For a whole week, we barely touched a drop: too expensive, too cold, not a thing like what us Brits are used to. A dry county, Hove might as well have been; not a sip, not a tipple. For a week, teetotal. Lies: we just didn’t eat.
DiS wouldn’t be DiS without the odd dribble of alcohol making its way down our collective cheek after one too many at some festival or other in a far-flung (or not) land, and for a whole week at the end of June we – that’s Mike Diver, Rob Webb, Will Dean, Dom Gourlay, Raz Rauf and snapper Gary Wolstenholme – set up shop at the first-ever Hove Festival, on the Norwegian coast. Yes, the beer was crazy expensive; also yes, the bill was hella eclectic. Ludacris and Slayer on the same stage (albeit not on the same day)? Bring that shit on! And the chicken and beer. Deeelicious.
The event wasn’t just about music, though: Hove is one of a new breed of festivals doing its bit for the environment by aiming to be as carbon-neutral as possible. The festival’s intention is to be the world’s leading festival in terms of protecting the environment it’s set within. You can read more here.
After a flight to Oslo a day earlier with none other than chirpy Yorkshire group Kaiser Chiefs, DiS is obviously as keen as mustard to check the pop-rocking five-piece out as they headline the ‘second stage’ Amfi, an amphitheatre-styled area, at 1am. But, it’s absolutely tipping down outside – indeed, DiS’s first full day in Norway coincides with the highest amount of rainfall the island Hove is set on has ‘enjoyed’ since records began. Soggy. Still, a couple of intrepid pen-pushers make the trek in the slippery mud, arriving in time to hear familiar cries along the lines of “Whooaa! Whoooooaaaa!” and “Na na na na!” The crowd is predictably thin, and DiS is stood in shorts and sandals wondering whether we made the right choice to observe. Maybe. El Kaisers play a hits set that has Wet Norway bouncing to 'I Predict A Riot' et al and, at Ricky Wilson's command, giving the sky the finger to get it to stop pishing down. It doesn't work. They even dedicated a song to their old record label DrownedinSound. It's just a shame it was 'I Can Do It Without You'. Yeah, whatever Wilson – we'd have you at footer.
Earlier in the day, the heavens aren’t quite so viscous: Chromeo take to the Amfi late in the afternoon, essentially opening DiS’s Hove experience. If there's one place where Chromeo should be, it's in a crammed tent at 12am. If there's one place they shouldn't be, it's opening the Amfi in broad daylight to a pitiful crowd in driving rain. But they only go and bloody own it, don't they? Anyone not dancing to 'Fancy Footwork' should have had their feet chopped off with a sharpened vocoder. Good enough to encourage our Nordic hosts to start a "Chromeo, Chromeo, Chro-me-o" chant. One of the highlights of the week.
Which leads us to the festival’s third stage, a bright pink tent hidden away in some woodland. Here, The Twang are swaggering through a set that a handful of DiSsers roll up to. The five-piece, possibly the worst band to emerge from Birmingham ever, manage to confuse a few hundred Norwegian metalheads to the point of virtually emptying the tent by the third song, and when Brickie Twang tries to pull a frightened young girl mid-song by telling her she’s “fit as fuck”, we make our excuses and leave. Immediately.
The main stage – the most imposing of the site’s three ‘proper’ stages – is quite predictably the most imposing, and sits at the bottom of a gentle slop that, ultimately, runs right down to the sea. Here, CSS bounce around jovially, even if Lovefoxxx’s catsuit makes her look like someone in the early stages of pregnancy. They also throw in the first, ill-advised cover of the week, a pointless trawl through L7’s ‘Pretend We’re Dead’, which should have been left on the plane from Brazil. DiS claps and shakes it for a bit, before dragging our soggy frames back to the Amfi for Clipse. Altogether now: “keys open doors… keys, keys open doors”. Being the skinny white boys we are, we don’t know much about hip-hop, but we do know what we like. And for about half of their set, we like Clipse. Even with what we suspect to be prodigious use of a backing track. "Where are all the real Clipse fans at?" demands Malice. "Here!" claims Norway. And so on back and forth, until a joint from an old Clipse mix-tape gets the same reaction as 'hits' like 'Momma I'm So Sorry'. Invariably, the fury of Hell Hath No, er,_ Fury _is lost in the Nordic woodlands, but Clipse prove they're worth the fanboy attention.
Clipse are followed on the Amfi stage by Amy Winehouse (getting the idea that this isn’t your average festival bill yet?). Her arrival on stage coincides with the sky’s return to ‘back To Black’, and it duly proceeds to unleash the heaviest rainfall of the day, soaking us back to the warmth of our chalet. If her performance was as half-assed as it looked on the telly at Glasto, Norway probably didn't miss much. On the third stage, Klaxons impress. It only takes two minutes of their opening (and best) cover version, ‘The Bouncer’, for any doubts to subside. Forget the hype folks: Klaxons really are one of the most entertaining bands around at present, and everybody’s ‘avin’ it – even The Twang at the side of the stage – to their dance-rock hybrid that recalls the likes of Pop Will Eat Itself at their genre-transcending best. Result.
Headlining the main stage on day one are Queens Of The Stone Age, who arrive after a rather insipd set from Incubus (Brandon Boyd’s reluctant to take his shirt off, and that grand nipple-filled spectacle, what exactly is the point of Incubus?); DiS zips up and buttons down and heads towards the front… ish. We’re sure to stay closer to the bar than the stage itself – with the festival’s sole big screen in front of us, albeit one that’s slightly out of sync, we miss nothing. A few years ago it seemed unlikely you’d describe a festival set of QOTSA’s with the prefix ‘greatest hits’ but, tonight, that’s what we get. ‘No One Knows’, ‘Feelgood Hit Of The Summer’ and ‘The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret’ keep the moshpit heaving but we remain a safe distance away, nodding politely. Soaked though we are, Josh and his merry men manage to see us off to the DiS chalet with a smile plastered all over our collective mug. The next day’s hangovers, though: epic.
The second day of Hove finds the Amfi dominated by all things metal: Frenchmen Goijira are the first of four heavy-hitters to attract DiS’s attention to the second stage. Their progressive death metal, ripe with lyrics from the hearts of eco warriors, makes for a refreshing start to proceedings. It’s a bludgeoning set. With a little help from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, ‘Backbone’ _is the song that helps the crowd _“make some fucking noise”, as frontman Joe Duplantier so succinctly puts it. Over on the main stage, The Hold Steady fare less well: ‘snooze-rock’ one DiSSser can be heard to utter under his breath. What’s certain is that their ‘classic’ (in the sense it’s been done so many times before) rock bores a couple of attendees to tears. In the pink tent, Maps make a mighty racket indeed, mixing luscious atmospherics from a bygone (don’t say the ‘s’ word!) era with clicks and chirps out of a contemporary electro act’s repertoire. Despite a sparse turnout, their set doesn’t disappoint.
Back to the Amfi: a cameo appearance from the day’s most eagerly anticipated metal troupe during a Gojira set should be a hard act to follow, but Unearth’s straightforward metalcore has a stern emphasis on the metal. It’s as fast as it is brutal and it sure does whip the crowd up into a manic whirlwind. They’re followed by Chimaira, who somehow manage to reach a whole new level of brutality. It’s arguable that every song sounds the same but it’s also notable that they keep the temp high and the sonic violence consistently… violent. Taking cuts from all four of their albums, the Cleveland bruisers are a fine act to precede the headliners, even withstanding Mark Hunter’s unintentionally comedic stage act.
One of the festival’s true star acts settles at the main stage. ‘Power Out’ _segueing effortlessly into _‘Rebellion (Lies)’? ‘Tunnels’? Win Butler smiling?! Good grief, this is perhaps the perfect Arcade Fire festival set, something for the aficionados and newcomers. The band’s epic maelstroms of overwhelming intensity are, in retrospect, quite possibly the highlight of DiS’ Norwegian excursion. Combining the best bits of both Funeral and Neon Bible, the only downside is that 55 minutes really isn’t long enough for a band this good. Also, if we’re being really picky: their headline sets are usually a little better than this. Still…
Putting a tasty cherry on the heavy metal cake of today is Lamb Of God. Ignore the fact that the newer material sounds a bit too much like Pantera because it’s so much better in so many ways. Adding a vitality and energy into the modern metal scene that consistently saw them blow the tired, sorry Slayer offstage last autumn, rumours that LoG are to disband have left many horrified. Until then, however, they’re touring hard and are making some friends. During ‘Redneck’, Duplantier returns the favour bestowed upon him earlier by Blythe and instructs the crowd to “make some fucking noise”. They accept. The bar has been raised.
The big two on day two, so far as the billing goes, are Bright Eyes and The Killers, the former at the Amfi at 1am and the latter at the sun-still-up hour of quarter-past ten. The Killers, sadly, seem to be under the impression that they have enough tunes to entertain us for over an hour. You’re so, so wrong Brandon and company. In terms of showmanship, though, Flowers is all thumbs up, and his band’s delivery of a few Hot Fuss-era songs do result in communal DiS dancing aplenty: we proceed to ponce around in anoraks, clutching our hipflasks like our sobriety depended on it, however guilty we feel afterwards. The rather average cover of Joy Division’s ‘Shadowplay’, though: bad move.
Conor Oberst can’t follow Arcade Fire’s unequivocal magnificence either, and fails to inject enough energy into his band’s set to maintain wandering (booze-addled?) attentions. ‘Four Winds’ gets toes tapping but, apart from that, there’s precious little to get excited about unless you’re an Oberst obsessive. None of the DiS attendees are, so we retire to fridge-cooled beer. A game of name that tune featuring the Indie Hits of 1994 takes place; Gary, wisely, stays off the Jägermeister…
But, before we bow to the architect of such hits as ‘Southern Hospitality’ and the classically titled ‘Move Bitch’ (mmm, classy), there’s indie-pop to see. Tokyo Police Club got us relatively excited when we first heard their EP but, live, this is the second time they’ve flattered to deceive. ‘Cheer It On’ is a lively start but the pace slackens quickly; a lack of tunes combine with a few technical problems to leave us seriously underwhelmed.
Before the sprightly Canadians’ set, 120 Days’ opening song seems to last as long as the name of its creators, and despite the latter part of the set resorting to the more salubrious settings of planet pop, their Norwegian prog receives a resounding thumbs down. In the tent, 65daysofstatic deliver an opinion-splitting set. Typically bombastic though it is, muddied sound finds some DiSsers dulled into indifference; others, though, are having it to ‘Radio Protector’. As for them coming by to raid the DiS liquor supply, well… we did invite them.
*Akala *– the brother of the rather-better-know Ms Dynamite – opens the main stage a little later than anticipated, meaning that every act on it runs roughly two hours late. He sports a British flag on his t-shirt coloured to match the Jamaican flag – but his mum’s Scottish… what? Anyway, he passes the time nicely enough, and plugs the absolute fuck out of his MySpace site, just so we know who we’re watching.
TV On The Radio take the to Amfi after Tokyo Police Club. Even though they're missing a member (guitarist Kyp Malone is absent), this is still easily the most innovative and accomplished set of the day. Tunde Adebimpe delivers his vocals with a preacher's fervour, and sole axeman Dave Sitek wrenches all manner of glorious white noise from his Telecaster. Lovely stuff. They’re followed by a rather off-form Interpol who – save for guitarist Daniel Kessler – look completely disinterested in being here. "Hi we're Interpol and this is gonna be a rrrriottt!" Paul Banks doesn't shout as the NYC four-piece trudge on stage. His vocals are particularly weak, and even the likes of 'Evil', 'Obstacle #1' and 'PDA' can't save them. Bored, disinterested, and ultimately disappointing, let’s hope Interpol have rediscovered their spark by the time they reach Britain.
And then… Ludacris bounds onto the main stage, arms waving and sidekick in two, and proceeds to deliver Them There Hits. And oh me oh my, aren’t they fun: yeah yeah, skinny-jean indie-rawk is all well and good most of the time, but nobody gets a party started quite like the man who called an album, quite magnificently, Chicken-N-Beer. Winner, frankly. DiS does that thing that you see at hip-hop shows with our hands – up and down and up and down – and ultimately dances as badly as a rhythm-less in-law at a wedding reception. It’s fun, though, dig?
The contrast between Luda and the next act DiS catches couldn’t be greater: with gloom descending – although the sun sets, it never gets really dark here – *Neurosis *take to the Amfi at 1am for a set of bone-shuddering experimental sludge-metal. With rear projections zooming in and out of running foxes, explosions and all sorts of, y’know, stuff to look at instead of a gaggle of aging guitarists, the Steve Von Til-led troupe scratch at all ears before them with utmost aggression, although their sumptuous melodies shine through when their swathes of darkness decide to lift. A previously uninitiated DiSser is left blown away, a testament to the band’s perennial appeal and live prowess.
In the eye-stinging tent of the third stage, The Lionheart Brothers attract a large crowd; they are, of course, one of the few Norwegian acts performing with a genuinely international profile. After a slow start, the brothers Lionheart pick up their game and bowl over the inhabitants of a busy tent with some wonderful MBV-esque drone-rock. Particular highlights in their well received 45-minute set are recent single 'Hero Anthem' plus album tracks '50 Souls And A Discobowl' and 'To Make You Love Me'.
Keep Of Kalessin are a domestic metal band – the main stage will later be headlined by Slayer – who make friends with DiS a few nights before their stage-opening set on day four. Mixing predictable but enjoyable thrash with a slight suggestion of campness (slight!?) and some neatly-timed fireworks, they ensure the returning rain doesn’t dampen DiS spirits any. They told us they’d be the most intense act on the bill and, ‘cause we don’t want to upset men clearly capable of evil, we’ll agree with them.
The Long Blondes bring some much needed glamour to the rain-soaked festival, and from opener 'Lust In The Movies' all the way through to grand finale 'Once And Never Again', it's clear that although the third-stage tent might be the right colour (pretty in pink), it ain't anywhere near big enough to contain these voluptuous pop songs. ‘You Could Have Both’ is easily the classiest five minutes of Hove 2007.
Mastodon are running late, so a quick stage shuffle sees Slayer play before them but still headline the main stage – the Atlanta-spawned quartet will play the Amfi after, quite improbably, Damien Rice. For Slayer, it’s over to the words of metal hater (before Hove) Rob Webb: Previously, this writer would rejected wholesale the notion that it was possible to have fun at a Slayer gig. Sure, you can charge headlong into the moshpit and almost break your nose (see: Gary Wolstenholme), but it's actually possible to stand a safe distance back and enjoy it for what it is: basically, cabaret-metal. And says Dom Gourlay: Slayer practically unite the entire festival and literally slay it to pieces with an hour or so of ear-shredding metal that encompasses their entire, 25-year career. Quite frankly, their set puts most bands half their age to shame, and the sight of Team DiS singing “Angel of Death, monarch to the kingdom of the dead” to a randomly passing man will go down in history.
And from the Amfi, a stray DiSser writes: Poor old Damien Rice, derided as being so wet that only one soppy member of the DiS team took the time to go and watch his acoustic balladeering. Okay, he's hardly going to compete with the Arcade Fire (or Slayer, whose rumble is bouncing over the hills of Hove) but songs like 'Aimee' and 'The Blower's Daughter' are enough to send some of the crowd to tears. Alright, the members of the crowd who are cuddling their beautiful Norwegian partner. Us? We just staggered from foot to foot in hope of avoiding the mud.
Mastodon prove to be surprisingly adept headliners at the Amfi following their late arrival on site. The brute force of material sourced from their latest long-play offering Blood Mountain leaves ribcages rattled, and standout single ‘Capillarian Crest’ is so bonkers it might just qualify for a Mensa badge. With beards out en masse, Hove is reduced to open-mouthed adoration when presented with four ordinary-looking guys making the most extraordinary rock music to ever be pigeonholed as simply ‘metal’. Says Rob Webb: Mastodon's set was pretty much an out-of-body experience. ‘The Radiohead of metal’ didn't turn out to be such a misinformed description after all: heavy they may be but there's a real sense of space here; moments of silence accentuate perfectly those massive, skull-fucking riffs. Oh, how we moshed.
** DAY FIVE**
With DiS DJing the final night at Hove, revelry is kept to a decently respectable level to ensure circuits aren’t fried come our time at the decks. So, the first act we properly catch is Modest Mouse, or five lumberjacks and a Smith, as they shall now be known. There's the nagging feeling that we're watching a Pixies tribute band playing Smiths songs for a change. Boooooring. That said, ‘Float On’ is a bit of a tune…
Devastations attract next to nobody to the pink tent – Billy Talent have stolen the majority of Hove’s attendees away to the main stage, y’see. It’s their loss, as there are some refreshingly innovative arrangements on offer, played by a band that sounds like the hatechild of Nick Cave and The Black Heart Procession. Their slow-building arrangements, full of threat and menace, are very impressive, and it’s a crying shame that so few seem to care. Nevertheless, for the assembled DiSsers Devastations comprise one of Hove’s absolute highlights.
The main stage on Hove’s final day is headlined by emo-goths du jour My Chemical Romance. It’s MCR’s first appearance in Norway but you’d never know it. You could be anywhere in the world right now and the very same indistinguishable emo kids would be crushed against the same indistinguishable crash barriers from 10am. It’s the same inimitable My Chems stage show that serves to excite everyone in attendance so thoroughly. You know it’s a great show when, after the event, you just want to go home and put the CD on. Raz does just that and annoys everyone else in the room. Job done. For a wholly different take on MCR, click here. Thanks, Rob.
Two bands remain, both at the Amfi. First up are* The Horrors*. Yes, we know they’re a rubbish amalgamation of the Inspiral Carpets and The Damned, but keyboard player Spider Webb’s spooky manoeuvres in the dark are a sight to behold. So much so that they completely upstage his singer, even when he steals a clock from the side of the stage mid-song, only to be chased and subsequently reprimanded by two security guards, threatens to hide a sheet of broken glass under his shirt and decapitates a poor greenfly instead. Faris, no one cares about you, not even the Norwegian who (almost) named his brand of fizzy water after you. Mr Webb, however: your future in cabaret is all but secured…
The evening, and ultimately Hove 2007, is rounded off by The Gossip, a band who may have only one song of discernible note but put more blood and sweat into their set than the combined members of Interpol in a 400 metres relay sprint. They also play the best cover of the weekend, a deliriously insane romp through ‘Careless Whisper’ that lays George Michael’s version face down in the mud, strips it naked and shoves a nine-inch dildo up its backside. Which is probably the way he’d like it, to be honest.
_And that’s that… bed, hangover, plane, aches and pains, work again… maybe we’ll see you at Hove 2008? Click here for the festival’s official website.
All photography by Gary Wolstenholme. From top: Arcade Fire (lead image), Hove crowd, Kaiser Chiefs, Amy Winehouse, Queens Of The Stone Age, Hove jetty around 11pm, The Hold Steady, Unearth, Lamb Of God, The Killers, Bright Eyes, Mike tossing a rock into some water, Tokyo Police Club, TV On The Radio, Ludacris, Amfi stage, Lionheart Brothers, The Long Blondes, Slayer, Mastodon, three of Team DiS beside the sea, Modest Mouse, My Chemical Romance, The Gossip _