Mud, sun and Neil Young: The Local’s festival survival tips

Stuart Roberts traipsed through the mud at Stockholm’s ‘Where the Action is’ to compile this season’s summer festival survival guide.

Mud, sun and Neil Young: The Local's festival survival tips

The Swedish summer music festival circuit kicked off in earnest this weekend, with ‘Where the Action is’, held over two days at Stockholm’s Stora Skuggan. In fine festival tradition, the heavens opened an hour before the bubbly and tuneful Miss Li took to the stage on Friday afternoon, turning the festival area into an instant swamp, and pleasing only those who’d splashed out on brand new gummi boots.

With the financial crisis having inevitably put the squeeze on good free stuff, the press area is an overrated venue these days, but it’s still a good place to avoid long queues for the porta-loos and take cover from inclement weather. I squeezed past the predictable throng of outrageously phallic telephoto lenses and late model MacBooks, to sort myself with a warming brew while I planned my festival strategy.

After years of trying to micro-organise my festival schedules to pack in every possible act, I’d decided this year I was going to keep things simple, and stick to the acts I really needed to see. The Friday line-up was a retro dream. Evergreens the Pretenders, the Pixies and Neil Young were all lining up on the main stage, along with the unconventional and quirky Seasick Steve, with convenient hour-long breaks between gigs.

After grabbing a handful of free earplugs and cokes from the fridge for my mates, I pulled my anorak over my head and trudged back through the rain to take my position up close, left of centre, for Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Chrissie is just as sultry as she was when I saw her years ago as a pubescent kid in Adelaide, on an early Australian tour. And that voice!

Then it was Mississippi bluesman (or song and dance man as he apparently prefers) Seasick Steve, who busked, jammed and tramped his way around the US backblocks for years before being ‘discovered’ just a couple of years ago. The rough diamond puts on an entertaining show, including songs about nasty tic-like bugs that lay their progeny under your skin, and the story about how he came by the beat-up electric guitar he plays in his gigs, the ‘Three-String Trance Wonder’: “We know about you Sherman!”

I finally caught up with the Pixies after years of near misses, and Neil Young wheeled out all the old favourites to take the night home. Although these days Young tends to drift into prolonged distortion-fuelled riff jams with his Electric Band, he is still, as Chrissie Hynde observed, a God.

So with the festival circus winding its way down the country over the next few weeks, here are my tips for getting the most out of whatever festivals you plan to get along to this summer:

• Bring your rain gear – rubber boots and a lightweight waterproof jacket, which can be stowed away if the sun comes out. Better still, a plain old green garbage bag has more spontaneous street cred. Oh, and sunscreen – remember, this is Swedish summer, so you need a bet each way.

• Take the time to graciously answer the questions from the market research staff who are in your face as you come through the entry gates, but feel free to give outlandishly false answers in order to mess with the sponsors’ stats.

• Don’t try to pack in too many bands. They’ll all be back next year, or in Arvika or Gothenburg or somewhere else sooner or later. Pick a few acts you really want to see and take it easy in between gigs. It’s all about the peace and love, so chill out!

• The people from Luger seem to have somewhat of a monopoly on organising these events, and they do a pretty good job with the logistics, including plenty of franchised food and drink outlets serving up a reasonably broad selection (all certified to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with Kyoto targets). But if you want to be sure of getting some decent food without lining up for an hour, get in early, or you’ll be eating cold and soggy veggie burgers.

• Don’t rely on your mobile to hook up with your friends – 20,000 people sending simultaneous text messages through the same base station really messes with the network.

• Don’t leave early to get the best seat on the train – you may as well just stay home and listen to iTunes. (Confession: your correspondent drifted away in the wee hours as Neil Young’s drawn-out rendition of Rockin’ in the Free World ticked over the twenty minute mark.)

Leave at home!

• Silly shoes.

• Umbrellas – you’d be beaten up by the mob in two minutes if you tried to put one up, even if they were allowed in.

• Any other contraband on the banned list – drink flasks, alcohol, drugs, weapons – check the festival homepages for details. (Try it by all means if you’re game – a guy next to me was swigging whisky from a pair of binoculars – but if they catch you at the gate you can go and find something else to do for the weekend.)

To find the festival coming to a venue near you this summer, check out Festival info.


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What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.