We have seen the future, and it is Danish. And Finnish. And Norwegian.
It’s definitely Nordic, anyway, on the evidence of this year’s Spot Festival, which threw up so many memorable shows that our Top Five ended up as a Top Eight. Great.
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The Chemical Younger-Brothers. In their civvies these youthful Danes don’t look like rampant dancefloor noise monsters, but lord-have-mercy-on-our-souls they make some din. Tremendously chunky block-rocking beats from a live drummer and a wild-eyed kid in a shellsuit top who twiddles nobs, bangs things and whips the audience into a proper frenzy. Farveblind means ‘colourblind’, but is curiously tricky to memorise, as Clash discovered on the way to that gig, shouting “I’m going to father-something!” across a crowded lobby, which raised a few eyebrows, understandably.
An admirably single-minded, multi-tattooed talent, Helsinki’s Ringa Manner is a one-woman electropop wizard. Or should that be wizardess? Certainly not a witch, anyway: her candid between-song patter is almost as entertaining as the tracks themselves, as she explains what each is about after lengthily wondering aloud which one to play next. And those songs? Quirky, catchy nuggets of joy. Also heartily recommended is a trip to her tumblr – thehearing.tumblr.com - where Ringa documents her music-biz dealings via the medium of self-made comics. Marvellous.
A rangier performer than Ringa, this mesmerising Norwegian electropop singer only started making music two years ago, which is hard to fathom given how bizarrely impressive her live show is. But then stage-right is Ary’s secret weapon on guitar, fellow singer-songwriter Fay Wildhagen, who looks and acts a lot like the wonderful Wendy Melvoin from Prince’s old band. Y’know, from the ‘Kiss’ video, which does come to mind during this gig. Together, Ary and Wildhagen are the new Prince. You heard it here first.
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Not to be confused with Molly the fine Austrian shoegazers – although, heck, you’d be forgiven for being bewildered – this Molly are a mid-90s US alternative rock band trapped in the bodies of some modern Danish geezers. So, yes, their stuff is wilfully derivative, but it’s all done with loveable lashings of authenticity and enthusiasm; shut your eyes and you could be at a club in Portland in 1993, especially when Molly’s frontman starts riding the crowd.
“He’s not really crowd-surfing,” notes Clash’s companion, ultra-critically. “He’s just being carried around by the same two people.” Well, really.
This three-lass combo – who Clash catches at the unsurprisingly busy Double Rainbow dayparty (‘Free Lunch, Free Beer, Free Coffee,’ said the flyer) - have such a funky poster that you naturally assume that the band must be slightly crap, by comparison. So wrong. From the first few seconds they’re absolutely balls-out tremendous; great rollicking riffs and throbbing bass grooves from a cool-but-fun trio clearly having an absolute ball. Will it work so well on record, though? What’s their sync potential? Who the f*ck cares?
There’s a curious discussion on the way to this show about what might have happened if the Spice Girls had changed their name to Narcosatanicos immediately after getting world-famous with Wannabe. Would the kids have stuck with them? In fact Narcosatanicos are exactly as you’d expect Narcosatanicos to be: scary-arsed nightmare-inducing jazz-metal noise bandits with really nasty visuals, and absolutely magnificent, if you like that sort of thing.
The Slovenian chap next to Clash looks a bit perturbed, in truth, but turns out he’s not fussed by the unsettling images. He just really hates saxophones.
The Spot band most likely to have an enormous Europe-wide hit record over the next few years. Kelvin are a clean-cut quintet from the fertile music community of Kristiansand, in southern Norway, who make impressively polished power-pop and are thoroughly diverting live. The youthful backing chaps dress like Rock Jedi while singer Oda Ulvøy could be Taylor Swift’s more energetic younger sister. So, yeah, pretty bloody promising.
Now signed to Bella Union - the indie-band equivalent of being Corgi Registered, or something – the inaptly-named Lowly are actually pretty high-profile here. Still, they had a tough act to follow, given that Clash had just staggered over from the Farveblind headrush in a much more intimate venue.
Lowly work a much larger venue brilliantly though, particularly their simple-but-effective shadow-heavy light show, and the epic final track elicits an emotional standing ovation. Mind you, as the fine comic David O’Doherty says, every performer gets a standing ovation, if they wait around long enough.
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Words: Si Hawkins