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Way Out West — Day One

  • Published in Live

Way Out West kicks off in blazing sunshine. Walking through Slottskogen, we’re surrounded by a sea of Fjällräven backpacks and fashionable monochrome. For three days a year, Way Out West takes over the heart of Slottskogen, the huge park at the heart of Gothenburg. This year, the festival is celebrating its tenth year: music-wise, there are five stages to choose from where you can see popular headliners and the bands who, in a year or two, will be headlining the bigger stages on their own. Just ask Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and Warpaint, who played at Way Out West just before making it big.

But Way Out West isn’t just about music. The focus is much more wide-ranging. Keen to support the environmental movement, the festival has been 100% vegetarian since 2012 and it went dairy-free last year. As well as checking out music, you can head along to talks about environmental and societal issues throughout the festival— an example of this being, Karolina Skog from the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, who is giving a talk at the Höjden stage. This being Musos’ Guide, we’re going to stick with the music. Tonight’s headliner is Morrissey. But before night falls, there’s plenty of music that we want to check out.

 We start things off by going to see Vasas Flora och Fauna at the Höjden stage. It’s at the bottom of a gentle slope and lined with trees, making it a natural amphitheatre, and it’s a great place to grab a spot on the grass and enjoy the music. Vasas Flora och Fauna are a trio of Swedish-speaking Finns, whose gentle indie pop is utterly charming. After that, it’s time to catch Jason Isbell on the Azalea stage, one of the festival’s two main stages. He plays a fantastic set that’s tight and full of soul. Our mate, who’s a huge fan, spends the entire set in a swoon. The track '24 Frames' is better live than on the Grammy award-winning Something More Than Free, Isbell’s most recent album. Other tracks that really fly are 'Stockholm­­­­­' and 'Cover Me Up'.

London band Daughter have been gaining lots of traction recently and we’re keen see what they’re like live. We head over to the Linné tent to find out and aren’t disappointed. It’s atmospheric stuff and tracks 'New Ways' and 'Youth' go down really well with the crowd. I’ve got a real soft spot for the Saturdays=Youth album by M83, so we amble over to the festival’s main stage, Flamingo, to catch their set. It’s just the kind of music to get the crowd moving and they crack through a decent set that includes 'Midnight City', 'Outro' and, happily for me, 'Couleurs'. After that, it’s time for a shot of Scotland in the form of Chvrches. They draw a big, appreciative crowd and blast through a cracking set that includes 'Bury It' and 'Never Ending Circles'. Lauren Mayberry banters away with the crowd, stopping at one point to tie the laces on her platform shoes. It’s a sign of their success that even the typically reserved (“No, discerning”, says my Swedish co-writer) Swedes are dancing away by the end.

The Last Shadow Puppets are one of the highlights of the day and they play an absolutely delicious set. Alex Turner and Miles Kane are on top form with Alex posturing his way across the stage in a shocking pair of maroon trousers while Miles flounces about in black and white silk. The set is high camp, knowing and utterly glorious with Alex channelling a stage presence that’s somewhere between Grinderman and Neil Diamond as he croons that he’d “like to play something from my last LP”. They blast their way through a great set, the best of which are 'Standing Next to Me', 'Age of the Understatement', 'Everything You’ve Come to Expect' and 'Bad Habits'.

There’s a sticky moment just after 8pm when The Libertines set gets cancelled at the last minute but the Way Out West app quickly notifies us that they’re taking over ANOHNI’s set tomorrow night. ANOHNI is down with the flu, which is a huge disappointment but I’m keen to see The Libertines live, even if it’s a day late, as it’s been twelve years both since they last played in Sweden and since I last saw them live.

Finally, in the headline slot, it’s time for Morrissey. It’s good to see that he’s as provocative and combative as ever and the crowd devours his set. He’s winningly self-aware as he chats to the crowd between songs, a particular cracker coming after he applauds the festival’s vegetarian ethos when he says “No death for sale, no pain for sale, no torture for sale… except for me”.  The set blasts through his best tracks, even 'Ouija Board' gets an airing, and standouts are “The World Is Full of Crashing Bores' (accompanied by a picture of Kate and Prince William looking particularly vapid with the slogan “United Kingdumb”), 'English Blood, Irish Heart' and 'The Last of the Gang to Die'. The crowd clap and cheer long after he leaves the stage with a bow before dispersing into the night. 





Musings On A Week In Music

  • Published in Live

Two concerts and two 1-day festivals in a week, including a stay at a friend’s place and at a hotel. Loads of acts to watch, loads of energy to expend, and loads of fun to be had. If all goes right...

National media pick up on the fact that Morrissey (playing in Tivoli, Utrecht) has ordained that no meat will be eaten in his vincinity. Said media especially seem to be concerned about the professional musicians that will be playing classical music in the same venue. How will anyone survive not eating meat for a day? Especially those who play Liszt.

In the comments section (note to self: never, ever read comment sections on these things) people are outraged. How dare a musician to tell a venue beforehand that it has to be a meatless venue for one day (they could have said no, if they wanted to...)! Guess at the core is the fact that we don’t like to be told what to do. Whatever the subject is. Probably says more about “our” God-like complex than Morrissey’s tbh (especially since loads of these commenting people all have the Divine and moral right at their side, so it seems). Though anyone who at age 55+ takes off his shirt and casually tosses it semi-naked into the audience might somewhere along the line have been inclined to develop one.

About 0.1% of those who complained about the singer’s demands were at the concert, btw. Which begs the question, why were all others giving a ----.

Morrissey’s voice has no age on it at all. The videos of animals being slaughtered get old pretty quickly though. My friend took off her glasses from her face and meat off her menu. So good day for Morrissey I suppose, despite his band’s best efforts to drown him out. When they don’t do that, like on the ol’ classic ‘Asleep’, concert is at its best.

St. Vincent is showing off her skills as the robotic hypnotic. Corny choreographs mix with rock and roll, theatrical dramatics with sexual innuendos, and all of that is connected together by Miranda July-esque short monologues about awkward conversations. And yes, some of those stories definitely qualify for that. Some are hilarious though. All need a bit more practice.

In the new Doornroosje venue (coat room still free. Best gesture ever) she starts with the pop, starting by hilariously miming the verb “running” on ‘Rattlesnake’ and ending the trifecta with ‘Digital Witness’ and ‘Cruel’. It seems like the focus of the rest of the show is on the rocking, the rolling, and the having fun with the crowd and her bandmates s. The latter who, iron faced, do all the corny Supremes-meet-android moves along with her. Her voice is awesome, her songs are intellectual, and the whole performance is jaw dropping.

The new Catch festival is in the new Tivoli building. About four rooms are in play... if you can unlock them! (It’s a game, honey!) It’s an Escher-esque maze out there, with loads of staircases always seeming to lead you to somewhere else. The room called Cloud Nine, by the way, is quite the ascension, and like going to Heaven indeed takes a lifetime. With that said, because everything is so wide apart, it never feels crowded, convoluted, or congested.

Nils Frahm has set up about fourteen-and-a-half synthesizers. In the encore he plays two of the three at the same time, reconstructing the battle-of-the-Ducks in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? single-handedly. He piles on layer after layer of rhythmic piano playing, the songs so expertedly crafted you just have to admire them. His piano playing; his hands move just so incredibly fast. If he types that way, when I am genius, famous, and 70, must remember to ask him to ghostwrite for me. If he’s available, of course.

Kindness puts the fun in funk. Anytime the singer tells an anecdote about what his band was up to last night (they apparently hijacked a jam session at a local cafe) you know it is about dancing and having fun. Especially if that anecdote turns into a rendition of some old dancefloor classic or another (memory is hazy, but might have been Womack & Womack’s ‘Teardrops’, or some Whitney tune with “dancefloor” in it.); just so amazingly fun. Obviously loads of Kindness’ tracks make it onto the setlist as well, both old and new. It ends with about a ten minute Chicago House tribute, which has the band dancing as hard (if not harder) than the audience.

Years & Years, pre-show, stand on stage, and it reminds me of the famous Picasso tableau Band-Doesn’t-Know-How-To-Fix-Technical-Issue, painted around 1904 in his famous Blue period. Ten minutes too late the band starts, and certainly many youngsters have gathered to catch a glimps of the charismatic Olly Alexander, who also happens to have quite a voice. Break out potential is certainly there, with some lovely singles like ‘Real’ and ‘Desire’. Live ‘Take Shelter’ actually disappoints, being my favorite in recording, and though undoubtedly inches away from stardom, there is some youth to be detected in the performance. So the existential question is, do you kill off your own youth for a mature sound and a full feature in next month’s Hit Parade?

Youth is also on display at the London Calling Festival in Paradiso. The Mispers have some nice hooks, and the two guitarists (one acoustic, one electric) throw in some nice riffs. The vocals no one can actually hear, which is too bad, as a couple of songs definitely show some promise. More than Fever the Ghost does. The singer comes on in a sort of beekeeper outfit, which is splendid! Except, you can’t hear him and it looks ridicilous. The band keeps throwing out so.much.noise. that it becomes hard to find the actual song in there. The sound cleans up as the gig goes on though, reaching its peak after the show has ended.

Josef Salvat reminds me of the New Girl episode where Smith pretends he is one of the Mitt Romney sons. Salvat is the singing one, and he sure has the vocal skills. The songs are pretty decent too, though the ones with just him and the piano do drag the whole thing down a tad. His moves does make my mind wander about a visibly big schism between electro performers and the kids at the Catch festival and the more indie rock-ish audience and bands at London Calling. The electro kids & artists can motherblimey dance! And the others give it a valiant effort. It’s White Men Can Dance vs. White Men Look Awkward As They Attempt to Dance. Subcultures eh, gotta love ‘m.

Spoon though. Blimey, Spoon. They’re just the blueprint for any American indie-rock band, they know how to do it right. Sure, the start of the performance is marred by technical issues. Britt Daniel asks if we can hear him. That is tech code for turn-up-the-bleeping-sound. When they arrive at the middle part and come up with the trio of ‘Summon You’, ‘Turn My Camera On’, and ‘Inside Out’ you are reminded what a good band sounds like.

A concert by them is like playing a collectible card game and buying a booster pack. I got some awesome doubles, but also loads of cards I didn’t have yet! Still missing some in my collection, though hopefully one day I’m gonna catch them all! Oh yeah, and Paradiso, buy an airconditioning system for Heaven’s sake! After all the gigs in the new venues in Nijmegen and Utrecht, being in Paradiso makes me all hot and bothered, and not in the Disco kind of way! Fainting was never so enticing an option.

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