Stockholm Music & Arts 2012

This was written August 5th, 2012, on the final day of Stockholm’s brand new music festival.

Anna von Hausswolff at Skeppsholmen

13:19 I’m on a train to Stockholm to see Björk perform at the Stockholm Music & Arts festival. The train darts through flat farmland, occasionally stopping at the few railway stations between Uppsala and the capital. The sky is rather cloudy, but the sun is peering through. I got a headache and didn’t sleep very well, but I’m ok and look forward to seeing Björk for the first time. I’ve been a fan for many years.

16:32 The first artist to perform was Anna von Hausswolff. Creating moody and powerful soundscapes through vision and creativity, she gave us a great concert. The band was tight and gave a brilliant performance, but they revealed the joy of playing and the gratefulness towards the audience of a band that hasn’t spent years on the road. Hopefully they can keep it for a long time, because it was a real pleasure to see musicians reacting with honest happiness over the audience’s reactions.

Still got a slight headache. Beer didn’t help. Let’s see if a bag of crisps does. Good thing for the rest of you I’m not working as a doctor.

As I’m writing these words I’m sitting on a wharf at the dock, listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie perform. Skeppsholmen is a great place for a festival.

18:36 We’ve been lucky with the weather. The sky is blue now. Beneath me, between the planks of the wharf, I see the cold water of the Stockholm archipelago. In front of me, between two ships, float four enormous tractor tires. Perhaps an insurance if one of the ships’ mooring would break.  In the distance, on the other side of the water, I see some of Stockholm’s old, beautiful, spectacular architecture.

So far the performances have met my expectations. I wanted to see Anna von Hausswolff and Björk, and Anna was great and I don’t doubt Björk will be too. The others have been alright, and I didn’t expect or need them to be any more than that. Fatoumata Diawara was good enough that I’ll give her some time on Spotify. iamamiwhoami was ok, nothing to get excited about, but I’ll check them out too.

The thought just hit me that Björk is here, somewhere. All of a sudden the fact that I’m going to see her tonight became so much more real. After listening to recordings of her for hundreds of hours I will finally experience her in the flesh.

Large waves suddenly came rolling beneath the wharf, beneath me. Must’ve been a large boat.

23:54 The Björk concert? They should have sent a poet.

One of the things that struck me was how powerful her voice was live. I knew its potential from her albums, but that she would have that level of control on stage was a pleasant surprise.

Her performance was playful, creative and grand. It just made me so happy! It was, if not the best, then at least one of the very best concert experiences I’ve had. When All is Full of Love started playing, I was full of love. I was worried that the amount of material from her latest album Biophilia would come to dominate the concert, but in the end I felt she had composed a good mix – although I would have been happy to hear a few more of her classics.

Björk and the Icelandic choir Graduale Nobili in the Stockholm night

I’m on a bus to Uppsala. Asphalt flows beneath me, colored gold by yellow street lights, as we move through the darkness of the August night.

Björk used twin tesla coils (or “lightning machine” as she called it) as bass for a few songs. Giant bolts of electricity humming deep notes sounded great, and looked amazing in the darkness. That’s simply crazily awesome! She even used it to great effect in the calm song Possibly Maybe, as a contrast to the soft sound of the instrument hang, played by Manu Delago.

Perhaps she overused the Icelandic choir in some of the songs, and perhaps the audio levels could have been mixed better every now and then, but anyone would be a fool to complain about a concert which made them think “oh god!”

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