Outside my window the skies cursed us. Rain like a billion bullets hurtled down from above showering every last gram of optimism out of my soul. I walked the damned streets to Revolver, sat in the office working, took some deliveries, ate some noodles, and then Roy Nilsen arrived brandishing a bottle of Indian Old Monk rum direct from Goa! The skies parted, the heavens raptured in gold, the birds sang. Momentarily the weather was no longer an obstacle, and we walked out onto the washed out paths and headed towards Øya for Day 2. Skin itching at the expectations for the Rodriguez show.
The festival area was actually not that bad considering it had rained all day. The cloth covers had kept the worst of the puddles at bay and there were areas you could walk comfortably wearing crappy vans and not find the contents of a frozen mocachinolinofrappawappahino on the insides of your shoes. The poppy wailings of what turned out to be Local Natives echoed around the site much to my disapproval. I get it, you need some of these bands to keep the drainpipe jeans and ironic glasses crowd happy. So be it.
It was time. Time for a true living legend, a man immortalised by the documentary “Searching for Sugarman”, and yet loved by a few of us long before that film ever came to the screen. His words, his energy, his melodies stuck in my head for years, placing me at certain beaches or cities every time I heard the songs at a bar or cafe. I stood, half forgetting to breathe, waiting for him to walk out on stage and conquer us with his magic.
A frail, weatherbeaten skeleton entered the stage assisted by two persons who managed to keep him from falling over (from exhaustion?) and seat him on his solitary chair (never seen that before). Sixto Rodriguez, man to many, god to some, angel to others, then proceeded to insult every single person gathered to see him by first of all being too feeble to perform, second of all to chose a backing band that have as much talent as a blind turtle wrapped in gaffer tape trying to score the world cup winning penalty. If I ever hear those crappy solos again I will puke… his voice was vapid, the band were worse than you could ever imagine, and of course… of course people cheered… people who (trying not to be entirely judgemental) had never heard his music before the movie came out, if even.
Well HELLO!! Some freaking nerds had… and we love him, we know all the lyrics, we worship his ingenuity… but this bad karaoke fest was just a further cementing into the stone cold facts that life is wanton and we should expect nothing better than mediocrity. I refuse to admit that my expectations were too high, how can they not be when such a colossal artist comes to play in your city. Aware that some of his latest shows garnered awful reviews, but still willing him to dig deep and produce something truly exceptional.
I left with my bleeding black jaded heart torn into a million insignificant pieces… It was the single most harrowing and horrendous musical moment of my life.
With the disaster of Sixto still ringing in my ears (or was it the fiddly guitarists horrible sound) I wondered over to watch Cat Power, hoping she would have enough in her to produce something half decent. I was wrong, again. Alcohol-drugs-medication bloated and suddenly looking 20 years older than the stunning women who wowed us all at Shepherds Bush Empire in London 10 years ago, Chan Marshall bore all the signs of a person with serious battles going on inside. Still. Perhaps not quite as messed up as she was a decade or two ago, but still twitching nervously, finger spasms, tongue moving all over her cheeks in bizarre and sad strokes, and her backing band bearing more resemblance to the Horrors than anything of her calibre. She managed to pass the litmus test for most of the attending, but I was left with a feeling that her older material was so much better than her new poppy direction, and in changing her sound she had sacrificed the intimacy that made her so special in the first place. Now she was trying to be a 40-something, dyed blonde pop-star instead of the frail genius that would sometimes let a bottle of Jack Daniels get the better of her during a show. I felt slightly sorry for her, having to fuss about on stage due to the dire facts that her personal finances were shattered and this was literally all she knew to survive.
The final band of the night, for me at least, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A credliner. A band many of my friends were aching to see (since most of them were too young to see them when they toured last). I had the distinct pleasure of seeing their first European tour back in Copenhagen in the late 90’s, a show that still rings in my head with its intimacy and intensity. This was different. It should never have been on an outside stage where the softer parts are interrupted by people shouting obscenities as they walk past in their expensive future hang-over states. The first 10 minutes of the performance sounded like a line-check. I realised quickly that the best thing to do in these situations was to preserve the memory of them being amazing, and leave the judgements to other peoples minds to formulate.
I took to the wind and returned back to the damp streets of Oslo walking towards the central station while all about me was construction sites and twisted metal.