Svenska musik

03Mar09

March 3, 2009

I would like to interrupt the Retro blogging for a moment to bring you a bit of my Swedish music experience. I really thought Swedes would be talking music all the time seeing as Sweden is the third biggest exporter of music in the world, after the US and the UK. But I’ve really had to pull band recommendations out of friends like beets out of Smaland soil. I’ve still managed to export some knowledge home to you all. Below is a range of notables thus far:

Shout Out Louds

Swedish musicians are really good at being sentimental, soft, melodic, and poppy with a wee edge. Perfect, I say! I heard about these guys while still living in the States, but I don’t get sick of them.

Anna Ternheim

I went to see this lady the other night in Helsingborg. She’s from the South, but lives way up North. Her laid back fashion really surprised me, as Swedes are usually dressed very particularly. She won the Swedish Grammy last year, but I just found out about her recently after (trying) to read the local paper Dagens Nyheter. She’s likeable, but too much of her starts sounding generic. When asked to describe her music, my Swdish pal Jens said she’s “easy listening.” He didn’t mean it in the way Americans mean it, but I kind of do. I like her, but in doses.

Pugh Roghfeldt

This guy used to rock. I really like his music from ye olde days. But when I saw him last summer at Malmöfestivalen, I felt as though I was at a John Fogarty show like if John Fogarty played now. That said, Pugh still rocks in my book.

Dungen

Dungen provides us with the opportunity to see what going to a psychedelic rock show in 1975 was like. For this I am grateful. Smoke machines, bright green lights, and long hair. It’s such a wonder that they exist in Sweden.

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The original version of Dungen.

Love is All

Adorable and energetic. Love is All reminds me of going to shows while at school. They also are friends of a friend, and that makes any band more endearing.

Special mention: Alphabeat

They’re Danish, so maybe they don’t belong on this list. But since I only live a half an hour from Denmark, they’re in. I just love this infectious sugary single so much, I had to share it. They make me feel like I am riding in mom’s minivan and we are listening to Casey Kasem and it is 1987.

I also want to mention here that there’s something very rehearsed and almost too perfect about seeing Swedish bands. Its as though they are performing on Gossip Girl for the lead ingénue’s Sweet 16. Hair is always just so, clothes are genre-specific costumes, the sound is evenly balanced, and there is very little audience interaction and impromptu riffing. Though I appreciate the Swedish audio guys’ talents, I very much miss the rough edges and mistakes that come with seeing bands in America. Sorry, Swedish friends.


Retro blog #6: July 6, 2008

I went for an extended bike ride today and managed to snap off scenic shots of Malmö’s coast. The bridge you see is the Öresund, which connects Malmö to Copenhagen.

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I also want to take the time to give you but a glimpse of the madness in Folket’s Park (English translation: the people’s park). It’s a city park near my house, but unlike any other. Its got a ferris wheel, a petting zoo, a meeting hall, several ponds, three bars, and generally a good deal of the city’s riff raff. And its all condensed into an area about the size of Chicago’s Wicker Park. It is in this strange place where I spent many summer nights sipping boxed wine with friends and people watching. Here are some images just to give you an idea of the spectrum of bizarreness:

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This is just a typical weekday night in the park – madness!

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Right about now you’re judging me for the boxed wine mention. But I’ll have you know that it’s a very big deal here. I think its come a long way. And if you can manage to spend a few more Krona on it, its comparable a regular $9 bottle.

One of the bars in Folket’s Park is called Far i Hatten, which usually has a bunch of Gubbes and Gummes (old men and women) hanging out there. I could best describe it as cross between a summer camp activity house and a Jimmy Buffet concert. With an open roof. This particular evening one of the local record shops Rundgong was celebrating its 4 year anniversary in the bar. Watching my pal Kristian’s band AHRM playing at the celebration was a grand time. Music, pals, a little beer and some fresh air…man do I love me some summer.

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Retro blog #5: July 4, 2008

I decided to throw a birthday party for America and for Natalie in one go. I instructed everyone to dress American, but the only person who really followed the rules was Anna, bless her heart. Vanessa baked a very choice cake, Jud brought Caesar salad (which she feels is distinctively American) and we all dined the American way, BBQ-style.

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I wanted to be as obnoxious as possible.

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Albert Man-ing the grill

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I stole these pictures from Anna (thanks dude).


Midsommer

03Mar09

Retro blog #4: June 24, 2008

I had heard so many stories about Midsommer – the drunken carousing, the dancing around the Maypole, the sill and more sill. I had been anticipating this day ever since moving to Sweden and was excited to travel to Gothenburg to spend it with Jen.

We had talked about traveling out to the Archipelago to celebrate, but rain shot that plan down. So instead we walked to the center of town where the city park was. The weather improved a bit and we had a great time watching rings upon rings of people dance around the Maypole with their children, singing songs we couldn’t understand.

The rest of the day was spent consuming all of this:
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Three different kinds of sill – mustard, onion, and dill; airplane bottles of Aquavit, radishes and strawberries.

The next day we took a drive out to Marstrand to see more of the west coast. Marstrand is perfectly quaint and charming in the way Marin County is (translation: big $$$ houses on the water and no dirt in sight). King Guvstav’s summerhouse is there, but I don’t think he uses it anymore. There’s also a giant fort there – Carlsten Fortress. It has some very interesting prison cells, a chapel, and incredible views from the lookout:

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When we made it to the lookout point over the sea I felt one of the strongest winds of my life. Hair management was out of the question (pictured).

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From Jen’s place in Gothenburg, I went straight to Stockholm for a week-long intensive Swedish course at Berlitz. It was a gorgeous week and it was a bummer to spend it alone. Big clouds in a Swedish flag-blue sky almost all the time. But then in came Jen again! Since I already had planned to be in Stockholm, Jen and her Norwegian pal Elin decided to join me for the weekend. We ate crepes in Sodermalm, danced at Debaser, and I sipped on my first bloody Mary since living in Sweden. The sun in these pictures is deceptive, as it was definitely jacket weather (in late June!)

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Retro blog #3: June 1, 2008

A lot happened. The weird transitional life I was living in Älmhult died and resurrected itself into my new, much cuter and more fulfilling life in Malmö. True, I missed the 6-minute walking commute. But its much more having more than one pub in town. And more people to fill those pubs. And more variety of dogs to admire (I was getting sick of that one Dachshund I kept running into).

So instead of biking by the lake, I now bike by the sea. And instead of eating pizza from Pizzera Elmé, I dine on cheap falafel. We have a ton of middle Eastern immigrants here in Malmö, not to mention some fine-tasting Kebab downstairs in my building..run by some Iraqi dudes. Needless to say, I try to avoid looking, acting, and dressing American around them. I don’t think they have much too favorable of an opinion of us right now, sadly.

Another big moment from the past month or so was the visit of my man to Scandinavia. We had grand ambitions in the beginning of a trip to Stockholm and the North of Sweden. But we ended up deciding that we would rather spend time staring into each other’s eyes dreamily than sitting in an airport or train station whining about delays. So we stayed around Skåne and Småland – the regions where Malmö and Älmhult are, respectively. Ryan got to see where I worked and more importantly, got to have Swedish lunch with a few of my closest colleagues.

We cruised around Malmö a lot, made some dinners, including a cookout. And on his last day here, we visited the university city of Lund, which he developed a crush on. We also (accidentally) went to a gay club, which was expensive but otherwise a good time, since the company of Jud and her man and Nat and hers was great.

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Ryan and I, visiting Lund

We also visited Copenhagen, where we visited the Danish Design Center (kind of a letdown overall, but has a very cool museum shop). We walked around a ton, and made our way to the infamous Christianistad. It’s a mini Amsterdam of sorts. It’s a lawless bohemian society that’s not part of the EU. I wish I had pictures, but cameras are not allowed. The area used to have legal marijuana, and now even though it’s been outlawed, the Danish authorities don’t seem to crack down on them much. It’s still sold and prevalent there but no one’s exactly flaunting it.

The feeling while walking around Christianistad was very much like the day after a large festival. There’s assorted litter and stray dogs, people who haven’t showered, alcohol being drank, and the smell of grass abounds. Quite frankly, Ryan and I felt on edge, as these places tend to have a handful of people who are tweaking out just a little too much. So we left and bought chocolates at a very confusing convenience store.

It’s strange, I’ll tell you, to be spending Danish kroner rather than Swedish Kroner. Why haven’t these countries joined the Euro? Hm. I think its only bizarre because traveling to Copenhagen takes less than half the time it takes for my commute to work. So it seems strange that I should be exchanging currencies. And dang is it expensive there.

1 Swedish krona = 0.112035 U.S. dollars

1 Danish krone = 0.171318 U.S. dollars

Not such a good conversion rate, I’m afraid. When people ask me what I miss about the States (and I have probably mentioned this already, as I really really miss it) is not just food, but the accessibility of good, cheap food. I miss Mexican the most, which is a surprise to me. But my old apartment in Chicago used to be a skip from Taco and Burrito Express #3 where you only paid $4 for a burrito the size of your head. Now, I can’t even get a bottle of beer for that. Sigh.

Anyway it was good to have the man here, for you really need to dine on a cold shrimp and mayonnaise sandwich (räkor macka) in order to understand what its like to be a Swede.

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Ü

25Feb09

Retro blog #2: May 4, 2008

Petter and his art cohorts threw a gigantic party last night in efforts to raise money to make more art. He drove all the way to Germany just to buy the beer, as its much cheaper there. It might be worthy to note that there are no kegs in Sweden. This is due to the governmental policy of wanting to lessen overconsumption…which is also the reason System Bolaget keeps such strict Lutheran hours and why booze costs a ton and why Petter trekked to Germany.

I met Jud at her apartment before heading out, and we biked together over to Über Studios, which looks like a granary. This giant banner was hanging down the side of the building:

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The party was a success for the art kids. Lots of types of everyone showed from teenage kids to dads pushing 40. I think it was a great embrace to springtime.

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I was actually trying to pop my collar here, ok?


Retro blog #1: April 30, 2008

April 30 is Valborg. It’s a pagan holiday originally (like everything else), but is still celebrated in Germany and in Sweden. The average Swede couldn’t explain why it still exists, but it signifies the beginning of spring. Basically, everyone just makes bonfires and drinks alcohol.

Petter was awesome enough to invite Jud and myself to his neighbors’ house in the forest of Älmhult. His neighbors were welcoming and open – the man of the house was Petter’s Spanish teacher in high school and I spent a good portion of the party listening to him talk about how learning Spanish changed his life. The rest of it was spent in a discussion with Jonas about how he wants to become a music producer.

After the house party, we decided to continue on with the evening and took Älmhult’s only taxi to Älmhult’s only nightclub, Speakeasy. I felt as though I had walked into Thanksgiving weekend in Woodstock. Petter reunited with kids from his high school days and some of our colleagues assaulted us at with inebriated greetings. We saw Petter for 7 seconds the rest of the night. However, we did see bright yellow balloons with the letter ü printed on them. These were promotions for Petter’s s art collective and party space “Über Studios and Über Mental Bar.” He had a party there that weekend (blog entry to follow). Jud and I danced to some phenomenally bad Swedish club hits for about 20 minutes then left, feeling completely blasé.

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