Saturday was the final night of shows here in Oslo. Once again, I managed to squeeze in 8 sets in one evening in an attempt to find something new and exciting.
I found a little bit of both.
Knowing that I had seen so many sets already, but that I couldn’t leave without seeing certain bands, I picked one solitary location this evening: Rockefeller (which is also connected to the Rockefeller Annex and John Dee, two other venues that I really liked). and since one of the final bands I wanted to see was Superfamily and they were going to play at 12:30 AM at Sentrum Scene, I was in the right neighborhood.
I spent some time talking to another Shaun (whom I met on the street when I got turned around) and James from Drowned in Sound about what great bands I had seen in the past three days. It was an honest discussion of what we thought worked and what hadn’t, and what we were still hoping to catch. There were mentions of Ida Maria and Lykke Li, but knowing that I can find them here in the US soon, I was desperate to hear something that sounded completely different. I wanted to hear a new variation, maybe just a twist on something I love that made me love, love, love a band.
Then, I heard Blackpowdershooter [MySpace] begin their set, so I headed over to the Annex to check it out. The Norwegian trio powered through their set with bravado and zeal, not an animalistic snarl or cocky smirk, but with a crushing sincerity and touch of class that one wouldn’t expect from people dressed up as some bizarre “idyllic” family. “Father,” “Mother,” and “The Kid” were really stunning.
(SMS Note: During their set the walls featured vinyl portraits of the group and I cannot wait to get the photos uploaded for all to see. Seriously, more bands should have thought of this already.)
Truls and The Trees (my favorite band from Thursday, and the first band I saw at by:Larm) were playing another set at Rockefeller (which for all intents and purposes is the same room, just divided in a way that you cannot hear the bands interfering with one another) so I moved over for three songs and couldn’t help but smile. They will be coming to the U.S. soon, I hope.
From what I kept hearing, though, everyone said that I HAD to see Truls “real” band (Truls and The Trees is a solo project), Lukestar.
That was already in the cards.
Downstairs, Stalingrad Cowgirls [MySpace], a female punk trio from Finland, stole my damn heart. They are 18 years old and the lead singer is so hot. Pictures didn’t do her justice; she’s like a fine work of art that you need to “see for yourself” to get. Like Joan Jett in her heyday, the band moves deftly between power pop and punk, never showing anything less than 100% commitment to the cause, something I was never sure we could count on from The Donnas, a comparison that has been drawn to a modern American act. I heard more Sahara Hotnights, which I am sure is no coincidence, as they are listed as an influence of the band on their MySpace.
If I could describe Stalingrad Cowgirls in one word, I would go with “hotrockerchickypunk”.
Ladies, you can put THAT in your press kit.
Hailing from six miles north of the arctic circle, the girls’ red hot live show proved why so many Finnish record companies were trying to snatch them up before they signed with Warner. They are just really tight and passionate. There is nothing wrong with that.
Veto [MySpace], a rock quintet from Denmark went on at the Annex at this time. I had to make the painful choice to leave and miss the rest of their “hotrockerchickypunk” but that bet paid off in a big way, Veto bring a big rock sound to such an intimate setting, a sure-fire sign that you are on to something good. It wasn’t bar rock, something you can find any cover band trying to do in every city in America.
This was catchy and sophisticated and lead singer Troels Abrahamsen has a voice worth listening to.
(SMS Note: Every singer I saw at by:Larm was great. Not just good. They were really strong and powerful and didn’t have any moments during which I mocked their pretentious dance or bizarre body movements. I do mock those things.)
The Kissaway Trail [MySpace] took the stage with a vengeance, five swirling balls of fun and fury. The Denmark act has been mentioned before at Drowned in Sound, and having released an album in April of last year, the act showed far more polish than I had expected. Straight-forward indie rock has never sounded so intelligent and simple; their performance had the crowd riveted. They took a time-tested formula and wrapped it up in a bundle of “great”. I liked it, but I was really just killing time for something else…
…and that was downstairs later, so I had a few more minutes. Around this time, the contingent I was moving among decided to rush over to check out Bloodlights [MySpace]. The power-pop/rock quartet is signed to Playground/Mate in Germany, and their sound fits the style that Germans love.
No, not Hasselhoffian type balladry, it’s just rock. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with that at all, and Captain Poon (the lead singer and guitar player) had one of the largest assortment of female supporters that I saw. The ladies love Captain Poon, but this country doesn’t seem to have the capacity for hatred of “kitsch,” they appear to just enjoy music for what it is and what it can be: fun.
That’s not a bad place to be, frankly, as I think that a year around artists I didn’t really like (save for The Cinematics and The Polyphonic Spree) jaded me more than anything else I could have lived through.
See, the lay-off has some positive aspects as well.
With a bunch of time to kill downstairs at John Dee, I waited. Seriously, I was told on my trip here that if I could see Lukestar [MySpace] and didn’t, I was a fool. I had already seen Truls’ other project that night, so I really wanted to see what the fuss was about.
By the way, while beer is great and has lead to many excellent discoveries in my life, I realized while standing in front of the soundboard that Norway is fucking beautiful. Honestly, I was meeting some really, really fantastic people, but how is everyone so good looking?
It might have something to do with $28 Filet O’ Fish meals. No one can afford that, I don’t care how much money you make. Do you need the fries THAT badly?
No. Probably not.
As time drew closer to Lukestar’s set, the building was uncomfortably cramped in a way that made you feel very unsafe. Neat thing about that: Norwegians are so nice, if you bump them, THEY say sorry. In New York, I get shoved at some point for breathing in the wrong direction. Here, they feel bad to ruin YOUR time. I love it.
Lukestar has three albums under their belt and to say that I completely adore them now would be a lie. The band is amazing live, the crowd adored them and if Truls and the Trees doesn’t strike in the US, the band has so much to look forward to at home. These kids love them. They packed the place, people were standing on the stairs into the venue and that made it impossible to move around at all within the building.
“In A Hologram” is really stuck in my head; a melodic pop blend of such a unique and wonderful voice (i.e. Danielson or, to a lesser extent, Coheed and Cambria) married with (and contrasting against) surging guitar and driving rhythms. I won’t soon forget the experience of seeing another country’s “biggest” bands and realizing how very similar these acts sound to stuff we have, but a renewed enthusiasm for music (not just the business of it) has invigorated me. Sure, I ache to the bone right now from all the walking and standing, but music is such a saving grace right now.
As I squeezed my way out of John Dee, I had one thing on my mind: where is this great pizza I keep hearing about? Funny that I am so far from home in a country that is known for vikings and fish and I have heard wonderful stuff about their pizza. As we walked and talked about Skate Fight Club, which as it turned out had less to do with skateboarding and violence and was more about sex and house music.
The last band that we had to check out after getting our baked and not-at-all greasy vegetarian pizza, was Superfamily [MySpace]. Lead singer Steven Wilson mixes all the vocal qualities of Bono and showmanship of Freddy Mercury conveniently fronting a band that has no problem being nothing more than what they are. The songs are infectious, sure, but would they work in America? I wish I could say yes, as bands like The Darkness, despite all of their success overseas, too many here looked at them as a novelty and couldn’t see the merits of such an act.
Superfamily had probably the biggest crowd of the entire weekend. The 1700-person Sentrum Scene was packed to the gills, so much that they opened the upper tier for the journos to hang out and watch something that played out magnificiently. These aren’t kids blindly adoring an act. There were grown-ass men dressed like white hip-hoppers in Malibu’s Most Wanted that were singing and screaming along with every word.
Kitschy, maybe? Fun, yes. Imagine Zooropa-era U2 playing shows and people were really, really eating it up. Imagine again that in this world, people didn’t crap all over that idea and continued to support the act: it’s that level of pageantry, save for the spaceships and video screens. Superfamily kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
Like that, we International Delegates were off to explore the nightlife in Oslo. It was time to see the stuff we missed while holed up in our hotel rooms writing.
Do I have more stories to share? Sure, but it might take a few days to recover.
Tusen takk, Norway. by:Larm was awesome and I cannot wait to come back.