Festival report: Hultsfred Festivalen 05

I'm at the age now (I LOVE that phrase!) where I belong to the older sphere of people who attend music festivals (aged 25 and upwards). This is nothing that bothers me, I'm pretty used to going to gigs where everyone is half my age (and length), but what I find silly is how people indulge in saying how they're "too old" for festivals, as if ageing by itself gives you specific attributes that automatically make you hate being among large groups of young people and seeing bands play live outdoors. Personally, I think that I've enjoyed going to festivals more and more the older I've got. Take this for example, the first festival I went to was the Hultsfred Festival around when I was 16 or so, and that time I saw 40-50 bands, didn't have a shit for 5 days (did I just say that?), nor a shower (oooh, I sure was a hit with the ladies), and every day I had crappy noodles cooked on a crappy portable stove that took ages to clean afterwards. The last festival I went to was also the Hultsfred Festival (16-18th June). This time I "only" went to see 16 bands, had a shower every day, and ate good properly cooked food, (constipation was never an issue). So far I've always camped when I've gone to a festival, although this will soon change. Basically, what I'm saying is that festivals are ace if you got a monthly salary, can get drunk without having to spend your life savings on a bottle of dodgy vodka mixed with water and dirt, got a car (or a friend with one) so that you can bring all the extra necessities you might need (boots, raincoats, extra beer, tons of mixtapes, etc), and it's also good when you've seen a lot of the bands on the festival before so you can spend a large amount of the time sitting around with your mates in the sun getting drunk (and not crazy "teenage" drunk, only pretty goddamn drunk). I didn't mind being a teenager and "wild", but if I'm going to a place where the beer is flowing like wine and the general mindset among people is that of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorra, I rather be a bit older and boring than totally senseless (and end up being taken by the cops because the security guards assume you're on drugs because you act a bit "wild", something that might have happened to me a long, long time ago).

Anyway, I went all the way from London to go to this festival determined not to miss out on any of the bands that I REALLY wanted to see, but also to drink some beer and meet up with some old friends. Hultsfred is not the easiest place to get to though, me and my girl drove for three hours to get there, which would have been fine if we weren't manoeuvring a mobile sauna (a.k.a. a Nissan Micra without AC). It also took some time to get our festival passes and such, but since we were finally out of the car, and there was beer to drink and a sun to stand in the shadow of – it was all F I N E.

After setting up our tent we went to check out Jason Ringenberg who turned out to be some sort of Homer Simpson version of a country artist, so we left after three songs - unimpressed. The line up to Hultsfred 2005 got some very big bands in it, such as The Magic Numbers, The Mars Volta, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot and Mastodon, but the reason why I was so excited about the festival was all the Swedish bands playing. Not only did some of Sweden's biggest bands (The Hives, Millencolin, Moneybrother, etc) play, but lots of the best "indie" bands were also playing, much to my delight since I hardly get a chance to catch these bands live due to me living in London. The first Swedish band I saw at the festival was The Lovekevins who played on the Rookie stage where all unsigned bands get the chance to churn out their unsigned songs. The Lovekevins play harmless, melodic twee music, that's pretty well crafted and lovely to hear live, especially on a sunny afternoon next to a pretty lake. After this nice outdoors twee concert, I headed indoors for a super nice indoors twee concert – by the magnificent El Perro Del Mar, who makes great little songs that sort of twist and turn their way into the back of your head with no intention of leaving, but in a good way (sort of like having the best sex of your life, in a coffin). I think she might, and I hope she does, become really big all over the world. At this stage I started to get really drunk, but not so drunk that I could enjoy Le Tigre (now a sort of pastiche of their former selves) or Sean Price, but drunk enough to really like David Sandström Overdrive's gig and feel like I've taken ecstasy at M.I.A's blistering show. I wish I'll get another chance to see David Sandström though, sober.

On Friday I woke up with a hangover from hell that took half day to get rid of, and I was even feeling a bit ropey when The Acid House Kings turned their rather slow recorded material into a furious blast of melodic pop. When they played "Say yes I if you love me" and "We are The Acid House Kings" I thought I was going to explode (not from the hangover but from euphoria). It was a shame to start the day on such a high note, none of the rest of the bands I saw this day were as goods as The Acid House Kings were. I had quite high expectations on the two bands I saw next (Immortal Technique and Richard Buckner) but none of them were nearly half as good as I thought they were going to be. Frida Hyvönen, who has released one of this year's best albums, played at 8pm and she did fortunately deliver the beautiful set that I had hoped for. She did a support gig for The Concretes a while ago in London, but I missed her then, but thank god I turned up in time this a round (I must confess that I for some unknown reason dragged my girlfriend away from the gig halfway through). After piano-driven balladry, it was time for some modern beat-driven music – in the shape of former pop-soul queen Robyn. The first five songs she played were all from her new fresh and stunning album, and at this time of the show I thought I was witnessing one of the best concerts in my life, but then Robyn started doing older songs, songs that aren't nearly half as good as her new material. It was sort of like going out for a meal at a fancy restaurant, having a gorgeous dessert, and then end up with a bowl of brine for your main meal. I left the Robyn gig feeling very disappointed, and it might have been this frustration that ruined the next show for me, because I just didn't enjoy Mattias Alkberg BD at all. I love both his albums, and I thought this would be one of the highlights of the festival, but instead it was just boring. Seeing Snoop Dogg turn up really late to do a rubbish set didn't really do much to raise my spirits either. So what to do now after a day of rain with so many of my dreams being crushed? Going to see The Tough Alliance of course! TTA – maybe the most exciting band to come out of any Scandinavian country ever – would surely pick me up and make me want to party all night. But no, my favourite band would of course turn out to be appalling live. I sort of should have seen this coming, TTA have stirred up some controversy in Sweden by not singing live, but only to mime along to their tracks and often being drunk off their heads. I just couldn't dig their performance, perhaps I wasn't drunk enough, but it just came across as too absurd and weird for me. A damn shame!

On Saturday I proposed to my girlfriend so this was nothing but an excellent day, even though the previous day's many busted hopes continued with hyped Swedish band Vapnet playing songs that failed to convince. In almost every interview I've read about Vapnet it's been about how subversive they're by mixing lyrics with swear words (Jesus Christ!) and twee music. Too bad their music is so contrived and if it wasn't for them not being funny, I would have thought it was a joke. As I said previously, it was for the smaller bands that I went to Hultsfred, so on the last day of the festival at 6.30 I ventured to the biggest stage (Hawaii) for the first time, and got to see Sweden's own Håkan Hellström, who just must have ADD or something, charm everyone out of their pants. I was stupid not to stay for the whole set and instead go and see another of my favourite bands, The Hidden Cameras, once more prove that they're one of those bands, just like TTA I guess, that are better on record than live. After The Hidden Cameras I went for a rather long beer drinking session at the camping area with some friends, and got the opportunity to witness an exciting but unfortunate ruckus. After a while though I felt a bit guilty for not seeing any bands, so I grabbed my girl and went to see Loop Troop. What a great decision that was! I've seen Loop Troop play many times, but tonight they seemed to burn even brighter than they usually do. One of the three MCs, Supreme, appeared to emulate Håkan Hellström's behaviour by running left and right on the stage continuously, which was pretty fun to watch. It was most definitely the perfect ending for a splendid festival. Hope next year's line up will be as good, if not I guess I will have more time drinking beer in the sun with my girl and friends (the ones that haven't turned "too old", all of a sudden, that is).

Text by Simon Tagestam, pictures by David Robertson