SPOT On Denmark was present at the prestigious festival for the fourth consecutive year – and the crowd’s reception virtually overwhelmed the three Danish bands.
Danish night at one of the most famous festival – the Swiss Montreux Jazz Festival. And once again a sold-out night – approximately 1000 spectators and a positive atmosphere. And this with a line-up consisting of three relatively new acts – Giana Factory, Asbjørn and Bon Homme, all of whom are quite unknown in the big picture.
How on earth can that happen?
First of all Montreux Jazz Festival is a magnet that makes the 25,000-inhabitant town with the monumental concert and conference facilities multiply its population for the two weeks that the festival lasts with myriads of people and liveliness on the brink of the beautiful Lake Geneva.
“So even though there are other concerts at the same time – last Saturday there was, among other events, the packed venue Stravinski Auditorium, where German Herbert Grönemeyer played his gig, there is still a decent crowd for the free-of-charge concerts in the Montreux Jazz Café. Especially when you add to this that Nordic music is popular with the audience down here and that it has had a definite effect that this is the fourth year with a SPOT On Denmark night”, explains Alexandre Edelmann – Head of Creative Content, Brand and Development at the festival.
The first Danish act, Asbjørn, who on top of everything played his first-ever international gig, clearly felt the buzz. Perhaps not all of the 1000 spectators had arrived by 10 pm when Asbjørn went on stage, but he had felt the interest before the concert. For one thing there was the interview with the festival TV station but most of all obviously with all the fuss and planning surrounding the recording of the concert and the interview for the Montreux DVD, which was produced in connection with the festival (click here to read more)
And the concert? Great reception. Asbjørn’s searching, melancholy singing combined with his emotional and uniquely personal dancing/act on the stage caught – and kept – the audience’s attention. And if that wasn’t enough, there was also his vivacious and skilled band who took care of the varied, electronic subtext with live percussion, impressive synths etc. Complex and detailed as Asbjørn’s music can be, the crowd in Montreux Jazz Café still got the plot. That “Bones Bad Bones” doesn’t’ just work on Asbjørn’s home turf was obvious from the applause.
No wonder the members of the band were quite high afterwards. “It has never sounded so good before”, Percussionist Mathias Sommer said with a grin. “It’s the most rewarding audience we have ever played in front of, and we just felt so good on the stage. It has been quite a journey to get this far. Production rehearsals this last week, the additional planning, the long drive down here. Now it’s just an amazing experience – and also to play in front of so many people.”
Asbjørn was also flying high: “You go to a really foreign country and you meet a crowd who not only listen but also respond to your music, which they have never heard before. If we go to Aalborg (the second biggest town in Jutland, 100 kilometers from Aarhus – ed.), we don’t get anyway near the same response as here. They actually seemed prepared and were really dedicated – also backstage. Generally speaking it moves you to go somewhere and be received this way. I really hope that we will get the opportunity to come back here again”, said Asbjørn.
For Giana Factory the Montreux concert was the climax of a long concert season that included several gigs abroad. If the venue was quite full towards the end of Asbjørn’s performance, it was close to packed for the gig with the three Danish women, but as Alexandre Edelmann pointed out, they had also managed to make a name for themselves in advance by means of their touring – including a gig in Zurich.
”Rainbow Girl” and the other songs also work at the foot of the Alps we are happy to say. Lisbet Fritze’s twang / guitar curtains of distortion, Sofie Johanne’s synth backgrounds and Louise Foo’s percussion and melancholy lead vocals (supplement by the other two in unison choruses) made the otherwise merry audience muffle the conversation to be absorbed completely by the trio’s patient universe instead.
“We think it’s a good ide to present the Danish acts as one package”, said Louise Foo afterwards and emphasized (as did the other two) how much audience response like the one they got this night really means.
“It’s exciting to be part of a festival where the crowd is so focused on listening. Because we really feed on our surroundings and want to lure people into the mood”, Sofie Johanne adds before Lisbet Fritze concludes, “We may be pop – but not cosiness without shadowy sides to it. When we get such a reception, it makes a gig like this one brilliant fun.”
Louise and Lisbet told us about the great reception on especially German blogs after the many concerts abroad. “So now the contact has been established and now there is potential for growth. Now we are going straight to the studio with all our newly gained experience because we have learned a lot from this tour. It is a kind of cycle which reached its climax here in Montreux and which we are going to build on. Also internationally”.
And then it was time for the trio to be at the merchandise booth to meet the fans in the by now crammed room (including the balcony) before Bon Homme took the stage and enthralled the audience half an hour after midnight with a set that is best described as playful, wry and with twists and detours perhaps more of those than intended:
“It was probably a mistake to keep programming to right before the show without really checking it. So there were a few holes”, said Tomas Høffding, who uses the Bon Homme identity to test his playful side as opposed to the more rigid setup that the career as bass guitarist and singer in the massively touring WhoMadeWho requires.
If the programming did not quite live up to his own expectations in the predominantly new material (80 percent or so was new), he did not seem affected by it on stage. The beginning of the gig might (for lack of better term) be labeled “patient techno” while Bon Homme fine-tuned his music, and from then on there was gradually more and more room for the dazzling choir samples and especially the happy kid playful and beaming when the samples work their wonders and he practically pulls up the audience for multi jumps. “Are you ready to go crazy?” he yelled towards the end of the concert standing on the table next to his MacBook. You would have to be blind and deaf to miss the answer he got.
“Well it is my playground. Great to feel like a 15-year-old lad again. I have a great “play gene”. The very best thing was to feel how the audience responded to all the new tracks”, said Tomas Høffding, who has played gigs wearing the Bon Homme bowler over the last three years approximately. His international record company deal and booking agreements have been in place so far, but once his forthcoming album is ready for release he would like to shop around a bit in that department.
Judging from the reception in Montreux his chances of getting even better deals have not decreased. Something that goes for all three acts actually.