VIVID. a post_rock Festival, Kristiansand, Norway, 20-21.09.2019

Event: VIVID. a post_rock festival
Written by: Ivor, Tiina
Published: 03.11.2019


VIVID. a post_rock Festival, Kristiansand, Norway, 20-21.09.2019 by Ivor (35)

Post-rock as a genre is an experience of sailing the sea of certain moods and a specific mindset for me. It can be rewarding, but it can also be such a drag. While I enjoy such concerts every now and again, I can't in all honesty say that I've ever contemplated going to a full festival of post-rock-related music. However, somewhat unexpectedly I got really interested in VIVID, a post_rock Festival in Kristiansand, Norway.

There were a number of things speaking for Vivid. First and foremost, I really wanted to see Long Distance Calling perform some stuff from their recent album, Boundless, which I enjoyed so very much. Secondly, Nordic Giants have been on my to-see list for quite a long while. Thirdly, I was hoping to revisit the picturesque Kristiansand again. And finally, at a glance Vivid appeared to be an audio-visual rather than a straightforward music festival - and that seemed like something worth closer investigation in person.

Rôka Skulld (Nordic Giants)

Vivid is a festival with a concept. It's all about an artistic pairing of bands and visual artists. It's about putting the band on stage and enhancing their show with stunning visuals on the huge backdrop screen. Think cinema with a live soundtrack. The obvious parallel with silent movies comes strongly to my mind, especially so since fairly recently I happened to see the 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi in a local movie theatre with the Belgian band We Stood Like Kings supplying music live on the spot. That was exceptionally good stuff and I was expecting Vivid to deliver a similar wholesome experience.

The visuals were nothing short of stunning. That's a fact and not just an observation. Landscapes, abstracts, films - you name it. Watching the big screen you could easily lose yourself in the imagery while the bands accompanied it unobtrusively. Most of the visuals were not unique, however, in a sense that they were pre-recorded, so the effect of being in a cinema was even more perceptible. I found that it also took away some sense of immediacy from the live performance, akin to when the bands overuse backing tracks. What I was looking for, and thus found to be the most intriguing, were the visual improvisations created on the spot. During [band]indignu [lat.][/band]'s performance, Silje Egeland was projecting abstract patterns created with liquids in a dish, and Vilde Eskedal was projecting her abstract painting during Aiming For Enrike, making them both an additional member of the band on stage, responding to the music in their own way.

Vilde Eskedal (Aiming For Enrike)

The pairing of visual artists with the bands was also something that kept bothering me throughout the festival. On the one hand, you have, as I already mentioned, stunning visuals. On the other hand, you have the band on stage playing what was, for the most part, unobtrusive music. It's post-rock we're talking about, after all. To top it off, the room was dark and the stage lights were subdued and scarce, so the bands were not very well seen, especially amidst darker visuals. I get that post-rock bands can be fairly static on stage but it doesn't mean I don't want to see them play. For reference, And So I Watched You From Afar asked the light engineer for additional illumination because they had trouble seeing the strings and literally kept playing wrong notes (though not that I could tell). So the issue for me personally was the focus - the screen rather than the band was elevated to the centre of attention. Given that the bands were there in person and the visual artists for the most part were not, I found this to be somewhat unbalanced and bothersome.

Musically, Vivid was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I was pleasantly surprised that my biggest fear of post-rock being a drag was not to be realized. Rather short sets might have had something to do with keeping the focus, as the bands only got 40-50 minutes of stage time, headliners excepted, and even slow stuff had to get to the crescendo rather quickly. However, for things I really wanted to see, I'd have preferred a considerably longer set - Long Distance Calling passed in a heartbeat, leaving me with a feeling that we were just getting started, preparing to go places, have never-ending adventures and whatnot, only to call it off mid-packing.

Nevertheless, there were enjoyable and memorable performances and a couple of real discoveries at the festival. The band that struck me as the odd one out already on the first day was Aiming For Enrike, a guitar-drum duo that diverges from post-rock into some sort of pop territory. It threw me off, I'll be honest. The experience was something I wasn't prepared for and I can't say I enjoyed it much at the time. However, reflecting on it afterwards, I've come to the conclusion that, tonality of the music aside, the use of samples, the varied construction of the songs, and the exceptional performance by ex-Leprous drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen make for something worth seeing. If you want to observe a drummer in a workout session, this is the band you're looking for.

Bernt Moen (Dualistic)

Another unexpected entry at the festival was Dualistic at the start of the second day, playing in the open air at Vaktbua bar. This was essentially instrumental jazz on the heavier side, something that I can fully get behind if done well. Turns out that on keyboards you could find Green Carnation's former keyboardist Bernt Moen, who also happened to be in Shining (NOR) during their Blackjazz era. That should give you enough of a starting point. The trio put on a great performance in the blazing sunshine, sweating through every note and complicated twist and turn of their songs. I personally was very much impressed and left the spot with a brand new CD in my pocket.

However, the most amazing event happened even before Dualistic. At Concert Hall 1 of the University of Adger, Spurv did two exclusive limited shows, and for the opportunity to visit the second one I have to thank Kjetil Nordhus of Green Carnation for kindly offering his own spot on the list. The Spurv shows were immersive, 360°, collaborative performances with electronic artists Zack Bresler and Kristian Isachsen. What this means is that in a roughly square-shaped hall with high ceilings, twelve speakers on stands were set in a circle around the room, each member of the band was set in their own corner, and the electronic artists were at the table in the dead centre of it all. And for the best experience, the audience were kindly invited to stay within the circle formed of speakers.

As an audio experience, this was, as promised, immersive. Wherever I moved in the room, the sound changed. At every point within the circle I could hear all of the band and effects. However, the exact balance of what I heard was different - moving closer to one corner the sound from the opposite corner got fainter. On the one hand, the quiet music and rich sound effects made it feel like being in a lively springtime forest. On the other hand, the large hall itself gave the performance a touch of otherworldly holiness akin to what you can experience in a church. The sound was pure, it was in balance, and it was everywhere. This was the very definition of surround sound and, as far as I'm concerned, the best and most memorable performance of the festival.

Gustav Jørgen Pedersen and Simon Ljung (Spurv)

...which in turn brings me to my main gripe with Vivid. All the shows at Aladdin Scene were loud. Like, obnoxiously loud. The sound balance was all right; you could hear every instrument and detail, if you stood the pressure of it. Frankly, even earplugs didn't really help; it was that loud. Not only does it wear you down much quicker, but it makes you feel uncomfortable and really gets in the way of enjoying the music. That goes not only for the energetic And So I Watched You From Afar but also for the mellow Nordic Giants, and that says quite a lot. Personally, this left me with a bit of a sour taste.

All in all, I have to admit, this trip to the festival was an interesting one. Timo Helmers and his organizing team did a good job of putting the event together. There's a central idea to it, there's a fine selection of bands, and there are some unique special events happening. So far Vivid is still a small gathering of like-minded people, a festival aimed at a very specific listener. It probably won't be exploding in audience numbers anytime soon, so if you're looking for shows with intimate atmosphere, this is the place. Personally, if it wasn't for the short sets for the bands I wanted to see and overly loud sound, I'd have been very satisfied.


Written on 03.11.2019 by I shoot people.

Sometimes, I also write about it.

And one day I'm going to start a band. We're going to be playing pun-rock.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 21 users
03.11.2019 - 10:16
Post-rock is often a genre that works really well as ambient background music for something so it's great that they provided visuals to be that something. I remember seeing some australian postrock band a while ago and they actually projected short silent movies that they themselves directed.
Father: How can a picture of a field be sad without a sad person looking sad in the field?
Young Woman: That's an interesting problem. Yeah, I struggle with that.

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