Arvika Festival, Sweden, July 14-16, 2005

By: Karin Martinsson

New Order.

Last year, with Kraftwerk Skinny Puppy headlining, the Arvika Festival crowned its position the festival for our kind of music in Scandinavia. This year, it was a different story altogether. Unfortunately, it feels like the 13th setting lost the grip.

- It feels like as if I have lost an old friend who has become disoriented, one of my friends summarised.

And I think there is truth in it. The organisers can’t decide over the weather, but they do set the playlist and this is a festival that can flex its muscles and take risks. I am so sorry, but I don’t think that artists like Di Leva, Håkan Hellström, Lars Winnerbäck and Robyn should be the main focus for Arvika. It is not that I dislike them - or their musical performances; it is just that they belong to some mainstream festival, like the numerous city center fests or the Hultsfred Festival – as do their fans.

I guess the number of visitors shows that there is some truth behind the criticism: Although some of Sweden’s most popular names appeared, just over 10 000 tickets were sold - compared to 15 000 two years ago – and 11 500 last year, when the festival experienced a financial catastrophe. However, the organisers say they are pleased with this year. I guess they are happy to get the fest back on its feet financially.

A major part of the line-up was released quite late, which of course, in turn also affects the number of visitors. Furthermore, we were promised more attractive, big acts during the weeks close to festival, but few were released.

Despite all, there were enough pearls to create something of a bracelet anyway.

New Order made a good gig complete with Joy Division-oldies – a good flirt with the audience. They dedicated their performance to Ian Curtis’ (it should have been his birthday).

And to experience gems like The Kristet utseende, Las Palmas and Dimbodius - all offering completely different, but still unique, alternative sounds, reminded me of why I enjoy festivals: You get a spread that is hard to manage while clubbing.

DAF and VNV Nation also entertained their audiences, although I think these guys have to do something new on stage. If you have seen them before, you know what to expect. The same goes for several of this year's Arvika bookings; many good bands but if you're in the game you've probably caught them already quite recently. And VNV Nation as main-attraction on Friday night? Would not have been my choice. Elegant Machinery also did the huge main stage.

Some cred to the organisers though for bringing Deine Lakaien to Swedish soil for the first time. They appeared on stage acoustic, with only piano and vocals. What a gig it was. I think all present can certify that a live experience can’t be much better than this.

And a better ending of a festival than Infected Mushroom is hard to imagine – those beats will echo in one’s bones for a long time.

I mentioned the weather. Well, more or less constant showers are in a way acceptable. Belongings floating around and mud in your ears are part of a festival experience. It is simply something that you have to experience at least once in your life – if you want to put the epithet “experienced” together with “festival visitor”.

To sum up: If the organisers want Arvika to be the no. 1 choice for our beloved sub cultures (do they really nowadays?), I think they have to show a little more respect for those who made the festival what it is. I want to find back to my old friend again…