Monday, 31 August 2015

Aarhus: 1

I'm in Aarhus again.
My great mate Jens Folmer Jepsen is directing his final festival and I'm hoping to be a part of a grand send off. It's my 2nd day and I hope that it's as pleasurable as yesterday: off the plane to be driven into town by Hans. We shared a thoughtful and moving conversation about family, love, loss and disfunction. It sure beat the usual London cabby's banter. I checked into the hotel and then headed out in search of tickets for the week's shows. I stumbled into the festival office to embrace a delightfully disheveled Folmer but in my indecent haste for a Scandinavian man hug I managed to gracelessly trample over (and queue jump) the diminutive Sylvie Simmons​ who was patiently waiting in line for her tickets. Once I'd picked Sylvie up, dusted her off and apologized profusely... Folmer advised us that we were 'on the guest list to everything'.
Sylvie and I were then taken for a cup of the town's '2nd best coffee' by Max Kirkeby and the brilliantly monikered Mikkel Mol who enthused about their electronic band Keep Camping. Like a dutiful father I pressed The Blue Nile and Paul Buchanan​ on Max as my favorite example of that genre. I hope that he takes the recommendation.
A dinner of 'sheep' then on to the first of the 'Trio' gigs this week.

"Three world class musicians, three concerts and an impressive selection of guest appearances." proclaims the brochure. The 'house band' is just incredible: Diego Schissi (piano) who I played with here in 2012, Tony Garnier (bassist for Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon) and multi-instumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren, who also happens to grace my new 'Happy Blue' album. Tonight they were in stellar company: Sweden's Annika Norlin is new to me but was a genuine delight. With a whispering voice that echoed her countrywoman Stina Nordenstam she stayed just the right side of 'cute/quirky' and tugged a heartstring or two with her delicate nursery crime lullabies.

Rhiannon Giddens was a joyful firebrand; effortlessly genre hopping folk, blues, jazz and country but always firmly couched in her Afro-American roots.

Joe Henry​ oversaw the events with a calm and stately warmth. His performance was consummate and thoroughly engaging. He didn't announce it but I'd like to think that he played 'Our Song' not for his countrymen but just for me, although he later denied this over beer and a cigar. I'd hate to hail him a hero; that'd probably creep him out, but I can't think of a contemporary writer currently performing
whose music and ethics I admire more. We are often warned never to meet our heroes as we are doomed to be disappointed. Having just shared a Danish pastry and breakfast coffee with Joe I can attest that a crock... he's great company, seriously engaged with his passion, articulate, attentive, funny and charming. I wonder what his production rate is?
Anyway, enough. I'm stepping out to see what the day has to offer. Sylvie Simmons​ is doing a book signing. I hope that she has a compass in her heel as yesterday proved her to have a worse sense of direction than both me or Di. She will hopefully be performing some songs from her fabulous Howe Gelb​ produced 'Sylvie' and later tonight Efterklang are featuring in a dystopian play. Sure beats 'Emmerdale'.
Meanwhile, here's Joe.

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