Beneath a ray of a somewhat unknown addition to the Norwegian summer (sunshine) I walked out onto brisk streets to tackle the queues at Central Station for trams. As you always seem to do in Oslo I bumped into someone I knew (Kenneth from Bonanza) and we rode the tram out past the station and up into wonderful Gamlebyen.
Expectations were high. Mazzy Star were to appear on stage for the first time in over 10 years. The Stone Roses would stitch up what was left of the night before people poured into town to see Ty Segall, Waters, Thurston Moore and Steve Mason. I dragged my feet over the wooden bridge that always hits you with that smell that is so familiar, and yet you only really experience it for a few days a year. Headed over past the restaurants and out to Vika to watch Bob Mould (Husker Du/Sugar) performing the seminal album Copper Blue. Legends come and go, people react rabidly or disinterestedly to various guises and musical constellations, I have never been a Husker Du fan so I will leave it at that. The crowd were hungry, Frank came out all happy and ringing his hands at the prospect of the show, introduced the band, reminded us to not drink too many sodas and then there they were. Bob. Looked kinda like Harald Fossberg in a strange way. Straight into it. Song after song. Good reception from the crowd, but nothing from me. Well played, well done, probably great if you ever gave a shit about Husker Du or Sugar, but I didn`t so I left after about half the set to walk up through the immensely annoying lay-out of Klubben to try get a space for Mazzy Star.
Passing by Enga I looked over at Yelawolf. How honestly ridiculous. A white boy trying so hard to be black shouting FUCK YOU every 3 seconds, prancing around like he’s all “ghetto” and actually having to list the artists he has worked with as though that gives the doubters any less reason to hate him. At one point I thought he was doing a Cypress Hill cover, but no, he was just ripping them off. Even as far as background music goes it doesn’t get much worse than a younger Eminem who thinks he’s Tupac.
They hadn`t started allowing people in, even 30 minutes before the show, so we all stood in a line that got progressively longer and longer to the point where they shut the bridge down and people had to queue on the OTHER side of the lake. In all fairness this was a shambolic alternative and it ended up in most people judging the line to be longer than it actually was and literally giving up waiting. Therefore, when they finally herded us in the back end of the tent was largely empty. I received numerous texts from people saying they just turned around at the sight of the line. This seriously needs some attention.
So finally. After all those years since seeing Hope Sandoval light up a dark room in Copenhagen back in April 2000. A huge army of friends were in attendance, the kind who usually stand at the back and glance at the bands (from years of jaded concert-goings) but had now decided to push right up front sensing something special. Something special indeed.
My calls last night on facebook for someone to “shoot Mazzy Star’s sound-man” somehow got confused to mean someone SHOT him. People were perplexed wondering why anyone would shoot a sound-man at a concert. He wasn’t shot, but he damn well deserved a beating. The sound was shocking. David Robacks guitar was so dreadful sounding it could cut glass. The drums were so unbalanced that some toms were HUGE and others barely gave a bark. Not to mention that the drummer was the sloppiest idiot on earth and sat there all bloated and “sunglasses-after-dark”. You always have to be skeptical of a middle aged man wearing sunglasses in a dark tent. Hope, to be fair to her, managed to sing well despite the obvious ongoing problems with feedback throughout. The other band members, including Colm from My Bloody Valentine on bass, did a fairly ok job, although it all sounded like their first practice room session. Shoddy, sloppy, drunken guitars and a poor Hope trying to sign loud enough but not wanting to feed all over the place either. Soul destroying. That a band people had waited for for so many years would end up serving up something that people would rather forget than remember.
I decided to leave when the usual 3 song acceptance limit for fixing the sound at festivals turned into 6 songs where the sound got almost worse. Squeezing through the faces of bemusement and disappointment I headed back out into the light and ran (i exaggerate) over to catch the remaining songs of Sonic Youth axe-wielder Thurston Moore. Yet again, a man who fails to create the same spark on solo records as he did part of a collective band. The crowd seemed moderately amused. I only caught the last 2 songs so to really comment on it would be foolish. But I did see a lot of people flee the area when Mads Gustafsen entered the stage (which I find amusing). The saxophone. You either love it or you really, really hate it.
Over on Vika, Todd Terje and Lindstrøm stood behind numerous appliances and controllers spilling sunny electronica to the gathered crowd. The atmosphere was perfect for a late afternoon show, and the mood was right. Everyone just hopped around and shuffled as the two of them looked earnestly into their laptop screens and analog assortments. To be honest, it worked for what it was, but it was barely a show. This stuff kills it in a dark club, but without visuals or anything really happening on stage it kinda falls into the category of background music for most people. Good background music, nonetheless.
From then on until The Stone Roses took to the stage I stood and talked with people I knew about the massive disappointment that was Mazzy Star. We stood and consoled each other. Heard faint tricklings of god-awful Florence & The Machine from far away, heard the poppy drudgery that must be Feist behind me, and all of it just combined to form a confusing palette to wash your thoughts.
Wanting to avoid the hasty last minute push for viewing spots I walked over to Enga 30 minutes before the show and found a perfect perch leaning up against a faithful tree by the sound-desk. I was tempted at one point to shout at the sound-man to not repeat the horrendous job he did at Benicassim, but he must have felt it. On time the band came out onto the stage in united enthusiasm. The weight of their reunion tour did not seem to burden them. Ian Brown was smiling, Mani was happy in front of his Bass Amps, John Squire had about 21 different guitar amplifiers scattered in formations across the stage, and Reni looked hilarious with what looked like a dead squid pulled down half way onto his head. Edwin Shue sent me a text saying “Han trommisen ser ut som han spiller i muppet show”. I laughed.
They broke in the crowd with “I Wanna Be Adored” which worked well for an opening number and Ian Browns voice held its own during the first two songs. “Sally Cinnamon” was a different matter with vocal chords grasping like a dying vulture at the rocks of correct-key. The band were solid, the crowd singing along to almost every word, the sound a thousand times better than it was in Spain, and altogether with the weather being kind and the evening coming to a close it was a good show. Nothing sensational, but it would definitely have appeased the hard core fans and not offended too many skeptics.
Half way through the set it was time to remember there were still another 3 full days to come, and I headed back into town on relatively empty trams to head up to Crossroads for the Ty Segall show.
Crossroads was full to the brim. The people who had managed to secure a ticket were beaming.
Ty entered the stage with his band of oddly dressed hipsters and proceeded to melt the faces of everyone in the first five meters. Petter Svee always cranks the sound up, and on these shows you need to feel the music just as much as hear it. People shook, dance, crowd-surfed, jostled about from the get-go to the very final encore song. These sorts of shows don’t come around too often. Bands like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees still prove that new bands can deliver intense shows without sacrificing the songs. It was a rare treat to see his first ever show in Norway, and suddenly the disappointments of the previous few hours became inconsequential in the face of a wall of jangly bliss.
All Photos by Morgan Flame. Ty Segall shot by Ben