On November 14 there was a SPOT On Denmark-event in Paris – for the first time in five years. Under the title SPOT Mon Amour Broken Twin, Schultz And Forever and Baby In Vain played at the hot, legendary venue La Flèche d’Or – and before that the French and Danish music industry had the opportunity to network at a successful speed dinner, where they switched places between each of the three courses. MXD has asked the French music writer Joel Lewin, editor of the English version of the site Cafebabel to give his assessment of the event:
In 1813 a Danish-French alliance was humiliatingly crushed in the Napoleonic wars. Exactly two hundred years later, I’m here at the Mama Shelter restaurant in Paris to enjoy a far more productive alliance of French and Danish forces. Forty important figures from the French and Danish music industries have gathered here for a networking dinner to be followed by a showcase of young Danish talent. Schultz and Forever, Baby in Vain and Broken Twin were handpicked at this year’s SPOT Festival in Aarhus, Denmark by French booking agency Super and Paris PR agency Boogie Drugstore. As homage to the so called city of love, the Paris event has been named “SPOT mon amour”. It’s the fourth time SPOT On Denmark has hosted an event in France, which is Europe’s third biggest music market.
The tone of the dinner is set by a massive multi-coloured montage that towers over the tables. Catalysed by the beer-hall style benches, the vibrant mood of the dinner does justice to the mural. It takes a while for people to take their seats because conversations are already in full swing before things have even started.
Dining is a fundamental feature of French business, so a dinner is an apt way for the Danes to feel their way into the industry here. The wine flows, lubricating conversations. Over a glass of white and prawn salad starter I chat to Meryl who works for ‘Arty Farty’, a company that organizes festivals and projects to encourage international cross-pollination between musicians. The starter has hardly been served and already the rustle of paper, pens and business cards resounds. Everyone has ideas and germinating initiatives to share.
After each course everybody changes seats to maximize networking opportunities. A potentially chaotic manoeuvre is surprisingly seamless – everybody jumps smoothly into new conversations and a main course of beef à la ‘Angus’. I talk to Rasmus Damsholt, the manager of folk singer Schultz and Forever. I’m pleased to have the chance to ask a question that has been puzzling me for the last few days. Why is this little country, which is a tenth the size of France, producing so many great musicians at the moment? Rasmus suggests that widespread music lessons from an early age play a part, but also tells me that “an industry taking music management seriously and educating people at university with the help of government grants,” plays an important role in Danish success. The French industry guys seem to think this approach to management has paid off. They’re all impressed by their Danish counterparts. Romain Pellicioli, founder of the French booking agency Daka Tour tells me, “I was pleasantly surprised by the dynamism of the professionals, by their skills, by their business tools, by the connections they manage to make… It made me want to suggest future collaborations.”
Another change of seats and dessert is served. Before long the enthusiasm bubbles over and the seating plan cheerfully falls apart like the creamy Millefeuille cake we’re eating. Everybody mills around and the diversity is a delight to behold. I watch a tattooed Dane with the biggest beard I’ve ever seen swap business cards with a smartly-dressed French lady in a black blazer. ‘Networking’ doesn’t really do justice to the warm vibes of this event.
Then it’s over the road to La Flèche d’Or for the showcase. La Flèche d’Or is something of a legendary venue in Paris. Until 1934 it was a train station that linked the French capital with London, and as such it is an appropriate venue for an event that seeks to foster cross-border musical connections.
Broken Twin, broken headphones
First up is Broken Twin and I’m blown away. I’ve been listening to her for a few days on my iPod but I’m not prepared for quite how powerful her music is live. The accompanying violinist, Nils Gröndahl lends the music a real drive with some roughed-up distortion effects. But even when the instruments fall silent and all you hear is her voice, the sound has the force and the fullness of a whole band. It conjures up images of wistful Nordic landscapes. The industry people sway in approval. A few tell me Broken Twin’s music is too sombre for their liking, but I can’t help but think they are missing something. Her music certainly gives a nod of acknowledgement to melancholies past, but for me, equally present is a curious, forward-facing euphoria which justifies the duality evoked by Majke Voss Romme’s pseudonym.
I chat to Majke and Nils outside. Nils rips the filter off his Marlborough red and I wonder how the purity of his voice survives this heavy tar treatment. I tell Broken Twin that my headphones worked fine until they encountered her music. I had to buy a new pair because they couldn’t deal with the unusual pitch of her voice. She apologises with such sincerity that I almost expect her to reimburse me. If she achieves the success she deserves, a lot more headphones will need replacing.
Next up is Schultz and Forever. His scallywag backwards baseball cap belies the maturity of his music. The sound is extremely accomplished. It’s an observation made by a lot of the French professionals – the youthful energy of the music is palpable but channelled very effectively. The crowd begins to jiggle when Schultz’ band come on, the bouncing bass and drums complementing his voice.
The increasingly energetic trajectory of the evening reaches its crescendo with Baby In Vain. I expected the crowd to maintain a business-like veneer, but the music is infectious and heads start pumping. Singer Lola Hammerich asks the crowd “Are you ready to get really heavy?” and she drops to the floor in a flash of orange, smashing out a guitar solo that gives me a case of the itchy feet.
“Now we want more.”
I normally judge bands by the way they make me feel on my morning walk to work. The last few days Baby In Vain have turned me into a dangerous pedestrian prone to unpredictable outbreaks of arm flailing and foot stamping. Numerous French industry people tell me that although grunge is not normally their thing they are utterly enthused by Baby In Vain. The driving energy of the music is reflected in the girls’ rambunctious delivery. They certainly have personality, and that, I am told by Marc Thonon, manager of the Atmosphériques label, is as important as the music itself in the French industry. Marc is so impressed by the evening he thinks French artists would benefit from the same kind of event abroad.
Winter is descending on Paris and it’s cold outside, but long after the music stops and the venue closes, warm conversations continue on the street. Although this is first and foremost a business-based networking event, the long dinner and the large venue are conducive to more dynamic, comradely acquaintances. I know I’m taking home a lot more than just my wages. The French reaction to the night is unanimous- “We didn’t know much about Danish music before. Now we want more.” After the acts I’ve heard and the great vibes I’ve got from the Danish visitors, I certainly feel a Danophile awakening within.
All photos by Stéphane Guéguen – Happiness-in-uppsala.fr.