Viva Sounds, Gothenburg, Sweden, 6-7 December 2019 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020  

Linn Koch-Emmery

Dopha, Red Rum Club, mimi bay, Slowgold, Electric Hydra, Fontan, Linn Koch-Emmery, Arvid Nero

Viva Sounds, Gothenburg, Sweden, 6-7 December 2019,

Dec 13, 2019 Web Exclusive Photography by Nikos Plegas Bookmark and Share

Once upon a time, festival season traditionally ran throughout the spring and summer months. However, an increasing number of events popping up around the globe has seen the festival calendar grow with it. So nowadays, even the month of December is one of the busiest with Christmas only weeks away.  

One of those is Viva Sounds, which hosts thirty-one acts across seven different venues over the course of two days (Friday 6th and Saturday 7th). Taking place in the city of Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden, Viva Sounds is the brainchild of Westside Music and alongside its aforementioned live shows, also plays host to a full programme of conference panels, talks and networking events.  



Although only in its third year, Viva Sounds is already gaining a reputation as one of the most elegant and well organised music festivals in Scandinavia. While choosing to label itself as a "club festival" rather than traditional showcase event, there's little doubting its importance in providing an international platform for Nordic artists specifically from the region.  

Although the majority of its line-up is based in and around the west of Sweden, the organisers have put together an eclectic mix including one venue (The Abyss) that caters specifically for all things of a metal persuasion. One band making a glorious racket are Electric Hydra, a four-piece from Uddevalla. Despite only forming two years ago, they're an accomplished outfit fusing old school rock and roll (think Girlschool or The Runaways) with a penchant for throwing in the odd stoner riff or three.  

Next door but one is Holy Moly, a Mexican themed dive bar that serves delicious burritos and affordably priced cocktails. Danish singer/songwriter Dopha treads a fine line between the country folk of Norah Jones and pop sensibilities of Taylor Swift or Carly Rae Jepson. What this makes for is an entertaining early evening performance that makes everyone forget about the torrential rain outside. For thirty minutes anyway. The following evening in the same venue, seventeen-year-old You Tube sensation mimi bay more than justifies the hype despite only playing four songs in a fifteen minute set. Strumming an acoustic guitar over pre-programmed backing tracks, Under the Radar is taken back to the very first time we heard Nina Persson's voice cooing out on those early Cardigans releases (if you don't own a copy of Emmerdale I implore you to track one down immediately!). 

mimi bay

mimi bay

Meanwhile, over in the ornate surroundings of Musikens Hus there's a double delight in store courtesy of electronic outfit Karp and indie rocker Linn Koch-Emmery. While the former's dark and icy electro reminds us of fellow Gothenburg native Karin Dreijer and her Fever Ray and The Knife projects. The latter's appetite for an insatiable pop hook and driving melody proves a winning formula. Recent single 'Bby Nevermind' is thrown away early on in the set which highlights the confidence has in her flawless repertoire, while "Waves" recalls both Teenage Fanclub and The Lemonheads during their early nineties pomp.  

Across the way in Oceanen, Arvid Nero plays folk driven pop that's occasionally maudlin but never dull. One minute he's coming across all deep and low like a Nordic Chris Isaak, the next serving up classic rock poses like a young Jim Morrison. Staying with the Chris Isaak theme is Slowgold, who finishes her set at Pustervik the following evening with an ambient rendition of "Wicked Game". However, it's what comes before that has Under the Radar's heads in a spin. The trio, fronted by Gothenburg born Amanda Werne serve up a forty-five minutes set that veers between the exquisite dreampop of Beach House, driving country rock of My Morning Jacket while occasional slipping in Dylan-esque folk ditties for good measure. Already an established artist in Sweden with five albums to her name, it's easy to see why on this performance and surely only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on. 



Staying in Pustervik, local electronic duo Fontan create an ambience of their own, albeit via heavily compressed beats and squelching synthesizers. But it's left to Liverpudlian collective Red Rum Club - the sole UK act on the bill - to bring proceedings to a sensational climax. Playing ten songs in just over half an hour, the six-piece channel the spirit of early Dexys Midnight Runners and Arthur Lee's Love with lolloping alt-pop that recalls fellow scousers The Coral in their Magic And Medicine era. "Casanova" and "Calexico" are potential daytime radio staples in waiting while closing number "Would You Rather Be Lonely" ends with a large number of  the audience alongside the band on stage.  

It proves to be a fitting finale to a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, and with Viva Sounds having the potential to grow even bigger next year, we're already looking forward to its fourth edition.  

Red Rum Club

Red Rum Club 


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