I’ll find a way, I’ll find a way, I always manage

Árstíðir – Castelfest, Lisse; August 4th 2018

When I told my front row neighbor at Castelfest how much I’d missed Árstíðir and that I was really excited to see them again she comented “You need your fix!” and that was exactly what it was. The last concert had been more than seven months ago. It all seemed so long from them finishing the album early this year to its release to finally having the first chance to see them live again after all this time. Then again I did need a break, so in the end it was probably a good thing. For the first time in a long time I felt truly at home with the music, felt the magic it contains and for the first time in a long time there were no mixed feelings, just happiness.

I’d been in Iceland the previous week and flown to the Netherlands Friday morning, about 1.5 hours after the guys did. as opposed to them I did not go straight to Lisse though, but spent the day in Haarlem. The weather change from about 15 degrees in Iceland to 30+ in the netherlands was a bit much for me so I was happy this day was slightly overcast and hence not as warm. Still, on the shuttle bus to the festival I sweat bucketloads. The walk from the parking lot to the festival grounds was alot longer than I had expected, but eventually I arrrived. I arrived early, because I wanted to have time to explore the festival. It has a medieval theme and many people dress up for that. Saturday was also cosplay day so I saw a lot of different Doctors and many others. The costumes were brilliant. While walking around I got to hear music from the different stages too, but never watched any band in particular, just stayed here and there for a little bit and then moved on. It was fun and easy to pass the time until the guys were scheduled to play. I ran into J. somewhere along the way and around 5, when I was already standing in front of the stage, P. arrived.

Watching the guys setting up the stage for a while I waved to them and noticed that they had brought Guillaume and Jean-Samuel, but no drummer. I had hoped for one, because the new album has so much drums on it, but it made me happy to have a quintet again and not a trio. Sure, they can pull off a trio gig, but it all sounds so much better with real strings. From then on I knew everything was going to be alright!

On this beautiful, hot, Saturday evening the guys walked out and after saying hello, Ragnar told us how much they loved eing at this unique festival. The intro started and for a brief moment I thought it might be ‘While this Way’ but soon realized it was ‘Himinhel’. “Hm,” I though, “is this going to be the same old setlist?” Next was ‘Things you said’ and I knew they were playing it safe. Don’t get me wrong, hearing them again was all sorts of amazing, but I was really waiting for the new songs. With the next one though, they got me. “We’re gonna sing a song without the Instruments,” Gunnar said and it was a gorgeous Icelandic piece. They have done this one before, but I still don’t know what it is called. They sang beautifully, eyes closed, fully concentrated on the music and there it was: The magic that I thought I had lost suddenly returned. It moved me deeply and it instantly made me smile.

Daniel mused about the non-existing summer in Iceland and told us they’d only had three days of sun so far. well, I had three days of sun while I was there  😉 Ragnar added that since one could not go to the beach the only thing to do was be in the studio and make albums and they’d just released a new one. An amazing rendition of ‘Entangled’ followed. To my surprise I remembered most of the lyrics. the song itself had evolvd from the version they’d played at Iceland Airwaves. What a great song. Ragnar told us about making the music video for this in the rain and about a Picture with a giant umbrella covering a camera rig and two people. 🙂 I had really missed all their stories.

It got better and better from there on, as if they’d picked only my favorites to play. ‘Someone who cares’ is always welcome and ‘Lost in you’ is one song I loved early on, then lost somehow and fell in love with all over again right then and there. <3 When they talk about how they have not done this or that song in a long time, I often have a different feeling about it. I’m pretty sure they have played ‘You just have to know of me’ at almost every show I’ve been to. Never mind though, I won’t get tired of this one. Gunnar said how lovely it was to play there because he had never seen so many people who were so silent during the songs. True, nobody seemed to be talking and it suited their music well.

‘Lover’ was brilliant and seemed to have changed a little since Iceland Airwaves. It was even better than the album version with the voice being a bit clearer and more in the foreground. I loved it. This is one of my favorite song on ‘Nivalis’. Compared to everything else on the album, ‘Mute’ is not on the top of my list, but I enjoy it very much live. The lyrics really touch me, even though I have yet to figure out what they mean. Of the new songs I’d heard before the album this was the first one that felt very different from the old. A change was noticeable with the earlier ones, but ‘Mute’ really rocked, felt much “harder” than everything else and yet very fitting. I still remember the “WOW!” moment when thy performed it at Iceland Airwaves for the first time.

Ragnar announced they were going to do an experiment they can only do when they have a really good audience, i.e. play an acoustic set with unplugged instruments singing into the same microphone. My neighbor joked they might be just sucking up and I confirmed that “they say this every time”. True, but this audience was actually really good at listening so it was true. ‘Með hallandi höfði’, their cover of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s ‘Helplessly Hoping’ always gets to me and it did so this time. It was so beautiful it made me sigh. They asked if we recognized the song and somebody actually did. ‘Góda veslu göra skal’ was a surprise in the middle of the show. It was dedicated to Eivor, a Faroese Artist that had played the night before. ‘Ages’ has always had a special place to my heart and resonated with me deeply. The live world premiere of ‘Conviction’ closed the acoustic set and was a true highlight. Wow! The song is rather soft so I wasn’t sure how it would work live, but it really blew me away. 🙂

At this point I was already so lost in the music I had lost my sense of time and it felt like a realy long concert. usually the best ones feel like they go by in a heartbeat, but this one seemed to last and he smile on my face grew bigger with every song. Somewhere along the way my neighbor asked me if I felt better now that I had my fix and all I could do was nod. This is what every Árstíðir concert should feel like and there was a time when they all did, but lately it had been difficult for me at times to fully feel the music so much that I get lost in it. Then at there, it finally happened again and was so intense that I wasn’t prepared for it at all. Happy does not even begin to describe it. Content is more like it. I would not have wanted anywhere else in the world and I wanted to hold on to that feeling for as long as I possibly could. <3

‘Ljóð í Sand’ a song I have hear so often it seemed tired at times, was perfect hat day and ‘Silfurskin’ always is. I noticed that it came without the story of riding trains in Russia, but it sure did take me on a trip down memory lane and right into my happy place. Ragnar asked how many in the audience spoke Icelandic and there actualy was a show of hands by a few people. 🙂 As I looked around I spotted S. in the crowd and smiled. It is always nice to see familiar faces.

Finally they played ‘While this Way’, the song I’d been waiting for. Gunnar sang the first lines very softly – it was perfect. I love the song very much and as I expected it cut me deeply. Back on the tour with Sólstafir I had already fallen in love with the music, but the lyrics had not found their way into my soul yet. Meanwhile they did and the more often I listen to it, the more perfectly the song seems to fit. “Oh I am the way I am, the way I am…” – knowing the guys still make music that can move me so much is a relief to me and further proof that it hasn’t lost any of its magic, I just wasn’t able to see it for a while.

There could not have been a better follow up than ‘Passion’. It is such a lovely song and it speaks to me on many levels. I loved having ‘Shine’ back on the setlist, travel to Mars story and all. Needless to say it was amazing. Gunnar announced another cover and said they thought this was the perfect place for it. The song was ‘Scarborough Fair’ and I agreed. It is one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs and I adore their cover, especially because they do it as they did, with Ragnar and Gunnar singing ‘Scarborough Fair’ and Daníel singing ‘Canticle’. I always imagine this to be incredible hard and he did a brilliant job. <3

Ragnar told us they’d have two more songs for us and would meet us after the show to have drinks and learn Dutch phrases. 😀 The show ended in the tried and tested combination of a beautiful ‘You again’ and a killer version of ‘Shades’ where, as always, I watched the string players mostly. It has always been a great song to end the concert with and it was that night too. We wanted more and I am 100% sure they would have played another one, but as opposed to the band who’d played before them they were not give the chance. Judging by one of the festival employees showing them “5 minutes left” at the beginning of ‘You again’ I would guess they were over their limit already. Either way I loved the show and so did the guys. There could not have been any better way for the guys to start a new season of concerts! I certainly hope more will follow soon.

pictures of this concert

Setlist

Himinhvel
Things you said
Unknown Icelandic song
Entangled
Someone who cares
Lost in you
You just have to know of me
Lover
Mute

Acoustic set
Með hallandi höfði
Góda veslu göra skal
Ages
Conviction

Ljóð í Sand
Silfurskin
While this Way
Passion
Shine
Scarborough Fair / Canticle
You again
Shades

I talked to them for a bit after, saying how much I had loved it. That really doesn’t even begin to express my emotions. It felt like the rebirth of something special. Trying to find out when they would actually tour proved to be fruitless, because all they knew was that it was going to be in September. The first concert I know about is in seven weeks, but there is nothing I can do about that. Anyway, it was wonderful to talk and get a few hugs before they had to pack. Of course we never saw each other again after that, the festival is just too big to manage meeting someone without specifying where.

Thus, I spent time talking to S., P. and J. and ended up sharing drinks with J., watching the burning of the Wicker Man and the band Faun from after after the others left. It was a great day and I took many happy memories home with me.

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Powerful women, new discoveries and old memories

Suikerrock – Grote Markt, Tienen; July 28th, 2018

This year and especially this summer is apparently the time to ride the nostalgia train and see bands/ artists that I’ve love back in the 90ies, some for the first time and some again after a long break. I went to Suikerrock to finally see Anouk and while I was there to give Alanis Morissette a second chance. Having the goo goo dolls in the line up was a welcome addition and the other bands were not half bad either. My quest to see artists I have never seen before often takes me to amazing places and this was one of them. The festival was well organized and lovely overall – I had a great time.

Going to Brussels on the first possible train meant being up at 4 am – a little early for a Saturday. Luckily, I could directly check in when I arrived in Tienen around 10 and catch up on some sleep. I had no idea when the festival area would open so i went and checked it out around 1:30 and they were just setting everything up. Abou an hour later I was back and got in. The stage had a good size and at that time there was still a lot of room so I got a front row spot on the right side of the catwalk and thanks to the nice people around me managed to keep it until the end of the night. Drinks first (really, you could not sell bigger bottles in this heat?) I settled down, sitting as long as I could to get some shade. Shortly before the first band started I realized I had forgotten my earplugs. Luckily they were giving them away for free at the festival.

SONS were up first and they did not impress me much. It was straightforward rock, loud, but nothing unusual. They were young or at least they looked like they were barely out of high school and at times they seemed to have a contest on who could play the fastest. They weren’t bad musicians, just not my style. There enthusiasm was great though and they had a few fans in the audience who rocked along, sang and head banged with the music. As  far as first bands go it could have been much worse. They made me smile and that was enough. 🙂

Somehow I had thought it was the goo goo dolls’ turn now, but before that happened, Milo Meskens played for us. His pop tunes were lovely and instantly wormed their way into my ears. The whole time he was playing I could not shake the feeling that he reminded me of someone else, but I have no idea who. Maybe it was just because his name made me think of Milow. Either way, I loved his songs, I’ll put him on the long list of people whose music I#ll need to check out eventually and by check out I mean buying a CD. I liked his voice a lot and what I gathered of the lyrics was nice too. I’ll have to listen again and figure out if it still appeals to me then, but for now I was happy I got the chance to see him. He came across really likable too, maybe I#ll see more of him one day.

I highly anticipated the goo goo dolls, even though I wasn’t sure I knew any song but ‘Iris’. For a while I was convinced I had seen them before, but eventually it occurred to me that I had only seen Gin Blossom and embarrassingly I have no idea how I managed to confuse the two. Either way, I knew they had been around for a while and was looking forward to seeing them. Rightfully so, they put on one hell of a show. Their energy was contagious and soon they had people moving and clapping along. Clearly, some people had come just to see them and quite a few others enjoyed their music as well. Many of the songs were familiar to me, even though I could not have named any of them. I loved the music and I loved how they interacted with the audience making much use of the catwalk and therefore coming very close to me. 😀 It was fun seeing them and when the singer announced “this was the first song anyone knew and I don’t know if you know it, but I am a guest in this country so be polite and pretend you do” I pretended alright. I can’t remember which one it was though, just that I liked it and it actually sounded vaguely familiar. I even attempted singing along even though I did not know the lyrics. *insert sheepish smile here*. Their set was over in a heartbeat and of course they played ‘Iris’ too – it was the very last song.

Setlist

Dizzy
Slide
Big Machine
Rebel Beat
Here Is Gone
Black Balloon
Free of Me
So Alive
Name
Over and Over
Stay With You
Bringing On The Light
Better Days
Broadway
Iris

Next up where White Lies a Dutch band I have never heard of even though they must have been around for at least ten years since the singer announced one song they released ten years ago. It was dancy pop music, a bit on the electro side. I have no idea if that description makes sense, but that was what it felt like. Listenable tunes, no more and no less. I liked some of them, others did not speak to me, but overall it was good and they got the audience going too. It worked well to bridge the time before the act I really wanted to see.

Setlist

To Lose My Life
Farewell to the Fairground
Take It Out on Me
Morning in LA
Believe It
Is My Love Enough
Unfinished Business
Death
Hold Back Your Love
Don’t Love Your Mothers
Big TV
Bigger Than Us

Anouk was the one I had come to see and what a force of nature she was. Back in the mid 90ies she’d had one hit in Germany with ‘Nobody’s Wife’ and my best friend B. and I had tickets to go see her in Düsseldorf. Unfortunately that concert was cancelled due to her being ill and to my knowledge she has not been back to Germany since or at least I didn’t know about it, She is, however, quite popular in her home country the Netherlands and a few years ago I came across her music again, bought a couple of albums and have been wanting to see her ever since. Finally I did. Obviously I had not listened to her music enough though, because apart from ‘Nobody’s Wife’ there was not one song I recognized and judging by the setlist I should have at least know a few. That didn’t matter at all though, I loved every minute of her show nonetheless.

She had an amazing band, including a four men background choir who sang their hearts out. Their singing and the great playing of the other band members created the perfect background for her amazing, soulful voice. Every not she hot was perfect and boy did she get into it. Sometimes she stood really still and at other times she moved wildly across the stage, her hair flying. I could have watched and listened for hours. She had powerful songs and softer ones and she even gave us ‘Nobody’s Wife’. Many people sang along to every word and I wished I could have done that, but I had to be content with listening. The sound was great, every word could be clearly heard. There was one very beautiful slow song towards the end that brought me very close to tears, but I have yet to figure out which one that was. At one point, someone in the audience yelled “Anouk, you rule” and I agree that she does. 🙂 So much power and so much soul. It blew my mind. Time went by too quickly and before I knew it she already waved goodbye. What a woman! Totally worth the trip.

Setlist

To Get Her Together (intro)
Girl
Been Here Before
Run Away Together
Burn
Down & Dirty
Modern World
Killer Bee
Three Days in a Row
Looking for Love
Nobody’s Wife
Lost
Jerusalem
Good God

The last time I’d seen Alanis Morissette was in the early 2000s and that concert had left me terribly disappointed, because the sound at that venue was so bad that I could not hear a word she was singing. 🙁 I had lost track of here some time ago, but since I was at the festival anyway I decided to give her a second chance. So gar the sound had been great so I was pretty sure I’d understand her this time around. The woman next to me, who was there specifically to see her, told me she’d been doing mostly her old songs on this tour. Fine with me, I’d loved her music back in the day.

I totally expected long flying hair, but when she came out I saw it was short now – nice too. She had a five piece band with her and none of the guys looked familiar, but it had been a long time since I’d last seen her. They were great, but when she started singing, I once again could not make out the words. I did recognize the songs, but I could not really hear what she was singing and no fiddling with my earplugs helped. So I spent the first few songs thinking “it wasn’t the venue, it was Alanis” and I saw how she often held the mic far from her mouth – maybe too far? Luckily it got better after a while and I started enjoying the show. 🙂

She indeed played many of the old songs, in fact there were only two songs in her set that were unfamiliar to me. I found myself grooving and even singing along with many others in the audience. ‘Guardian’ was the first song I really enjoyed and the turning point was ‘Hand in my Pocket’ where everyone sang and moved along. This was the concert I had been hoping for. Alanis was constantly on the move across stage and the band played together a lot too, i.e. visiting each other. I remember her playing harmonica and leaning down in front of the drummer or following the bassist and guitar players across stage. All of it was awesome. For ‘Ironic’ she changed the line about “Meeting his beautiful wife” to “beautiful husband” while the bassist went and snuggled the organ  player. 😀 I could not remember all of the lyrics, but I did have lot of fun. Unexpectedly she even played an encore an after a good 90 minutes left us with ‘Thank U’. I got lucky and was handed a setlist in the end. Yay!

When I finally got back to my hotel at almost 1:30 in the morning I was dead tired, but glad I made the treck to Belgium. 🙂

Setlist

All I Really Want
21 Things I Want in a Lover
Forgiven
Woman Down
You Learn
Mary Jane
Guardian
Right Through You
Hand in My Pocket
Everything
So Pure
Head Over Feet
Hands Clean
Ironic
You Oughta Know

Encore
Uninvited
Thank U

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