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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

By:Larm 2014

Music is the closest we're ever going to get to speaking in pictures no matter how many emojis and Snapchats come along.

This is just an irrefutable fact of life.

But these pictures, alone, don't really mean anything without a deeper context.  Anyone with even a bit of talent can tell you a story, but it only matters if it helps you recognize your own.

It's the reason why, every year, countless acts like Ace of Base and Imagine Dragons (I couldn't help myself) cycle through the cultural spectrum, washing out some time shortly after their arrival.  While other bands can survive years, even decades (How this explains The Offspring is unclear).

That's not to say that pop music is without merit (I love many pop songs!  There are times one just wants to dance) or that it can't take on a deeper meaning, but that, in and of itself, isn't its inherent purpose.

Most of my life is sought seeking music that helps define how I view myself/life/memories/existence.

Which is a slightly pretentious way of saying that attending a musical festival can provide both experiences.

Last week, I attended By:Larm, a week-long mixture of conferences and concerts that's billed as the Nordic answer to South by Southwest.

Saturday, I found myself en route to Youngstorget, the epicentre of the scene.  Here's a retro running diary of the experience.

7:15 - Walking through the drizzling rain I had the sinking feeling that I should've probably gotten to the festival sooner

7:40 - Sure enough, upon arriving at the main entry, I'm instructed by a grinning, security guard that the two block long line that I was trying to avoid is, in fact, the line to turn my ticket into an all-access wristband

7:48 - To my (and mostly everyone's chagrin), the people looking to purchase wristbands are fast-tracked into a shorter queue (with an overhang to protect them from the rain!) while us pre-purchasers are left to wait

7:55 - I meet a group of girls who travelled all the way from Kristiansand to attend the festival and they share their whiskey and beer with me because music festival.

7:59 - I get my wristband.  The first act I want to see (First Aid Kit) starts in one minute at Senstrum Scene, about five minutes away :(

8:03 - My running was totally unnecessary as the Swedish sister duo hadn't come on yet.  The place was full, which felt even more packed as the upper gallery area was closed, and ready for the music.  However, this was the time for which the Nordic Music Prize was being presented.  I'd seen the words "Nordic Music Prize" on the schedule, but assumed it was part of the billing and that the breakthrough artists had won an award previously awarded.

They hadn't.

The award presentation was happening now.  It was one award and the presenter was already in mid-speech (being done in Norwegian because Swedes and Danes can mostly understand and no one cares about the Finnish).

8:10 - The award is handed to a motley crew of guys who look both confused and high.  The crowd applauds in a purely "Good job, now get the hell off the stage!" way.  First Aid Kit time!

8:11 - Apparently, there's more awards as another presenter saunters on stage.  The crowd is has moved from "unsettled anticipation" to "outright derision".  This guy, with a haircut that screams "BBC extra" and an outfit that's trying too hard to be anti-establishment and just looks cheap, better be funny or they'll devour him

8:15 - He's not funny.  Bad.  He's rambling and isn't speaking in Norwegian (broken english?).  Really Bad.  He's trying to start-up a powerpoint presentation and is experiencing technical difficulties.  A riot may break out.

8:24 - I'm outside and on my way to Revolver because a)  I didn't want to be a witness/involved in a melee caused by the deprivation of pop indie folk and b) One of the more talked about bands (Dråpe) was starting at 8:30 at a venue that was slightly larger than my apartment and I wanted to make sure I was in before they started.

8:27 - Just in and without any time to spare as they're already on stage and  finished their warm-ups.  I think I'll get a beer.  74 kroners/$12.33/9€!?!?  I'm sipping this very slowly.

8:29 - They start their set

8:31 - They're amazing

8:43 - Like, really, really amazing

8:50 - When you hear something that is amazing, it usually knocks you on your butt due to: its talent (think to the first time you heard a great diva's voice), its depth (this album!!!), or just being beyond anything you ever heard before that moment.

These are examples of life-changing music.

You judge other things by the standard they set.

However, there's another type of amazing that doesn't blow you away, but draws you in.  It's like a huge vacuum and it transports you into a world, the world the artist is creating, and it holds up a mirror where you can see your own memories even though they've already happened and this experience is presently happening.  Dråpe transplanted me back to the first, two summer vacations of my college years.  It was wonderful, and chilling, and sad all at the same time (bittersweet, I suppose).  It made me long for and miss memories that never occurred.

9:15 - Their set had ended about ten minutes earlier, but I was still buzzing.  The next group (Lint) was setting up, which mostly just consisted of the guitarists shuffling around on stage, awkwardly, and strumming a few chords on their guitars and the keyboardists shooting dirty looks to the engineer behind me at the back of the room.

9:18 - Now, alone on stage, the keyboardists is signalling what seems to be "turn my microphone up" (the engineer shares this sentiment with a person standing next to him who I assume is the band's personal sound man).  Knobs are turned, sliders slid, and lights flicker.  More dirty looks ensue

9:23 - After the previous cycle repeats itself numerous times with more frowning and head shaking, the engineer leaves the "booth" and goes up to the stage.  The personal sound guy makes a handful of minor tweaks  to the various sound modules in his steed.  On stage, I watch as the keyboardists and the engineer go through a litany of everything that could possibly be out of whack.  I hate to prejudge a group, but these dudes better be amazing with this guy acting like Scott Stapp.

9:31 - The rest of the group has come back out, except for the keyboardists because of course.

9:36 - The place is PACKED!!  Their set has just started.

9:41 - They're pretty good, but make me miss the late 90s post/alt rock.  I had the overwhelming desire to go home and listen to Clarity

9:53 - I didn't go home, but to Rockfeller to listen to Zhala who, it sounds like is finishing up as I'm in line to get in because every venue now has block long lines.

I ended the night listening to Ine Hoem at my original stop (Sentrum) because it still had space (which is a loose way to describe standing outside the main area and listening to music without seeing the stage).  Honestly, it might not have mattered where I was or who was on stage as my head was still ringing from Dråpe.

In fact, it still is.


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