Árstíðir – Nordic Delight Festival, Utrecht; October 4th, 2014
A far as festivals go, I like the small ones, that don’t draw thousands of people, but usually have a friendly atmosphere and an interesting selection of bands. Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll find any big megastars at such a festival, but you are also spared the endless wait and suffering through lots of boring acts for the bands you really want to see and some other inconveniences big festivals might. Nordic Delight in Utrecht was a small, but mostly well-organized festival with a great selection of bands and nice people as well as good food to boot. Except for Árstíðir, my reason for attending the festival, I had only heard of one band before and only the name in that case. Since the schedule wasn’t released long before the even and I didn’t have any time to prepare, I just settled for being surprised. It all turned out to be pretty awesome.
An early flight from Helsinki and a two-hour train ride took me to Utrecht. There was not much time to rest before I had to leave and meet P. at the venue. Thanks to the city seemingly being one big construction site, I got lost first though. 😐 The festival area was nicely located at a museum and included a church, an open air stage and another small venue. When we entered we saw a sig advertising acoustic sessions later that night with Árstíðir being the last to play at 10 pm. Momentarily I was overjoyed with the prospect of getting two concerts instead of one, but the information turned out to be false. We checked out the area first, got drinks, sat down and listened to the music from the open air stage. I saw Ragnar walking about and said hello, later we met Masha, Gunnar and Karl too. It was a relaxed atmosphere overall with people walking from venue to venue, listening her and there.
First we checked out the Icelandic band Vök at the church, thought they were OK, but decided to see what Get Your Gun were like. We had been there earlier, but the were only checking the lights then. Now they seemingly had sound, but not much light. Soon we knew we had liked Vök better and returned to the church to see and hear the end of their set. Not that electro is much of my thing, but they were surprisingly good. Árstíðir were supposed to be next and even though there was still a 45 minute wait we decided to stay. The church floor was a bit cold for sitting there, but we managed anyway and passed the time taking. Eventually more people arrived and sat down while the guys set up their instruments. They didn’t get a soundcheck and had to fight a few technical difficulties, before everything worked, but finally it did.
Meanwhile more people had arrived and the church floor was nicely filled with people looking up at the stage expectantly. First we got to hear some tuning until the guys were ready. There was not much time for them to present their songs so they didn’t waste any of it talking and just played. The song selection was pretty much perfect for such a short set, condensing the previous weeks’ setlists into the most important songs to show how versatile the band is. The only thing missing was an a-cappella song, but less than that every one of the guys had a chance to shine.
I was wondering which song they’d choose to start with an immediately smiled when the first notes of ‘You just have to know of me’ were played. I still remember the first time I heard that intro and didn’t recognize the song right away, wondering what the beautiful string melody would lead to. This song speaks to me on so many levels, I cannot even begin to describe it. 🙂 ‘Heiðin’ followed, showing the audience what an Icelandic Árstíðir song sounds and feels like. Only after it was over I took a look around and saw several people listen in awe. It felt like the band needed to work quite hard, but it paid off. Seeing people move along with the music for ‘Nú gleymist ég’ made me happy. The song is so powerful, it’s hard to believe how anyone could not be moved by it, but seeing such reactions makes it so much better.
After such dramatic music ‘Á meðan jörðin sjefur’ was the perfect counterpoint, calming and soft. ‘Someone who cares’ gave everyone one last chance to breathe (or completely get lost in the melody) before ‘Kill us’ woke everyone up again. I loved the changes in pace between the slower and faster songs, because I feel these truly reflect what the band is all about. I would not want anyone to think for even a minute that all their songs are similar. They made exactly the right choices to show they are not. As far as I could tell, it worked. Most of the audience looked like they were enjoying the music. ‘Shine’ was as amazing as ever, but it came a s a surprise when they said there was only ne song left. Wait, what? ‘Shades’ was last and if that didn’t convince people nothing could. I believe it did though, everyone looked happy. Unfortunately, the audience didn’t call for an encore, even though there would have been time for at least one more song. Too bad, really, but it was a good set with nothing to complain about except the length. I asked P. and she enjoyed it too. Success!
You just have to know of me
Nú gleymist ég
Á meðan jörðin sjefur
Someone who cares
After the gig it was time to finally get some food. They did not have a large selection, but an interesting one and we both settled for some delicious Pumpkin soup. 🙂 We strolled over to the open air stage to see what the Danish band Blaue Blume could do. I immediately liked their sound and we stayed until the end. Then it was back to the church for the Norwegian Einar Stray Orchestra. They were really good. We still went and checked out Ghost Venue in-between, but immediately returned to the church. It was such lovely music. Last on out list were the Swedish Wintergatan, at the open air stage. All of them played multiple instruments and they were highly entertaining. We both liked their music – P. had chosen well when taking a look for interesting bands beforehand, all of those were her recommendations. After that we were ready to go. P.’s husband picked her up and they walked me back to the train station before they drove home. Overall it was a nice festival, well worth attending and I spent it in good company too.