Think festival in Denmark and Roskilde is what comes to mind, right? Well, while that may be the best known of the Danish festivals, it’s not the only one. Far from it. Spot Festival in Denmark’s second city of Aarhus is currently in its 19th year. It’s a showcase of all things Danish with a smattering of other Nordic acts. There are five main areas being used for the festival with a music hall holding seven stages alone. There’s also an old train station and a club complex all within a couple of minutes’ walk from each other. The main stage area in the Scandinavian Congress Centre is a work of genius, however. Two giant stages side by side, so while an act plays on one the other gets set up/taken down.
It’s here that we catch the opening act of Friday’s line up in the shape of hard rockers Helhorse. Dedicating their set to recently-deceased Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, this sextet waste no time kicking out the jams and blowing the ears off us. Blistering guitar solos and pounding drums pulverise us over the next half an hour, and by 4pm we are left in no doubt that this festival was not just going to be another synth-pop affair. Great stuff altogether.
After a bit of wandering around we take our place to the right of the main stage for Maria Apetri, better known as Fallulah. Taking to the stage with her band and sporting a rather fetching black and red floral dress she delivers a foot stomping version of ‘Dried-Out Cities’ from her latest album, Escapism, which peaked at number two in the Danish album charts. To say she’s got the dance moves down is the understatement of the year, and it comes as no big surprise to find out that she started her career as a dancer at a young age. The Duracell bunny comes to mind with her boundless energy and she really has got fine songs such as ‘Deserted Homes’ and ‘Superfishyality’ to back it all up. Her set is brilliant from start to finish and Irish promoters out there need to take note and sign her up for a show or festival over here, as this lady is set for much bigger things. One of the highlights of the entire weekend without a shadow of a doubt.
Time then for a stroll over to the Voxhall venue to catch Icelandic act Bloodgroup. Well, technically they are three quarters Icelandic as gadget man and all-round musical genius, Janus Rasmussen is Faroese. Keytars and kaos pads are the order of the day here as female vocalist Sunna Margrét Þórisdóttir, dressed all in black, as are the rest of the band, trades vocal duties with Rasmussen to deliver a brilliant set of hook-driven electronic pop. Magnificent.
With nothing in our schedule for the next hour or so we take a chance and wander into the large concert hall in the Musikhuset complex and take our seats just in time to see a gentleman by the name of Søren Huss stroll out in front of a full orchestra. Now, we had never heard of this man, but even before there was a note sung, we could tell from the crowd’s reaction that he was very well respected in Denmark. And rightly so. His album Oppefra og Ned charted straight in at number one in the Danish charts when it was released last October. We only get three songs here, but they are three magnificent songs, the last of which, ‘Tak For Dansen’, makes the hairs stand up on the backs of our necks. Sublime.
It’s back to the main stage area then for Lulu Rouge, an act whose members man the electronics while a cast of guest vocalists take their turn contributing to the house driven bass heavy groove. It reminds us of Icelandic group GusGus in places which is always a good thing. It’s a nice set which gets the whole crowd dancing and ready for the next act.
She’s the lady on everyone’s lips at the moment, and her name is most definitely not pronounced like a character in EastEnders. She’ll be making her Irish festival debut at Longitude in Marlay Park this summer, so we squeeze up the front to get a good look at Karen Marie Ørsted, better known as MØ. We are treated to the tropical pop magic of ‘Pilgrim’ and the brilliant ‘Glass’ with its cascading glacial synth line. It’s a good call getting her over to Ireland for a festival. Great stuff.
Four-piece electro-pop outfit When Saints Go Machine bring the nights proceedings to a close on the main stage to a packed crowd, showcasing songs off their new album, Infinity Pool. Having been up the very front for MØ we decide a spot at the back is the best option this time and are able to catch the full light-show complete with lasers. With the last chords still ringing, we steal away into the Danish night back to our hotel to rest up for another day’s festivities.
It’s gloriously sunny the next day and after a spot of brunch down by the canal we find ourselves back in the Musikhuset to catch Marie Key. We’re not the only ones with this idea as the concert hall is packed to the rafters at 2pm. It’s only with the help of the ushers that we manage to grab a seat. There’s plenty of on stage banter and laughter from the audience here, but as it’s all in Danish we just smile and pretend we know what’s going on. We get a nice half-hour of catchy pop tunes, however, and that’ll do us grand.
Our Vitamin D levels get a brief boost then, as we sit out on the grass taking in the sun and having a coffee before we plunge down into the dark depths of the venue known as headquarters to see the Wands. The windows in here are taped up with black plastic and it’s fairly hot and stuffy with the place full to bursting point. There’s a chap off to one side with an interesting looking overhead projector that throws up all sorts of psychedelic visuals as the four members of this Danish neo-psych combo take to the stage. Wearing flowery shirts, sporting long hair and with a twelve string electric guitar for good measure they let rip with ‘Hello I Know the Blow You Grow Is Magic’ from their EP of the same name. Cymbals are smashed, bass strings are plucked and the rack of pedals are pushed to the limit as we are treated to a brilliant set that could easily be taking place in 1963, never mind 2013. These lads have a great on-stage dynamic going on, and we have to say that we are totally blown away by how good they are. The highlight of the entire festival in our book. Give us some of that blow any day, baby.
We leave the venue briefly then to get something to eat and end up chatting to some people we know, and by the time we get back to see Mechanical Bird, the place is completely chock a block. Managing to score a seat near the back, but with no view whatsoever of the stage this folk collective, lead by Jakob Brixen, break out the banjos and harmonicas to deliver a blistering set reminiscent of Woven Hand at their finest.
Deciding then that our ears haven’t had a good blasting in at least an hour, it’s over to catch Norwegian band Deathcrush to remedy that particular problem. Named after an EP by black metal band and fellow Norwegians Mayhem, this trio sound more like Sonic Youth after a heavy weekend. The blonde-haired guitarist also has a penchant for wandering into the crowd while still playing and it’s funny to see big, burly, tattooed guys back away from this slight girl as she swings her axe wildly, all the time laying down ear-splitting riffs. This is punk rock at its finest, and as guitars are flung to the ground as their set ends and feedback howls through the venue, we decide our ears got the work out they were looking for. To paraphrase Shakin’ Stevens – lovely stuff.
Then it’s the worst named band we’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Ladies and gentlemen we give you Complicated Universal Cum. Thoughts about their name are soon relegated to the backs of our minds, however, as a sonic sledgehammer hits us square in the face with the sheer power of this nine-piece outfit. Nine piece? Yes, you heard us right. Four guitarists, two drummers, two bassists and a guy on a MicroKorg is what we’re dealing with here, and, by God, it’s louder than Hell. One drummer starts while another wades in a minute later, with layer upon layer of window-breaking guitars crashing in like a tsunami of post-rock apocalypse. One ten minute jam is followed by another as the eardrums are blasted off every single person in the venue. Absolutely fantastic.
Two days in Aarhus then and it’s clear that there is a wealth of musical talent in this Nordic nation. We reckon there’s another Viking invasion on the cards. Bring it on, we say, bring it on.