Sunday, 3 March 2013
Friday 1st March 2013
We (me and my wife Pernilla) knew something must be rotten in Denmark as soon as the cab driver didn’t know the street we’d given him as our destination. He tapped it into his sat-nav, and all became clear. We were off to DJ at the album launch for MF/MB/s new album. Now despite Malmö being jam packed with exotic venues, MF/MB/ had decided that said album launch should take place at SingSang, which is slap bang in the middle of the industrial district. During daylight hours that wouldn’t be a problem our cabbie informed us, but he couldn’t drive in there at night. By now my curiosity had gotten the better of me and I asked him to elaborate. ‘What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of illegal clubs?’ He asked us.
I look at Pernilla and she looks back at me. Good times, no curfew, cheap bar - I’m sure Pernilla was thinking the same as me.
‘Drugs, violence and weapons.’ he barked back at us before we had a chance to say a word.
Being a nice chap he took us all the way up to the door of the venue anyway, pointing out the police signs that forbid traffic from stopping in this area between 5pm and 6am seven days a week. Seven days a week! We jump out and thank him, it’s not often you get a decent cab driver, and the chunky guy with the bluetooth ear jewellery was just that. I just hoped we could find someone like him to dare to venture out here to get us home after the gig, since walking through this obviously lawless wasteland in the wee hours of Sunday morning armed only with a record box and an oncoming hangover seemed like a really bad idea.
We’d got to the venue early. We’re always early. There were three other people there, Rickard who runs SingSang and whose name I forgot almost as soon as he said it much to my own embarrassment, Magnus who runs (owns?) Adrian Recordings (home to MF/MB/) one of Sweden’s premiere indie labels, and most surprisingly of all Sweden’s answer to Iggy Pop - Joachim Leksell. We all say hello and head into the venue which neither me or Pernilla have ever been to before. We head up the spiral concrete steps and into our home for the next few hours. First impressions are it’s small, really small. Tonight’s show is invite only, and is supposed to be around 80 people. However right from the get-go we're told it’s more likely to be 120 or so. When we look around at the size of the place knowing the amount of people they are expecting it doesn’t add up. Should be interesting.
They’ve set our decks up behind the band, which means that we are well protected from the audience. Result. However the journey through and around the instruments becomes almost like one of those games where you have to guide a loop along a piece of twisty metal without touching the sides for fear of setting off a buzzer. Except instead of setting off a buzzer you’d be more likely to fall into a drum kit. Anyway the decks are all set up correctly, if somewhat confusingly. This record player to the left is on channel 2 while the CD player on the right is on channel 1 of the mixer, the sort of thing that’s fine at the start but becomes tricky after a few beers. There’s no one about so we stick on the first Beta Band EP and have a wander around. There’s one toilet. One. 120 people, one toilet. I figured I’d be pissing outside tonight. There’s a huge roof terrace, it’s March and it’s freezing but I know this area will be packed since there’s no smoking indoors. The tiny kitchen is doubling up as the bar, the beer is alarmingly cheap. People are going to be drunk, very drunk, there’s only one toilet, the room is very small and there’s no stage. Should be interesting.
We flick through our records sorting them out into piles of songs that work well together, when I look up there’s about 20 people in the room. Blimey that happened quickly. Someone’s waving at me. Why are they waving? Fucking hell it’s Conny, I haven’t seen him in years. He looks exactly the same though, still skinny with no arse. He comes over and we hug and do that ‘long time, no see’ thing that people do. Then he’s gone into the ever growing crowd. It’s packed now. The sound of people chatting creates a massive hum, and sounds like some sort of musique concrète piece. Stockhausen would be proud. We turn the music up louder. Then we hear Rebecca’s voice over everything else in the room. You can always tell how drunk Rebecca is by the volume of her voice. She must be pretty drunk, Pernilla heads out to investigate and I wave from the safety of our bunker.
By now people are pouring in, I look up and see Dennis Lood (owner of Malmö’s best record store - Rundgång) waving at me. I give him a smile and wave back. The next time I’ll see him is about an hour later when he’s furiously punching the air as if trying to fend off an invisible attacker, during ITF's set.
The place is absolutely fucking rammed now. I look over at the toilet, trying to work out if there is some sort of queue. There can’t be, maybe it’s working on an honour system with the person most likely to piss themselves being allowed in first. Then all of a sudden the first band are taking their places, mics are being checked, drums banged and guitars strummed. Hang on how are we supposed to get out from behind them if they’re already in place? We’re stuck directly behind them. It feels weird watching a band from behind. The whole crowd is pressed right up against them, I crack open another Becks and settle in.
I find out later that the band were called Ra. Which makes sense since they have a real early 70s Kraut vibe about them. Pulsing, driving almost monotonous but really powerful music, topped off with a singing drummer. Pernilla says something to me. I can’t hear her, I point to my ears, she shouts louder. I still can’t hear her though and nod hoping that’s the correct response. Ra were great but are finished after just three songs, so we’re back on. We roll forward with the music, as the next band - ITF start setting up their stuff. I don’t really know anything about ITF other than it’s Victor from MF/MB/s electronic side project with his brother. Should be interesting.
Pernilla fills me in with the news that our friend Åsa is really drunk. It’s Saturday night, this is how things should be on Saturday nights. Loud music, friends and drinking. Good for Åsa. It looks like ITF are about ready to start, I tell Pernilla I need a piss and we both agree that getting out from the bunker before the band starts is way preferable to trying to fill empty Becks bottles with wee in front of a 100 people. So we escape out into the freezing winter night. I find a chain fence surrounding an electrical substation and decide that no one would be too hacked off if I used this as my toilet for the night. Pernilla stands guard in case any of the drugs, violence & weapons illegal club thugs decide to attack me. There’s no one about though.
Back inside we catch the end of the first song by ITF, they are sensational. The crowd are going bonkers too. It feels like at any moment it could all go wrong, so many people in such a confined space, all that energy mixed with alcohol surely violence is just around the corner? Of course not though. It’s a great crowd and the energy in the room is enough to power a small town. I get the chance to have a quick chat with Rebecca who isn’t as drunk as I would have thought. She’s happy as always, snapping pictures of the band before disappearing into the crowd. ITF remind me of Handsome Furs at their most electronic. They launch into their last song - an MF/MB/ cover I think, and it feels like the building is going to collapse. And then they’re gone, and things calm down a bit.
I spot a group of people on roller skates. Is this what The Factory was like back in its 60s heyday? Someone I don’t recognise is making his way through the maze of instruments towards us. He’s holding an iPod dock/speaker system in his hand, he has a ginger beard and the sort of hat that would make Jamiroquai blush. I chat away with him, until he reaches over and starts turning the bass on the mixer down. Luckily thanks to the channels being so weirdly laid out it doesn’t effect what’s playing. I lift his hand off the mixer.
"Don’t do that." I tell him.
"Oh I’m sorry." He says, sounding genuinely surprised that he might have upset me in any way.
"Can you play vinyl?" He asks.
I point at the record deck directly in front of him and nod my head, already long bored of him.
"What channel are the records on?" He enquires.
I point to channel two and ask him politely but firmly to fuck off away from me now since I’ve had enough.
"Do you want some gum?"
"No. Just go now please."
And with that the ginger prince is gone. Very strange.
MF/MB/ hit the non-stage and start banging their instruments and checking volume levels. Okay so now the penny drops, Joachim Leksell is at the mic. So he’s going to be singing with MF/MB/. Right, now I understand. He thanks me for DJing (I’m thinking it was him who cheered when we played The Monks), which was sweet if a little embarrassing since Pernilla was also DJing, but he kept thanking me over and over. She didn’t seem too bothered by it though. Erik the drummer has a mild panic attack when he can only find one of his drum sticks. I point to the sticks on the floor.
"They’re not mine."
Blimey does that matter I wonder, but obviously it does. Then I clock three more sticks on his kick drum. They’re not his either though. Finally the missing stick is found and the gig gets under way. They play three songs. The first is a Nirvana cover, don’t ask me which though since I can’t remember. The line between the audience and band is gossamer thin, at one point I see seven people all singing into Joachim’s mic. It’s chaotic, it’s a bit messy but it’s also fantastically exciting. Everyone is smiling. A lot. Including me and Pernilla despite the fact that we feel a little overexposed standing behind the band. At one point Jocke the guitarist turns around and gives Erik the weirdest most manic grin. His guitar is vertical through lack of space and despite not being able to see Erik’s face I knew it must reflect Jocke’s.
During the second song someone actually crowd surfs and is in danger of getting friction burns from the ceiling. I look at Pernilla to see if she is seeing the same thing as me and get a fright when I see someone outside the window. He’s waving at me, hang on it’s my friend Björn Stegmann. I didn’t have a clue he was even here. What the fuck is he doing outside on the roof? I wave back to him and he raises his beer bottle to me. I rise mine back and return my attention to the band.
Last song now and the liveliness of the crowd is about to reach it’s peak when MF/MB/ launch into a cover of one of the greatest Swedish anthems - Underground by Broder Daniel. We survive. Everyone looks pleased, more beer is drunk, we play some LCD Soundsystem, YACHT and The Rapture. But the evening is falling away. It’s time to wind things up and head off to after-parties or dodgy clubs. Rickard comes over.
"Just a couple more songs." He informs us.
Uh okay, I think. What does that even mean though? Is it alright if those songs are Sister Ray and Autobahn I wonder? That’s when I realise that not only am I getting drunk but that I need to empty some of the beer from my body. I ask Pernilla to hold the fort while I nip outside for a wazz. On my way back in the road is blocked by four blokes who obviously haven’t been watching MF/MB/, they look pretty scary to me. I trot pass them neither looking them in the eye or looking away. Don’t appear scared I think.
"Good luck." The one nearest me says.
Christ alone knows why he said it, but for a second I thought I was a goner.
Back inside things are really winding down rapidly. Björn is now behind the decks with Pernilla, so I head over and have a chat with him. I show him the Cindy & Bert CD I bought with me and decide at that moment that there’s nothing more in the world I’d like to hear than Der Hund von Baskerville - their cover of Sabbath’s Paranoid. I slap it on and to my extreme embarrassment it ends up being the last song of the night.
We pack away our records and say goodbye to various friends and make plans with others for sharing a taxi home. Then in that magical drunken way time skips forward and we’re in a people carrier on our way to an after-party. The last thing I see and hear is Erik the drummer shouting that he wants to put his bike on top of the taxi. He’s still swinging it about like a man possessed when the taxi pulls away. He looked happy enough though.