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Festival Review and Photos: Way Out West, August 9-11, 2012, – Gothenburg, Sweden



Day 2

The War On Drugs

About an hour and a half before The War On Drugs were set to start their set in the Linné tent, the rain started absolutely pouring down all over Gothenburg. When they began, it was still raining – although not nearly as much. Despite this (and an early stage time) a surprising amount of people had defied their hangovers to see The War On Drugs go through an excellent set.

With a close to filled Linné tent it’s hard to imagine that just a year ago they were playing in Stockholm at a hotel bar, even if it was completely packed, and it’s extremely gratifying to find that the band are just as good on festival stage as in a more intimate setting. War On Drugs leader Adam Granduciel is a charming frontman, but what really bring the set to a higher level is his songs and the intense way in which they’re performed – and at the end of the set the whole tent is suddenly clapping along, and gives The War On Drugs the best crowd reaction I saw in the tent all day.

St. Vincent

While I was fully aware of what The War On Drugs would bring to the table St. Vincent was more of an unknown card for me. Annie Clark was something of a revelation live though, being one of the most intense and moving performers of the festival – even more impressive as she was playing so early at the smallest stage of the festival area. While I had St. Vincent pegged for a more singer-songwriter style show beforehand Clark seemed bent on the providing the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll show all by herself, which included crowdsurfing–to the annoyance of the guards.

The Afghan Whigs

Mark Lanegan played in the Linné tent the day before fellow grunge icon Greg Dulli and his Afghan Whigs were set to perform. Due to their shared history, it’s hard to not compare the two, despite Lanegan performing new material and The Afghan Whigs relying on material that, at its most recent, dated back to 1998. While Lanegan and his band seemed intent on the now. The Afghan Whigs’ set was in most ways a celebration of the past, if a very well performed one.

The Afghan Whigs’ reunion tour has been met with excellent reviews and it’s easy to understand why. They’re one of the few reunited acts who can still pull it off live, but throughout the show it all felt a bit irrelevant. A cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes” was a relative high point. Dulli sang it with more immediacy and it was the one song in the set that differed greatly from the rest, making it far more memorable.

Wilco

When it comes to alt-country and ‘00s indie there are few bands who can compete with Wilco, both when it comes to critical acclaim and the number of fans. With last year’s The Whole Love Wilco have delivered their strongest record since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and in February they lived up to their reputation as one of the finest live bands in the world at their Stockholm show, and at Way Out West they did so again.

Despite having more members on stage than most acts, Wilco are a good enough live act to perfectly time the amount of instruments and the volume to what the songs need. They have the ability to make even three guitars sound intimate. Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy is an amiable frontman, but it’s his vocals that really steal the show.Coupled with one of the best live bands, it’s impossible to not get pulled into the set. Sadly enough, Wilco didn’t draw nearly as big a crowd as they deserved.

Bon Iver

Justin Vernon and Bon Iver’s back story has been recounted more than a few times, and it’s hard to not be amazed at how far he’s come, and how much has changed, since recording For Emma, Forever Ago. While For Emma was almost exclusively Vernon’s vocals and guitars, Bon Iver live is a complete other beast, with ten plus musicians on stage (including two drummers). It’s a long way from the intimacy of the record that propelled Vernon to indie stardom.

While the intimacy may be lost with such a big band, it would no doubt have been impossible to achieve on a festival stage this size anyway. The songs from the second Bon Iver LP Bon Iver, Bon Iver are a much closer to the size and number of musicians live, but more impressive is the fact that Vernon has no trouble translating the intimate For Emma songs into massive festival size songs, and his vocals do more than just hold up. The only problem with the show was, as is often the case with festivals here in Sweden, that the volume is too low throughout the set, but one can hardly fault Bon Iver for that.

Blur

The reunion of Blur is perhaps bigger than most people in Sweden have realized, but they were still without a doubt one of the main draws of the festival. Last year Way Out West had the similarly reunited Pulp and it’s an obvious comparison – two of the biggest Britpop acts, same festival, etc – and out of the two Pulp was clearly the better.

During the first forty-five minutes of Blur’s set they stood for a very good stadium-sized show, rolling out the hits, with Damon Albarn acting the perfect frontman. For every Blur fanatic in the crowd, it was no doubt a dream come true. For those of us who are only casual fans it was a good, if slightly dull, concert. Though Pulp were able to turn skeptics to fanatics with only a live show. Blur’s set was instead the type that fans will rave about but others will remain unmoved, and after 45 minutes I headed over to the Linné tent to see I Break Horses instead.

I Break Horses

Prior to the festival I was looking forward to I Break Horses, perhaps more than any other band, in large part due to the fact that they’re yet to perform live in their hometown Stockholm. The clash with Blur was obviously painful, but a fair few others had made their way to the Linné tent as well.

I Break Horses shoegaze-inspired electronic dream pop was a perfect fit for the eleven o’clock spot, and with the added help of backing vocals from Kicki Halmos of Masquer and a backing band the duo satisfied everyone who had made the sacrifice of skipping Blur. As with their excellent debut LP Hearts, the main attraction of the concert was obviously their songs, beautifully framed on a smoky stage, and with the sound for once being just as loud as it needed to be to showcase the textures and movements of their music.

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