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sjonapic flag Norway - Full Moon 96 - 07/31/04

Sjonstock Festival 2004
Sjona, Norway, 23. + 24.07.

For the 10th year in a row, the cows and sheep were driven off, and a small field hidden in the Northern Norwegian countryside became the site for the two-day Sjonstock festival.

Friday:

Mayor Gordon

This local band opened the festival, after a spirited introduction by - who else? - the Mayor. The band name is a funny take on what it sounds like when someone who doesn't speak Norwegian tries to pronounce "Meyergaarden", one of the hotels in town. Mayor Gordon was fun, but not very interesting. They play stoner rock, with clear references to bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss. The rock & roll factor is very high, at least. When the singer's acoustic guitar failed to produce any sound during one of the songs, he proceeded to smash it during the heavy instrumental section that followed. Now that's what I call rock & roll.

Lorraine

"Electro-rock" band Lorraine from Bergen reminded me somewhat of Placebo. That's not a bad thing, mind you. The band rocked out, and seemed quite enthusiastic even though the audience were still arriving, and there was still lots of room in front of the stage.

White Wings

Given the anniversary this year, the time had come for a short reunion. The very first Sjonstock was just a birthday party with 50 invited friends and the band White Wings, who for a couple of years in the late 80s played at parties all over the district. Several of the members are now working behind the scenes of the festival, most notably drummer Mads Mjelle, who's been in charge of booking since the festival started. So for the 10th anniversary, White Wings came together to play some of the cover songs they played way back when. Songs like Van Halen's "Jump", and other 80s rock classics.

Side Brok

This hip-hop band is based in Hovdebygda near Ørsta in Norway. You probably need a pretty detailed map of Norway to find it. They rap in their own peculiar dialect, which gives them a pretty unique sound as a hip-hop act. Instead of relying on the traditional turntables to provide the beats, Side Brok actually had a drummer, a bass player and a keyboardist with them. The rhythm section was very tight, and played a lot of stuff with a Jamaican influence. Very cool, and a fun show.

Varpen

Bjørn Varpen is a local guitar hero who has established himself as one of the leading blues guitarists in the district with his trio called, uh, Varpen. He could probably become quite well known throughout the country, with a little help from a record company. Varpen played at Sjonstock a few years ago, with great success. This time, his rhythm section was new, but the music was every bit as exciting and energetic as before. A blistering cover of Jimi Hendrix' "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" fit right in with the self-composed material. Bjørn Varpen has a terrific stage presence, and is very good at maintaining contact with the audience throughout the show.

Span

Rock heroes Span have had a decent amount of chart success, but were eager to prove that they're more than just another "hit" band. And prove it they did. My goodness, what a tight band! Catchy, exciting songs and high energy. The definitive highlight of the Sjonstock Friday.

Saturday:

On Saturday I missed a few bands due to tiredness and scheduling. During the sets of Shaolin Ponks and Lame Ducks, I was half asleep on a boat, and could hear the bands rocking out up on the field.

Dadafon

I got up for the third band, though. Dadafon mixes jazz, pop and rock to come up with their own unique sound. A cello and female vocals complemented the basic rock instrumentation of drums, bass and guitar. Singer Kristin Asbjørnsen was amazing, and she also used various effect pedals to create some pretty interesting moments with loops and echoes.

Sondre Lerche

This young singer/songwriter from Bergen has enjoyed lots of success with his nice pop melodies, and has been touring the US a lot recently. I was looking forward to his Sjonstock concert, but was very disappointed to find out it was a solo show, he didn't have his band with him. Sondre Lerche has lots of good songs, but with just him and his guitar for an hour it frankly became a bit boring. The guy knows just the thing to say, though: "You've already seen the best band today", he said, referring to Dadafon. Too late he realised he had just panned all the bands to follow, and quickly tried to save himself by adding "But stick around, you never know what might happen!"

Elvin Friendly

At 5:30pm Tuna Laguna kicked off the first of two concerts in the nearby church, but I skipped that one to see Elvin Friendly, who from the description sounded quite interesting. The four-man two-woman band entered the stage in matching costumes that resembled the uniforms of traditional Norwegian marching bands. They played rock that had some of the same madness as the late, great Frank Zappa, only not as technical as Zappa's music. The band was tight, and the energy and sheer joy displayed on stage was highly contagious. The stage show was hilarious, the loosely choreographed moves by the girls were great. Also, their drummer swears a lot.

Clayred

The hip-hop band Spetakkel was next, but by this time the sun had given way to rain, and I decided to give them a miss, and go down to the church to catch local band Clayred. Led by Mayor Gordon singer Kristian Granheim (now with two stitches on his head from the guitar smashing the previous day), the band consists of solid musicians with many years of experience from the local music scene. Granheim is a very good songwriter, sings well, and plays the guitar very well. His problem is that he can't seem to stop copying his heroes. It just becomes way too obvious where he gets his inspiration. His previous band, Moist, sounded like a weak copy of Dave Matthews Band. A few years ago, Kristian discovered The Tea Party, and as a result, Clayred sounds like a weak copy of that band.

Ricochets

Back at the festival field, Ricochets were rocking out on stage. To me they seemed tired, and the music didn't interest me much, I'm afraid.

Jim Stärk

Jim Stärk was next, a band that plays low-key pop/rock music, perhaps comparable to Thomas Dybdahl, who played at last year's festival. Jim Stärk took the energy level down a notch - it was the calm before the headliner.

CC Cowboys

The headliner for Saturday arrived on the Norwegian scene with their debut album "Blodsbrødre" in 1990, a couple of years after DumDum Boys, last year's headliner. Again, where others evidently hear great music, I hear nothing but a clone. Both musically and lyrically, CC Cowboys sound like a cheap imitation of DumDum Boys. That being said, they are certainly a solid band. These days the two remaining members of the original line-up - singer/guitarist Magnus Grønneberg and drummer Agne Sæther - are joined by guitarist Jørn Christensen and bassist Per Vestaby, both of them long-time veterans of the Norwegian rock scene. Watching the band perform, it's evident that all four are highly experienced and capable rock musicians, and for that, at least, they have my respect.

Pagan's Mind

Advertised as playing "progressive metal" - probably the most accurate description of any band at Sjonstock '04. The band entered the stage to the sounds of the intro from their latest album, "Celestial Entrance", and proceeded with "Through Osiris' Eyes", an intricate piece that set the pace for the rest of the concert. Pagan's Mind delivered ultra-tight progressive metal that fans of Dream Theater will appreciate. Speaking of Dream Theater, Pagan's Mind, certainly knew their audience, and delivered a flawless cover version of Dream Theater's "Under a Glass Moon". Combined with their own brilliant songs and stage presence, Pagan's Mind was a highlight for many at this year's Sjonstock Festival.

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