Last month State visited a new festival in the centre of Copenhagen, primarily to cast our own eyes upon Sugarman himself Rodriguez. As a bonus, and despite rumours to the contrary, a full-compliment Wu-Tang Clan also crossed our path. Max Kromann reports from the festival. Photo by Jakob Bekker-Hansen (see full gallery here).
Vanguard Music Festival is the first attempt in many years to organize a music festival in the heart of Copenhagen and what a success it was. Well arranged from start to finish, with a lot of space for the audience, easy access to food and drinks and good toilet facilities, the atmosphere was peaceful and very cozy indeed. The fine weather led thousands of Danish and Swedish people picnicking in the extemporaneous surroundings and in many ways the atmosphere had the reminiscence of a classic love-in for the 9000 people who came along. The beautiful park, Søndermarken in the center of Frederiksberg, was blessed with sun for two days and with 300 year-old trees surrounding the gardens, was an ideal setting for a music festival.
The festival had two stages, the huge Sun Ra Stage and the smaller tent, the Fat Cat Stage. Musically the festival line up was a mix between hip-hop and rock which led to two different crowds on each day. The headliners were Rodriguez, Wu-Tang Clan and DOOM. In addition to the headliners, De La Soul, Laid Back, Heliocentrics, Pharoahe Monch, Looptroop Rockers and Kitty, Daisy & Lewis were amongst the performers.
Having just released their great second album, expectations were high for José Gonzáles and his original band. What we get here is one hour of spellbinding quasi-psychedelic music. The music is calm, monotonous in parts but yet powerful and dynamic. Especially when they rock it up in pace with ‘Line of Fire’ and ‘Walking Lightly’. Gonzáles voice is soft and hypnotic and the band is very tight indeed. However there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm and passion from the musicians, most of the time introvertly playing for each other and not the audience.
Most people here came to see icon Sixto Rodriguez perform. Raising to stardom in his late career helped by the jaw-dropping and Oscar winning ‘Searching for Sugarman’ documentary, the crowd are ecstatic when this gentleman enters the stage. Rodriguez is escorted on as apparently he does not see well anymore. He seems physically fragile and performs most of the concert sitting down which is a huge contrast to his energetic performance at Glastonbury just the month before. It soon becomes clear that this is one of these from-heaven-to-hell-and-back concerts. Opening with the majestic ‘Climb up on my music’, the band solidly jams their way into the Rodriguez universe. His voice strong and clear for most of the concert, but at times unhearable. His guitar strumming might be a little bumpy and sloppy, but it works assisted by a solid, tight band. Rodriguez gives the crowd a well meaning advice on drugs “Be smart and don’t start” and the man appears so warm and gentle. It is very touching as the young crowd sings along to ‘Sugarman’ and ‘I Wonder’. Unthinkable that he’s be in a live setting like this just two years ago. He plays a strong crisp version of ‘Crucify your Mind’ and then pulls off a terrible version of Little Richards ‘Lucille’, followed by a storming version of ‘Silver Words’. From the highest to the lowest the crowd seems a little bewildered and bemused as the show goes on. But the beautiful atmosphere this sunny Friday makes it a sacred experience and it’s a blessing to see the folk singer getting his well deserved recognition, albeit a couple of decades to late.
The stone mask stoner-hip-hop phenomena DOOM plays a strange show. The tent is packed to the max and the crowd is almost over-enthusiastic all along the concert. DOOM, seems surprised that he has such a huge following in Denmark. The crowd raps along the most famous lines of his songs, especially the takes from the ‘Madvillainy’ and ‘Mm..Food’ albums. It is impressive to watch and hear the audience rap along to these songs that have no choruses and very scarce hooks. DOOM himself stands still most of the concert mumbling his words in a monotone way. Sometimes unhearable due to a muddy sound on the vocal, but the audience knows their canon and worship their prophet of Doom.
The rumor of the festival had it that Wu-Tang Clan would cancel their show. In Denmark they have cancelled 5 shows over the years so it is understandable why their huge crowd of followers were a little nervous of what to expect from a hip-hop collective where disorder and ego fighting have been the daily order for years. The concert was a triumph for the collective and the audience. Everybody in the Clan was there, entering the stage one by one cheered by wild ovations. The clan lifts off and performs an impressive string of hits, mainly from their groundbreaking 20-year-old album ‘Enter the Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers)’. The Clan members seemed cheerful and even mature at times, paying tribute to the now deceased Ol’ Dirty Bastard on numbers like ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ and ‘Got your Money’. The Clan even performed a great take of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’. Wu-Tang attitude is heavy, massive, almost brutal and yet so humane. Their performance leaves the audience with arms high and thousands of hands forming Ws. A performance worthy of the highest esteem.