A musical August in store for Stockholm

If you're looking for music festivals in Sweden this month, you need look no further than the capital, writes David Stavrou.

A musical August in store for Stockholm

The sun might have been shining on festival-goers so far this year, yet with Hultsfred cancelled and the Arvika Festival’s finances looking ropy, the mood has frequently been gloomy. But in Stockholm the outdoor music scene remains as vibrant as ever, and August offers a particularly rich program of musical events of all styles and genres.

Perhaps the biggest event to take place is Stockholm’s Culture Festival, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since 2006. More than 550 shows performed by 250 artists from all over the world will pack the streets and squares of the capital this year, almost all of them will be free of charge.

The musical events of the six day festival, which starts on August 10th, will be of a wide variety of styles – jazz, opera, folk, classical, rock, soul and world music. The main venues are Gustav Adolfs Torg, Brunkebergstorg, Sergels Torg and the new Roskilde stage on the wharf opposite the Royal Castle.

Lisa Nilsson, the festival’s spokeswoman, tells The Local that the new stage is part of the festival’s Danish theme. “It will host one Swedish headline and five Danish bands every night, all of which are the best upcoming young bands Sweden and Denmark have to offer these days” she says. Other attractions, according to Nilsson, are a tribute to legendary singer, song-writer, poet and actor, Cornelis Vreeswijk, and a large area designated for high quality culture for children”.

Two days before the festival’s kick-off Stockholmers will have another chance to see one of the worlds most important and respected singers and song-writers: Leonard Cohen, who gave a magical concert in Stockholm just a couple of years ago, will be performing again at the Globe arena on August 8th as part of his ongoing world tour. Recently the 75-year-old Cohen has been enjoying renewed popularity and the August gig is a good opportunity to see one of the world’s most critically acclaimed shows featuring some of the best versions of Cohen’s classics.

Slightly more updated music will be available at Popaganda pop festival which will be held at Eriksdalsbadet on August 27th and 28th. This year the festival hosts several excellent British acts.

The Magic Numbers have visited Sweden several times before. They are a London based indie-pop band composed of two pairs of brothers and sisters. With their third album, The Runaway, finally out, the band’s many Swedish fans will have a chance to enjoy its pretty harmonies and clever arrangements on stage too.

Another British band to play at Popaganda is Belle and Sebastian. The group, which was formed in mid-nineties Glasgow, has recently returned to the stage and is apparently working on a new album. Brit award critic’s choice winner, Ellie Goulding, and electropop band, Hot Chips, are two more notable British artists who are appearing at Popaganda this year.

For those interested in the heavier side of rock, Sonisphere Festival on August 7th will supply plenty of distorted guitars, powerful drumming and headbanging fans. The festival, which is part of a series of summer festivals taking place across Europe, will host some of metal’s biggest names such as Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe, Alice Cooper and thrash metal legends Slayer and Anthrax.

One of the most interesting bands booked for the festival is Iggy and the Stooges. Iggy Pop and his Stooges were pioneers of Punk Rock and Hard Rock way back in the sixties and seventies. They reunited in 2003 and have been touring and recording ever since. Though Pop is 63, he’s still a wild, half naked stage-diver and his show is expected to be one of the festival’s highlights.

But the true spirit of Stockholm’s musical summer is not in the big international festivals and official events. It’s in the local pubs, churches, community centers and parks where many of the city’s professional and hobby musicians get together and jam. The many smaller and local events will be joined by a few specialized festivals such as Stockholm’s Gospel Choir Festival on August 12th-15th. A short ride from the capital, Uppsala’s Reggae festival begins on August 5th.

The month will end with the annual Polar Music Prize ceremony at Stockholm’s concert hall on August 30th. This year it will be Icelandic singer Björk and Italian composer Ennio Morricone who will receive the prizes from King Carl XVI Gustaf.

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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.