Monday, August 4, 2008

Downhill From Here

Rip It Up was an unusual festival experience for me, and maybe all the better for it. I helped out as some sort of band host, the downside of which was I didn't have time to hang out with my friends. But I got to sleep indoors and all the 'work' invovled was being nice to Pipas, Pocketbooks, Harvey Williams, The Clientele, The Dreamers, Darren Hanlon and a few new acquaintances.

The highlights were the backstage frisbee games, saving Darren Hanlon's life with an anorak, having a huge vegan breakfast with Pipas and their friends, walking around Säffle with Darren, the contagious enthusiasm of Pocketbooks over being in SWEDEN, listening to 1000 Violins in Matloob from Roadside Poppies' car on the way up (especially "If I Were a Bull", which the display shortened one title to), taking shelter from the rain in Fraction's little merchandise tent, and last but not least seeing a few decent bands.

I finally got to see The Dreamers and Kevin and Sarah got the festival off to a stripped-down and tasteful start with their simple and unpretentious performance in the light drizzle. Both style icons in their own way, and both interesting stage personalities, it was great to see them on a stage together, exchanging the odd smile. The happiest surprise on the first day was the seemingly vast potential of Cocoanut Groove, who fittingly opened with a cover of Roger Nichols' "Coconut Grove". Their own matierial come frighteningly close to the standard of their heroes - read more about them in a post below.

They were preceded by Hormones In Abundance and followed by Harvey Williams. HIA was only Patrik this time, who now records as Ring Snuten! and was a festival organiser himself in his teens (with three amazing Liv festivals outside Kalmar on his conscience). He gave us a set laiden with nostalgia, sugar-rush pop and Softies covers, all played out on a guitar that came all the way from Brooklyn. Harvey started out on the keyboards as usual and played a 'new' song that I really enjoyed along with some from California. Then it was time for the acoustic singalong to "You Should All Be Murdered" and Other Sunny Days hits. Days themselves reminded me that they are still the best band in Sweden and introduced a new song that sounded like it might become the best in their repetoir. Secret Shine reminded me that even the best shoegaze can become boring after 50 minutes. Besides it was cold and damp, and Darren's comfy couch beckoned. After a nice chat over some crisp bread and caviar we went to sleep.

Having got some banjo practise in the next morning (ok... noon) we arrived at the festival site with Pipas only to find Pocketbooks sitting in the sun-drenched grass and probably on their second round of beers. I hadn't seen them since May so it was a happy reunion, and I finally met Natalie who's done such a great job with Indietracks promotion. After Darren started the day off, things were quickly moving towards the anticipated high point of the day: Pocketbooks' first ever gig in Sweden. And what a gig it was! We were dancing and singing along and everything was beautiful.

Obviously, it would be hard for The Tidy Ups to follow this, but just seeing them on a stage for the first time in four years was enough to set my mind spinning to thoughts I haven't had for almost as long. It didn't even matter that the songs hardly sounded half as good as their recordings, and as they ended with "I Hate Being In Love With Elijah Wood" I was in another world completely.

The sunlight didn't last long though. As I was sitting with a travel-weary Clientele, Alasdair predicted that it would start raining by the time they were on. And he was right of course. But standing in the rain for 40 minutes was fine by me when I got to hear such perfect songs as "Reflections After Jane", "Saturday", a version of "Lamplight" that seemed to last for ten minutes, a cover of "A Picture of Dorian Grey", "My Own Face Inside the Trees", "I Hope You Know" and "We Could Walk Together". After a timely (but missed) opportunity for an Amor De Dias set inbewteen, Pipas went on stage. They'd had a frantic practice that morning, as they hadn't really played together for many a month. You could defintely hear that, but they made up for it by playing old favourites like "Rock and/or Roll", "Tout va bien" and "Hiding In the Park".

The highlight of the day however, and perhaps of the whole festival, turned out to be triumphant set from Stockholm's Twig, finally with an album release in sight. From the opening take on "Rip It Up" through to the end the trio didn't loose it for a second. They were intense, fervent and casual - Henrik's vocals ranging from tender croon to mocking sneer. Look out for the album on Plastilina's webiste in a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately I don't have a cable for my camera at the moment, so reports from Indietracks and gigs in Glasgow will probably have to wait a while.

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