Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN - 24/3
Wonderfestiwall 2014Previous Next
author HES date 29/08/14
It’s only been around since 2008 and pretty much started as a party in the backyard some obscure place at a hermit island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The small island of Bornholm is known from the 50’s romantic summer comedies describing it as the preferred vacation spot - sunshine and smoked herring all inclusive. But Bornholm is much more and has an impressive export list when it comes to Danish underground culture, herein included music. Now Wonderfestiwall has grown to become more of a showcase of what the local scene can offer but adding a few crowd pleasing bookings with no local anchorage. The festival notoriously regards riders (list of demands from a band like Jack Daniels or Beluga kaviar) as unnecessary, but still seems to attract artists with it’s scenic backdrop of the Hammershus ruins, strongly contending Skanderborg Festival’s claim to be the most beautiful festival in Denmark.
People queuing up for the entrance with Hammershus Ruins as backdrop
Despite being known as the “Sunshine Isle” the weather of this weekend is rainy and windy. The festival usually sports three stages, but the “Camping Stage” had lost its life to the wind and the schedule was changed last minute so that all bands could play either the “Tent Stage” or “Main Stage” - and magically the rescheduling didn’t create any overlapping.
The Tent Stage is located in the far back of the festival area - sheltered and with a bar in the back, this stage manages to serve a bit of intimacy in comparison to the bigger Main Stage. Both stages had excellent sound throughout the festival, but I counted at least 3 sound crashes where artists had to hold the show for 3-5 minutes until everything was up and running again. A mixture of good spirit among artists and audience made this a minor inconvenience. The festival overall was characterized by a “we’ll just see what happens”-attitude which both annoyed, but also impressed me.
Whereas TL and I had some mixed experiences facing the volunteers at this years Northside Festival, the volunteers at Wonderfestiwall were absolutely brilliant. Although still volunteers and in spite of everyone not having experience in customer service, their winning attitude and willingness to make it a personal experience totally won over even the harshest skeptics.
Shiny, happy volunteers ready to help you along
The volunteers were a mixture of the youth of Bornholm, their parents and uncles and aunts. In the backstage bar the staff was made out of one of the organizer’s family - which proved very successful with the otherwise bratty artists and intoxicated journos - throughout there was a sense of everyone working together for a greater purpose. Many artists got into the feel of being one of the people and went out in the festival area themselves to watch other artists.
Impressingly, all volunteers were granted free rides to the festival - again an exemplary service that probably helped with the mood amongst volunteers as mentioned above. For the rest of us mere mortals, there were three main options which all involved going by Ystad in Sweden by either car, train or bus. All of these options also involved taking a ferry from said destination. Transport to Ystad from Copenhagen was surprisingly only about an hour, so most of the traveling time was spent aboard the ferry to Rønne. Unfortunately Sweden was hit by yet another train-worker strike on the Sunday of the festival where most guests were departing. From Rønne to the festival were not-so-well-advertised busses to the festival area. They were packed to put it mildly, but free. This trip was a whopping 30 minutes - just going to show the island of Bornholm is not as small as it may look with its remote position on a map.
Sharing is caring at Wonderfestiwall
Other festivals have experimented with different payment systems the last couple of years because of the connectivity issues and intoxication issues that usually are guaranteed to mess up any kind of transaction at a festival. However, Wonderfestiwall did not jump on this trend - at all. All stands ran on Visa only - with no information about this being given beforehand. All machines were also running offline which basically makes them extremely open for fraudulent efforts (you can basically put in the wrong pin because the machine has no way of detecting whether your code is right or wrong). On top of this there were no ATM’s set up nearby the festival and the nearest possibility to get a little cash was 3-4 kilometers away - not a pleasant walk in your wellies. You could say that it’s just too bad for the mastercard/electron-holding part of the festival audience, but since the demographic at the festival is still quite young, it seems the festival might have lost a bit of income by forcing guests to leave the festival area (one’s own alcohol was prohibited, but it seemed a party in the giant parking lot outside the festival area took its toll on the revenue). Some vendors tried out a Mobile Pay-scheme, but it proved just as useless because of the lousy access to mobile data connection. Regular phone connection, luckily, was unharmed.
If the festival made one decision that I applauded the most, it was to place the camping area uphill. As mentioned above, the weather was less than friendly with a mixture of constant bone chilling wind gusts and violent, but mainly temporary showers. Our tents just only made it through the three days of camping not aided by a 4 hour thunder/rainstorm the night between Saturday and Sunday which left puddles in the tents and the undersigned scribe a bit traumatised (we did as mentioned camp on the top of a hill - with lightning only 1 or 2 kilometers away).
Camping. Scenery: Included
Otherwise the camping and festival areas sported flushing toilets (how hard can it be, Roskilde Festival?), fresh supplies of toilet paper and hand sanitiser. Guard towers served as thief/violent drunk repellents and I am yet to hear of any kind of thievery which otherwise haunts most camping festivals.
Mainly sponsored by Tuborg as many of the other Danish festivals, the bars served nothing out of the ordinary - except from the local spirit Honningsyp which accompanied your smoked herring with rye bread or if you were feeling adventurous: The Sildedog (Herringdog), a hotdog with trimmings of radish and a big piece of smoked fish.
Delicious Sildedog with even tastier Honningsyp on the side
Otherwise the festival served the normal go-to dishes like pizza, burger, an ala carte dish of the day or soup ranging from 20 - 60DKK. Indeed very affordable on a student budget. Beers were frighteningly cheap. One 40cl tap beer for 30DKK or 5 for 100DKK. Drinks were 40DKK for one and 4 for 100DKK. In the backstage area they had a gin and tonic with local licorice and cucumber, but I saw none of these in the outside area - which is too bad, because the festival is of course a perfect launching pad for local specialties. If I could give one advice to the festival, that also tries to attract the older demographic, I’d try to amp up the selection of novelty eats and drinks like the sildedog and the honningsyp to truly celebrate the local feeling - that and the freaking payment systems.
Downpour is capriciously exchanged with a glimpse of hopeful sunshine around 1½ minute before Chorus Grant hits the Main Stage. He was supposed to play the Camping Stage, but as mentioned above it became a casualty of the heavy gusts of wind harrowing the more exposed plains before the camping hill.
Thus Chorus Grant is opening the main stage of his native Bornholm. I’ll firstly admit that the recently released “Space” has been my album of choice for the past two weeks and my expectations are high. Chorus Grant is intelligent singer-songwriter rock heavily driven by bass and the weird mix of almost-out-of-tune oddness, it constantly balances between insanity and familiarity. A crowd is actually gathering in front of the stage and I leave my shelter in the form of a Tuborg Bodega-trailer and head down to join them.
Where Chorus Grant, voiced by Kristian “Kris” Finne Kristensen is recorded so that his voice sounds a tad young, his stage-voice is more lively and mature, even though this may sound paradoxic. In order for this music to translate correctly, it has to be played very flawless if not completely tight and the band delivers. Kristensen is a performer that masks his aversiveness behind a confident and flirtatious smile. He demonstratively lights up a cigarette and greats the audience with his half-full beer. The jazzy, mysterious tones and guitar-riffs of “O Everyone” warms the crowd to smiles and slight swaying. An almost misty rain masks them for a moment, but everyone seems to stay to listen to the weird mix of soul, jazz and rock in trifecta - and although I’m not sure everyone gets some of the over-intellectual compositions, behind them are always swells of well-composed, hook-fueled melody holding the train on it’s track. One thing is for sure: I will be seeing Chorus Grant again in the near future. 
Now I’ve seen this band a few times by now and they always deliver on the party-front - the music front is more up to chance. The band has made themselves into a household name by striking up something quintessentially Danish: They’ve pretty much created the "Regional anthem of Copenhagen" and described the Danish weather in poetic lines that everyone from Skagen to Bornholm can relate to. All of this they do in Danish and with a rock and roll vibe reminiscent of the genre’s birth.
Carl Emil Petersen of Ulige Numre
And fittingly it is simply pissing down for the most of the show. The band manages to keep most of the crowd occupied, but in spite of danceable hits like “København”, “Dit Navn I Sneen” and “Dansk Vejr” they’re still not doing more than what is to be expected. I have sadly seen this fatigue in many of the big rock bands that play many festivals over the summer. The stage becomes just another stage and the crowd becomes just another crowd. These bands rely on the energy of their songs, not on what energy they put into them. Now, don’t get me wrong, the band is pulling all the stops that rock bands should do, but behind all of their sunglass-covered eyes, I would expect to find a tired boy that really just wants a night in his own bed. However much you try to avoid it, it does create a disconnect - even the sunglasses alone! So I am entertained, but mainly by the band’s devoted and singing crowd more than by the band itself. [6½]
Now already when this band had their soundcheck, I knew it wouldn’t be below average. If there’s one thing the Danish, Christian indie-pop/rock band is, it is euphonious.
I understand why it has grown an audience both in Denmark and abroad - even though their first single “A Kid On the Beach” is not characterising the band’s real forte, it did hit some strings in the Danish P3-segment. That track the band saves for last, so I can leave unnoticed, but in between Hymns From Nineveh delivers soaring, hypnotic indie-folk with a bit of 70’s vibe only aided on by the band’s native american drums-cover. Unfortunately the timing and hangovers of yesternight is working against the band with songs about salvation and death. The crowd is sitting in the once again very timid sun, looking more lulled to sleep than engaged. This of course taints the otherwise decent set. Singer Jonas "Hymnsboy" Petersen (yes, that is his actual nickname) tries but embarrassingly fails to engage the crowd a bit, but yells out Copenhagen instead of Bornholm to a toe-cringing silence. [6½]
I was looking forward to check out Cody (Come On Die Young, again yes, that is the actual abbreviation). Not as much because I really know the band, but because a quick look on their facebook-page tells me that 14 of my friends like this band. Was I the last to know about the new post-folk craze sweeping the nation? I listened to a couple of songs underway to Bornholm and I did find a lot of quirky and cute compositions, blues rock references and overall a not-too-shabby band. Sadly, this is where my enthusiasm halters.
Kaspar Kaae of Cody
As abovementioned, the sound at the festival was actually great - but during our dionysian (read: drunk) partying to SNAVS yesternight, someone must have stolen the soundguy’s figurative locks of samsonian hair and didn’t return them until Saturday. The soundscape is muddy at best - the cellist is completely gone in the soundscape and as the bright, blue light drowns everything there is too see on stage some of the audience leaves to go back and get a nap before the party comes to town. All the nuances I noticed on the album are gone and all I hear is the lazy vocals of Kaspar Kaae and an even drowsier drumset. Where the sound could be soaring and mesmerizing it just instead seems mildly tolerable. Sadly it doesn’t really improve throughout the show. 
Luckily some bad news bring some good news with them. The Blue Van has had to cancel because of a band member becoming a father over the night. Where other festivals scramble to find a replacement, here at Bornholm they just come up with one of my personal favorite live bands: When Saints Go Machine. The band is just as excited as us and a relatively big crowd has gathered to listen to their dystopian, alternative electro-rock. When the band played Northside 2013 I was equally impressed with the band’s ability to create a very special mood around them and even though the sun is shining, the billowing clouds of smoke engulf us in the musical post-apocalyptic scenery.
Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild of When Saints Go Machine
Frontman and vocalist Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild’s voice is almost poetically porous, yet his falsetto is clear as the bright blue sky. Completely emerged in the next track, the sound crashes in the start of “Mannequin” and the band is awkwardly quiet as the they scramble to find the reason, but the crowd just has another beer and salutes the band by the unofficial Danish National Anthem “skåååååål”, the fault is fixed and the band continues into the track’s music box inspired synths. This band requires for you to emerge yourself into the soundscape and to listen instead of dancing/shouting/drinking as you normally would expect to do at a regular festival gig, but for some reason it happens every time I’ve seen them and as this set is even heavier based around electronic improvisation it seems to still gather the attention of a crowd that didn’t even buy the ticket in anticipation of seeing this band. The more melodic songs like “System Of Unlimited Love” and “Church and Law” creates small pockets of euphoria. Even though one could’ve wished for a more smooth reaction to the sound issues early into the show, the band maintains the special universe their music creates. [7½]
Mont Oliver took us by surprise at Northside Festival at 2014 and festival Denmark has seemed to agree. The band has been on every single menu of the smaller indie-booking festivals this year from “Musik I Lejet” to “Trailerpark”. The band says it mixes between conventional genres such as rock, indie and … hip-hop? Whereas they sounded decent on the sunny lanes of Northside with beer in hand, I am this time facing them after the perfectly trembled synths of When Saints Go Machine and the competition is won by WSGM almost by default. I am scrambling to find anything redeeming about the pretentious synths cutting holes in my eardrums. Especially the sampled “accordion”-like synths of “19” with a backdrop of poorly mixed hip-hop snare-drums in a hopelessly uninspired loop pierces my most valuable ears. I am all in for mixing genres - I mean the band even mentions trip-hop champions Portishead as a main influence but the influence is lost on everyone else. The composition of especially the rhythm section is so juvenile it could’ve been created by someone’s 14 year old kid that think he’s a DJ because he has finally mastered the Audacity Software. Whereas many other band use these influences to create interesting shifts in tempi, contrasts in mood or just contrasts in general - this just sounds more like bad hip-hop musicians trying to sound like bad rock musicians. The lyrics never even manage to reach a mundane level - I mean “I can tell that you are curious, but I am too mysterious”. I am appalled. 
I am not entirely sure that Turboweekend really is a party band - I think in general that it is a grave misunderstanding that just because it is electronically flavoured rock, that it is thus something worth having a party to - personally I’d prefer punk. But hey yeah, okay this is not a rock only festival so okay I get it. I guess then I’ll get back to my first question: Is Turboweekend a party-band? The answer is ambivalent. Turboweekend does not only have high-energy compositions, but have broadly made use of even more electronic remixes retrospectively. The single that brought these old-timers back into the limelight was “Trouble Is” originally more of a ballad, the Tiësto-remix (gah) swiftly made the band a household name again. Other songs like “On My Side”, “Now” and “Something Or Nothing” are pretty much party-songs, but speaking against it is the unquestionably melancholy that seems completely lost on the now drunken teenage-crowd. The set has one clear hero, and even though vocalist Silas Bjerregaard is working hard for his money, it is not him but bassist Morten Køie that creates a flow even the drunkest teenager can understand. Sadly, most of the songs are played in uptempo versions including but not limited to the beforementioned “Trouble Is” and “Into You”, so that they can live up to the party left by the “Danskhall” abomination that is Pelle Peter Supreme Team. But to me it just seems like the band is butchering their vast catalogue of songs. If the timing of the set creates this many differences between the original intent of a song and what is expected at 1:45 in the morning, the band should start saying no to the bookers or ask for a different spot. The effects of a higher tempo-set also takes it toll on Bjerregaard’s voice that is usually soft but contrasted by a yelling-voice for emphasis. Instead now the entire vocal performance is carried out in hoarse yelling. I understand that all of these preferences I am listing, like contrast, less party, more focus on music, room for some closeness - they’re all my personal preferences, but I doubt I’m the only one missing the Turboweekend of yesterday. 
Teitur recently played Vega and I had this feeling that maybe there was something I didn’t get. I mean when people speak of Teitur he sounds like this Faroese mythical creature that will make you have all the feels. I didn’t. I left the show barely going “meh” after seeing him. But this time, this time I think I got it.
Teitur for some reason forgot his band at home and what a difference a band makes indeed. The otherwise very shy singer-songwriter, obviously not able to hide behind anything, steps on the stage dressed in a boat-neck sweater with a massive, drawn hand - ring finger raised. Saluting your audience with a shirt like that has to be some kind of sign of downplayed humour and his shy, yet endearing ramblings between songs only confirm this further. The soundman seems to have come back to his senses and Teitur’s quirky lyrics like those of “Rock and Roll Band”: “They couldn’t write a song to save their lives. But boy! They could do a lot of drugs” are readily audible instead of being just lyrics they turn into small stories read to the backdrop of either guitar or piano. The set is a mixture of the old and new, including the sweet “Josephine” from Teitur’s first album, “Hopeful” and the taunting, beautiful, but absolutely bizarre piece of art “If You Wait” from his latest. The big difference between Teitur with and without band, is that his personality has to shine through. Forced out by the otherwise awkward silence, his ramblings make his songs believeable tales and not just cryptic songs with no personality - Teitur’s presence at this gig performs like a dictionary, making the songs something you can internalise instead of just listen to. After this gig I can easily understand why Teitur is still relevant more than 10 years after his debut album. 
Balls of steel.”
Förtress don’t hold back - not on their facebook either. But there’s some sanity to this insanity - it’s basically the ironic silver lining to this cloud that makes the whole shabang intoxicatingly brilliant, not to even mention entertaining. The tone is set in stone as drummer “Vildsvinet” enters the stage only wearing the local flag and a pair of boxers - not to comment on his appearance, but I do understand why his name translates to “The Wild Boar”. The rest of the band’s get-up includes a Ninja Turtles-wifebeater, an open Hawaii shirt and most horrible floral painted, 70’s style shirt sported by lead singer “Mr. Sex”. But see, the joke wouldn’t be funny if the band couldn’t play, but they sure can!
A bit of love between men is totally hard rock, right?
One hard rock riff after one another the band punches the just awakened, hungover crowd right in the solar plexus to great exclamations by the hardcore clique of fans lodged just before the photo pit, hair swinging, bull horns towering. One power pose replaces the other as the band rocks out with a certain limp out. Förtress successfully awakens the crowd with the show worthy of the now defunct stage of Copenhagen hard rock club “The Rock” only with less fire blowing naked girls. I am completely sold on this band. What the music lacks in originality (and it lacks ALOT) the band makes up for in sheer entertainment. 
It’s very seldom I comment on a musician’s appearance, but the sheer shock of seeing how the former lead singer of Saybia has aged is an unavoidable fact. Born in 1975, which makes him 38, Søren Huss looks something between one and two centuries older - a harrowing sight, when you know what the guy has been through: He lost his wife and almost his daughter in a traffic accident. Never have I ever seen sorrow manifest itself so hauntingly in another human being’s physique. All of this just adds to the emotional rollercoaster his first album in Danish had the rock community in when it was released only two years after his personal disaster. To counterweight this Huss released the more upbeat “Oppefra & Ned” in 2012.
Søren Huss & band
Understandably it’s the latter album most of his songs tonight come from. There is however no doubt that Huss’ emotions are somewhere just beneath his skin, but honestly, it’s not much of them we see this early evening. The spiteful “Adgang Forbudt” and some of the other songs from “Oppefra & Ned” do deserve some attention - Huss is above all a talented lyricist, but it seems as if some of the songs are really too personal for a live performance, this fact is only supported by how detached Huss seems from the audience. The audience however is seeking this connection and do seem to find it in glimpses. So even though Huss has a great band (including WhoMadeWho’s Jeppe Kjellberg) and he delivers vocally (although not as nuanced as on the two records) the gig is only understood by the few. I’m not going to analyse on whether songs just become songs when they’re sung too many times or if some things are just too personal to open up for, but those are the thoughts that trouble me when I have to give a grade to a guy that deserves a 10 for just still standing up, let alone for still making music. So I am choosing to draw a blank here in order to not give a good grade out of sympathy or a bad one because of an absent catarsis.
Rounding up the rock adventures of Wonderfestiwall are WhoMadeWho and boy! What a round up it is! Carried onwards by vocalist/bassist Tomas Høffding’s relentless energy and former jazz-guitarist Jeppe Kjellberg’s magic on the strings the crowd pulsates with energy. The soundscape is industrial, mainly consisting of bass waves, but supported by improvisational-like groovy guitar riffs best expressed by the dark “Space For Rent”. But the band doesn’t stay too long in shadows, rather also exploding in the energetic, bright, 80’s art-rock’ish “The Morning”.
WhoMadeWho’s Jeppe Kjellberg doing his magic
Although many members of the audience don’t seem to know the band from before, the sheer power of the performance seems to attract and hold them locked in place, swaying compelled along to the notes. The band touches upon references from everything between New Order to Queens of the Stoneage without being overpoweringly one or the other, sticking to their guns and just pushing on unimpressed into the next bass and synth driven melodic composition without even blinking an eye. I am always impressed by a man that can handle a bit of falsetto and Høffding is swerving from lower keys to the high tones effortlessly. Drummer Thomas Barfod pounds away thunderingly on his set delivering high-hat glimpses every once in a while lifting the soundscape from the ordinary to the extraordinary. But one reference used by other scribes in the field is completely lost on me: “techno”. References like this and the words “club music” has held me back from seeing this band live in past thinking it wouldn’t be relevant for our readership: To those who have thought the same, I can only say one thing: Just because a band uses a bit of synth, that doesn’t make them “techno” and just because their music is upbeat doesn’t make them reminiscent of “techno”. This nonsense I have encountered while researching this band springs out of the word “club scene” which I do see pronounced in some of the tracks on the records. I think some people a misunderstanding what a “club scene” can allude to. If there’s one thing this show can be summed up to it’s a rock show - and a very good one for that matter. Don’t fear the superlatives. [8½]