Mr Jones and his machines.

Scandinavian Alternative Music Awards, Trädgår'n, Gothenburg, May 13, 2005

Niklas Forsberg
Photos by: Mikael Kahrle

Without really knowing where the association of bad luck and Friday the 13th comes from, it was relatively easy to dismiss that notion when taking the step out to brand new "garden stage" at this year's SAMA festival. Blue skies and bright sun are no guarantees when spring comes to Sweden.
I did notice that attendance, while still vastly numerous, seemed lower than last year. Maybe some people were intimidated by the date in question after all, but the evening went smoothly without heavy technical glitches (or large zombies in hockey masks).
Arriving rather late this year, as a result of my obsessiveness for sports in general and tennis in particular, I managed to miss both debutant youngsters Necro Facility and most of the Stisch set on the main stage. Still swaying from the last portion of that show, where Magnus Carlsson (Weeping Willows vocalist) performed a solid version of the "Beauty in Me" single, I danced my way out to sneak a peak at electropop duo Dupont, but again succeeded in missing the majority of their performance. Still, their new album "Intermezzo" (see review) does seem rather impressive from the few songs I did hear.
By now, my food alarm clock had started buzzing and I barely, just barely, gathered the stamina to stumble over to the food stand, only to find that the burgers were insanely expensive. Repressing my overpowering rage, I right away knew with what refreshing beverage I needed to wash all those calories down. Saft (Swedish for lemonade) was about to make their comeback (I still believe new songs will materialise eventually) in a crowded main stage setting. Offering few surprises, the energetic pop trio still had enough nerve to send the fans into several choirs of sing-along glory. Short, but sweet. And maybe a little bit boring as well, actually.
Covenant next for everyone, it seemed, as hordes of the black masses (I wore a red T-shirt, by the way) charged outside into the still quite warm pre-summer night. Always the perfectionists, Eskil and his two-man posse were dressed up nicely as usual and kept asking the technician to alter the sound on stage. The trio introduced three new tracks to the enthusiastic audience, one of which made quite an impact on me. Look for a track called something along the lines of "Brave New World" as the first single release later in the year. It felt rather strange to see Covenant in daylight without light show and smoke and they didn't play the main stage this time.
And so it began. The wait for a childhood idol back on track. Restless wandering from stage to stage took turns with mindless chattering with friends and new acquaintances for quite a while until midnight approached. I did catch brief moments of Colony 5 (I prefer them on silver disc) and Melotron, but although both played new songs, their shows offered nothing new, as I had seen both fairly recently.
The Howard Jones piece of the night is what I will take with me as the true gem and a sweet trip down nostalgia avenue. It was preceded by a rather shameless plug for the Jones merchandise available by the synth icon's manager.
Kicking things off with "Conditioning", an industrial synthpop classic from the equally classic debut album "Human's Lib", the concert was given a proper opening, to say the least. Singing aided by a chordless microphone was becoming essential, as he kept bopping around between his five synthesizers. Following was two new tracks, from the upcoming album "Revolution of the Heart" (September), both of which promised future stardom. Laidback, electronic pop of the finest brand. "Like to Get to Know You Well", "Pearl in the Shell", "New Song" and "What Is Love?" were all greeted with passion from the crowd who sang frantically in the timeless choruses. Nice to hear these gems reworked. A night to remember and something to look forward to, as Howard seems more vibrant and full of creativity than ever.
Fixmer/McCarthy did what they do best: they shook the tired audience back to life - it's as hard, extreme and monotonous as ever. Something of an opposite to good old Howard. Although both he and Douglas McCarthy are experts in what they do on stage.
On a last note, I would like to see the organisers book more "daring" new acts to accompany the big names, as most of us have seen most of what has been offered the last few years. I would love to see promising new acts like, Seabound or why not German superstars Wolfsheim? Or Moskwa TV, as they are planning new material this year. My editor mentions Deine Lakaien, Pig, The Young Gods, Goldfrapp, Syntax and Ohgr. Many people also ask for harder and more provocative acts.
This is probably necessary to attract an audience thirsty for more. Hopefully next year things will pick up in that department.