Photos by Mia Vestergaard Andersen
This Year’s NorthSide festival was definitely a great success – in that people turned up, the festival sold-out and pretty much every act on any of the 3 stages delivered sets to the best of their ability. Now – the weather was unobjectionably shit, and the line-up and general program seemed to leave many of the hard-core music fans that have gone every year, a bit miffed. By “miffed” I mean something bordering on disappointed and confused – but still accepting it for what it is.
The talk around town was that it seemed like Radiohead, once booked, had taken everyone’s focus from other groups that might be booked. Many of the names were either very niche (Primus, Run The Jewels, Afghan Wigs) or a little inappropriate for what initially began as a rock festival (Tina Dickow, Thomas Helmig, Rasmus Walter, Saveus) – the latter being names that you might expect more typically to appear at the more family-friendly Grøn Koncert or Nibe. The big conflict, however, was the fact that all of the pop-heavy line-up – this year including acts that seemingly perform every year (Mø anyone?) or that really don’t offer anything substantial to international fans who were looking to catch Radiohead – despite economic peril, in the European City Of Culture 2017, Aarhus. There were whispers of this year’s program being almost a “bait and switch” – grabbing a huge act to attract loads of punters but then layering the other time slots through the weekend with less than stellar offerings.
Now – from a fan’s and now 7-year attendee of NS’s perspective, the festival seemingly nailed it this year with the actual running of it. Any problems, major or minor in the past have been addressed and resolved. Queues for bars were minimal, toilets were found everywhere and tidy, free water, better sound, amazing food, an entrance that gets people in quick, without the normal hours of waiting the first day and in the early hours, responsible safety issues resolved with cleverly placed crush barriers, and now more areas outside of the 3 music stages to play and interact. Sometimes I bemoan this switch to a more boutique festival – with fancy gourmet restaurants, exclusive wine and champagne tastings, Yoga workshops and even baking courses and talks. If one was to appear at the festival and not want to see a single fucking band, you could still find plenty to do. It begs the question – why would you though? Still, however, my views on that are changing the older and wearier I get of plopping down in the dirt exposed to the elements. I might prefer my festival to be more Spartan and focused on music rather than sideshows, but I still yearn for creature comforts to make a 3-day marathon cozy.
Was the festival oversold though? It seems that 5,000 extra tickets were released to the public than last year – however, the campus not growing by any significant means other than the re-location of the backstage areas. Only when the sun was shining for most of Saturday though did it ever feel a little too crowded – and impossible to move around or sit on the ground because of the absolute sea of mud that was everywhere from the torrential and constant rains of Friday. The weather was not on this year’s festival’s side really. The workers and organizers did their best, however, to keep the grounds navigable by moving earth and laying down mulched wood chips – providing traction finally Sunday for festival goers – until again, the heavens opened up for Radiohead – in an absolute storm. Many folks, as we mentioned in the full Radiohead review, were just Done by the time they played – leaving before and during the 2-hour show by the headliner. Any casual Radiohead fans were finding it tough to brave through nautical weather – and also what would be a challenging albeit amazing performance by the historically gloomy band.
I’ll wager to guess that thousands of people enjoyed seeing Suspekt, Helmig and Tina Dickow – hell – it’s nothing against them – they all performed as they should – in fact, the only potentially disappointing shows over the whole weekend might have been Frank Ocean – who seemingly was late for his time slot, and potentially out of form, being that this was his first live show IN 4 YEARS. The sound allegedly was iffy for anyone outside of the front areas. I’m also happy to sit in a field on a sunny day with my mates and tens of thousands of happy people and drink beer – which is really what NorthSide is for many. I however – am a music boffin, and I will leave my friends or family stranded in the mud to go see a band. I’m totally cool with that – and on many occasions – my personal highlights ended up being solo missions (Ride, Primus, Afghan Wigs and Thomas Dybdahl) and I became enveloped in a sea of wonderful music on my own.
NorthSide has become an institution for the city. It’s always something to look forward to – even though it has become quite expensive and slightly overblown. There are many creature comforts, however, which makes it do-able for people of all ages. My wish is that they would focus a bit more on music than creating a playground for the aging VIP demographic. There were some incredible bookings this year who gave life-affirming performances that hit me hard, but on the other hand, there were also forgettable slots by regional pop-acts that most folk could go see any weekend of the summer in the provinces.
In brief summary: NS17 was challenging weather-wise, but for some, was a great success as Radiohead played a stellar set to their hard-core fans that were brave enough to finally get their money’s worth from a pop-heavy line-up. NorthSide has proved again that it is still relevant in its 7th season despite playing it safe with sections of the program.