Friday, July 18, 2008

Dateline Stockholm, part 2

Of course there is music! Our very first night, we were too bushed to go out so we watched Allsång på Skansen, broadcast live on television every Tuesday evening from the Skansen park in Stockholm. The show essentially consists of artists performing their own hits but also some pop and schlagerish classics and dansbands nuggets. The installment we saw had the Poodles (a glammy band that entered Melodifestivalen a couple of years ago) and some singers and comedians completely unknown to me. The concept is that the crowd sings along (= allsång) on the older tunes. The audience covers a fairly wide age range and it's really fun to watch hipster-looking twentysomethings enthusiastically sing their hearts out next to grannies and children. Allsång's popularity has grown so much that the Dilettante's Special Stockholm Correspondent told us that Robyn and Lena Philipsson have been on it.

Yesterday evening we went to the second night of the Stockholm Jazz Festival. Here, a shout-out to Liisa Tolonen and her crew in the press department, who must be among the most professional, the nicest I've seen in years of doing this job. The fest itself takes place on the grounds of the Museum of Modern Art on the island of Skeppsholmen (a 20-minute walk from where we're staying) and is remarkably run. I was struck by a few things: contrary to American practice, the prices at the concession stands didn't seem jacked up from what they'd be anywhere else in town; everything ran like clockwork despite a bad thunderstorm; the crowd covered a very wide age range, with kids as young as three wearing elaborate sound mufflers (kinda like the ones workers at airports wear); plenty of tidy portaloos. Also striking: people were clearly enjoying themselves but nobody was going wild, even during the Soundrack of Our Lives' awesome set. This last bit wasn't so good.

So, the music. Yesterday must have been Swedish Indie Rock Day because the two main acts on the main stage were Marit Bergman and the aforementioned TSOOL. I'm a big Bergman fan but I wasn't entirely convinced by her experiment: she did her entire set on the piano, backed by the Stockholm Strings quartet. I love her songs because of their bouncy pep and that was kinda lost in those arrangements. It may work better in a more intimate environment.

The most amazing thing is that the aforementioned thunderstorm erupted precisely as Bergman finished her last song, and stopped exactly as TSOOL took the stage. It was uncanny.

I'm not a big fan of TSOOL's albums but live, they smoked. (I realize I'm late to the party as great shows is exactly what's built them a good rep in the US these past few years.) Out of the three acts to emerge from the ashes of the legendary Union Carbide Productions, I'd always preferred the solo projects of guitarist Björn Olsson and drummer Henrik Rylander (so much so that I've interviewed them both for The Wire), but clearly I needed to see TSOOL live to get onboard. Even the Sheila, who displays a very Australian pickiness when it comes to rock & roll, was enthused. Favorite bit: Ian Persson, working a total Tony Iommi look that included super-tight 70s-style pants, 'tache and Gibson SG.

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