Photo by: Mikael Kahrle

The Arvika Diaries from the Arvika Festival, Sweden - July 15-17, 2004

By: Johan Carlsson
Photos by: Peter Åstedt and Mikael Kahrle

Wednesday July 14
Dear diary, today I jumped on the bus to Arvika. The journey went great, and as soon as I got my tent up on the new press camping, the weather started to clear up. I met up with some friends I camped with last year, and talked a bit about the upcoming festival and the year that was behind us. Went to bed pretty early and almost froze to death during the cloudless night.

Thursday July 15
Dear diary, this morning I woke up after a dreadful night to a beautiful day with lots of sunshine. Me and my camping buddies went in to ”downtown” Arvika for breakfast. Saw lots of offers for fold-up ”festival chairs” with built-in beer stands but resisted the urge to get one. At 1 pm the festival area opened to the public, so in we went to find some food in the form of wild boar kebab. Festivals are always a place to find exotic culinary treats.

Toril in Alice in Videoland.
Photo by: Peter Åstedt

The first band I watched was electropunkpop-whatever band Alice in Videoland which didn’t have to bother too much to get the crowd going. It sounded much like they always do, and that’s not a bad thing.
Up until today, I have somehow managed to stay away from the hype around Swedish indie princess Marit Bergman, but I went to see her since I heard her play from the camping site and thought she sounded interesting. It was a feelgood concert, with lots of chatting in between songs and some catchy tunes. Watch out for the cover of “Don’t Leave Me This Way”!

Glitch pop queen.
Photo by: Peter Åstedt

Sophie Rimheden has also escaped my radar so far, and what I saw didn’t intrigue me further, although I know many people loved her performance. Too weak songs, and not very interesting on stage, in spite of three dancers and a backdrop movie.
The singer of pop duo Wolfsheim should really explore some new ways to sing, as he seemed to have only two of them. I’ve never heard such a monotone voice. Wolfsheim have a few quality tracks though.

Dressed for success.
Photo by: Peter Åstedt

I quickly walked to the main stage and waited for Wolfsheim's total opposite, Skinny Puppy, instead. This is a band that have had a huge impact on my life, and I have never seen them live before.
And boy, did I not wait in vain! Bloody good performance, with lots of great songs, both old ("Smothered Hope", "Glass Houses", "Harsh Stone White" and more) and new. Ogre started off with his weird beak masque and was dressed in tattered cloth that fell apart during the performance. Lots of Bush-bashing and all and “VX Gas Attack” sounded eerily in tune with today's political climate and Ogre wore a gas mask and he "throw up" in the most disgusting fashion. I almost cried during “Worlock”, possibly the most beautiful piece of music ever recorded.
This, the first Skinny Puppy show on Swedish soil since the eighties was truly one of the festival's highlights.

Photo by: Mikael Kahrle

Friday July 16
Dear diary, last night was a lot more comfortable, and I think I got at least seven hours of sleep. Fit for fight! Had to go in to town again, since I spent all my money on Skinny Puppy merchandise. The longsleeve looks fabulous!
After that my day of hard work started with Sturm Café, the Swedish newcomers playing retro-EBM that sounds exactly like Nitzer Ebb. Pretty good, but not enough new ideas.
Iris had travelled all the way from Texas to visit Arvika, and even though singer Reagan had broken his leg the synthpop band still did a fine show. The crowd response was phenomenal, and everyone was singing along, jumping and clapping hands. The band seemed overwhelmed. They love Sweden from now on.
My popdarlings in Keane were up next (and even though I desperately had to pee I didn’t want to miss one second so I stood my ground). Tom Chaplin’s voice was as good as on record, and the drumming was more powerful. Clear contender for “best of Arvika”.
After this me and my pals spent some time in the new expanded dance area of the festival - where you could even dance outdoors in the woods. Some damn fine psytrance was pumping out of the PA, and a huge crowd was dancing frantically.

Nude shock.
Photo by: Mikael Kahrle

Fixmer/McCarthy kicked off in style with Nitzer Ebb’s old classic “Join in the Chant”. Douglas McCarthy seemed to be full of energy (even backstage after the show, hmm). The crowd went bananas.
Suddenly a young couple came on during “Murderous” and started to strip! Soon they both were completely naked and jumped around on stage. Douglas seemed to be on it. But he kept his clothes on. The couple were thrown off stage by security after a while, though. When the girl wanted to come back later on – now dressed, I might add – a quarrel between security and band managers caused a song to be prematurely stopped. We also got "Control I'm Here" and "Let Your Body Learn", and the new Fixmer/McCarthy material worked well too, but after a while it all got a bit samey.

Party time.
Photo by: Peter Åstedt

Saturday July 17
Dear diary, another excruciatingly cold night. Whatever happened? During the day it was blisteringly hot outside. Weird desert weather. Anyway, during the sunny breakfast we heard Kraftwerk's soundcheck on the main stage, and it sounded so good my spirits soared. They played almost three entire songs! Wunderbar. The entire day will now feel like a looong wait for the big event.
Weeping Willows played in the early evening, and I watched it lying down on the grassy knoll in front of the stage. Very relaxing, and I might add the fact that I even fell asleep had nothing to do with the band's performance. Rather the three or four hours of sleep during the night.
German EBM stars In Strict Confidence have a tendency to write songs of a similar style, but when they play the hits, they are indeed a great band to behold. The entire on-stage crew did what they could, and the crowd was wild.

First costumes including blinking ties. Then curtains. "The Robots" appeared (this picture). After that curtains again, and then the neon dresses up until the closing number "Music Non Stop" when the four members left the stage one by one (top picture).
Photo by: Mikael Kahrle

At midnight, Kraftwerk was set to strike. And so they did! Their fantastic live show with an enormous backdrop is a thing of wonder, and the music sounded extremely crisp and clear. The four members doesn’t move more than a couple of inches of course, but hey, this is Kraftwerk we’re talking about. Favourite songs: “Radioactivity” with its mix of the old and new version, and “The Robots” in a heavy dance friendly version with all four robots on stage waving their arms. Wow. But the concert in Stockholm was slightly better, and longer. As a bonus to all the fans, Florian wore a knitted hat during the concert, which was fun in a Kraftwerk kind of way!
I was scheduled for Release second Ralf Hütter interview (the first one was in 1991), directly after the show but it was cancelled on short notice. At least we were close...
Arvika sold 11 520 tickets, which is far less than the 15 000 (the sold-out limit) they had hoped to reach. But they are proud that the largest Arvika crowd ever watched the Kraftwerk show. Everyone was there, counting 17 000 (including workers, guests, media and so forth).

The dance is over. Vive la Fete showed after Kraftwerk.
Photo by: Peter Åstedt

Sunday July 18
Dear diary, today the bus took me home. It was a fun bus ride with a lot of funny people, but I fell asleep after a couple of hours. Now I’m home and bear with me the memories of the best festival I’ve ever been to. Sunny skies, good people to hang out with, fantastic shows and the moose kebab. What more can you wish for in life?