You’ve probably heard this a thousand times about a thousand different cities, but Gothenburg is really unlike anywhere else; its quiet charm and incredible musical landscape work perfectly together leaving the tired “little London” references a little more than antiquated. We’re here exploring the city in the name of Way Out West Festival and its rebellious, after-hours cousin Stay Out West. Even on day one we’re dangerously close to falling head over heels for this place and performances from the likes of Hot Chip, Alt-J, El Perro Del Mar and Chromatics only sweeten the deal.
Spread across three stages in Slottsskogen park, the day’s line-up only really begins to get interesting when the sun goes down – with the exception of Refused, whose triumphant frenzied return sees them feed off the adoration of a home crowd like returning heroes. It is Hot Chip’s headline show that really gets things moving, their slick beats and irresistible hooks wrapping themselves around dancing limbs and weary revellers, re-invigorating them and compelling them to just keep dancing. Classics like ‘Over And Over’, which sets the crow alight with euphoria, are mixed in with ‘In Our Heads’ – and numbers such as ‘Night And Day’, its almost sinister shrills pulsating through the mildly suffocating heat.
Photo: Hugo Johansson
As their instantly infectious, twisted electronic pop harmonies die down we hot foot it to Trädgårn, a club over the other side of town, to watch well more twisted electronic pop, this time from Alt-J. Having recorded their surprise breakout (honestly, who saw them reaching the dizzying heights of the Radio 1 playlist?) debut full length in Brixton, the four-piece have been touring pretty relentlessly and you can tell – not in anything as disappointing as fatigue; rather, they are just really tight. The dark creative depths of ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tesselate’ leave the photo barrier almost detached from its anchored position as the stuttering, explosive rhythms are reflected in the crowd’s seemingly uncontrollable movements. While ‘Something Good’’s elated, carefree guitars and Lemon Jelly-like cyclic harmonies mellow everyone out.
In the other room of Trädgårn is an entirely different, local affair. El Perro Del Mar, the nom de plume of Sarah Assbring, is treating a heavy native crowd to her understated, affected pop numbers. Pulling songs from her now rather substantial back catalogue the set is a mix of disco influenced, sample heavy modern creations and floaty, piano driven crooners brimming with a warmth her new material lacks. This is not a criticism by any measure, though; Assbring’s artistic progression from record to record feels almost unmatched. With such a late start and such a long set her show does soon fall victim to the rising, disinterested chatter and the clanking of beer bottles.
Photo: Johanna Wallin
It would be unfair to say the whole day has been leading up to this point, but the excitement in the Stora Teatern for Chromatics’ 2am performance is feverish. More than just that band who had a track on the Drive soundtrack, Portland’s Johnny Jewel and co’s latest album Kill For Love is a 92 minute trip into a gritty, nocturnal world of minimal synths and rasping drums that washes over you like that hazy wave which accompanies the realisation that you’ve had too much to drink. Their maudlin eighties misery feels less pronounced this evening than on record, perhaps all too weary of killing any kind of vibe. It feels like they waste no time getting stuck into Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, Ruth Radelet’s voice effortlessly keeping up with the pace. Taking Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey, My My’ into the fold as well as Kate’s classic would be a risky manoeuvre if it weren’t such a well rehearsed one, and one that sees Young’s original treated with respect whilst the synth skips and howling guitars claim the track as their own.
Header Image: Adrian Pehrson