In the vein of Austin’s SXSW, Brighton’s The Great Escape, and our own Reeperbahn Festival in the famous St Pauli area, Sweden’s only (!) showcase festival Viva Sounds has become an established platform for up and coming acts, but also to act as a host for conference sessions addressing “contemporary and current issues within today’s music landscape”. But is not just one a get together for the music industry, just like any festival it feels like a school trip held together by alcohol, sleep deprivation, constant conversations with colleagues from the industry and the overall madness at the afterparties (because the nights didn’t end with the last band).
For Messed!Up it’s more than a festival, it’s the editors hometown where he grew up with music and the amazing Gothenburg music scene. Gothenburg has exported heaps of internationally successful bands like In Flames, Ace of Base, The Knife and José González to mention a few. The last years have seen the rise of many new interesting acts as Rome Is Not A Town and Westkust, bands that already have taken the first steps onto the European tour train; one of the major reasons to visit Viva Sounds was to find out what’s next on the Gothenburg scene.
To start with, Westside Music Sweden have done some tremendous work in pulling it all off. They’ve clearly put lots of effort into putting together a very interesting line-up, spiced with some bigger acts on the Swedish scene just to draw some attention.
Danish Dopha is first on stage in our schedule at the tiny pub Holy Moly. Although I’ve spent lots of beer meetings at the venue I’ve never attended a gig until tonight. Sofie Dopha plays melancholic pop and is a fresh off the Danish scene with her debut single “September Till June”, and it is that perfect soft start of the evening while you have a beer and you’re not yet ready to be exposed for loud fuzzbox guitar riffs. Apparently it’s her first gig in Sweden but that didn’t stop people from arriving in masses – filled to the brim.
From the outset I told myself to spend the full night at Musikens Hus though because that’s where Sweden’s most interesting up and coming act Kårp were about to play (we did an interview earlier this day; read about it later) but there was also Linn Koch-Emmery who played a great support slot to Johnossi in Hamburg 2017 the day Messed!Up started and Sweden’s best punk act Vånna Inget.
Across two floors, also including adjoining Hängmattan, the country’s burgeoning young talent were showcased this Friday night, and we started downstairs at Hängmattan to watch Bowski Island, a one-man show entailing guitarist Patrik Jakubowski, known as the bassist in Riddarna, and backtracks on his laptop. Jakubowski pointed out that everything he creates is inspired by the sea and music-wise it started out really soft, just like sitting at the pier and listening to sound of the waves. A toilet visit later it was all uptempo electro and I didn’t really know how that happened. There was no time to stay for the full show though; we were at Viva Sounds for the interviews and the schedule was packed.
A few hours later Kårp appeared in the dark shadows and flickering lights of Musikens Hus. Kårp is most definitely a band to keep your eyes on for the future; four singles into their career they were awarded for being the best up and coming act in Sweden and just three months later they released their debut album “Album 1”. It’s really difficult to not hear the kinship with The Knife, even more when you consider how they visualize their music.
Obviously the rumour has preceded the band and the venue was filled to the brim already at the first show of the night. Best on stage is their biggest hit “Freak Smile”, mostly because I love that type of mysterious electropop sound which reminds me about the concept band Zeigeist, a Swedish art project that split up just after they released a super record called “The Jade Motel”. For the same electropop reasons “Devotion” is a great floorfiller as well, and an older man from Borås told me it was the best he has heard in 2019. Luckily “Album 2” is already in the works.
The break between Kårp and the next act felt very short, but that’s what happens when you just have met new interesting people and talk music.
Linn Koch-Emmery was next on stage and to me it’s a mystery that the masses of music listeners haven’t taken her to their hearts. Koch-Emmery creates some great pop/rock, not the ordinary kind but earworms and “Don’t Sleep On My Luv” and the encore “Waves” are great examples of that. And the performance; hell yeah! We always write about how important it is to “embody your music”, to visualize the rhythms, riffs and layers of sounds in your songs, but many artists don’t understand this. Koch-Emmery is the opposite, she’s a performance professional and deserves her own crowd. I had a chat with her after the show and let’s say we’ll meet her in Hamburg in 2020.
Last band on stage is Swedish punk veterans – after a decade you’re a veteran – Vånna Inget. It’s punk in Swedish, it’s emotional and it’s a performance you will remember. Frontdudette Karolina Engdahl has that perfect voice that mixes melancholy and bitterness, and it works amazingly well with lyrics in Swedish. “Spotta I Motvind” has always been my favourite but tonight it was crushed by “Allvar”.
Again we couldn’t stay the full show because of interviews but the night didn’t end there either. An afterparty later somewhere in the Majorna neighbourhood we tucked in super late and we never thought we would make it to the first sessions on Saturday and that free breakfast offered by Westside Music Sweden. But it was a great first night.