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concert: first aid kit

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on 1st november, first aid kit played shoreditch town hall in london. three days later, i am still happily caught in their harmonies like in an autumn fog.

the evening began with van william, whom i had once seen with his band port o’brien when i had a stubborn cold. this time, he seemed more earnest as he played his new solo songs, even as he made jokes about how he kept losing his guitar string at difficult notes and guessed his way to his next london gig. he also took us back to port o’brien times with “fisherman’s son” (whee), and was joined by first aid kit for “revolution”.

first aid kit‘s set went from new fireworks skating across frozen lakes towards lonely finish lines, to nights cutting like knives in “it’s a shame” (oh my, do i feel for klara in this video), from singing about cold stockholm and dancing to trombone solos in “emmylou” to “you are the problem here” which, as klara said, was written as a response to brock turner but sadly “keeps remaining relevant”. johanna and klara took the time to introduce their wonderful band warmly and their friend van came back out to sing on “king of the world“. apart from all the singing, dancing, and exuberant smiles exchanged freely between audience and band, one of my favourite moments was the first encore, “ghost town”, which johanna and klara performed by themselves and acoustic. they invited everyone to join in, even if they didn’t know the lyrics and people sang softly, like a ghost choir.

a gig like a seaside campfire, lovely and brilliant all around. and, judging from “fireworks”, “it’s a shame”, and “postcard”, their upcoming album ruins, out on 19th january 2018, will be one for the “repeat” button.

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concert: conor oberst ♫ phoebe bridgers ♫ miwi la lupa

i had good reasons to look forward to seeing conor oberst‘s gig at the london palladium on 1st february 2017. his latest album ruminations, released in october 2016, caught me off-guard with its shaky basement sounds, lonesome insomniac vocals, lines like “everything ends / everything has to”, “i’m worn gossamer thin” and “i don’t mind my head when there’s room to dream”, and just a guitar, harmonica, and piano. it was like emotional time-travel: it felt as important to me as fevers & mirrors did when i was a teenager.

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so i went into this gig with high hopes and, oh my giddy aunt, i left exuberant. also because of the musicians conor brought along. miwi la lupa, whom conor introduced as his best bud and omaha roommate, hung a cold moon from the ceiling. phoebe bridgers just about killed me singing radiant songs about smoke signals, funerals, and not feeling anything with her rainy day voice.

i am not surprised that, as conor said, omaha labels are arguing who gets to put out her upcoming debut album. the musical respect he expressed for her is mutual – she said she had some friends in the audience whom she would not introduce to conor, for they know how much of a bright eyes fan she was and still is – to prove her point, she covered “bad blood” (and owned it!). miwi accompanied conor throughout, beautifully and affectionately.  gig2for a bit, there was a harmonica assistant with a fish bowl. and oh, all the songs. especially “gossamer thin” (in which “read poetry” became “sipping tea”), “counting sheep”, “lenders in the temple”, “you all loved him once” (which conor said was about lennon, jesus, “fill in the fucking blank”), “the ladder song”, and a cover of  the replacements’ “here comes a regular” which his brother taught him when he was about 12. and then phoebe joined miwi and conor for “lua” (luckily for you someone caught this and shared it online). they also covered “jack at the asylum” by the felice brothers (whose music makes conor happy, he said, and less embarrassed about being from america*). i nearly had a heart attack it was so lovely to hear these three together.

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not only had i gotten what i came for, and been introduced to new favourite songs and musicians, but then conor and miwa also ended on “the big picture” – which i had never heard live – and “at the bottom of everything”. with conor screaming his heart out and all. boy, was i happy. when the lights came on and the canned music set in, it was like being kicked out of the only place you feel at home.

p.s. on march 17, saluations, a companion album to ruminations, will be released. it features full band versions of the ruminations songs and seven additional songs. gillian welch and maria taylor are on it, too!

*at one point, conor apologised for trump and noted that it’s the same story everywhere, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, sexism all crawling about. although he was inclined to hide under his bed, he said, if we all stand up, “they can’t fuck with us”. and maybe stand up with the kind of lovely community feeling that was evident in all the hand-holding and hugs between the three musicians throughout the night (conor even, if perhaps jokingly, told miwi “holding your hand in vienna meant so much to me” – aw!). and, while conor seemed embarassed by his country, he also said that “it’s where the felice brothers are from” so it can’t be all bad.

concert: frazey ford

1---musician, artist, mama, beekeeper, human. that’s how frazey ford describes herself. her music is as excellent and wide-hearted as that sounds. we’ve been slow to catch up: we’ve missed four the be good tanyas records and two frazey ford albums. the first we heard and saw of her was the video for “done”, a life-buoyant, calmly fierce sea change song accompanied by a laid-back pavement-dance riot (and featuring deadly clothes, giggles, a dinosaur, a hula hoop and an otis redding vinyl). it made us want to dance with frazey. library, backyard, newsagent’s, parking lot – anywhere she wants, anywhere. our first dance turned out to be in a church. sitting down. it was exhilerating.*

13th october 2015, the union chapel in london, candles and hot chocolates. frazey ford in a black jumpsuit, sparkling with wisdom and healing. her lovely band. songs like “september fields”, “bird of paradise”,”the gospel song”, “you’re not free”, “natural law” and “blue streak mama”. “one more cup of coffee” for bob dylan and radiant “the happy song” dum-dums for otis. frazey talking about how her brother is like a “firecracker”. about recording with al green’s band. about how a forty-year-old argument was forgotten over “weather patterns“. i’m terribly grateful to them for playing that song. it helps me breathe. i am also glad my dungarees have lots of pockets to keep all these songs in. i have “weather patterns”, “done” and “if you gonna go” right here in the top pocket. and oh, “ootischenia” (a the be good tanyas song about frazey’s parents running from the vietnam war to communes in canada), how chuffed i am to have made your acquaintance. as i am sitting here remembering how “indian ocean” washed over the wooden benches of the union chapel, i am still wearing my dungarees like a hug, every pocket full of beekeper soul

* apart from the support act david ward, during whose set i felt both ill and ill-tempered. maybe i just didn’t get it. how you can “cobble together” (his words) a dead friend’s poems into a song, how his song “mother” could possibly be about “instinctive human kindness” (his words). how he, by playing his own version of them, managed to prick holes into both bryan adams’s “heaven” (a perfectly good song) and bob dylan’s “i was young when i left home” (which means an awful lot to me and is itself a respectfully inventive and sincerely heartfelt reinterpretation of the traditional “900 miles“/”900 miles from home“, both referenced here in woody guthrie’s version). 

festival: camp wildfire

wildfire01ever since the first rumours that julia lowe of keston cobblers club and lee denny of leefest were planning a festival, part album launch, part childhood adventure, i have been ready, my yellow backpack packed with pens, bubbles and a glow-in-the-dark frisbee, waiting for the train to come in.

half a year later, 19th – 22nd june 2015, camp wildfire turned a secret bit of forest in kent into a 1950s-style scout camp with felt bunting, fairy lights, an on-site radio station hut broadcasting banter, announcements and vinyl treats, an upright piano next to a campfire, a fabric-roofed stage with a painted landscape backdrop, a bar with a library of chess sets and cards, scrumptious food and an alphabet of meeting points for an insane range of activities from treasure hunts to swashbuckling workshops to swing dancing (including rock-paper-scissors moves) to mask-making and ukuleleing. the evenings belonged to secret bands, djs fond of “go your own way” and, of course, keston cobblers club who celebrated the launch of their album wildfire.

“wildfire is the colour of sound as it darts through forests, setting shadows ablaze.”
this line from the wildfire booklet is an excellent description of both a) the radiant new songs about sea leg refuges, days riddled with holes, matchstick hearts, madness, loss and loyalty with their infectious oo-oh-oh-oohs, but ohs, wolves howling and wildfire-crackling and b) the excitingly friendly, inclusive, encouraging and cheerful atmosphere at camp wildfire.

upon arrival, i chose the squirrels out of the four forest animal patrols (stealthy squirrel, bantham badgers, fearless foxes and howling hawks), was given a wildfire necklace (and squirrels had a yellow stripe on their necklaces, hooray!) which also served to collect tokens for outstanding deeds as well as the adventurer’s handbook (including semaphore and morse code, a butterfly spotter’s guide, the camp code and, yes, the camp anthem, no less!). i went by myself but was constantly making friends – in the cab from the train station to the forest, in the queue to enrol for activities, requesting songs by a campfire, dancing ceilidh, swing and helter-skelter, trying to start a fire in a survival workshop, challenging foxes and badgers to games of chess, asking people to play and share their glitter, striking up conversations about anything from children’s literature to portable loo ghosts, unicorn names and childhood traumas. and even on the train back to london victoria.

being an analogue festival, digital technology was thankfully discouraged. that’s where the pens came in handy.

01-4jumping about to mariachi el pinche grin go

02-2euphoria beans led to more dancing, this time with the ceilidh liberation front


02-03swaying with gaps


03-01nighttime campfire singalong & a chat about children’s literature

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heartening “everyone can sing”-wild choir with tinuke

03-04 tea in a squirrel-yellow wildfire mug, re-learning how to skip (it was more difficult than i remembered but failing was less embarrassing than i remembered), talking a fox patrol leader into giving me a peg and then talking a fellow peg-stealing squirrel into returning said peg to me

04-01bunting, umbrellas and impromptu lunch jams

04escapegetting lost during forest hide-and-seek

04-riot-jazztrusting strangers not to steal my things and not to laugh at my chaotic dance moves during the riot jazz brass band whose encores included a fierce “take on me” and “living on a prayer”

04-02wildfirekeston cobblers’ club lovely wide-eyed madness album launch gig♥

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ukuleleling with matthew and tom of the cobblers. discovering “riptide“, sharing rainbow facepaint and not being able to put down the ukulele (thus, half-learning “i want to be like you” with matthew while they were packing up).

and so on and on and on. camp wildfire was serious fun. from the very beginning it felt like a community – i kept bumping into newly familiar faces, stories spread like wildfire (for example the one about how two german girls drove all the way from cologne just to go to the festival), there was a group picture taken, followed by a huge group hug, and, instead of audience-artist divides, you could skip about with the cobblers as fellow adventurers.

and i daresay i aced camp code #1 (challenge yourself), #2 (adventure like a child), #3 (say yes), #7 (love like your heart’s exploding), #9 (say hello to new people) and #10 (have immeasurable amounts of fun). i learned new things all the time, re-discovered old skills, explored new music, refused to be embarrassed about dancing helter-skelter and wearing a hawk mask, said hello to everyone even if they were in the middle of a game of chess (which they kindly let me join), was given one token for committed singing and one for being nice and scored glitter and hula hoop lessons from perfect strangers. curiosity rules, awoo!

03-02move

thanks a million, julia lowe, for making what lee denny called your “fantasy weekend” happen!

postscript 27 august 2015
more proof of the wildfire loveliness (both the song and the festival) up now:

concert: friska viljor

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 grinning at their own lyrics and stealing delighted glances at each other. asking for requests, telling stage secrets* and laughing at themselves. and, above all, singing and playing like it’s the last day of school and the first day of summer.

that’s daniel johansson and joakim sveningsson of friska viljor at magnet club in berlin on 6th may, halfway through their acoustic tour, putting out traps with songs from their upcoming album my name is friska viljor (following remember our name from 2013 – if you still don’t know their name, you’re seriously running out of excuses) and a set list that literally ends with the question “more?”. traps we hurl ourselves into giddily and a question that didn’t need asking.

of course we want more. more present tense exuberance and melodica oomph. more confused “whoo”s. more of these new harmonies in old songs and more new songs like that one about old childhood friends. or this one about having a choice not to break. and these other new songs “until the rain”, “mind the gap” and “in my sofa i’m safe“. this upcoming album, oh my♥

the encores were as heartbreakingly brilliant and all around lovely. if you weren’t dancing higgledy-piggledy to “arpeggio” whilst singing along at the top of your lungs, smiling when joakim stopped mid-chorus to listen to daniel sing, chanting an extra chorus of “we will carry you” at friska viljor during “gold” and waving your hands up in the air to “shotgun sister”, chances are you weren’t there. and if you weren’t jumping up and down during “monday”, for which joakim and daniel played with a make-believe band, chances are you weren’t me. but if you were there, chances are you were happy all night. if you were me, chances are you’re still happy. if your name is friska viljor, know that awoo will carry you, too.

friska viljor © tina lou

* never make ugly faces when you play a wrong note. never turn your back to the audience. and never scratch your behind, people will see it.
** if you speak german or swedish, here’s an interview (and a kazoo solo) i did with them in 2013.

concert: moto boy

moto boyin 2008, oskar humlebo made his first waves as moto boy with his self-titled debut album full of, as he says, “picture-less movies”. two weeks ago, moto boy’s third album keep your darkness secret came out and, a few hours ago, he finally played a headline gig in stockholm again. standing in the middle between alexander broberg on guitar and petra fors on keys. lights beating behind him. his sister somewhere in the dark of södra teatern in front of him, telling him off whenever he uses swear words. which makes him try to speak as stilted as possible. which makes people laugh. and songs. songs with pulsing chords and luminous vocals lovingly alternating between baritone and high-pitched falsetto and, oh, the radiance of “beat heart”. also: a delicate cover of anna-lena löfgren’s “regniga natt“, humble gratitude, some cheekiness and, in the pocket of the red jacket he wears for the encores, red lipstick he puts on for the last few songs. standing ovations. a song for the way home.
we’re lucky moto boy makes noise again. awoo!

concert: anders wendin

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walking through my home town listening to blood panic on a cassette tape, dancing the past away to “they’re building walls around us” in a festival tent and hearing “6 a.m.” and eldkvarn’s “fulla för kärlekens skull” at an acoustic show at södra teatern. all of these moments are years ago now. and they keep making friends. like last year, when moneybrother played “jag har gått och undrat över trädet” for the very first time in stockholm’s late summer light. and like yesterday, when he played katalin in uppsala with gustav on saxophone, magnus on violin and mandola, mikaela on piano, kisa on bass, norpan on drums and lovely viktor on trombone, harmonica and elegant dance moves.

some reviewers say that with his latest album dom ska få se vem dom roat sig med, the first album which anders wendin wrote his own songs in swedish for and which he released under his own name rather than as moneybrother or pengarbrorsan, anders wendin has found a style he can grow and grow old with. and, after yesterday, i see what they mean. everyone in the band was clearly enjoying themselves tremendously and anders wendin seemed even happier singing now than the last few times i saw him, if that’s possible, and was kind, charming and appreciative. telling stories at ease and with perfect timing.

for example about when he lived in uppsala and was lonely and sleep-deprived and about the night he (didn’t) take a sauna with the mandola player. but also about how he once saw a gig in america and already during the first chord wished they would play it forever and not even start playing the first song because it would be one song closer to the end and about his son who has only missed one show so far and whom he dedicated “större än så här” to.

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a magnificent and heartening night with beaming faces, glowing melodies, slapstick moments, all the songs off the latest album and some off pengarbrorsan – for example the bonus track, what a pleasant surprise! especially ♥: “jag har gått och undrat över trädet”, “du måste kunna gå nu”, “1952” and “midnatt till sju”, during which gustav, mikaela, kisa och viktor sang a stanza each. so, yes, it’s always worth taking a train (to see anders wendin). awoo!