It's around midnight on a balmy Friday evening in the unofficial capital of Jutland, Aarhus, where Denmark’s cooler (sometimes weirder) types tend to wind up, and we're wandering about in a slightly bewildered fashion under a bridge. No, not searching for trolls – wrong Nordic nation – but we are definitely on the lookout for crunchy frogs.
Or rather Crunchy Frog, the fine Copenhagen label named after a Monthy Python sketch and who make the most wonderfully tack-it-to-your-bedroom-wall gig flyers. We’ve followed one along the river, eventually locating a packed-out bar called Sway, and squeezed in to find an excellent outfit we’d never heard of called Quick Quick Obey, playing in the pub kitchen. Well, as the festival name suggests, if you find a spot, play in it.
Actually, venue-wise, Spot has evolved dramatically over the last few years. This Nordic showcase festival is a yearly must-visit for the varied branches of music’s ever-widening tree, but the organisers aren’t afraid to radically mess with the format.
They utilise the vast, not obviously Spot-like Scandinavian Congress Centre for some of the more popular acts: the likes of MØ, a spunky Danish lass who’s been doing rather well abroad since last year’s festival, and who draws a mightily impressive crowd. In truth we're a little underwhelmed by her sub-Grimes shtick, but then we're not piled in among the many revelers going nuts up the front. We're camped way up the back working our way through an absolutely top-hole hot dog.
It certainly does make a difference, getting in amongst it. One of the last bands we see the next night are Deathcrush: two outrageously cool, outrageously leggy Norwegian lasses, and a drummer who must be one of the least looked-at men in rock. They make truly fantastic metal-pop mayhem while pulling the best rock-star poses this side of, ooh, let’s say Slash. Although Deathcrush don’t so much make love to their guitars, as do the full S&M dominatrix bit on them. One to watch from the front row - if you can handle it.
Very different are one of the first bands we see on Friday, inside one of the newer venues on the Spot roster, Atlas. Dad Rocks! make hugely accessible folk-pop - y’know, like those Mumford And Men/Monsters And Sons people - although they’ll have to sell a lot of tracks and tickets to make ends meet as there are 10 people on stage. If this was Cameron’s Britain they’d be downsizing that brass section into one bloke with a trumpet. On a pay-as-you-play contract.
More cost-effective are Indians, over at the nearby Voxhall, home to many of the best Spot shows over the years. Søren Løkke Juul’s outfit positively reek of 4AD, which is handy, given that he’s signed to the legendary British label. There’s much moody lighting and some nicely choreographed shapes thrown amid the atmospheric Nordic shoegazing, broken up by snatches of pleasant piano balladry. Impressive stuff on several sensory fronts: if this had been the hot dog venue we’d almost have the full gamut.
Which brings us back to that kitchen. Quick Quick Obey aren’t actually signed to Crunchy Frog it turns out, but cause an enormous buzz here with their immediate-but-intricate indie-pop, to the extent that a high-profile festival booker we arrived with marches off backstage afterwards to get further details. Definitely ones to watch, then.
Saturday brings a couple of intriguing festival launches: Berlin Music Week at a Bavarian Bierhaus, where sausage and beer is a traditional breakfast, apparently. There we're invited to a further launch - of a Norwegian festival called Sørveiv - at the deeply odd Cockney Pub, which is a bit like that cantina in Star Wars but with a weirder clientele. Later we’ll enter another bar where the local chaps pass the time by banging nails into a log. Who says the recession isn’t hitting Scandinavia?
To end the weekend, another hefty collective at Atlas, without quite the commercial appeal of Dad Rocks!, but then they probably weren’t expecting much radio play having chosen the name Complicated Universal Cum. They’re awfully entertaining though, made up of two bare-chested drummers, umpteen black-clad guitarists, a scruffy bloke upfront who looks like he didn’t get the what-we're-wearing message and, on keyboards, Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran. The ‘Cum make a thrilling cacophony, if not quite a full-blown wall of sound. A fence of sound? A hedge of sound?
Spot 2013, then: home of the hedge of sound. You heard it here first.
Words and photo: Si Hawkins
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