After a slightly delayed dinner, we make our haste to catch the subway out to the festival for day 2. Arriving 15 minutes late for the Linda Perhacs show, only to find it canceled due to sickness. Bummed out, we start moving towards the main area. A pleasant surprise awaits us as we run into a dear old friend, the legendary Wandering Hand, whom I haven’t seen for about a year or so. My plans to spend the time gained by a cancelled show writing, goes steadily and thoroughly down the drain. We do a short catch up, grab some beers and are lured towards the ATP stage as Saw Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is hitting us with some ritualistic, hard, Japanese, ceremony of sorts. The Kiss makeup wearing, Canadian gals and guys put on an impressive act until they move onto their next song where their true face is show, and things get all symphonic and melodic and I’m instantly put off.
Heavy clouds were rolling in, so we seek shelter in the dining area before it hits. Two minutes later the sky opens up and it’s coming down like in the old testament. We keep dry and exchanged tall tales with good old Wandering Hand, and familiar faces from back home starts popping up as more and more people gathered to flee the flood. Our plans to see Mick Harvey doing his Serge Gainsbourg act, is swept away by the wrath of the weather gods, as moving anywhere in this weather is out of the question.
Sitting around the table drinking beers, chatting about this and that, the sun peeks through the clouds and the entire dining area explodes into a massive applause and cheer as the sun finally breaks through, and on the other side, above the Ray-Ban stage, a perfect rainbow is painted gloriously over the sky. The crowd goes crazy. More so than at any show this far into the festival. As the rain ends just in time for Loop´s entrance at the ATP stage, we walk over while the last drizzle of rain is ceasing.
Loop starts out ok. Massive guitars and massive bass. It sounds bloody brilliant. Vocals on the first song are way to low, midways through the second song, vocals are ok but somehow manage to drown again… At song 3, as gargantuan tremolo guitars are washing over the crowd, the sound is finally right. The band drones away on their 2 chord songs, their corny guitar solos blasting with all amps set to 11. Not much to say about their performance, but Loop was never a band I really got into. They always seemed like a more noisy Spacemen 3, with the same minimalistic, repetitive psychedelic approach, but never really had the melodies to back it up. That did not change over the years… All in all; solid sound, ok to good performance, but the monumental sound is only enough to keep me interested for about 15 minutes as the songs start to sound too much like the same over and over again.
Pee and beer, then I get front row for Dr. John. This was probably one of the shows I had the highest hopes for. Over the years I´ve played my Dr. John records to bits and pieces, but this is my first time to behold the legend in the living flesh. Missing his last visit to Oslo back in 2008, I was all kinds of excited to finally see the doctor in a live performance. The band kicks in with their “the doctor is in” intro, trombonist and bandleader Sarah Morrow, introduces the doctor and the crowd screams as Mr. Rebennack comes meandering across the stage, witchdoctor cane in each fist, looking like a voodoo priest/pimp. Finding his place behind the piano, and as a sinister grin slides over his face, they are a go. Vocals are, as always (I don´t know what the sound guys at this festival are on) extremely low on the first number, but luckily the volume is adjusted within the first minute or two. The Nite Trippers are pulling a good act, although they are at times bordering on being overpowered by some extremely raunchy trombone lines by said band leader, who generally let herself take up way too much space during the entire set. The good doctor seems to have either forgot his medication or not been prescribed enough. (Ok. I guess that was uncalled for.) Mac seems detached and tired, although that sinister grin appears occasionally during the show.
They work their way through three songs from his latest album, title track “Lockdown”, going to “Revolution” and “Big Shot”. It’s all bah… ok, but nothing more. Dr. John seems old and uninterested. I guess 30+ years of heroin does something to you. The bassist, trying to spice things up by some saucy hip movements, doesn’t make things any better. Next up is “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” from 1968 debut “Gris Gris”, which starts out pretty tame. Towards the end things start to pick up, but just as it gets better, it is all over. “Right Place Wrong Time” starting of well, until the vocals kick in and Mac doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the pace of the lyrics. At the end it’s as if don´t give a fuck as he doesn’t even bother to finishing the full lines of the lyrics; simply going “Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong.” x 50. The doctor gets up and grabs the guitar for Earl King’s “Let the Good Times Roll”, looking stiffer than the corpse of king Tut, though handling the guitar quite well, and finally his voice seem to have warmed up and start to unfold in it’s proper glory. The traditional “Goodnight Irene” is ok. Moving on to the Professor Longhair classic, “Big Chief”, featuring long introductions of all members of the band, each doing their customary solos as their names are called. Oh, that trombone again… When that’s all over and done with, they move on to the instrumental “Croaker Courtbullion” also of “Gris Gris”. They somehow manage to butcher that one as well. Finishing the set with a surprisingly good version of “Such a Night”, which finally lets the Night Tripper shine. His voice sounds just about as good as the recording and he extravagantly and confidently lets loose two stellar, lengthy piano solos, showing that he still is capable of delivering the goods. And just as things finally fall into place, it’s all over… The 73 year old must either have had a really bad day at work, or his age is simply starting to show. Though there is some occasional dancing and head nods, Dr. John and his Nite Trippers never really win the crowd over tonight. All in all, this performance was nothing more than a big, crushing let down. My open letter to Dr. John : “Dear Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr. Please get a new band leader. She is annoying. All the best, -K”
Running over to catch the second shoegaze reunion of the night, Slowdive had filled the Sony stage to the brim and they sound absolutely pristine! Probably better than they ever did. After being exposed to many less than successful reunions over the year, this is definitely one of the better ones I have witnessed. Rachel Goswell, sounding as wonderful as ever, Neil Halstead’s handling the guitar flawlessly, and the rest of the band is coming together in perfect harmony. As “Machine Gun” kicks in, the crowd goes wild and the bands performance is an absolute bliss. If their show at the Øya Festival later this year is half as good, everyone going is in for a real treat. Old hits, obviously, but it’s definitely a tour the force and a great comeback for these guys.
I run over to the Ray-ban unplugged stage to catch Wolf Eyes, only to find them doing some psyched out thrash metal jam. Nate Young screaming some intangible words with a silly grin on his face, looking like a coked up extra in an episode of Miami Vice, Jim Baljo slaughtering a guitar and John Olson bashing the drums. Not quite what I was hoping for, but it looks like they are having a good time fucking about. The show lasts for about 15 minutes… ending in Nate pumping his fist screaming ´”Fuck” x 100, telling everyone to catch their show at the Vice stage at 4am then screaming “get fucked up” repeatedly pumping his fist again.
I grab a bite to eat and order a shot of Jack Daniels (As the choices of poisons are quite limited at this festival). For some reason or another, the girl behind the bar refuse to sell me proper Jack and insist on serving me some sort of Honey infused Jack Daniels. It tastes… weird, but serves its purpose and I get ready to take on the last 20 minutes of the daddy of contemporary dad rock, The War on Drugs.
Ok. So “Lost in the Dream” is an “instant, modern classic”, receiving top scores all over (except Rolling Stone, who somehow managed to keep their feet on the ground) It’s not that I really hate The War on Drugs, but all the hype is really uncalled for, come on. “It’s the E-street band of our generation”, you say? Well, the E-street band is still around, and I really see no need for a new one just yet. Adam Granduciel voice supposedly sounds like the Boss, but all I can hear is Sting. The band is as exciting as Coldplay on a bad day, and I really have to reconsider some friendships after, what seemed like normal people, tell me “lost in the dream” is a top contender for their personal album of the year. Seriously? What happened to the world? Did we all lose our standards? Anyways. This show did nothing to change my opinion about The War on Drugs or make me want to drink from Adams kool-aid.
We ran over to the boiler room to check out Haxan Cloak. The room was packed with people, looking confused. Thinking they were going to a rave, trying desperately to dance to what little of a steady beat that is at times present. It’s way too packed, and I can’t be bothered to squeeze my way in and head back towards the VICE stage, to catch one of the only two acts representing Norway at this years festival.
A lot of people showed up early for this one, and the area is filled with people waiting for the show to start. Erlend Hjelvik enters the stage sporting the trademark owl over his face, and the band wielding their guitars pulling all the right rock and roll muscle and eating the crowd alive. Kvelertak dishes out hooks and venomous riffs as the crowd is singing along and smashing each other in the pit. A refreshing, inspired and convincing show. Kvelertak is most likely one of the better things to come out of Norway the last couple of years.
Back at the Boiler Room, Demdike Stare is about to go on. Starting off with some pretty generic techno stuff, the crowd seems pleased and start to move to the beat. I’m thinking this is not what I came for, but decide to wait it out to see what’s next. On the second track, things start getting asymmetrical, evil, hard and bleak. It’s getting more to my liking and people start fleeing the scene, realizing they went to the wrong party. Next track they move on to their more witchy, haunting stuff which is what I came for, but alas I’m not really in the mood and the sound is terrible. Demdike Stare works best for me on my home stereo or on a headset on the bus, not in a crammed tent with piss drunk kids wanting to party. I hook up with Wandering Hand again and we set out to get us some mizo soup back at the dining area.
Finishing off the soup, it’s 2:30 am and the temperature is freezing. I really wanted to stick around to see Wolf Eyes proper show at 4am, but I’m too cold, and there is really nothing I want to see the next 1,5 hours, so I capitulate and head for the bus back down town.
Wandering Hand on the other hand is not a quitter, and sticks around. I´ll leave the Wolf Eyes review to this short text I received from him the day after: “About 30-40 people there. Piss drunk and chatting. Maybe 4 people gave a shit. They played so low you could hear the shitty techno from the next stage. You would have loved it!”
End of day 2