One of the organisers- Albion Venables
The Light Bulb Project
One Saturday in January last year, about two hundred people flocked to the classic punk venue Kafé 44 in Stockholm for an evening of electronic live performances, and I was one of them. Those who went were treated to one of the most original and exciting evenings of electronic music in Stockholm since the early eighties. With a legacy like that, this year's festival had a lot of expectations to live up to. Thankfully, it exceeded them all.
The first day started with Qvo Vadis, an Ambient Electronica band from Chile. It was a bit disappointing, not because of their performance, but rather because the audience could have used something more energetic to get them started for the evening. Thankfully, System delivered in this respect. Our very own local Kraftwerk Light(tm), they delivered a pleasing barrage of visual effects accompanying their minimalistic, yet warm, near-instrumental electropop. We were treated to songs from their latest album "Silicon Based", as well as new material. All in all a good show, my only objection is that as far as the music goes, you might as well be listening to the record. After a brief intermission, we relaxed to the electronic vibes of Johan Inkinen in the bar. This was the first of several performances made by someone standing almost completely still behind a laptop computer, which really doesn't help one's impression of an artist. Anyone interested in hearing the gig (which is much more interesting than watching it) can visit his homepage (http://www.johaninkinen.se/) and download the entire performance. As a contrast the next band, The Lightbulb Project, was mostly on backtape, but the three (exceedingly cute) vocalists delivered a smashing performance, making their electronic discopop sound better than ever. Songs such as "San Francisco" really stand out, and I'm really looking forward to the release of their album to see if they can make it work all the way. Next up was Viperas, putting the word "performance" back together with "artist", as it should be. Their music, sometimes electroclash, sometimes electropop, is punctuated and enhanced by their truly amazing stage presence. Several changes of clothes (masked by Niels Jensens excellent improvisations on keyboard, and the cute pop-number "Save the Animals"), as well as the clever rigging of a telephone to be used as a mic during "Smashing Hotels", are some of the elements that made their show very memorable indeed. Appareil were next to play, delivering electropop of the highest order. Even though the band remained firmly behind their synthesizers, you always got a feeling of movement and energy as they let the music pour from their fingers, giving the audience no choice but to start moving as well. After great performances of songs such as "Nightvision" and "Congo", an energized crowd went to watch Nadie Affecta in the bar area. There really is no simple way to describe them though, suffice to say that even though I believe it's exclusively playback, their performance is unique enough that you wouldn't want to miss it. Not to mention that the music itself was some of the most original of the festival, which is saying a lot. After this evening full of exciting and interesting new music, what better way to end it than the person who might be source of all energy in the universe, Komatrohn. His simple, happy, and beautiful songs are performed with so much enthusiasm, that even though he's alone on stage you feel like you're watching an entire orchestra with a line of dancers. It's simply impossible to stand still as he lets loose with tune after tune of brilliant electropop. I see no valid explanation for why he doesn't have more records out there, and when an album arrives I will be first in line. So ended day one; some went home, others went on to other parties. What almost everyone agreed on was that such a great night couldn't be outdone, and day two would be more of a bonus round.
We were wrong. The day opened with Pavan, another very competent musician unfortunately stuck behind a laptop. Also, being the first act the day after a night like the one before isn't the easiest slot to fill. Instead the first band to really get the crowd moving was Autohorse, a very inventive electropop band using, among other things, reggae beats to set their music apart from the other acts at the festival. They have a CD release scheduled in the next couple of months, and it should be interesting listening. Afterwards, Saralunden let loose with her soothing music and excellent songs. Unfortunately, the stage only allowed for her to sing, not play the actual music, and the show had some interruptions when she was disturbed by the sounds from the other stage. Her slow, chanson-style electro was almost the opposite of the next band to play, 1999. I would describe them as a rock band with a good understanding of synthesizers. Their kind of music isn't really my cup of tea, but they were good on stage, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. I think the biggest problem for them was one of overshadowing. Right after their mix of live instruments and synthesizers, the mostly unknown duo Bondage Fairies did it too, only in a rather different manner. They went up on stage wearing homemade transformer-masks with headphone cups in front of their faces acting as microphones, and with guitar and bass in hand. They then let loose what was probably the most energetic performance of the festival, combining hysterical nintendopop with live guitars more easily associated with an indiepop or rock act. The audience went crazy, and all had fun. I would probably name them as the most exciting band I saw at the festival, and I can't wait to hear more of them. The ungrateful task of following up after them was Grammy winners Hundarna Från Söder, who were one of the most disappointing acts. The guy-standing-behind-a-laptop approach isn't better just because there are four of them doing it. Nothing wrong with the music as such, but there's really no reason to go see them live. Next up was Lo-fi-fnk, one of the bands I had looked forward to after hearing a couple of demos. Unfortunately, they couldn't quite deliver. Most of the flow of the concert was broken due to shout-outs and introductions, giving the show an almost juvenile aura. If they'd concentrated on playing their music well instead of trying to act cool, I would have liked it a lot more. The electronically enhanced pop they played was good, but unfortunately not as good as they seemed to believe it was. The finishing touch of the festival were The Penelopes, a French electropop band that's mostly unknown, but received attention lately when they got a contract with International Deejay Gigolo Records. Stepping onto the stage with silver masks and white suits, they delivered what I would rank as one of, if not the, most professional gigs of the festival. Their vibrant, dance-inducing tunes delivered a strong scent of the turn the European electro scene is taking at the moment, taking more inspiration from dance music and less from traditional rock and pop music. Their great performance concluded the festival, and slowly, with heavy hearts, the audience went out into the night.
The second day, although very different from the first, was every bit as good. After staging such a great festival, with all these new and exciting bands, the people who made it all happen should be both proud and worried. After all, how are they going to outdo all of this next year? I know one thing though: I'll be first in line next year to see if they do.
Photos by Robert Eklind @ Moving Hands