NorthSide 2014

author HES date 23/06/14

It may only be the fifth year that NorthSide has taken place, but the festival has been run with such perfection that it's hard to not acknowledge it as a serious contender when it comes to Danish music festivals. After having visited the festival last year, my hands were so high up in the air over this festival and its line-up, that it was going to have to pull out all the stops to match it in 2014. Although efforts were made though, NorthSide 2014 was not without issues indicating the relative youth of the little festival in the west.

All pictures contributed from the galleries of Homage Photography and Sebastian Dammark

All text by HES unless otherwise marked

Stages

Last year the Red Stage was close to dangerous. The stage had been added to service the ever-growing number of participants, but the small tent-like construction of yesteryear was so crammed that Spleen United had to cancel mid-way through their very last show due to safety concerns. This year the festival area had expanded a bit more towards the road close by, which carved out enough space for the Red Stage to once again rise, but this time as "P6 Beat Stage". The safety was improved by hundredfold and in an attempt to create a bit of the intimacy provided by last year's wholly tented Red Stage, a see-through sail like structure had been raised - but instead of intimacy it mainly provided a bit of shade throughout the absolutely brilliant weather that characterised the weekend. Although this stage had been greatly improved since last year, its rather remote placement meant that it did feel a bit disjointed from the rest of the festival.

Blue and Green stage, which seemed almost at the same size last year because of their proximity, were now located in each corner of the main area. The synergy of the two stages was gone and where before you felt like you were in the middle of everything happening all the time, this year you had to concentrate a bit harder on the collective feeling while you were trudging from stage to stage trying to find a spot at the sold out festival. The Blue Stage felt immensely smaller in the area's furthest corner, where Red Stage had been moved from. This feeling of sizing down unfortunately also presented itself in the sound, that most of the time was measurably lower on the Blue Stage; So low you could have a regular-level conversation behind the sound towers facing towards the stages some fifty meters up the hill. On the upside, the positioning of the stages at the foot of the hill the festival is located around, made sure that one had good vision of the stages almost regardless of distance to the barrier and such a natural advantage really is priceless when you consider a festival schedule where it would be impossible to make it to the front for everything you want to see.

The Power Rangers live at NorthSide '14

Volunteers

Most festivals are made up by volunteers. It's an easy way for students to gain a free ticket by doing some work and a good way for the festival to reserve money for more and better bookings. Most of the time this system works because a few dedicated souls manage the shenanigans sometimes up to all of the 72 hours, yet at NorthSide this year it often seemed that there was little management, which left volunteers struggling with basic tasks. As soon as we touched down on the festival grounds we were met by this issue; the people in the entrance were supposed to frisk everyone coming in (the festival only allows food and drinks of their own on the festival grounds). None of this "frisking" was done with any routine or guidelines which meant chaos and the feeling of "why do they even bother?". In the food stands we were met with similar lack of preparation - staffers were unsure of how to prepare the dishes or take orders or with what their roles in the shop were. Making matters worse, the festival had implemented the NFC payment system "Payband" this year, that no one knew how to use either. Because the festival was sold out this year, this general lack of directions in all stands lead to lengthy queues in peak hours - of which the festival saw none last year. Even something as basic as calculating an order occasionally seemed like an insurmountable task and you had to keep your eyes open to make sure you got what you ordered and paid the right price.

Payment System

NorthSide decided to follow up on a trend of many European festivals and implement their own payment system. The regular festival armbands therefore came with an attached chip with a serial code on the back - all of it then being registered through the official NorthSide App. Good idea! It's always annoying to have to keep track on cash or cards while at a festival where some amounts of alcohol are consumed. Only problem was that it hardly worked at all.

The entire Friday all the receiving machinery in the stands was offline. On top of that, volunteers had little idea of how to work it, so many futile attempts ate our time as managers were running around like headless chickens. On the Saturday of the event things initially seemed like they had come in order, so we recharged our chips and thought we were on now. Turns out the system went down once again though, either being out of sync or completely offline again. This left TL to stand in a queue for fifty minutes to have his account fixed, to then buy one beer before being halted by yet another bug, and with only a few stands dedicated to support of the system, queues to get help were generally ridiculous. Unfortunately it seems like NorthSide lost a lot of good will on this endeavour, with a considerable portion of attendees likely hitting up the Beeptify service website on Monday to reclaim money they had been unable to spend with their wristbands.Fortunately card machines (that also had issues, but nowhere near as severe) and ATM's assured that none went (too) sober through-out the festival.

People crying when trying to use Payband... Just kidding, it was actually over how good Mew were. More on this further down!

Food And Drinks

In last year’s article I complained about the festival's food prices being way to high. Nothing much has changed there apart from some prices being mildly lowered and the festival's food being increasingly organic. Kudos to NorthSide for not letting their organic strategy raise prices even further. In general the food was good, but I really don't understand why everything had to be so goddamn posh. Instead of having a normal burger or shawarma stand everything was named "Nordic" this and "Nordic" that. The worst atrocity was a "Japanese Hotdog" of which the normal toppings were replaced with sea-weed. Reportedly it was terrible. My point is that festival food is never gourmet, even if you call it "Nordic" or mix it with weird ingredients. This lead to several shops opening up outside the festival area and we have to wonder if it isn't a bit counterproductive for the festival, when it becomes more worthwhile for guests to leave the area to find food.

NorthSide once again had their regular beer prices of 40 DKK for a beer and 175 DKK for a pitcher. This year in partnership with Tuborg, the festival had a special "RÅ" beer that was organic, un-filtered and way too popular. The tents started running out already on the Friday. Other than that it was possible to buy a limited assortment of drinks in the main bars as a few "special" bars such as a beer bar, a drinks bar and a wine bar served more than your average gin and tonic. Speaking of running out, the festival also at one point ran out of the before-mentioned pitcher and again because of lack of management, noone could authorise a solution of re-filling pitchers or at least offering the same amount of beer in cups at the same discount. More than one conversation was heard with people wanting to see bar managers about this, and again, some more authoritative problem solving would have done wonders in the bars.

NorthSide guests of all ages enjoying things at the barrier

Facilities

As mentioned before, the festival was quite overrun at times which meant most facilities were also overrun. Worst were the toilet-facilities. The proper and decent inhabitants of this no-camping festival shun every attempt at public urination. But at some point the situations were so dire, I saw a line to pee behind a container. When there's even a line to the urinals you know there's a problem with too few places to relieve yourself - especially when most festival goers consider themselves "too posh to pee". It's nice that the festival prefers to deploy proper water-flushing toilets, but one wonders if people wouldn't have preferred the inconvenience of a porta potty over the extended waits.

This year the festival had also implemented a pant-system and this joyfully meant there were more places to sit in the grass and less stumbling over those big plastic-jugs the beer came in. The festival area was not overrun by professional pant-collectors for the same reason, which somehow seems like magic to me, when you see how plagued other festivals are with this.

Last year it was easier to navigate where which band was playing at what time, because of the proximity of the stages, but this year the distance between stages made this harder. The mission of the festival is to be as "green" as possible so the festival doesn't print out any guides or plans of when what is going down. You could only access it by NS-app or write it down yourself. It seems kind of silly though, that the festival still used paper on flyers, explaining their new payment-system that didn't work. Priorities, people!

Bands

Friday

Bombay Bicycle Club's Ed Nash

Bombay Bicycle Club @ 16:30 on Red Stage

Our first band of NorthSide '14 is Bombay Bicycle Club, and having seen them play in Vega not too long ago on the same touring cycle, I have a pretty good idea what to expect and I am hardly disappointed. The Brits deliver their extremely eclectic indie pop-rock expertly and the mix favours them to the point where only a single cow bell sticks out a bit awkwardly, while the vibrant bass work of Ed Nash is winning people over and causing some nodding and grooving in an audience the majority of which seem to be here on a scouting mission. The band seems more comfortable than when I saw them in Vega, engaging more freely with the crowd between songs and rocking about energetically during especially the more guitar-centric parts, and hence the band easily meets the ceiling for my appreciation for them. There is in fact such a ceiling however, formed by the feeling that singer/guitarist Jack Steadman is so caught up in the soundscape that he's singing mostly to himself behind his closed eyes, and that his lyrics and their meaning to us are secondary to making sure every note finds the right place. It feels like watching an orchestra playing sounds instead of watching a band playing songs, but with that said, it's still a rock solid opening to proceedings for the Rockfreaks detail. [7½] TL

Reptile Youth @ 17:45 on Green Stage

Reptile Youth is a name that's been reappearing in the periphery of my musical awareness for about a year's time, so while I've never gotten around to listening to them, NorthSide seems as good a time as any to check them out. Walking towards their electro-heavy set, I muse to myself for the first but far from last time at NS '14 that it seems the festival really wants bands that sound like Veto, but as soon as we settle on a spot far from the stage, references to both Justice and David Bowie come much more readily to mind, and as the powerful bass and ridiculously catchy guitar and key riffs go to work on us, my arrogant smirk is gradually changed to an expression of amazement. The band's guitarist sits down for stretches of the show, having recently broken his leg at a previous gig, but the singer more than makes up for this, shuffling across the stage like a professional dancer in an LMFAO video and preaching with overwhelming conviction with his clear, forceful singing. The sense of timing in the rhythms and compositions is masterful and each new song seems to have another hook to get strung along by, and soon the rout is on, with an entire field waving its arms above its heads and grooving entranced by the band's hard-going beats. "There is an idiot! In all of us! It's a sight to set it free!" the singer spits, abandoning his weirdly iconic white turtleneck for a Val Kilmer-as-Jim Morrison-ish bare torso, hitting everything with a drumstick and bouncing high into the air where he jerks his entire body madly, like someone unable to contain himself. By his example and by Reptile Youth's surprisingly effective electro-bangers, it's safe to say that noone leaves unconverted from this, the weekend's best set by about a country mile. [8½] TL

Oh Land @ 19:00 on Blue Stage

Now guilty pleasures out in the open: I actually liked Oh Land's first album and it had a few spins on my Spotify. So when in Rome... But I wish I hadn't. As mentioned before, the level of the sound on Blue Stage was already way too low, but the sheer monotony of the soundscape of Oh Land is absolutely bonkers. While waves and waves of bass pounce all the way from the stage to where we're at, little of Oh Land's actual voice protrudes through the soundscape. The only thing that gets through vocally is the backup singer's clear voice. Every second song is opened by a quiet piano solo 'til around the first chorus. It may feel more soulful if you could hear it properly, but it just ends up feeling like an overused gimmick. As soon as the other instruments join in in the mix, Nanna Øland's voice disappears again to the extent of the crowd completely overpowering everything, at least from where we are standing. Overall the experience is monotonous, lacklustre and lacking contrast. [4½] HES

Franz Ferdinand @ 21:45 on Blue Stage

Some bands take fame and turn it into something. Other bands just live off the fame and do very little to impress beyond that point. While some bands still enjoy the sound of a crowd and get jitters before a gig, others just see it as a nine to five preoccupation - a way to make a living. Judging from tonight's set, Franz Ferdinand seems to belong in the latter categories. Despite the band's vast catalogue of quality songs like "Bullet", "No You Girls", "Fresh Strawberries", "Do You Want To", "Take Me Out", "This Fire" and so on, and even though the crowd seems to participate, it seems like a half-hearted effort on both parts.

Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos

Musically there's not a fleck to stain the professionalism of Franz Ferdinand but dressed in their awkward military style jackets in black and white, the band performs to the absolute definition of "acceptable". And while layers of synth and guitars bellow out from the stage, I look longingly at the beautiful sunset - this could've been such a great gig. The setting is right. The entire crowd seems determined to enjoy the show in spite of the mediocrity of it all. But I can't help longing for greater concert experiences than just being close-to-entertained for an hour. [6] HES

Matt Berninger fronting The National

The National @ 01:00 on Blue Stage

By far the most important name on the NS '14 poster for me, The National's is a set I've been looking forward to all day, yet admittedly a sleep deprived Copenhell week and an early morning departure to get here are testing the eyelids of both HES and I. Add then, that when the band comes on at 1 AM the sound of Blue Stage is still way too low, and even the unmistakeable coolness of Matt Berninger and his band face an uphill battle. Without the immersive power of the proper volume, I can forgive my fellow onlookers for mistaking the group's understated compositions as monotonous, and while they have too many good songs to mention, even I have to admit that The National fail to live up to their billing. The elation I do at least feel during the likes of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" doesn't come as easily as I'm used to, and with no cameras managing to follow Berninger as he goes for his traditional walk in the crowd during the screamed end to "Mr. November", those of us in the back feel left out of this spectacle. Seriously though, if the volume had been in order and it hadn't been so damned late, perhaps the booking's potential could've been resolved, instead of what takes place, which is that the audience gradually diminishes even despite The National's clear and persistent appreciation for playing shows in Denmark. [7] TL

Saturday

The Mountains' Michael Møller

The Mountains @ 14:00 on Blue Stage

The Mountains are probably the indiest shit happening in Denmark at the moment. The band is formed by the successful indie-band The William Blakes' Nordsø-brothers and the former lead singer of Moi Caprice Michael Møller. The band mixes electronica elements with a very indie-sounding vocal. The result is a sexy mix that in some way works better live than on CD. We experienced a bit of low level sounds on the Blue Stage during Friday night, but today the sound is way better. Like with any of the weekend's electro(rock) bands, the mix of the bass is just way too high, but fortunately not enough to drown out the soundscape. The summer breeze and partly-sunny plane in front of the stage fills up with people laying down, trying to combat their hangovers. The band is incredibly well-booked for this audience. It's not great art, but the catchy synth and key refrains are just enough to catch the attention of the recovering early crowd. Songs like "The Lakes", "Can We Make It Work" and the former P3-hit "The Mountains" are extremely well-written pop-tunes with good quirky twists. Overall the set is also very well-played for such a young constellation. The set grows increasingly dark and heavy towards the end escalating into chanting and long jams. In spite of this band being so on-genre they manage to convince me that they're more than just a fashion trend - they may actually have something to offer. [7] HES

Is that The Brian Jonestown Massacre's Frankie Teardrop peeking out from under the hair and shades?

The Brian Jonestown Massacre @ 15:00 on Green Stage

On a Saturday that doesn't have much rock to offer the Rockfreaks.net duo, The Brian Jonestown Massacre is at least a name that I've been recommended often enough to appreciate the opportunity to check them out. "Right after I get my Payband fixed" I think, and head to the support stall. As it turns out, I end up standing in line for the stall through BJM's entire set, leaving me to remark mainly on the sonic side of the set, which is at least clear however, given the fine volume levels at the green stage. Admittedly, trying to appreciate a band while having ones patience tested by a static waiting line is probably not the best approach, but from what I hear, the band's jammy, mid-tempo psychedelia is exactly the wrong kind of music for a sizzling hot afternoon where people need more than usually to not just lie around and bake. Clearly though, anything experienced from all the way over here is hardly a review, nor a basis for a grade. [?] TL

Baby In Vain @ 16:45 on Red Stage

Baby In Vain is another name I've seen thrown around in Danish circles without managing to check them out, but we understand that they play rock, so we head over to the red stage to see what's up. Turns out the trio of below-twenty girls is exactly what the doctor ordered for us, as they deliver noisy, grungy punk-rock badassery with all the attitude of pissed off teenagers not giving a fuck. In my head I amuse myself with the idea that the band could've been called The Becca Moodys or - if they were from England - "Piger", for such is their strangely compelling, lethargic similarity to Castleton's Drenge. Their dirty, fuzzy guitar songs have similar punch and groove, and while it sounds like Soundgarden and Lenny Kravitz have both been in rotation on the girl's ipods, the tastefully pitchy vocals have personality of their own. The two guitar-toting frontwomen trade both vocals and solos and especially Lola Hammerich at stage left spits vitriol so fiery it feels oddly impactful coming from someone so young. We're almost in the territory where things get too dodgy and off tune, but at hip and sterile NorthSide, Baby In Vain are an enormously welcome and dirty punch in the mouth that I leave extremely happy to have checked out. [8] TL

Mø @ 17:15 on Green Stage

Now she's not exactly rock or anything relevant to this magazine, but not jotting down a few words about this gig would in some way be missing the fact that Mø is getting some serious attention out there in the world right now. Having been here last year, this is one of the gigs where you can suddenly see that there are quite a few more people present than last year. The entire flank before the Green Stage is filled up all the way to the booths where you can buy food and drinks. The toilet-lines are out of this world and dream on if you think you're gonna be able to get a beer for the next hour. This is how big Mø has become since her debut-single "Pilgrim" which was probably the most played song in my friend circle in 2013. The mix of r&b and electronica is done with a lot of finesse and no matter how you feel about the genre, it's goddamn impressive that this girl was writing and recording these songs out of her teenage-bedroom only a short while ago. Unfortunately a lot of the actual Mø-part of this gig is once again thwarted by insane bass, which works for most of the upbeat songs like "Don't Wanna Dance", "Pilgrim" or "Glass", but completely kills at the more quiet songs like "Slow Love" and my personal favorite "Never Wanna Know". One of the biggest ups of this concert is the live-horn section that absolutely kills the well-worked hooks. This is Mø playing her biggest crowd ever and I can't help getting a bit caught up in the hype about little Karen Marie Ørsted from Denmark that made it kinda big "over there". Somehow there's almost something punk about the way Mø is just so very much Mø. [7] HES

Silas Bjerregaard of Turboweekend

Turboweekend @ 21:15 on Blue Stage

"Danish keyboard rock is a thing" I think to myself as the second Veto-soundalike of the weekend take the blue stage in form of Turboweekend, whose name has buzzed busily around the country recently. Soon however, their no-nonsense electro-rock songs sound efficient enough to make me find my footing and pay attention, and what I see is a band clearly relishing this opportunity. Singer Silas Bjerregaard might dress the part in his black jacket and low cut tshirt, but he is anything but the typical, casual NorthSide artists, as he performs with an energy that makes it look like he's bursting to be here. His band's music is anything but brainy, as both lyrics and progressions display clearly, but it is rather irresitable in the departments of being catcy and danceable. There's a superficiality to it though, that goes hand in hand with Bjerregaard looking like the excitable type that wants to connect with us so badly, yet doesn't have the depth or complexity to truly fascinate. His energy is commendable though, especially when compared to Veto - whose too-cool-ness has annoyed me on more than one occassion - but musically speaking things are the kind of blandly direct that it puts another ceiling on my appreciation for the show. [7] TL

Mew @ 22:45 on Green Stage

Now if you're not a Mew-fan, you won't understand the magnitude of the show we're watching tonight. Since 2006 the quartet turned trio with Johan Wohlert leaving the band for fatherhood and later failed venture "The Storm" but tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Wohlert is back. And not only to the great applause of the audience; there is something different in the way the remaining band members are acting tonight. Jonas Bjerre, who is usually very awkward on stage singing lead, seems to have re-found some of his connection to the outside world for tonight - actually chatting to the audience and holding out the mic during Frengers-hit "Snow Brigade". The heavy bass of Wohlert give nice punch to songs like "156" and the three new songs that are pleasantly teasing for the next release. And before we know it, "Comforting Sounds" rounds off the show and suddenly we're done after the small part of an hour. I love this band. It's weird, it's completely based on what these guys want to do and no fan will ever change their mind. But having a catalogue of so many absolutely brilliant songs - not just decent, but brilliant songs it would maybe be nice to 1) Hear some other songs than the usual live-set the band has been playing for years now and 2) some freaking more of it! I hate leaving a show feeling like the only thing that dragged in down was that there wasn't enough of it. Honest to God: This band is just too good to only play three quarters of an hour! Someone do something! [8½] HES

Sunday

Royal Blood's Michael Kerr

Royal Blood @ 14:45 on Blue Stage

Having been out to explore the Aarhus bar-life into the wee hours of the morning, we refind our basic functionality too late to make The Blue Van's opening set on Sunday, so the first band we check out on the day is the British duo Royal Blood. Much to my surprise, the band is comprised solely of drummer and bassist - no guitar! - yet the music is hardly what you would call drum & bass, and instead minimalist blues/rock'n'roll bands like The White Stripes and The Kills come to mind as obvious reference points. The duo's grooves are undeniable, going straight for the jugular and giving us a much needed shakeup at this early hour and for once it seems like the sound at Blue Stage is in order, with singer Michael Kerr's excellent voice sounding true as it echoes across the early audience along with his massively distorted bass riffs. Overall people look to still be too much in recovery mode for audience participation to stretch beyond the first few rows, but considering how good Royal Blood sound, I have the feeling that people would have made sure to be more ready to go if they had known what was about to hit them this afternoon. [7½] TL

Flogging Molly @ 15:55 on Green Stage

When I got up this morning, hungover and all, I already knew this show was gonna be so good it would drive away the funk. The sun is up, we've had whiskey in our morning coffee and we're so insanely ready words can hardly describe. And what a relief: Flogging Molly delivers and more for us this sunny afternoon. The whole crowd is dancing already at the first stroke and a sense of comradery spreads in the pit like wild fire. At some point a dancing chain of people even takes a couple of rounds to "Drunken Lullabies", "Requiem of a Dying Song" and "Devil's Dancefloor". And what else was there to do but dance and drink and dance some more? When a band like Flogging Molly plays a ballad like "Float" it's still better than most of the songs we usually dance to. And even if this band really is from LA, that doesn't stop them from going on epic rants about there being "finally peace in Ireland" and other beautiful sentiments. The band toasts their audience in their regular Guinness and carries on with "Tobacco Island", "What's Left of the Flag", "7 Deadly Sins" and rounding off with the nihilistic "If I Ever Leave This World Alive". The band could've played everything off-tune and out of rhythm, but I swear to you: As soon as that flute-refrain or accordion-riff hits the audience, nobody will give one single flying f**k. Although the screens suddenly read the infamous words "Don't push" no one really cares about being careful here and Aarhus finally lets the hair down out of intricate buns and ponytails to just dance for an hour. Thank you, Flogging Molly. [8] HES

Harry McVeigh of White Lies

White Lies @ 17:05 on Blue Stage

White Lies is a band I've been looking forward to ever since I decided to come to NorthSide, having chosen to overlook the shortcomings of the show I saw them play in Vega recently, simply because they have way too many good songs in their catalogue to not be excited for them - A notion that looks common considering the throng of people amassing before them after the Flogging Molly show. Unfortunately Harry McVeigh and his friends are entirely the same down-to-earth, pedestrian selves as they were during the band's Vega show, with the extra minus today that it's too bright for their light show to have effect as the show's only visual component. Furthermore the sound is low again, which should disappoint any White Lies fan that had looked forward to being enveloped in the band's rumbling soundscapes. The hits still come rolling off the setlist of course, and loads of people sing along, but it seems more out of half-hearted obligation than out of proper exhilaration, and one wonders how a band with such an atmospheric sound can neglect to do anything visual - nor in terms of movement, attire or props - to complete the live experience. [6½] TL

Rudimental getting some air time

Rudimental @ 18:15 on Green Stage

Now speaking of bands we should not be reviewing for a rock-magazine, this one probably takes the cake. But leaving out the most epic party of the Saturday would be unfair to the festival and to the oath we took to uphold the legacy of live music. The drum'n'bass hipsters of Rudimental channel good old stuff like Disclosure and Faithless and actually teach us a lesson on how to tell your audience you're right there with them. The feeling is like being run over by a super melodic freight-train packing song upon song upon song of absolute sunshine. Even though we're all in the back like the critical rock-reviewers we are, only there to "see the giraffe" we still end up dancing like teenagers to radio-hits like "Feel The Love", "C'est La Vie" and "Free". "Not Giving In" is a sparkle with live horns and the two female singers take turns to impress us with their soul-ish stylings. I am genuinely impressed with the sheer amount of energy the entire band is able to put into this overly-sunny and crazy-warm afternoon. As I look around me not one single foot is standing still, not one single arm is resting. Screw Robin and Donkey Road Show: This is the party of the weekend. [8] HES

Pixies bassist Paz Lenchantin

Pixies @ 19:25 on Blue Stage

I don't know how it happened but all the sudden, Pixies were playing every venue and every festival in my vicinity. Maybe it's a money thing or maybe the band missed being on tour. In any case: Tonight's set is packed and I mean really packed: 17 songs in 60, that's impressive for most bands. Out of those 17 songs however, neither "Where Is My Mind" or "Monkey Gone To Heaven" were in the mix to my surprise. Not being the biggest Pixies fan, those were the songs I was looking forward to - but it seems like the die-hard fans got a lot for their buck. Usually the band gets great words from both reviewers and fans, but I can't help finding the show way too dense for me, as a non-pixie head to get into without former member Kim Deal to carry you through the thickness of the soundscape. At least I became way more interested in my keg of beer and a guy with a taxidermy bird tied to his head than the actual show. [6½] HES

Somewhere in this storm of confetti you can spot Win Butler of Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire @ 20:35 on Green Stage

Roughly seven years ago, during the wettest Roskilde in a decade, Arcade Fire relieved me from five days of cold soakedness and summoned much welcome warmth in my bones with their Arena-opening set at Roskilde Festival '07. Since then, I've opined against the grain, that the band's recorded output has taken a turn for the worse, so while I've been anticipating the band's show here, what I've been looking forward to is exactly the opposite of what takes place. Colourfully dressed up to the border of sillyness, Arcade Fire treats us to a show that completely ignores their best album "Neon Bible", during which the band seems to think that their new material is so good that they can simply deliver that via pre-planned antics - complete with confetti and a guy dressed up as a disco ball - and then we will all be up in arms over it. Self-indulgent is the expression that comes most readily to mind here, and while the sound is at least well-adjusted enough, the whole thing is palpably void of nerve and immersiveness. Eventually extras show up wearing big heads, and the band finally opts to air "Wake Up" from their debut album "Funeral", but despite the qualities of that song, it feels a bit like a slap in the face at this point. Considering how the band could've connected with us through songs like "Keep The Car Running" or "My Body Is A Cage", it's regretable to see them rather fuel the arguements of the voices that argue that Arcade Fire have long since turned too artsy for their own good. [6] TL

Queens Of The Stone Age icon Josh Homme

Queens Of The Stone Age @ 22:30 on Blue Stage

Now speaking of bands like Franz Ferdinand just cruise-controlling on their past success, here is a different band using "same procedure" as a benchmark. In this case "same procedure" is just as convincingly good as usual. Although the sound is not completely with us, the crowd makes up for it in partying on top of three days of alcohol consumption, which is impressive in itself. The infamous "don't push" sign again summons even more dancing. During the more melodic songs "... like Clockwork" and "The Vampire of Time and Memory" the sound returns for us to truly hear the gritty voice of Josh Homme. "No One Knows" is the regular crowd pleaser and I leave the gig with a sense of NorthSide being able to rise from the issues described earlier and perhaps rise back to 2013-standards as we dance and drink ourselves into the night. [7½] HES

Wild Beasts @ 22:30 on Red Stage

While I've been met with accusations of blasphemy each time I've explained friends of mine that I would opt to see Wild Beasts as my final NS '14 band this weekend instead of QOTSA (having seen QOTSA a handful of times already) I still decide to stick to that plan (sort of) and head over to check out the British quartet after Josh Homme and co's first five songs. Over at Red Stage the band is playing to a calm and modest audience, but then their music is more the sort to get caught up in rather than one that suggests moving around with any particular wildness. Once again it's a pleasure to see a band in this smaller setting where the sound is perfect, especially considering the intricate three-part vocal arrangements brought to bear by these peculiar brits, whose brooding, crawling electro-gloom permeates the fibres of our beings. The band seems extremely pleased to be playing for us, and shows no signs of regret at playing at the same time as QOTSA, sipping red wine and bantering with us between songs. Things even find a some edge and rawness during some of their older songs (with which I am unfamiliar), hinting that a set entirely on their own terms could be a truly engaging proposition, but for all their merits, this is still the festival's dying hour, and with the audience well and truly beat, there's no energy left here to send things off with any sort of bang. Instead we get a sufficiently atmospheric lullaby to send us off drifting into the rest of the summer. [7] TL

TL's final remarks

After leaving NorthSide and Aarhus by night train I've been mulling over my first experience at the festival for a week's time, and overall I must admit to having had a pretty good time, despite some obvious kinks that the organisation still needs to iron out. Mainly the layout of the festival around the hill is awesome in my book, securing vision of the stages from mostly any angle or distance. The fact that beers and long drinks were priced equally at 40 DKK also seemed reasonable for me, as it's great to be able to have an alternative to beer that doesn't cost an arm and a leg after a long day of drinking. Furthermore I really liked the sound when it was good, as shows like Royal Blood, Reptile Youth, Bombay Bicycle Club and Wild Beasts (to name a few) all sounded amazing and had the "oomph" I'm looking for at a live show.

On the flipside, when the sound was lacking - which fortunately only seemed to be a problem at the Blue Stage - the results were too disappointing to overlook. Similarly the Payband disaster was super annoying, because the idea seemed amazing and I would've loved to ruin my economy in a flash while going through fast moving queues. The fact that this hadn't been tested better and that the volunteers overall seemed unprepared is still hard to understand. It was suggested by some that the organisation had not made the proper moves to accomodate the expanded capacity, and while I can't speak to the truth of this, I really hope somebody is taking notes so these problems don't manifest again next year.

Besides the waiting and the sound issues though, NorthSide was a pretty good time - just as festivals generally tend to be. I'd love to see the festival solve its various issues, but those wouldn't be deal breakers for me if next year's line-up is good enough. In this department I for one am a fan of the festival's modern, eclectic approach, which seems to indicate that they believe it possible for people to enjoy both rock and other genres - like pop or electronica. Some of the lesser known of the latter type of names were perhaps booked a bit too ambitiously considering the massive capacities of NorthSide's two main stages and some of the bigger names failed to deliver upon expectations, but it's hard to put this squarely on the bookers. In conclusion then, so long as NorthSide retains or expands its ratio of relevant rock artists, then I'd be open to covering it again and I wouldn't advise Rockfreaks.net readers against checking it out for themselves. That said, if they could guarantee improvements on the issues we've touched upon, I would of course only recommend it much more readily. So, see you next year maybe? /TL

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