Dylan guitarist to take Ice Music stage in Sweden

Bob Dylan guitarist Charlie Sexton and other Texas musicians are in a race against the clock to get acquainted with "magical" ice instruments just days before performing on the Ice Music stage in Luleå in northern Sweden.

Dylan guitarist to take Ice Music stage in Sweden
Charlie Sexton (l) and Phoebe Hunt (r) look on as Ice Music co-founder Tim Linhart examines an ice violin. Photo: Luleåfotograferna

Sexton, who has played guitar with Dylan on and off for 15 years, stepped off a plane in chilly Luleå on Monday, along with fellow US artists and songwriters Lindsey Verril, Phoebe Hunt, and Michael Blair, who has worked with artists such as Tom Waits and Elvis Costello.

“The unique ice instruments can be compared to having an uninvited guest to a party,” said Blair.

“They liven things up and keep people on their toes. For this project it’s the ice instruments themselves that we need to meet and get to know their special qualities better.”

Troy Campbell, Lindsey Verril, Charlie Sexton & Phoebe Hunt arrive in Luleå. Photo: Luleåfotograferna

The US musicians were joined by Anders Bo Eriksen of Denmark, along with local Luleå talents Olle Nyman and Rebecka Digervall as part of an ongoing collaboration between Luleå municipality and the city of Austin, Texas, known as the “live music capital of the world”.

Bringing the eclectic and talented group of musicians together to make music in the winter wonderland of Luleå is the first concrete expression of the Luleå-Austin partnership.

Appropriately called City of Songs, the project participants include Luleå’s Ice Music and music incubator BD Pop, along with Austin-based House of Songs, a songwriting collaborative he founded by Austin-native Troy Campbell.

READ MORE: Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes

The US musicians barely had time to get a handle on the frozen landscape around Luleå before they hunkered down to get acquainted, not only with each other, but most importantly with the one-of-a-kind ice instruments they’ll be playing.

“For us creating the music, the deal is to listen to the special sound of the ice instruments and adjust our music to that. And not the other way round,” Sexton explained.

Despite a storied musical career stretching back to the 1980s that has taken him around the world, Sexton was still taken aback by the majesty of Ice Music concert hall in Luleå’s Gültzauudden Park.

IN PICTURES: Ice Music instruments and last year’s igloo

“I’d only seen a few video clips of an Ice Music concert before entering the ice concert hall for the first time. And I only have one word for it. Magical,” he said.

Singer/songwriter Hunt, an Austin native, marveled at a plastic shield on the ice violin that would protect her breath from melting a hole in the instrument as she played.

“But I’m not going to worry about breaking it if I play as aggressively as I usually do,” she said.

The instrument that turned most heads, however, was an entirely new creation by Ice Music founder Tim Linhart he dubbed the Gravatone: a stringed instrument made largely of ice but which also boasts two tonnes of steel for added weight.

Anders Bo Eriksen inspects the Gravatone. Photo: Luleåfotograferna

“It’s the strangest instrument I’ve ever seen,” said Eriksen.

And if learning to tune and play ice instruments in temperatures of -5C weren’t enough, this newly-minted musical collective has also taken on the task of writing completely new music specifically tailored for instruments and a stage made of ice.

The new compositions will only be played at the weekend’s two sold-out Ice Music concerts on Friday, February 27th and Saturday, February 28th. But music fans who can’t make it what’s sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime show need not despair: the entire project, including practice sessions and the performance, is being recorded for a documentary-style film that will be released later this year.

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Luleå municipality and Ice Music.


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.