Viva Sounds 2023, Gothenburg, Sweden, November 30 - December 2, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 22nd, 2024  

KÅRP

Adwaith, KÅRP, Ellen Froese, Melody Fields

Viva Sounds 2023, Gothenburg, Sweden, November 30 - December 2, 2023,

Dec 06, 2023 Photography by Pedram Fazelzadeh (Lead Photo) Web Exclusive
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Having started from humble beginnings in 2017, the sixth edition of Viva Sounds boasted the festival’s largest number of artists, delegates and participating venues so far. In that time, Viva Sounds has also quickly established itself not only as an international platform for acts from its host nation and beyond, the festival has also developed a community of sorts. Many attendees having returned on numerous occasions since those embryonic events at the tail end of the 2010s.

Viva Sounds conference (Photo by All My Friends Are Stars)
Viva Sounds conference (Photo by All My Friends Are Stars)

Essentially the brainchild of Westside Music Sweden, an independent company based in Gothenburg that’s been pivotal in promoting local and international artists around the globe over a similar period of time. Viva Sounds represents the culmination of the team’s hard work and dedication in bringing Swedish acts to a wider audience while providing an exchange facility that sees artists from Canada, the US, UK, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands perform at this year’s event.

As with most showcase events, Viva Sounds isn’t just about the live shows. There’s also a conference that stretches over two days where panellists debate topics such as streaming, the importance of merchandise, AI and the costs of putting on events while guest speakers such as Simon Raymonde from revered independent label Bella Union discuss their lives in music and what it means to them. Outside of the festival there’s the added bonus of perusing round Gothenburg itself, a beautiful city especially in winter that more than comes alive at this festive time of year.

Simon Raymonde (Photo by All My Friends Are Stars)
Simon Raymonde (Photo by All My Friends Are Stars)

Nevertheless, Under the Radar is predominantly here for the music and it’s a diverse programme that encompasses everything from metal and classic rock to r’n'b, hip hop, indie, electronica, folk and experimental music, and its this smorgasbord of aural bliss that keeps us gleefully entertained over the course of Viva Sounds’ three days. Thursday’s opening party sees local heroes Melody Fields playing back to back with fellow Gothenburg-based ensemble Tomma Intet. While the former channel the spirit of bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the bulk of their set focused on this year’s 1901 and 1991 long players alongside the odd blast from the past - 2020’s “Broken Horse” being a particular crowd pleaser. The latter’s mix and match approach sees them go from trippy psychedelia to melodic grunge then folky indie pop in the space of five minutes. Keeping everyone on their toes, both Tomma Intet and Melody Fields provide the perfect introduction to the weekend’s festivities with arguably even better still to come.

Melody Fields (Photo by Nikos Plegas)
Melody Fields (Photo by Nikos Plegas)

While Friday morning is spent in the company of one Roine Lundström, whose front room also plays host to a Ramones museum boasting one of the biggest collections of dedicated memorabilia in the world. The rest of the day is spent exploring Gothenburg’s record stores. One of those, Andra Långgatans Skivhandel also doubles up as one of Viva Sounds’ live music venues in the evening. So, it’s here where Under the Radar favourites Boy With Apple play a delightful set that moves one audience member to tears. Musically reminiscent of Saint Etienne, New Order and Belle & Sebastian, they’re undoubtedly one of Gothenburg’s finest exports and with shows at Focus Wales under their belts earlier this year, expect their name to become recognised even further afield in 2024.

Boy With Apple (Photo by Estefânia Silva)
Boy With Apple (Photo by Estefânia Silva)

Canadian singer/songwriter Ellen Froese also makes a significant impact playing to a packed Holy Moly bar where people clamour onto the actual bar just to get a vantage point. Interspersing her seven songs set with stories that range from how much she misses her cat to why funeral buffets are the best, Froese is one of the most engaging live acts of the whole weekend. Straddling a fine line between classic and indie folk - think Joni Mitchell meets Juliana Hatfield or Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) - we predict big things going forwards.

One of the most traditional live music venues on Gothenburg’s circuit is Oceanen, and it’s here where the rest of Friday begins to take shape. Stockholm five-piece Kerosene Kream flit effortlessly between both the old and new waves of punk at its most primal. With elements of the B-52s here or Amyl & The Sniffers there, Kerosene Kream definitely have something special in their lockers. Although still quite raw when it comes to delivery, they’ve been one of the most coveted bands on the Swedish circuit this year, culminating in being recently signed to esteemed independent PNKSLM. Meanwhile, Gothenburg’s Upploppet channel classic Scandinavian garage punk - we’re thinking Backyard Babies, Hellride and The Hellacopters - into a high octane set that doesn’t let up from the opening bars of “Leopard Lady” to closing number “Gimme That Blues”. It might not be original in the most pedantic sense of the word, but it’s certainly entertaining and quite possibly the liveliest show of the whole weekend.

Ellen Froese (Photo by Estefânia Silva)
Ellen Froese (Photo by Estefânia Silva)

Or it is until Mary Anne’s Polar Rig turn up anyway. Playing a set almost entirely constructed of songs from this year’s excellent second LP Makes You Wonder, the Malmo-based collective mix grunge-laden riffs with pop melodies that draws comparisons with everyone from The Breeders and Sonic Youth to Elastica and Wolf Alice. Signed to Stockholm’s Rama Lama Records, Mary Anne’s Polar Rig might just be the next band that’s ready to break globally from this part of the world.

Perhaps the most established act on the bill - certainly from an international perspective - are Cardiff’s Adwaith. So, it’s an absolute pleasure to see them play to a vibrant Oceanen that’s packed to the rafters. Fusing post-punk, dreampop and shoegaze, Adwaith have blossomed into one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the UK this century. Playing a set almost entirely consisting of material from 2022’s critically acclaimed, Welsh Music Prize winning album Bato Mato give or take the odd couple of songs. One of those being recent single “Addo” which featured Manic Street Preachers guitarist James Dean Bradfield on the recorded version. Singing exclusively in Welsh, the recently extended four-piece - guitarist Gillie Rowland joined founder members Hollie Singer (guitar/vocals), Gwenllian Anthony (bass) and Heledd Owen (drums) - are undoubtedly set for big things in the none too distant future, as signature tune “ETO” closes what can only be described as a flawless set.

Kerosene Kream (Photo by Pedram Fazelzadeh)
Kerosene Kream (Photo by Pedram Fazelzadeh)

The next day, Portuguese metal outfit Systemik Violence make up for lost time and delayed flights which caused them to miss their scheduled slot on Friday by playing two shows Saturday evening. The first of those in the sparse confines of Viva Sounds’ largest venue Musikens Hus serves as a warm-up to the main event in Gothenburg’s premier metal bar The Abyss, which I’m later informed is sadly closing down next year. Malmo-based trio Svart Ridå blend punchy rock anthems with delicately poised dreampop, which makes them one of the most invigorating acts of the festival. Playing to a near capacity Musikens Hus, they’re definite ones to watch over the coming months.

Systemik Violence (Photo by Estefânia Silva)
Systemik Violence (Photo by Estefânia Silva)

It’s left to local electronic duo KÅRP to bring this year’s Viva Sounds to a dramatic close. Playing the festival for the second time; KÅRP also played in 2019; they’ve slowly materialised into a force to be reckoned with, taking their cues from the likes of The Knife, Ladytron and Portishead. Vocalist Anna-Maria Lundberg remains a focal point, shrouded in darkness that’s occasionally illuminated by silhouetted lighting which adds an air of mystery to proceedings. KÅRP provides the perfect climax to a weekend that shall live long in the memory.

Svart Ridå (Photo by Mathias Uhlán)
Svart Ridå (Photo by Mathias Uhlán)

Here’s to Viva Sounds 2024!




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