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NorthSide 2015

author TL date 17/06/15

June is a month of festival madness, even in Denmark, which spells fatigue and economic ruin for most obsessed music fans. Yet skipping NorthSide is not really an option, for while the Aarhus-based festival has a pretty loose approach to whether it books rock, pop or electronica, this year roughly half of the lineup would normally be deemed more or less relevant to the curious Rockfreaks.net readers out there. Furthermore, considering the scheduling nightmares we normally cover, such as Groezrock or Copenhell, the spaced out and relaxed timeline at NorthSide has considerable appeal, as does the fact that you have the opportunity to sleep under a roof and take a shower in the morning (unless your solution to the “no camping" policy is to sleep on a bench of course).

All pictures in the article courtesy of Homage Photography

SETUP

For those that have never gone, NorthSide is held in the Ådalen location in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city. Ådalen is a green area west of the city center, and the festival is built in a spiral around a hill. The two main stages, “Green" and “Blue" are located at the bottom of the hill on the northwest and southwest sides. At the top of the hill are a couple of covered structures with creative seating arrangements (like a mountain of sofas) plus various installations like a Viking ship, table tennis, and wooden benches. This year there was even a Vero Moda stand where guests could create t-shirts with their own text and try a game of PoolBall.

Blue stage + its audience during the final set from The Black Keys

To the left of "Blue" starts an arc that runs around the far side of the hill from the stages, lined with diverse food and drink shops. The selection ranges from beer and junk food to cocktails, craft beer, wine, and various more exotic dishes, with a large part of what’s available being organic. Behind the line of stands, there’s a “hidden" wooded area called “OutSide" which has more stands plus a smaller stage that features spoken word and poetry and such. To the right of "Green" the area opens up and spirals out in a wide passage that leads behind the Green stage to more shops, including the merch area, as well as to the entrance and the smaller, red, P6 Beat stage. In addition, the large open areas in front of the stages have extra canopy bars installed as well as various sculptures and artistic installations - like two wooden thumbs up shooting up from the ground for instance.

Crowd at the barrier just outside of the P6 Beat canopy watching Matthew E. White

In contrast to most festivals, NorthSide does not feature a camping area, meaning that guests have to make their own sleeping arrangements in and around town. Furthermore, NorthSide’s three-day schedule is much less packed. Bands on Green stage play with no competition from the other stages while Blue and P6 Beat normally has a band on each at roughly the same time. And mostly there’s even a 10-15 minute break between bands so one has time to walk from one stage to the other (though Green and Blue are equal in size and can pretty much both be seen from the top of the hill). This often proves to be an interesting challenge for the bands playing, as the audience will mostly be mixed, making it clear which artists have the entertainment skills to get people interested throughout the longer sets (ranging from 45 to 90 minutes) and which are perhaps a bit too used to playing exclusively to people that are already fans.

ATMOSPHERE

In terms of atmosphere, NorthSide is a cleaner and more relaxed festival overall compared to most others. The lineup favours softer or more conventional rock bands as well as the hippest pop names available, which makes for a relatively eclectic crowd where no particular style or subculture appears to be in the majority. You see parents in their old band shirts holding kids with protective headsets on, you see hipsters with ridiculously styled beards that look like they stepped off a fashion mag page, and you see varieties of alternative youngsters with piercings and streaks of colour in their messy hair. Across the board the attitude seems to be the same though, to take it easy and get one’s drink on in the sun, while dancing to the bands you like and maybe simply sitting and chilling during the ones you do not know so well.

OTHER FEATURES

Great toilet facilities

In terms of toilet capacity, NorthSide is unmatched. Proper toilet cars are driven in for the festival, which means there are no plastic porta potties in sight. There is hand sanitizer, plus running water for washing hands and refilling drinking bottles, and urinals are also readily available, making pee smell and wet fences something you simply do not experience at NorthSide.

Beer/long drink equality

A regular (organic) pint costs 40,- DKK at NorthSide. A long drink costs the same. So even when you’ve ruined your economy and want to drink as cheaply as possible, you still have the option to go with a gin & tonic or a rum & coke instead of a beer. Don’t get us wrong, we love beer. But we love liquor too, and if we can have both and feel no less financially irresponsible for it, this is super awesome as far as we are concerned.

Luxury food and drink options

For those not always on the brink of bankruptcy, NorthSide is only extra awesome. There are at least two proper restaurants with tables and decent meals available to the guests, plus a wine bar with proper wine glasses, as well as a “rum & cigar" bar, where you can enjoy a variety of quality rums as well as a cigar while reclining in some vintage furniture. This indoors and safe from the weather as well.

Functional recycling system

When you buy a drink, you pay 2,- DKK for the cup. Bring the cup back when you buy your next drink and you are spared the cost of cup number two. Result: You are not walking around in a field of plastic waste. The always nearby waste bins helped with the waste from meals as well. Similarly there was a 2,- DKK “pant" on cigarette packs and you even got a small “pocket ashtray", to prevent cigarette buds from going everywhere. Additionally there was 25,- DKK pant on beer pitchers, which went a long way towards seeing them returned to the stands too.

Singing in the rain - Crowd ready to get wet during The Minds Of 99

For the next stretch, the article is dedicated to the lineup and the reviews of all relevant rock or rock-related bands. If you are interested in the section where we highlight positive traits for the festival and make suggestions for improvement, you can find that all the way down at the bottom.

Full lineup

Friday

José Gonzáles - Carl Barât & The Jackals - Earl Sweatshirt (cancelled, illness) - Barbara Moleko - Death Cab For Cutie - Jack Garratt - Incubus - Sam Smith (cancelled, recovery from vocal chord surgery) - Dizzy Mizz Lizzy - Little Dragon - MØ - Alt-J - FKA Twigs - Wu-Tang Clan - Grace Jones - Spids Nøgenhat

Saturday

Go Go Berlin - Broken Twin - S!vas - The Minds Of 99 - Scarlet Pleasure - Savages - Antony & The Johnsons - Wolf Alice - Parov Stelar Band - The Jesus & Mary Chain - Placebo - Underworld - Emilie Nicolas

Sunday

St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Ulige Numre - John Grant - Matthew E. White - George Ezra - Seasick Steve - Calexico - De Eneste To - Interpol - Years & Years - Ben Howard - The Black Keys - Rangleklods

BAND REVIEWS

FRIDAY

Carl Barât & The Jackals @ 14:15 on P6 Beat

As my first band of the festival I choose to check out Carl Barât (vocalist/guitarist in The Libertines) and his new band, the Jackals, and they kick off the first, sunny day of the festival in casual rock fashion. They only just released their debut album in February this year, but one thing I like about their gritty, British garage rock music is that the songs vary a lot in style, some moving toward fast punk rock territory while others are calmer and would be classified as indie on their own. Their set today reflects this but there is far between the songs that really stand out and demand to be listened intensely to when the intimate garage sound is blown up like this on an outside stage. What they do well on the other hand is the British rock & roll attitude they sport with leather jackets and grubby hair, the far too cool Barât being almost unintelligible as he mumbles his British thank-you's, the bassist nonchalantly smoking a cigarette with no hands while playing their songs. This attitude is carried through to the very end when a guitar is thrown casually across the stage after the last song for a sound-man to firmly catch it. The band generally play well together, following each other attentively but there’s a clear divide in how well the songs work, with the faster paced songs that have raw and simple energy in focus definitely coming out on top. [6½] LF

Swedish/Argentinian folk singer José González

José González @ 14:15 on Blue

It feels like quite a few years ago that Swedish folk singer José González became a worldwide sensation with his cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats", yet he is still remembered in Denmark, enough so to be given the opening show of NorthSide's two larger stages this year. He opens up solo with "Crosses", relying on the depth of his voice and his skillful acoustic finger-picking to bid us welcome. He is soon joined though, by a second acoustic guitarist, a keyboardist, a regular drummer and a bongo drummer. The sound rings out over the sunny hillside clearly and the mood feels a bit like a lighter, slightly tribal version of the Ben Howard material the NorthSide guests can look forward to later this weekend. In comparison though, González' songs add layers more predictably, making the progressions either sneak up on you or even float by unnoticed, while the modest Swede keeps his interaction with the audience to the basic courtesies. The mood before the stage is more relaxed than exhilarated then, though Gonzáléz earns some points towards the end by making room for both the "Heartbeats" cover as well as his version of Massive Attack's "Teardrop". [7] TL

Death Cab For Cutie @ 16:30 on Blue

It's been ten years since Seattle indie phenomenon Death Cab For Cutie released their 4th album "Plans" to earn themselves a massive breakthrough, and it's been 9 years since Danish fans last had a chance to see the band live. It's a pretty special occasion then, whether the people in front of Blue stage know it or not. An occasion the band mischievously decides to commence with the 8 minute "I Will Possess Your Heart", almost as if they want to sort the just curious from the devoted fans right away. The group is not too cool to rock out actively to each added detail in the song though, and frontman Ben Gibbard plays both the guitar and the piano. He and new guitarist Dave Depper smile like they're keeping secrets from us, from out under their sunglasses, while proceeding to energetically deliver a parade of songs from the band's five latest albums. "Crooked Teeth", "Doors Unlocked And Opened" and "Black Sun" are aired, and while fans are swept up in singing along with devotion, the elegantly timed details and deceptively catchy lyrics get heads nodding among the rest, prompting increasingly generous applause.

You get the sense that Death Cab are working on two levels, connecting with ardent listeners via the depth in their lyrics while also entertaining the casual crowd with their underplayed poppiness. On stage Gibbard is sweating through his neat shirt, eventually removing his shades to reveal the eyes of a confident and present performer, while Depper in particular seems to like his new gig, emphasizing various important strums with high jumps. Towards the end we get "The New Year", "Where Soul Meets Body" and "Transatlanticism", and particularly the intermediate gets the crowd singing along properly, ending the show on a convincing note. Still, as well as Death Cab do, they still leave us starving for another show, preferably with a more intimate audience and an at least 45 minutes longer set. Here's to hoping their promise to return soon was not just hot air. [8] TL

Incubus @ 17:45 on Green

Somewhat to my surprise, the crowd for alternative rock band Incubus at Northside is immense and they're also one of the bands at the festival with the biggest singalongs, not least for their hit song "Drive" which they play late in the set. Before that however, they play through a focused but varied set spread out over several albums with songs like "Absolution Calling", "Wish You Were Here", "Anna Molly", "Pardon Me", "Vitamin" and "Megalomaniac". They sound extremely on point throughout the set and lead singer Brandon Boyd especially does not disappoint as he soars through every song with an impressively strong voice. Boyd looks like a true rock star as well as he poses with his long hair flowing behind him and an open white shirt that reveals a well-trained body, and it's hard not to be impressed by a band that radiates so much glamorous confidence. However, despite this high quality of the performance and the energy of the crowd, the band feels oddly distanced, barely speaking a word throughout. At one point Boyd turns to the back of the stage to play dramatically on a couple of big drums but this doesn't at all have the effect of escalating the energy as he's turning away from the crowd and doesn't play very enthusiastically. As such it seems like a rock band of this caliber could do a lot more to really burn through at a festival appearance, but at least they truly sounded stellar. [7½] LF

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy @ 18:30 on Blue

They are largely unknown internationally, but domestically the support for the reunited 90s grunge/hardrock trio Dizzy Mizz Lizzy is close to total. Half the songs from the band's self-titled 1993 debut are so well known they might as well be put in our folk songbooks in years to come, and considering how good they are, it's not a stretch to wonder if Dizzy' might not have been mega stars if they had come from Seattle instead of Copenhagen. Mixing the sensitivity of grunge names like Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains with the playful riffing of band's like Guns N' Roses and Jane's Addiction, the band has a handful of super hits to play through, yet they start with a fireworks explosion and the great new single "I Would If I Could But I Can't". Then however, the singalongfest is blown wide open with "Glory" and "Barbedwire Baby's Dream". The reception from the audience is positively religious as the hillside is packed with people all air guitaring and singing along.

On stage frontman Tim Christensen - who has been a star songwriter in his own right during the band's downtime - goes about things relatively relaxed, while drummer Søren Friis is all smiles, in contrast to bassist Martin Nielsen who keeps a cool attitude from behind his shades. You sense that the band is aware that figurative ownership of their songs have long since become communal, so they act less like stars trying to breathe energy into their old songs, more like they simply get things started by playing and then let the crowd take over. You could argue that some more energy and confidence would look good on them, but then it's debatable if the audience would even notice. The excellent "Made To Believe" reminds us that there is a promising new album on the horizon and the perennial show closer "Silverflame" might as well be our national anthem.

Our own LF was two years old at the release of the band's debut album, yet she sings almost every song to her own surprise. And slightly to our left, some boys that don't look a day over 16 do the same, while a bit behind us, a gray-haired woman that looks 50ish is also onboard. It seems pretty safe to conclude then, that Dizzy Mizz Lizzy sets the bar for how big a rock band can be in Denmark. We only look forward to shows where the band will invest more, when the time comes to work an even greater portion of new material into the set, partially so they also don't have to stall to pass time as the do a few times tonight. [8½] TL

Alt-J drummer Thom Green repping Bad Religion

Alt-J @ 21:45 on Blue

Having tried and failed several times before to get into this band is what my basis is for checking them out at NorthSide, simply in the hope that I will get something live that the band doesn't get across on album. Their set today comprises a huge amount of songs from both their albums but I can't say that it impresses me much in the end. Still, the crowd at Northside seems to love it, and the dance moves I see around are just as energetic as the ones for electro-swing pioneers Parov Stelar will be later. Alt-J’s music is very linear to my ears, reminding me more of the way electronic music is written than the way indie or folk rock normally is, which is not too odd as they are also branded some places as art- or experimental rock. "Left Hand Free" would be an exception to this, but songs like that are far between on the set list tonight. As such I should be interested than I end up, in the way the music very subtly builds and expands and in the delicate melodic riffs that are introduced and used as hooks in the songs. I can’t deny that they sound good tonight though and especially their vocal harmonies are close to spine-chilling at times, yet there's simply not enough variation in the sound or the nasal, unemotional vocals for the music to keep me interested for very long stretches of time. [7] LF

SATURDAY

Broken Twin aka. Majke Voss Romme

Broken Twin @ 14:15 on P6 Beat

The simple and extremely heavy-hearted music of Broken Twin might be right on the softer edge of what we cover here at rockfreaks.net. Her music is however not too far from the piano-rock of Tori Amos whom we have covered before, and whom Broken Twin will also support for her upcoming show at Egeskov Slot in Denmark. Behind the name is the melancholic singer-songwriter Majke Voss Romme but today she plays her electronic piano music with a band that consists of a violinist, a pianist and a keyboardist who doubles as a drummer on a tom once in a while. The pianist especially is interesting to watch as he crouches over his instrument as if the sheer heaviness of the music is weighing him down. The darkness in the music, Romme's deep, vibrant voice and her visual appearance in a beige trench coat and scarlet hat all remind me a lot of the Danish band Get Your Gun and their lead singer Andreas Westmark who sports a similar look, and song titles like "Sea of Sorrow" communicate much of the same tristesse albeit in a different musical style. This is an excellent show to calmly start of the second very rainy day of the festival although it would be easier to get caught up in the mood of it in a more intimate setting. [7] LF

Go Go Berlin @ 14:15 on Blue

A sparse group of people dot the front barrier in anticipation of Go Go Berlin's set to kick off the festival's second day. They smile knowingly to themselves as the hill gradually fills up to the barrier and beyond, because most of them have likely seen the busily touring band before and know what is about to happen. The band may sound a tad safe and poppy on their recorded productions, but live they have charisma and confidence as if they were Aerosmith, and while this is likely the largest stage they have played, the local quintet struts right up and cheekily kicks off with material that nobody has heard before. Frontman Christian Vium is swagger incarnate, taking every opportunity to leave his spot by the mic to summon up clapping and shouting from the crowd, shuffling and grooving along to each movement in the band's retro rock tunes.

Starting with the newest single "Electric Lives" the band deploys their practice of deconstructing and rebuilding the intensity after the second chorus, here emphasising the hard-hitting, proggy bridge and getting heads banging and hands air guitaring on the grass before them. Radio hit "Castles Made Of Sand" follows and HES - whose considerable hangover was magically cured over the course of the last song - remarks "What, is this their own song? I know this!", followed after a while of being captivated with Vium's flamboyant showmanship and excellent vocal performance by the flat statement: "That man. He has got it."

Christian Vium getting acquainted with the audience

Regrettably the low spot on the bill only affords Go Go Berlin a 45 minute set, and the routinely extension of songs means that we get to hear fewer of them than we would like. Still, leading single "Raise Your Head" is celebrated appropriately, once more with emphasis on the heavier dynamics in the bridge. Vium loses his shades at some point between strutting from one side of the stage to the other and jumping off an elevated amplifier, and during the show closer "Shoot The Night" he jumps the barrier to go dancing with the audience. Things then end far too soon, after a short but efficient demonstration of how to convince a mixed audience, and while one can dream of how good a Go Go Berlin show could be when they lose their underdog status, one thing is certain: We pity each and every band that has to follow them today. [8½] TL

The Minds Of 99 @ 16:30 on Blue

Most of the Rockfreaks.net writers are Danish, yet we write in English and generally consider ourselves listeners with an international focus. Hence the potential for bands that sing in Danish often feels limited and hence we rarely give such bands much attention, which is also the case with Copenhagen-based synth-rock/post-punk group The Minds Of 99. It's surprising then that the group comes on before the large crowd at Blue stage exuding a confidence like this is something they have prepared to do for a while. If you are new to their sound, you can enjoy imagining the kind of records they likely have at home among their inspirations - Tv-2, Duran Duran, Suede, White Lies, Joy Division and The Clash all seeming likely. The drums and bass often race ahead at post-punk paces while the guitar and keys echo from the speakers with chilly, immersive tones. In front singer Niels Brandt leads with striking, bleached hair and his thousand yard stare drawing attention to him while he sings in somewhat nasal Oasis-like tones, chanting Danish lyrics that for once are more poetic than ridiculous.

Frontman Niels Brandt

"Vi er Minds" he flatly proclaims between songs, and as the skies open and let loose the rain that has been anticipated today, the hit song "Hurtige Hænder" gets the front pit bouncing and singing along. A cover of Underworld’s “Born Slippy" is aired, as is a new song alongside further hits from the band’s self-titled 2014 debut, such as “Et Barn Af Min Tid", “Rav" and “Det Er Knud Som Er Død" - all of them delivered with a presence that makes it look like the band is used to playing shows of this size. The more you think about it, the more impressive it is, so maybe it’s time to stop ignoring bands that sing in our own language, even for self-styled cosmopolites like the Rockfreaks.net staff. [8] TL

Savages @ 17:45 on Green

Let’s be honest: Our impression of Savages is not too great prior to their show, as encounters with their 2013 debut “Silence Yourself" have only left the feeling that they’re more about atmosphere and message than about actual noteworthy songwriting. Still, their post-punk expression emerged at a trendy moment, allowing them to appear on Green stage in the drizzle today. “City’s Full" echoes noisily from the speaker towers, while most of NorthSide’s music listening guests look on with mostly apprehensive stances. Gemma Thompson and Ayse Hassan perform stoically on guitar and bass respectively, while Fay Milton gives the drums a pounding, all three of them obscured beneath wildly flowing hair. In front Jenny Beth is otherwise present, and more openly so than in the band’s somewhat lethargic performance at last year’s Roskilde Festival.

To Beth’s credit, she moves around and tries to summon up some excitement for the band’s hostile and ironically sneering songs, and her dramatic singing is characteristic and on point, but many in the audience seem left behind by the overall focus on reverberating atmospheres and the lack of strong melodic motifs. Beth’s forthcomingness, despite actually fitting a festival set, also seems like a weird fit for the band’s otherwise conceptual punk-ness. If you hear them on record you imagine them all sweaty and messy, while whipping some basement or club into a frenzy over the unfairness and indignity a particular song of theirs is exploring. It feels weird seeing them try to get across to an eclectic festival audience full of casuals, and so, neither the mood nor the actual music makes for a show that’s better than simply adequate. Savages seem like a band caught between being deliberately hard to enjoy, and having been catapulted to a position as the target of widespread curiosity. And one wonders how long their novelty will last if they don’t find a way to consolidate these two seemingly polar opposite positions. [6] TL

Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice @ 19:00 on P6 Beat

Despite them having only released two EPs, the hype around London quartet Wolf Alice has grown exponentially over the past year and a half, to the point where it is now beginning to spill out internationally ahead of the band’s imminent debut full-length “My Love Is Cool". Today they bring their grungy 90s-reminiscent alternative rock (think Hole, Garbage, Cranberries) to a P6 Beat stage which is incidentally also a rain shelter, as it is now pouring and many are here simply to cover under the canopy. Perhaps the band's apprehensiveness stems from the awkward awareness that a lot of people are here more for the dryness than for their music. Ellie Rowsell seems somewhat reserved, singing and playing guitar at centre stage in a plain white dress that makes the blonde frontwoman look like she could be the first victim in a horror movie. Having just witnessed Savages however, it is a lot more gratifying to familiarise oneself with the downplayed melodies and noisy outbursts of Wolf Alice’s so far relatively eclectic bag of songs. The overall experience is mixed though, as some dance happily in the soaking rain that falls in the gap between the stage and the canopy, while others smoke cigarettes and make loud and rude conversations about how they would leave out of boredom if it wasn’t for the rain. It’s safe to say that Wolf Alice does flash some potential, but also suffers from inexperience with winning over audiences that aren’t already fans of the group. [6½] TL

Antony & The Johnsons @ 19:00 on Blue

Antony Hegarty with her quivering, almost operatic voice, has been one of my favorite vocalists for years now so of course her and her band's appearance at this year's Northside festival is a big deal for me and one of the performances I've been looking forward to the most. They play today with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, mainly revisiting the material they recorded in Copenhagen in 2012 with another Danish symphony orchestra, the DR Underholdningsorkester, for the live album "Cut The World". The rain that's pouring while the orchestra sits ready to begin sets the stage, and from the very first notes it's clear that we're in for a special show. When the music begins, the first thing that happens is that a woman dressed in a huge white veil enters and moves about in a dream-like, slow-motion dance. She resembles a butterfly slowly being truly born out of its cocoon, and this connects to a larger theme when Hegarty enters the stage wearing a white sweater with a pattern that closely resembles a butterfly wing. Thus a theme of rebirth, and of evolving and changing into your true form is introduced, and this only stands stronger considering Hegarty's status as transgender and her very personal lyrics. The theme is further supported and explored as a Japanese avant-garde movie blown up on the backdrop starts rolling, revealing itself through the title to be "Mr O's Book of the Dead" by Chiaki Nagano. While it doesn't unfurl particularly in sync with the music, it provides perspective to the songs and the lyrical universe of Hegarty and the extremely expressive dancers in the movie seem to comment on the songs with their motions and passionate facial expressions. Hegarty later comments on her choice of this movie that she quite simply finds it to be very beautiful and the lead dancer of the movie, Kazuo Ohno, seems to be a personal hero of hers.

So, next to all this visual content the music of Antony and the Johnsons unfurls, mostly but not exclusively comprising material that can also be found on the aforementioned live-record. "I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy", "Epilepsy Is Dancing" and "Cripple and the Starfish" especially get big cheers from the fairly big, dedicated audience that have gathered in front of the stage and stick around through the increasing rain. Seeing Hegarty on stage and being enthralled by her beautiful and emotional voice, it's obvious how she can inspire such dedication. To someone unfamiliar with her, she must seem both nervous and awkward on stage as she rocks in weird rhythms to the music and scurries quickly to and from the piano she sometimes plays through the set, but I have rarely seen such a genuinely nice and honest person on as big a stage as this. She comments on the rainy weather, using feminine pronouns and saying innocent things like "I don't know why she's raining but maybe it's because my favorite color is grey and she has come here to meet me". As a consolation she tells us to just imagine that the rain is part of the music before launching into a beautiful rendition of "Another World". Later we get to hear her cover of "Crazy In Love" as well as the title tracks from her two latest records "Cut The World" and "Swanlights", the latter with yet another quirky comment as an introduction to what it's about: "It's what the body says to the soul when you die. She's like: Go! Get out! Have fun!". Even in the cold and rainy weather, Antony manages to create a magical atmosphere seemingly with no effort at all, and the audiovisual experience it results in is definitely the only one of its kind at this year’s festival. [9] LF

Jim Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain

The Jesus & Mary Chain @ 21:45 on Blue

The Scottish alternative rock band The Jesus & Mary Chain are currently on a tour celebrating the 30-year anniversary of their landmark debut album "Psychocandy" from 1985, which features lots of guitar noise combined with catchy pop melodies. Their most known song and the first track of the album, "Just Like Honey", is thus the first one on their set list today as they play through the album in order. This is a shame really as the noisy sound is almost too chaotic to begin with and the experience of hearing this big song live becomes a lackluster one. The sound gets adjusted through the set though, and their performance overall is a regular lesson in noise pop. Their demeanor on stage is not very interesting though and with the way they stoically move through their songs, I can understand why they're hailed as the forerunners for the entire shoegaze-genre. Lead singer Jim Reid stares into the horizon with a stone face for most of the set, but around the middle we get a smile out of him as he hears the cheers from the audience when he announces the last song of the album and tells us that they'll be doing a number of extra songs afterwards. The smile is quickly suppressed as it's back to business again and they go on to play all of seven extra songs for us, the first one being the first one that got me hooked on the band: “April Skies". This move of course makes me a happy lady but not quite happy enough to disregard the general lack of energy and disinterest with which they perform. [7] LF

Placebo @ 23:15 on Green

After a Jesus & Mary Chain set that did little to warm up any uninitiated listeners out in the Saturday rain that has gradually grown quite freezing, it falls to Placebo to make things seem worthwhile with their set on the Green stage. A tall order perhaps, but in our experience one the band can lift live, even if their material has wanted somewhat in recent years, particularly on the lyrical side. And on one hand, they do deliver, with a stage setup and lights that are befitting of a headliner and a setlist of diverse, catchy alternative rock anthems with stronger hit potential on average than any band playing before them today.

It’s discouraging then, to quickly notice that Brian Molko is having something of an offday. The iconic androgynous frontman has always been characterised by his sharp tone of voice, but today he sounds particularly flat and uninspired, breathing heavy with something that sounds like lethargy or resignation whenever he addresses the crowd between songs. Fortunately the set moves ahead without much time wasted, letting quality picks from the band’s discography carry the brunt of the work. “For What It’s Worth" and “Every You And Every Me" lift spirits early on, while the God-awful new single “Too Many Friends" somehow also finds some misguided reception midway through. Later on it’s “Meds", “Special K" and “The Bitter End" that provide some warmth through the power of recognition, but still, the encore feels like a forced exercise, for while we do want to hear the Kate Bush cover “Running Up That Hill" and set-ender “Infra-Red", we also want to get it over with, just as it feels like Molko does. Great songs and stage production then, but not the inspired, weather-transcending experience we had hoped for. [7½] TL

SUNDAY

Ulige Numre @ 14:00 on Green

After a morning spent drying our shoes from the downpour yesterday we are ready for the third and final day of the festival which provides me with a chance to finally see the celebrated Danish band Ulige Numre for the first time and find out what all the fuss is about. Their casual, summery songs are pleasant to listen to although the grey skies and wind that will plague us later in the day are already present enough to mess with the sound quality as we've placed ourselves a bit away from the stage. I don't listen to Danish music as much as I used to when I was younger and I'm surprised to be reminded now of another Danish band called Klondyke who were a big part of my high school years that I had pretty much completely forgotten about. As such this becomes a nostalgic show for me facilitated by a general vibe in the music and the lyrics that make for some very sentimental but also casual and laidback tunes about youth and love. Lead singer Carl Emil Petersen's intonation is very recognizable as he draws out his notes, emphasizing certain syllables and this adds a pensive dimension to their music. The band seem very comfortable on stage with Petersen presenting some dry humor as he introduces the song "Dansk Vejr" ("Danish Weather") while alluding to the rain we had yesterday. The sun even peeks out towards the end of their set, much to everyone’s delight, and warmed up by these easily accessible songs, we’re ready to brave the rest of the day. [7] LF

Matthew E. White @ 15:00 on P6 Beat

Considering the festival fatigue in our bodies as we return for day three, continuing the early afternoon with the soft Americana of producer and composer Matthew E. White seems like a good opportunity to sit back and relax. And indeed, White and his band appear in suits and sunglasses and proceed to deliver relaxed mid-tempo tunes, which they are seemingly excited to be playing, as seen especially when it is time to jam out guitar solos in the later halves of the songs. White’s soft, soulful singing occasionally dips below the mix, but otherwise the sound reaches out warmly towards the listener, with especially the bass going right in the bones. The audience under the canopy is modest in size, but White still proclaims his excitement to play in Denmark again, and treats us to a friendly anecdote about how he became a fan of our country’s great goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, back when he grew up in Japan and tried soccer for the first time. Still, the show is obviously stripped back from the multi-instrumental arrangements a song like for instance “Feeling Good Is Good Enough" has on record - as White only has the standard two guitars, bassist, drummer setup with him - and the crowd’s lacking familiarity with his material is apparent from how his attempt to get people to sing along to the song receives a tame response. As it ends with “Rock And Roll Is Cold" then, we leave a set that was pleasant in sound and attitude, but not too impactful beyond that. [7] TL

John Grant @ 15:00 on Blue

Singer-songwriter John Grant is not an artist whose music I am all too familiar with even though I've seen his name around often enough as he has played in Denmark seven times now since 2010. His first album is called "Queen of Denmark" and he also admits on stage today to having a special connection to Denmark, although he doesn't disclose what it is. To show his appreciation for us he even dedicates his most popular song "GMF" (which stands for Greatest Motherfucker) to all Danes, something the audience excitedly responds to with great applause. He begins by presenting his band, who also seem to be all Scandinavian with names like Magnusson, Hallgrimsson and Arnarsson, and his first song is the beautiful “Marz", incidentally also the song of his that I know the best. While most of his songs here today are simple and calmer tunes with satirical or quirky lyrics, like "Marz", that have guitars or piano in front of their sound, the second of his two albums features some vastly different and heavily electronic songs. We also get a few of these in the middle of the set in the shape of "Pale Green Ghosts" and "Black Belt", the latter of which makes the place sound like a techno rave at the end with its heavy, distorted beat. From time to time Grant is behind the piano, for instance during "Where The Dreams Go To Die", but mostly he grooves around up front with only a microphone in his hand. He is good at connecting little introductions to his songs, in particular the more sharply politically charged ones. He uses these to point some criticism at what he regards as the poisonous mixture of religion and politics that reigns in the USA, for instance with a song title like "JC Hates Faggots", and his last remark before he ends the set with the beautiful "Glacier" is that it's about how the Bible is not the American constitution. As such he is obviously a man with a mission but his show is still light-hearted and fun for the most part and makes for an easily enjoyable afternoon hour. [7½] LF

Calexico’s Joey Burns

Calexico @ 17:20 on P6 Beat

When you know that this band's name is a combination of the words California and Mexico, you might already have a good idea of what they sound like. Their music is a mix of folk and Americana with Latin-American rhythms and carried out with a multitude of instruments, also mixing languages. They are definitely the band with the most members on stage this year (not counting Antony's symphony orchestra backing), and these factors make it easy to disregard them as a bit of a gimmick. They're more than that though, and some of their main strengths are their tight song-writing and sentimental lyrics that are also put on show today. They stray from their Latin-American sound once in a while and delve into more straight-forward indie rock territory but they always make good use of their various brass instruments to provide contrast in the music, no matter if the Mexican sound dominates in the song or not. While their sound-mix is on point even with this many instruments in the mix, the energy of their music never quite comes across as strongly as it could and thus their performance ends up being a casual and enjoyable one but not much more than that. [7] LF

Seasick Steve @ 17:20 on Blue

Seasick Steve is more of a legend than a man. Born in 1941 he is considered a founding father of the working man's blues of the 60s. He was taught to play the guitar at the tender age of 8 and lived most of his adolescence as a hobo, infamously traveling state by state by hopping freight trains - a traditional hobo rite of passage. In his early adulthood he toured with legendary artists like Joni Mitchell, but most of his songs revolve around the hard labour he did before his rise to fame. Why does all of this matter? Well because Seasick Steve's narrative carries more weight than any instrument or melody ever could. He sits on his stool just at the edge of the stage like an old man in the front porch of a southern cabin with his band tucked away in the dark. His seated position does not affect the energy level though, which is dominated by voluminous bass lines and smiling taunts like "Don't clap! You haven't even heard the song yet". Steve takes us under his wings as he steadily rolls out a repertoire of dusty stories.

Seasick Steve bringing a fan on stage for a bit of serenading

One thing Seasick Steve is known for is his unconventional choice of instruments, one is a bass-sounding contraption of a wash board, the head of an old banjo and a single, fat string. But even though there is only one string available Steve creates so much rhythm that it's hard not to sway under the smoke grey clouds and imagine yourself as a child in a secret, sun-soaked garden, listening to the local hobo in awe for the first time - never having seen anything so strangely delightful before. Steve's charm is not lost on anyone, and the crowd laughs and sways tentatively as Steve invites a young woman on stage to serenade her for a few minutes, her hands pertinently folded in her summer dress and her cheeks rosy red from the surprise. Seldomly are artists as present on stage as Seasick Steve and I now feel as if I have been inaugurated into a secret club of people who truly understand just why he is such a legend. [9] HES

Interpol @ 19:40 on Blue

It is a mystery to me why Interpol has been booked for this slot. It is 19:40 and even though the weather has not exactly shown itself from its best side, the sun is still up. The aesthetic of light evening sun and the darkened atmosphere of Interpol clash as we find a spot at the moderately packed show. The band seems dressed to the nines and ready to have a swing at it, but still I am feeling the deja vú of Franz Ferdinand on this exact stage last year: The grind of routine is taking its toll and the whole scene feels empty because Interpol’s music so beckons to be ingested through the soul more than the ears. It feels a bit flat then. And the rehearsed feeling makes for a distance between band and audience. Unfortunately the twelve song set ends up making us long for the introvert emotional impact we had been looking forward to. Yet the band never get the routine substituted for a glimpse of emotion and we are left with an accurate musical performance yet one with little soul. [6] HES

Ben Howard @ 20:50 on Green

In Ben Howard’s two albums so far, the modest British songwriter arguably has some of the best releases recorded by any artist at the festival this year, which should be enough to explain why he has been booked to play a whopping 90 minute set in a prime time slot. That the show coincides with the sun sinking below the horizon to our left only makes it even more perfect… In theory... In reality, the chilling wind has been on a NorthSide audience that by now is starving for an energetic change of pace from the Sunday’s otherwise understandable relaxed overall theme. And that, for all of Howard’s otherwise imminent qualities, is not what he delivers, to the audible disappointment of anyone in front of Green that are not already among his devoted fans.

That being said, the show actually weathers the conditions admirably. Howard’s intricate finger-picked guitar melodies, his incredible singing, the layers added by India Bourne’s cello and the wailing notes from the second electric guitar, all of them make it from the speakers past the sweeping side-winds to the ears of the listeners, much to the credit of the band and the sound desk. And Howard does sing and play exquisitely, to the point where even skeptical listeners must concede, even in their disappointed desire for something more festive, that the music does indeed sound beautiful.

We are treated to a parade of songs primarily from Howard’s new darker album “I Forget Where We Were", where particularly the title track reaches towards the grandeur it has on album. Yet while it is awesome, principally, that Howard is embracing his deeper, darker side following the at times folk-poppy debut “Every Kingdom", more songs like “Keep Your Head Up", “The Fear" and “The Wolves" would have done better under the circumstances, given their warmer, more up-beat atmospheres. Especially considering that highlight details, such as the bubbling electric note pattern that gently lifts the bridge in “Rivers In Your Mouth", never makes it across, even with the best effort from the band and the sound personnel. So after an hour and a half of Howard’s darker side, plus a cover of Sharon Van Etten’s “Every Time The Sun Comes Up", things end after a technically impressive display of Howard’s qualities, yet one that fit the chilly festival conditions quite poorly. Once more then, we must long to see Howard in something like DR Koncerthuset, free of limiting conditions and uninterested listeners talking about what else they could be doing. [7½] TL

The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach

The Black Keys @ 22:30 on Green

Veteran blues rockers The Black Keys have reportedly been the most requested band for NorthSide for three years in a row, so it seems fitting that now that they have finally been booked, they also get to throw the final party at Blue stage. And while a considerable portion of the festival’s audience has bowed out by now, an equally considerable portion is gathered to witness the duo - who are actually performing as a quintet, though with head honchos Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney clearly in front and in focus. For those not in the know, the band plays a straight up boogie-rock & roll, similar in style to White Stripes and newer groups like Band Of Skulls and Royal Blood, and with eight albums under their belt they have plenty of material to choose from. “Howlin’ For You" proves a midset highlight which should be recognisable to everyone, and gets the crowd to sing along, but otherwise the band goes about the set in businesslike fashion, performing in lightly animated fashion while not wasting much time on chatter between songs. It makes for a set that seems a lot like the average show at NorthSide 2015 - professional, but somewhat dispassionate, to the point where prior fans of the band are likely fairly satisfied, while curious newcomers leave none the wiser about what the big deal really was. On our part, we make note of the band’s obvious chops, but aren’t sufficiently impressed to prevent us from taking off somewhat short of the ending, in order to finally find some warmth and some rest after a long, and at this point regrettably freezing Sunday. [7] TL

SUGGESTIONS

Here we give our suggestions for how the festival could improve, as usual in our “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" categories.

THE GOOD

See features section at the top

Equal prices on beer and long drinks, great toilet facilities, solid variety of food and drink choices in various price ranges and a functional recycling system. All of these are great aspects at NorthSide, keep it up!

Seriously, the toilet facilities

It’s no wonder NorthSide has a reputation for attracting many ladies. The female half of the Rockfreaks.net expedition was once again in awe over the cleaning standards and extremely little queuing at Northside’s toilets.

THE BAD

Service of vegetarians/vegans

And here we thought vegetarianism and veganism were part of hipster culture. Not in Denmark it seems. In general most of the highly specialised food stands served only one, two or three options, and only a minority offered vegetarian or vegan options. It would be nice if more places had options without meat OR alternatively if the stands that DID have such options stood out more via signs or markings on the festival map for instance.

Capacity in the cloakroom

Arriving with your backpack before 3 PM on the first day, standing in line for the cloakroom when they announce that they are at full capacity. Not awesome. We think more space for bags would be much appreciated by many.

Places to stay moderately sheltered

NorthSide has had it’s lucky streak with very little rain, but once the weather turned nasty this year, it also turned out that there were very few places to seek shelter from the water and the cold. More places with shade would also have been greatly appreciated during the smoldering hot Friday.

THE UGLY

Shop preparation

How can we arrive in a cocktail bar with barely anyone queueing, yet the staff is unable to serve half of what is on the menu because they have run out of ingredients? Friday and Saturday night are supposedly the biggest sales times - We suggest stocking enough ingredients to make your featured cocktails.

Volunteer management/training

For two years now, we’ve experienced that volunteers were unable to make simple choices to boost the customer experience. In one case, a bartender refused to serve energy drink and vodka together because the combination was not on the menu. Others had difficulty remembering simple orders and serving the right thing, while in extreme cases some were barely sober enough to perform their function. One even seemed to think that sunscreen was among the things that should be confiscated at the festival entrance. All of this gives us the impression that there are too few managers or that these are stretched too thin. Alternatively the volunteers need to be selected/trained more carefully, so they can at least think for themselves in simple service situations.

FINAL WORDS

Disregarding the odd service hiccups though, guests leaving NorthSide 2015 could look back on another well-organised event, where the biggest drawback came from a factor beyond the organisers control: the weather. With the two huge main stages being open air ones, it sucks being in the NorthSide audience when it rains like on Saturday, or blows with a cold wind like on Sunday, and this definitely put a dampener on the overall experience this year.

Furthermore, one thing to consider, which adds to the nightmare it must be to put a festival schedule together, is which types of artists work at what times of the day. As the Ben Howard set proved, deeper music that requires concentration and patience isn’t exactly perfectly suited for a late slot at a festival where people want to party. We realise of course, that the size of an act is decisive when it comes to their placement, so while we understand why Ben Howard can’t trade places with Go Go Berlin for instance, we would like to bring it up, that music that is easy to get into and which encourages movement is much better suited for prime evening slots, while casual indie and singer-songwriters is exactly what people want during the afternoon while they’re still either recovering from their hangover or building up their new buzz.

Dear weather Gods, please send more sunshine for next year’s NorthSide. Thanks!

That being said, NorthSide’s booking staff and sound technicians deserve some praise as well. The quality floor for acts we saw was unusually high, with almost everyone putting in solid sets with tight playing and mostly active performances. Furthermore the sound routinely found a good mix quickly, with even The Jesus & Mary Chain's fuzzy noises and Ben Howard’s quiet intricacies making it through the side-winds of Sunday in relatively good condition. That’s a pro piece of work right there, so we don’t really care if Wu-Tang Clan had some complaints before there had even been time to work something out at the beginning of their set. The people who built the systems and handled the knobs seem to have known what they were doing, and that in itself is an awesome quality for any festival.

Other than that, there’s little left to say about this chapter in NorthSide’s history. We only hope that the lineup will provide just as solid a serving of rock next year, so we have an excuse to come back and hang out once more.

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