What? Trondheim Calling Festival, Norway
When? Friday 5th February, 2016
Where? Olavshallen Lille Sal, Trondheim, Norway
What Worked? The music – their performance was faultless
What Didn’t? The venue – like being at a disco in a school Assembly hall
Last week I travelled to Norway, Trondheim to be exact, for the annual music festival Trondheim Calling, a three day event held across various locations in the mid northern city, set up some six years ago, with the sole aim of showcasing the best and most diverse of Norwegian musical talent, local and nationwide. Over 70 acts played over the course of the three nights of TC, but naturally, there could only be three headline acts! The band that filled that cherished spot on the Friday night, was Oslo based five piece, Dråpe.
Now Dråpe just kinda happen to be one of my favourite Norwegian bands, and, given that I had never seen them play live before, it was with much excitement and if I’m honest, a heightened sense of expectation, that I pitched up at the venue, Olavshallen Lille Sal, for their 00.30am slot. Let’s get this out of the way early on – the venue was wrong on more than one level.
Firstly, it was off the beaten track, away from where the other “attention grabbers” like Dagny were playing, and secondly, it more than resembled the local school hall I used to frequent as a 16 year old attending harmless discos. On the up side, the stage was huge, which gave the band all the space in the world for their multiple pieces of equipment and, more importantly, for any serious “animated acrobatics” they might so desire to partake in once they hit 5th gear.
And hit 5th gear they did.
Dråpe are a band who have been playing together for some time now and it is clear they have cemented that sense of musical unity only inherent in bands who have had the advantage of working their way through the “getting to know you” phase. Furthermore, they have also clearly benefitted from having followed up the late Autumn ’15 release of their album, Relax/Relapse, with an intense domestic tour of Norway, which obviously enabled them to iron out any on-stage glitches, and perfect their live sound.
The set was approx 35 minutes so the short n sweet set-list pretty much focused on tracks from the album, including crowd pleaser singles, ‘Pie in the Sky’ and ‘Round and Around’, (for which the band shot their first music video), the rendition of which was simply superb and included some super neat stick speeds from drummer Kirkemyr as well as some pretty spectacular keys playing from Eirik F.
Dråpe also played the awesome kickass “?” or Questionmark, a track which includes some of the most unique and socially cutting lyrics seen this side of Can and the Manics, as well as ‘Replica’ with its astounding ‘wonky bonkers’ guitar sequences and ‘Relapse’ both of which highlighted Evan Hafnor’s effortless talent.
Whilst animated and energetic throughout, this wasn’t by any means a jumping jack flash performance in the style of Suede or Mode, nor was it one of those gigs where the the spotlight is thrown on individual members of the band allowing them to cut loose with a 45 second solo run showcasing their wares as it were. In fact, if anything it was the reverse, with Messrs. Hafnor and Boquist pretty much staying low key, sticking to the wings, and getting on with the “job”. And a damn fine job they did.
The focal point on the night, seemed to be on the triumvirate of front-man Ketil Myrhe, keys/guitar playing Eirik Fidjeland and drummer Eirik Kirkemyr. It was no happy accident that placed Fidjeland beside Myhre – clearly these are two guys who share a unique bond. The chemistry between them was electrifying and when every now and again Mr F raised his head from his synths to take a peek at his partner in musical crime, it was with a look that said, “You ok there brother? You enjoying yourself? Cos I am!” Undoubtedly the connection between these two is as solid as a Norwegian Pine tree – and musically everything else around them works all the better for it.
In drummer Kirkemyr, Dråpe have a proficient anchorman – the performance of each song hinged upon his ability to keep both rhythm and tempo on point – and he did, with complete ease. That’s not to detract from Lars Boquist’s jazz influenced “chilled” but tight bass playing which has always been a musical lynch pin for their melody lines.
The interaction with the audience switched between Myhre and Kirkemyr but as my Norwegian is limited to Tussen Takk and Gin og Tonic, which now comes with a newly perfected Norwegian influenced falsetto of “Did you say 140 krone?”, regrettably I had no notion of what they were saying – but hey, the crowd seemed to get it and were throwing back seemingly hilarious retorts, to the latter in particular.
Mid set the band launched into an as yet un-named new song – was it good? -hell yeah! And if it’s a teaser of what is coming down the line on album number three (please please) then it is certainly going to be their best yet. Canicular Days oldie ‘Memories’, also made the grade and you know what, it SO should not have worked. Originally sung as a duet with Myhre and ex member Hanne Olsen Solem, this is a gloriously lush, dreamy, indie-love song to which Solem gave a delicate feminine charm. Myrhe’s controlled, pitch perfect vocal performance, which he stripped bare, was exceptional. There was no place to hide – he didn’t need it. This was Ketil Myhre at his vocal best and whilst very simply arranged, was surely one of the most stunning performances of the night.
Was the set 100% perfect – nope. Did all the songs work? I’d be lying if I said yes. Sadly, one of my fave Dråpe songs did not translate well live. Well, at least to these ears – others may disagree. ‘My Friend the Scientist’ is the perfect radio song, with lots of electronic sounds, layers of texture, amazing guitar playing and buckets of reverb, but live it fails where the others shine. What was the reason? I wracked my brains but finally put it down to the songs slightly dragging, slow single-step lurching tempo.
Be that as it may, as I alluded to earlier, the bands performance was faultless. More often than not most bands are incapable of translating from record to live perfectly – Dråpe do so seamlessly. And whilst I know I took issue with the venue, the sound was in fact spot on and greatly added to the impeccability of the bands live technique/interpretation.
Highlight of the night was undoubtedly ‘There is a House’ which showcased the very best of Dråpe’s instrumental abilities. But it was Myhre’s scintillating and searing extended guitar instrumental that made this the star of the show. It was simply Thrilling, capital T. In fact – THRILLING – all caps. In perfecting the live rendition of ‘There is a House’ Dråpe took a mighty fine song and transformed it into something surreal, providing Trondheim Calling with one of the standout song performances of the entire festival – in fact – it was THE single standout performance.
My first Dråpe live show – did they disappoint, no! Did they live up to expectation – they exceeded it! Would I recommend them to gig goers – absolutely 100%. And if they happen by any chance to grace TC with their astonishingly good, reverbed presence in 2017, please guys, give them a decent venue, in the middle of the action. It will only serve to enhance what is already a pretty staggering live set.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
If you have a spare three mins – would really appreciate if you could answer this quick poll which is for research purposes vis a vis the Norwegian music industry and it’s impact on the music scenes outside of its domestic market. Cheers.