Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN - 24/3
Uhørt Festival 2015Previous Next
author HES date 19/08/15
"Uhørt" in Danish means "Unheard". The word forms the same idiom in both languages: "To be unheard of" is to break with tradition but also the literal meaning "un-heard" both tells the tale of a festival trying to expose new talent in all genres. The festival is situated in the blossoming Refshale-island, a former shipyard area, now left by the construction crew, but every summer inhabited by festivals such as Uhørt and Copenhell as well as tonnes of events like Skate championships or the occasional Distortion party. The area is secluded, but with no neighbours to complain about noise levels. Every band attending the festival is, apart from a slot in the busy schedule, also awarded a coach that will give bands feedback after their performance. The purpose of this is to give the bands a chance of making it bigger than Uhørt. The festival covers all genres, but unlike many giants on the festival scene cutting back on the subgenres, the palette of Uhørt is more diverse than I have ever seen before.
The three stages are a playground for every booker, underground label or connoisseur of many tastes scouting new talent. Most of the bands are completely unknown, but this forms a relaxed atmosphere where you cruise from stage to stage, sometimes being randomly sucked into a show just by a few well sounding notes. Because of unforeseen circumstances I was only able to attend Saturday, that luckily had the strongest set-up, but it should be noted that Uhørt Festival is a two-day festival with 40 completely different artists. This will only be a small showcase of bands this scribe found relevant to our readership. A ticket will set you back 100DKK and if you buy it online you get a beer to go with that ticket. With that usually being the price of a ticket to see one upcoming band, I am pretty sure the festival will also be on my 2016 to-do list.
Uhørt Festival with the famous B&W buildings as a backdrop
As mentioned, Refshaleøen is, in spite of its quite central coordinates, very secluded. In weekends, the only direct bus (the 40) only leaves every 50 minutes. You can take the 9A that has a more welcoming 12-minute interval, but that leaves you with a 1½-kilometer walk from the bus stop to your end destination. Should you want to take the scenic route, the newly installed harbour buses also stop near the venue. This scribe initially chose the scenic route for your photographic pleasure, but had to abort this plan after the harbour bus arrived 40 minutes late - and was full to the brim with tourists. Movia (the Copenhagen bus company) did realise the demand for transport was higher than average, and throughout Saturday they supplied extra busses (or so I heard). This was not communicated through neither the festival or Movia's website. Overall the transportation of many people to temporary destinations will always be a clusterfuck, but 2,5 hours to get to the actual festival from Copenhagen Central is honestly too much for a Copenhagen based festival. I hope both Movia and Uhørt can find a better solution for next year's festival, like Copenhell that provides shuttle busses for their masses and communicate this thoroughly on all channels.
Scenic route - Sad reality
A couple of mobile-home campers provide for street food style diners. The meals are on the expensive side ranging from duck fat-fried fries at 45DKK to say a pizza sandwich from Gorm's Pizza for 75DKK. Drinks are less expensive - once again we thank the sponsor Royal for canned beer for 25DKK as has been the price at most city festivals this summer. Again, only pilsner is available yet we also see basic long drinks at around 45DKK again. The best offer seems to be a bottle of wine (some of it horrible, some of it extremely tasty) at 100DKK a bottle, plastic wine glasses included.
Drinks and food at Uhørt festival
The festival area has three stages: Black Stage, White Stage and 'Tak Rock'-stage. Although the latter translates to 'Thank You Rock'-stage, don't get fooled into believing that this stage is for rock music only. Tak Rock Stage is, however, the biggest stage, situated at the end of the lawn that makes up most of the festival area. It's in no way a big stage, shaping up smaller than every single main stage I have visited on my tour de festival this year. It does, however, show that Uhørt has sound and light professionals at hand for the performers when Tak Rock Stage as an outdoor stage in a quite windy area was seemingly well-functioning. The second biggest stage is the White Stage: A round, garden party-sized canopy with a stage in almost crowd level. The sound here is also decent, but the light is pretty low-key. The last stage of the three is Black Stage, which is the only completely indoor stage. If I had not been looking for a third stage while still sober and able to count, I would have had no idea that it was there. Tucked away in a corner with some port-a-potties, a door to the neighbouring building stands ajar and reveals a basement-size venue with black walls. But it seems I was the only one having issues finding the place, 'cause every damn concert I try to attend at this stage is so damn packed I either have to give up or aggressively elbow my way in, to even get a glimpse of the band playing. Booking too popular bands for a far too small stage? Were people too polite to get up close to the bands to create more space? Probably a mix of both. On the bright side, the experiences I had with the bands on Black Stage strike me as more intimate and gig-like as opposed to the only sporadically crowded outdoor stages.
As I finally get to the festival 2,5 hours later than planned I hear something atmospherically mesmerizing from the other end of the plain of the festival area. I try not to hurry up the volunteer handing over my bracelet, but grab a schedule as I hurry across the entire length of the festival. They may speak Danish fluently, but the conversation between audience and vocalist Miki Jensen quickly reveals the band’s origin in the former Danish colony of the spacious, arctic Greenland. Sounding mainly like an alternative band in the softer end of this spectrum, frontman Miki Jensen’s vocal is not unlike that of a pop-punk vocalist: Clear, nasal and melodic. The first part of the set is dominated by well sounding, albeit mundane melodies like "< 3 > < / 3" - a grand pop-opus with P3 radio appeal. But unfortunately, the set quickly turns into a parade of effects, backtracks and vocal "enhancements". The band quickly goes from this ethereal, organic sound to an overproduced mess, case in point is the track "Politics" - probably meant as an art piece with the sampled political speeches, but in reality a messy soundscape with way too many focal points. Right before I lose patience, the band ends the set with the equally over-produced "All Hope Abandon" that, in spite of the over-extended theatrical pauses, actually does create a sense of urgency with its backstory of the shipwreck of the, at least locally infamous ship Hans Hedtoft. Overall Small Time Giants leave me with too many impressions and too few great melodies to truly latch on to. [5½]
Small Time Giants
As it is with many of the bands of this festival, Dør Nr. 13 is a virgin listen for my ears. To my great surprise, the lyrical universe is build in the band’s native Danish and to my even greater surprise, this is not entirely unappealing. The soundscape is a mix of psych and garage, adopting the spacious sound of psych into the fast-paced, rhythm-driven world of garage. Vocalist Lasse Storm is eccentric to say the least, with a nostalgic ring to his open-mouth pronounced Danish lyrics. He dances around the stage with very little connection to his band, but it seems to the delight of the audience. However, I did recently watch the surf/garage rockers of Total Heels, who in spite of pretty boring and genre-abiding music managed to come out of the situation with quite a bit more authenticity and energy than Dør Nr. 13. Overall the antics of Storm seems a bit rehearsed to me and the synergy between him and his band seems to lack. The songs are impactful to the extent that rhythm-driven guitar rock just is impactful as long as everyone (pretty much) hits the right strings, but overall the construction of the songs and stage performance is just okay, as can be expected, and as the genre demands, as many others have done it before. 
Dør Nr. 13
Described to me by the scribe of a very genre-specific magazine as "hipster-metal" I have anxiously awaited the arrival of Møl. Admittedly I am not the biggest metal head of this site, nor will I ever be. But albeit I usually cover calmer soundscapes, I fear no well-composed music of any genre. Møl is presented on stage as "shoegaze metal" and this only adds to my expectations of perhaps having found the most amazing cross-genre combination ever invented. The soundscape is grand! It’s epic. Absolutely, brutally mesmerizing with beautifully timed sections of full-on, all instruments on board, technically baffling drum work, then to be replaced by sometimes even acoustic sounding slower, air filling universes of sound.
Now all of this would have made for the most jaw-dropping concert if it had not been for the vocals. Admittedly I am not the black metal connoisseur, but I simply can’t believe this is how the band wanted to sound. The vocals are placed atop of the serene musical landscape as described above, completely crushing any possibility of filtering them out. They’re nasal and pig-ish, and not only me but parts of the crowd have to actually get a bit of distance between the speakers and our ears in order to even function. Whereas Møl’s self-titled EP layers the vocals into the mix of grand shoegaze waves, here, they stand completely out of the soundscape as unappealing, superficial, un-emotive and just genre-fulfilling. I can only guess what went wrong here or if I have just completely misunderstood this band’s musical core completely, but I really hope I get to see them make up for it another time. 
I could start many of the reviews from Uhørt like this, but I genuinely knew nothing of Jet Black before today, but man am I happy to meet them. Black Stage is rammed with people as far as a semi-tall girl’s eye can reach and the crowd is engaged to say the least as I arrived a bit too late to get more than a single feet into the room. The two-piece (yes - two piece) has a pretty straightforward approach to music: Only release EP’s and don’t play 3-year-old songs you’re bored of anyway. The musical diversity is scarce here, so why the world would need more than EP’s from Jet Black is hard to imagine - but what the duo lacks in originality they make up for in attitude and gritty, dirty, dark garage punk like your dad would’ve done it in his own garage - if your dad was cool like that. The guitar is low to make up for the lack of bass in the soundscape and actually manages to fulfill that part pretty well. The distortion pedal is never switched off. The drums are basic. Vocals are provided by both members but sound very much alike as they’re layered in echoes. Apart from that, it’s obvious that the band feeds off the energy of the small room as an older guy in a Ramones shirt (and probably not one of those bought in H&M) yells in disbelief "You guys are fucking amazing". And indeed, aging punk guy, they are. In all of their simplicity, they simply are amazing. [7½]
The standard view of Sort Scene, pre-elbowing
Melodic death metal mixed with thrash? What is a girl not to love? But once again I am shut out of most of the fun as Black Stage is once again packed to the rim. Luckily I am pretty good at sneaking around corners and I once again secure myself a spot on the outer rims of the stage. With a heavy emphasis on fast-paced drums, Chronicle placed themselves in between two chairs that are usually not in the same apartment. Whereas the iconic riffage-styled guitars and hi-hat heavy drum rolls scream thrash, vocalist Lars Bo Nepper is quite distinctively not your classic thrash vocalist, actually moving more towards the "death metal" and away from the melodic with guttural, growling vocals often extending into screams. It’s not necessarily a bad combination, but the overall impression is a bit muddy and the drums from time to time overpower the entire soundscape, so that only the higher pitched, melodic guitar is able to really escape the very compact overall musical landscape. [6½]
Crowd in front of Tak Rock Stage
Now I wouldn’t say that I am a little bit tired of garage-styled all-female constellations. Or. I actually would. Not of the all-female part, or the even the garage-style, but really the fact that the combination often just becomes a stereotypical performance of gender equality in the rock biz, but at the same time just affirms that the droning vocals paired with a couple of eccentric upwards rolls on the vocal chords are usually as much as women in rock really amount to. Now I am sorry that Velvet Volume get the end of this stick, as they actually deliver a quite engaging show with a lively crowd. The musical aspect of it is just very paint-by-numbers as opposed to really challenging. It’s danceable and probably empowering to some, but they follow in the footsteps of many constellations of the exact same kind, with very similar sound, but better song construction - like Best Coast, German Dum Dum Girls, or Nelson Can, or even Two Trick Pony. If I was Velvet Volume I would consider playing with aspects outside of the already downtrodden path, as they briefly do in the more dynamic intro to "I Think I Need You", which points away to a cleaner, less garage-ish sound and away from 1-2-3-4 rhythm sections and hysteric falsetto howls. 
Young, dedicated fans of Uhørt Festival
Ironically this band comes after the above svada about women in rock. I had listened a bit to The No Go Girls before this show as I went to high school with their bassist. The mix of the recordings I had heard pre-show doesn’t in any way give vocalist Helene Wainwright credit as they’re hidden in echoed layering, giving the whole thing this well-packaged, form-fitting sound that wouldn’t scare away your average radio listener - directly working against the band’s description as a "raw, unpolished hardcore band". I was smelling polish from miles away.
The face of aggression - also the face of Helene Wainwright
But honestly there’s no polish about The No Go Girls' live performance tonight. What I expected to be a lukewarm experience quickly turns into one of the best shows of the festival. The show is primarily driven by the involved and energetic performance of Wainwright, going pretty headfirst into most of the short, fast-paced tracks, like a bulldog smelling bacon. I get flashbacks to the well-performing, Israeli band Not On Tour from this year's Groezrock Festival and that is not a compliment I give lightly. The rest of the band exemplifies that there is little to no need for frills when it comes to perfecting hardcore. Is it fast? Yes. Is it loud? Yes. Can we shout along every once in a while? Yes. Rolling basslines and aggressive drums keep the crowd on their toes, as the drunk idiot in front takes a step back in awe. I am however missing that golden melodic element, a sing-along hook or even just more clearly repeatable things for the audience to scream back - all strategies employed by hardcore’s royalty. But overall there’s no denying that The No Go Girls deliver a stage presence and urgency that many other bands of this festival should grudgingly envy.