The Friday, February 27th concert marked the first time Sexton, who for years has played onstage alongside US music legend Bob Dylan, played ice instruments live on stage.
“The experience reminds me of when I went dog sledding the other day. It’s the same feeling of not having any control,” he said. “I can’t control the temperature. It’s a new way for me to make music. You have to listen the whole time and get a sense of things.”
Sexton was joined on stage by local musicians from Luleå, Denmark, and the US city of Austin, Texas, which has a unique partnership with Luleå that covers a range of areas, including cooperation and exchange centered on music.
The Ice Music ensemble wows the sold-out crowd in Luleå. Photo: Luleåfotograferna
The prominence of music in the budding Luleå-Austin relationship is no accident; Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, and Luleå is strongly engaged in Sweden’s acclaimed music scene, as exemplified by music incubator BD Pop.
“Music is a great common platform for meeting one another. That’s what brought us together and created conditions for good relations. Music reaches across borders,” said Austin-based musician Lindsey Verril, who also performed in Luleå at the weekend.
In the week leading up to the concerts, the musicians hunkered down in a Luleå-area house to make music together; writing, rehearsing, and tweaking their texts and music to match the conditions in Luleå’s one-of-a-kind Ice Music concert hall.
IN PICTURES: Ice Music instruments and last year’s igloo
The entire process was also captured on film for a documentary set to be released at the end of March 2015.
“The dynamic between us musicians been great since the start. We wrote eight songs in the first couple of days,” said Luleå-based musician Rebecka Digervall, who normally performs with the band The Magnettes. “We come from different musical backgrounds and everyone has contributed with their piece. I don’t want the week to end.”
Ice Music founder Tim Linhart (l) jokes with guitarist Rebecka Digervall. Photo: Luleåfotograferna
The team of international musical talent behind the City of Songs concert was assembled by US musicians Michael Blair and Troy Campbell, founders of international song writing collaborative House of Songs, while BD Pop recruited local musicians from Luleå for the project.
“Playing ice instruments is a totally unique experience for the musicians from Austin,” said Campbell, who added he had no problem getting musicians from Texas to sign on to the project. “When I asked star artist Charlie Sexton, who normally plays guitar with Bob Dylan, he said yes without hesitation.”
The two exclusive concerts on Friday and Saturday not only marked the premiere of new musical compositions, but also the concert debut for an entirely new ice instrument: the Gravatone, a stringed instrument combining a sizeable amount of ice with two tonnes of steel. Danish musician Anders Bo Eriksen called it the “strangest instrument” he’d ever seen.
Anders Bo Eriksen lets loose on the Gravatone. Photo: Luleåfotograferna
And a recent spell of mild weather in Sweden’s far north forced the musicians to improvise after one of their ice guitars broke during rehearsals ahead of Friday’s concert, spawning an entirely new arrangement.
The ideal temperature for the instruments is -5C, but on Friday, temperatures inside the Ice Music concert hall hovered just above freezing – and that was before the audience took their seats. As a precaution, the ice instruments were cooled and re-tuned ahead of every song.
Lindsey Verril waits for her ice fiddle to be cooled between songs. Photo: Luleåfotograferna
But the pauses between songs didn’t dampen the spirit or detract from the magic of the event, especially for Verril, who’d never experienced temperatures below freezing before arriving in Luleå.
“This climate is totally foreign to me. It’s like visiting another planet,” she said.
And while Luleå and Austin may differ when it comes to climate, the two cities also have plenty in common, including being home to dynamic universities: Luleå Technical University and the University of Texas, respectively.
“[The university] means there are a lot of young people in Austin with ideas and energy. I can see that the same spirit exists here in Luleå,” said Sexton.
This article was produced using The Local's News Accelerator service in cooperation with Luleå municipality. To learn more about News Accelerator, click here.