Hosting a wave of Nordic talent
Shiny Darkly - Live At Spot Festival, Aarhus

When they decide to make a second Avengers film – Avengers Reassembled, presumably – I can recommend an excellent candidate for foxy daughter-of-Magneto the Scarlet Witch.

She’s onstage at a popular Aarhus venue called Radar, just past the witching hour, sporting an electric shock of blonde hair, a bright red skin-tight leotard that doesn’t leave much to the imagination, and a cape. She screams, she howls, she scowls, she fiddles with a theremin while a psychobilly from Bristol spanks his axe and pulls shapes. This is what happens when people from Aarhus and England fall in love. They call themselves Echo Vamper.

But more on them later, as there’s a vast ocean of bands to wade through first. This is the 18th edition of Spot, where the next wave of Nordic talent shows off for enthusiastic local fans and international agents, bookers and assorted media types. Denmark is having a particularly fertile year musically speaking with some fine new acts already breaking through, and a few established names on the comeback trail.

Indeed, there are a couple making high-profile returns to the fest that helped break them: The Raveonettes and Alphabeat will be competing for punters here on Saturday night. But Clash is more interested in the newer blood, some of whom go head-to-head on the same stage at the same time.

One of Spot’s most interesting sections is InterSPOT, where artists from different nations are encouraged to perform together. It’s a brave thing to take on, as with precious little rehearsal time there’s the distinct possibility of it going disastrously tits-up in front of the influential industry folk.

Thankfully Sóley, from Iceland, and local duo Darkness Falls cope admirably in the aptly-named, very dark Black Box venue, part of the new Godsbanen complex. Spot is the first big event at this ambitious new arts centre and there are a few teething problems as the pumping hip-hop from the room next door bleeds into this quietly atmospheric collaboration, but they make the best of it and some likeable songs shine through. If they turn up next year singing over hip hop beats, you know where that idea came from.

It’s all change at Spot this year and over at another new venue, the HQ bar, the excellent Crunchy Frog label are showing off their new talent. Shiny Darkly are one of the acts we’d been tipped about in advance, a youthful outfit from Copenhagen who play punky shoegaze, led by a chap who looks like Alex Kapranos’ younger brother – they’re wonderfully, chunkily energetic.

Even better are a Crunchy Frog trio who have already made a few waves in the UK. Snake and Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band boast groin-friendly psychedelic grooves and a mesmerising dynamic between the gawky frontman and supercool Agyness Dean-alike on bass. They’ve got the full package: style, songs, sublime riffs - do catch them next time they darken your neck of the woods.

Meanwhile, three acts from different Nordic nations, with varying attitudes to how synths should be mounted.

First up, the Faroe Islands are a quirky, sheep-dappled Danish dependency but their boy Sakaris isn’t conforming to any stereotypes: rather than rustic remote soundscapes he plays pleasingly sharp electropop, on a big old keytar. Unexpected.

On a similar tip at the same time, one room along, Norway’s Hanne Kolstø utilises an even smaller portable keyboard, but doesn’t seem to have quite mastered how to dance with it (always difficult). Her looped licks are a lot darker than the Sakaris sound if perhaps not imposing enough for the large concert venue she’s been saddled with, then several old dears turn up, quite possibly visiting this grand theatre on the wrong day. Or perhaps they just like slightly sinister synth action.

A better live proposition are the catchily-named Slagsmalsklubben, who round off Friday night with a show at some god-forsaken hour at the waterfront club Train. A multi-member collective who apparently live in a big Swedish mansion together, they make thoroughly entertaining, audience-invigorating live beats.

That name, it transpires, is the Swedish translation of Fight Club. So what’s the first rule of Slagsmalsklubben? Keep your keyboards on the floor.

Words by Si Hawkins
Photo by Toke Hage

Click here for a review of Saturday at Spot Festival.

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