hits the spot when playing the hit ‘We Don’t Eat’ and ‘All Points’ where the more rockier approach gets thousands of voices united in singalong and general ecstasy.

Cold Specks
Behind the name of Cold Specks is the queen of ‘doom soul’, Al Spx. Her music is to be found somewhere between the lines of soul, gospel, blues and folk. The sound of intensity, the dark magic power of discreteness fueled by a superb voice that makes your spine shiver. Assisted by guitar, keyboards and drums, Al Spx takes the stage with half her face covered by a golden mask. The lyrics are doomy and dark : “This next song is about killing the one that you love”. The music is light and coloured by heart and soul. Spx gets the upper hand of the audience when performing two beautiful a-cappella songs and then heading into the hit ‘Blank Maps’ and the smooth southern comfort tune ‘When the City Lights Shines Dim’. At times during the concert her voice seems a little out of tune, but can’t take away the impression that you’re watching a huge talent.

Brian Jonestown Massacre
“Party over here and fuck you over there”, is the opening salute from the veterans. And for the next 45 minutes some brilliant west coast inspired guitar-distorted music, rocks the sundrenched Northside festival. The audience, the worst this sunny afternoon from partying the night before, get warmed up and electrified again. A notably older audience than at any other Northside concert, sees four guitarists, one bass, an organist, a drummer and the eccentric tambourinist (Joel Gidon) in the center of it all. Gradually building up slowly, but tight, the show hits the normal critical moment at a BJM show, when something goes wrong and band leader, Anton Newcombe starts yelling at the band through open microphones. This time an out of tune guitar make Newcombe stop the concert with an embarrassing pause where remarks like ‘Quit fucking around’ and ‘Since when did you care about sucking’, threatens to break the harmony of the day. For everybody. BMJ eventually gets back on track playing stormy and pounding versions of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Got my Eyes on You’, where the band lets loose and plays their droning rock and roll perfectly.

Arcade Fire
Having seen Arcade Fire playing a fantastic concert at the Primavera festival some weeks before, we came to the concert with some high expectations… and it was indeed one of the high points at Northside. They delivered a complete, energetic, theatrical, danceable, and breathtaking show. The six members of the Canadian combo open with ‘Here comes the Night Time’ which leads the way to one and a half hours of sublime party indie-rock. Huge canons blow confetti into the night sky. The band are able to go from one number to another in an unnoticeable natural streamlined way without bumps or stops. Everybody in the audience, knowing and unknowing of the qualities of this groups super professionalism, seems paralyzed in a hypnotic way. This a theatre. The stage filled by 12 people in colorful and party clothes, a huge pool of instruments, huge wide screens and exploding confetti canons. This is excessive musicality: lead singer Win Butler shifting without problems between bass, guitars, keyboards and vocal harmonies. Singer Regine Chassagne shifting between lead singing, harmonica, percussion and keyboards. The band works itself through a lot of the songs from the groups fourth album “Reflector”, but we also dive into the material from ‘Funeral’ and ‘The Suburbs’. Leaving the stage with the sublime ‘Wake Up’, you feel having witnessed one the best live bands of the decade.

Queens of the Stone Age
One of the most important hard rocking bands of these times takes the stage on the last night of the festival. Playing in a sparse but evocatively lit stage, the band opens with the majestic “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel like a Millionaire”. The band do indeed sound like a million. On form, in good spirits they light up the last energy in the huge audience. Heading into ‘No One Knows’, the crowdsurfing starts. In fact this was the only concert at Northside where the audience completely let loose. Front man Josh Homme seems joyful this evening though sometimes the vocals do sound a little muddy. Homme and the other guitarist, Troy van Leeuwens trade guitar parts and are equally as sharp as razorblades. The band plays a splendid druggy version of the narcotic ode ‘Feelgood Hit of the Summer’ and blast on with the thunderous glowing ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ and the speedy ‘Go with the Flow’. The crowd goes wild and you feel the archetypical festival spirit is encapsulated in this very moment. Leaving Northside with a ferocious ‘A Song of the Dead’, which featured a powerful drum solo from Jon Theodore, the QOTSA proved to be a great booking and seem more relevant a rock n’ roll band than ever.

The Pixies
The independent groundbreaking group from the ’80s and ’90s, the kings of noise rock, aggressive surf-riffs and surreal lyrics, released their new album Indie Cindy this year – the first album from the Pixies in more than twenty years. However it is the older repertoire that Pixies perform most of this Sunday night. The band are lead by original members Black Francis (guitar, vocal), Joey Santiago (Lead guitar), David Lovering (drums) and the new female bassist and vocal singer Paz Lenchantin (Ex-Perfect Circle). The original group members have gained some weight and lost some hair through the years but who cares when they plays better than ever. Opening with slow burner ‘Bone Machine’, with some seraphic vocal chorus and the characteristic pumping bas from Lenchantin, the group works their way through three minute bombs like ‘Hey’, ‘Gouge Away’ and ‘Wave of Mutilation’. It is so easy to hear why Kurt Cobain were so inspired by their sound and lyrics. The music is hard but subdued, the lyrics aggressive. Black Francis, screams more than he sings. Every one of the three minute songs are ripped apart by hooks and melodic choruses. And everybody sings along. Pixies plays 17 songs through an excellent set. Santiago, plays a distorted solo with two guitars against each other and against the amplifiers when playing ‘Vamos’. It was the infernal sound of a jet motor from an airplane – truly something extraordinary. The band are greeted by the wild ovations of the audience.

Mount Kimbie
Deep melodic bass and heavy ambient dubstep is the signature of this two piece group. Playing Friday at 7pm, while Århus is still bathed in sunshine, one wonders why the arrangers had placed the group so early in the day. To start with the arena is only half filled to begin with but with the spreading hypnotic, clubbing sounds from the stage, the place is suddenly packed with people. Mount Kimbie (á la Dominic Maker and Kai Campos) are two very introverted guys and they don’t make any attempt to try and embrace the enthusiastic audience. The music works at best when Campos adds a rocking guitar to the ambient sounds to make electronic pulses and rhythms, musically supported by a live drummer. For some time the dubstep keeps going into a universe where countless loops makes the melodies repeat again and again. It works for a while. Campos strolling around the stage and the rather stiff and concentrated Maker, create a hypnotic trance atmosphere. The group performs mostly from the 2013 album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. It is pure, it is well played but it is also annoying. There is no lively communication with the audience, no change in the dubstep and back tracking going on and on and on, which ultimately leads to the slowly disintegration of the crowd that seems to loose interest, starting to talk and chill instead of dancing.

 

Words by Max Kromann.
Photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen.