Festival report: SPOT Festival 2011
This year's SPOT Festival (May 27-28, 2011 in Aarhus, Denmark) was another successful industry showcase for Danish and Scandinavian music.
After a sun-baked SPOT last year, skies were gloomy for the 17th annual SPOT festival, but a splattering of rain didn't dampen the mood of the international delegates and local crowds. This is primarily an indoor festival anyway, spread across a handful of Aarhus' cultural venues and some additional tented stages.
(Speaking of Aarhus' skies, on the Saturday a rainbow-inspired installation by the artist Olafur Eliasson, whose works play with the idea of manufacturing the weather, opened on the roof of the Aros contemporary gallery. The permanent work is called "Your Rainbow Panorama", and from now on anyone who comes here for the SPOT Festival can also walk inside it to experience colourful 360 degree views of Aarhus below. For more info on that, see www.aros.dk)
Among the most talked about new bands at SPOT this year was Just A Number 05272011, with a sound garnering comparisons to Fever Ray and The Knife. The band played their first ever public gig here, having previously only been heard online.
Ahead of the show the act was shrouded in mystery, with some people believing Just A Number to be a male solo artist from the Isle of Man, as mischievously implied on their SoundCloud site. Some journalists told me they had sought interview, and been turned down.
The show didn't feature any Knife-style masks or disguises though, and revealed them to be a mixed-gender band, fronted by a female singer. I'm told by someone who works with them that they are Danes, despite one of the two festival programs listing them as Swedes. They played a great, innovative set, realising dance music through live instrumentation. If you want to check them out, here's a link: http://soundcloud.com/just-a-number-05272011
Female performers seemed to dominate this year's most packed-out SPOT shows, in the shape of acts like Denmark's Our Broken Garden a vehicle for the beautifully spooky vocals of Anna Bronsted. She and her band played an intimate show in the city's cathedral the night before the festival, and on the Friday night were the final act to play the main Musikhuset venue.
Two very different sirens of Danish pop/rock, Fallulah and Oh Land, each drew big crowds and kept them dancing. Oh Land's strength and vigour as a live performer allowed her show to transcend its wilfully dippy lyrics about dream and rainbows.
Less full, but brilliant, was a show by Norwegian indie rockers Harrys Gym. Fun fact: singer Anne Lise Frøkedal is apparently the sister of The Megaphonic Thrift's bassist Linn Frøkedal.
Sweden's Jenny Wilson is a woman who has transformed her music and herself since her time fronting the band First Floor Power, finding inspiration in R&B and funk. She played her SPOT show on Friday night in the main Musikhuset, with the Tensta Gospel Choir. Nina Kinert, a cult Swedish indie star in her own right, added flute and saxophone. Wilson seemed to be on a Grace Jones tip in a daring black cat suit and 'statement' hat, and fans were out in force to cheer her on.
SPOT wasn't all about the girls, though. Vinnie Who returned for a show that was packed out in seconds, and the festival would have felt incomplete without Treefight For Sunlight, Danes who now have an increasingly international fanbase thanks to support from the label .
It was also a special festival for Alcoholic Faith Mission, who were upgraded this year to playing the main Store Sal hall of the Musikhuset venue, and whose pre-stage jitters (their manager says they were very nervous) were rewarded by a standing ovation at the end of their set.
For those who came looking for Icelandic sounds, there were shows by Dad Rocks!, the solo project of expat Snævar Njáll Albertsson from Mimas; 'Icelandic Elvis' Mugison; and the bands Ham and Dikta. Dikta's single "Thank you" recently became the most-played song in the history of Icelandic radio, for what that's worth.
Acts who seemed to win new fans included chirpy Danish sisters Pil and Liv and, gaining a lot of attention, the rather lovely and eccentric Danish band Raised Among Wolves.
To check out the full list of musicians who played SPOT this year and hear their music, visit www.spotfestival.dk
- Sophy Grimshaw