When it comes to going out I tend to find myself in a bit of a catch-22 situation. The thing is I like going out, I really do. I love hooking up with friends, meeting new people (although not too many at once), drinking, babbling away and generally making a fool of myself, before tottering off home to get in synch with my rapidly spinning bedroom and falling into a booze coma. So far so normal. The thing is that whenever the opportunity to go out for the night raises its head, I pretty much always find an excuse to stay home. I’m kind of famous for it, or infamous, depending on who you ask. I’m not sure why it happens either, I’m a bit on the shy side, so it could be that. It doesn’t really matter, I’ve gotten used to it by now and so I think, have my friends.
Anyway, the one thing that always gets me up off the sofa and out of the house is Rundgång’s annual knees-up. Now Rundgång, for those of you that don’t know, is a record shop in Malmö. Actually scratch that, it’s pretty much THE record shop in Malmö. There are others of course, some have been around longer, most are way bigger, carry more stock and employ more staff, but none of them hold a candle to Rundgång. “Why?”, I hear you ask? Well if you’ll give me a minute I’ll tell you. Rundgång is the sort of record shop I always wanted to exist in my town when I was growing up, but didn’t. It’s a hub for the local music scenes, a place for people to meet up, talk shit, find out what’s going on, have that first beer of the weekend, hear new/old music, do a bit of backslapping and of course every now and then actually buy some records.
That’s why when Rundgång’s head honcho, Dennis Lood, announces each year’s party it feels like something worth celebrating. Our little record shop has survived another 365 days and is still with us. Hurra, hurra, hurra. Handily for me the choice of venue lately has been Babel, a gorgeous old converted red-brick church, that just so happens to be a two minute walk from where I live.
Now unlike the guy Lou’s hanging around for in I'm Waiting For The Man, I’m always early. Which means that when I arrive I end up walking into a totally empty bar, and when I say empty I mean tumbleweeds-rolling-by empty. There are two bar staff, two DJs and me. I grab a beer, ensconce myself in a corner and feel sorry for the DJs having to play to the uninterested bar staff. Everyone is outside, I know everyone must be sitting outside, it’s the Swedish way, but I can’t bring myself to walk out there. Worst-case scenario would be that it’s packed out there but I won’t know anyone or be able to find a seat, so I’ll end up having to come back in here, tail between my legs to reclaim my original seat. The chances of that actually happening are slim, but I decide not to risk it. So I stay put, pull out my phone and check the usual trinity - Facebook, Instagram, Mail. Besides I’m enjoying the music the DJs (Madeleine and Anna) are playing. Then I spot Erik at the bar. For some reason he’s known to one and all as Pops, I can’t bring myself to call him that though.
“Erik” I shout over to him, but he doesn’t hear me. I give it another go, which yields the same result. I give up, I’m doomed. But then he sees me and ambles over, causal as you like. He’s happy, he’s DJing here tonight. He tells me to come outside as that’s where everyone is. So I do.
Once outside I make a bee-line for Federation, the band that are kicking off tonight’s celebrations. Within no time at all me, Nisse, Victor and his brother, Daniel (Broder Daniel ha, don’t worry you’ll only get that if you’re Swedish), are talking about VHS copies of Jumanji and how it’s high time that Federation started playing more gigs and perhaps even put out some records. All of which is easier said than done since none of the trio actually live in the same city. Meaning that Victor ends up doing a 750 mile round trip once a month just so they can rehearse. Not ideal.
Still it’s lucky for us that he does, since when they hit the stage thirty-or-so minutes later the evening proper gets underway. A handful of monitors dotted around in front of their equipment flicker into life as Federation set about unleashing the sound of an angry hornet’s nest having it out with a drum machine. That’s not to say that Federation just make a racket, it’s just that like almost every Swedish band I’ve ever seen, they sort of can’t help but write songs that are as melodic-as-fuck. They’re The Stooges filtered through Detroit techno. They’re electronic, but not in that safe, smug, nodding baldy heads and beards version that has somehow become de rigueur for this sort of music. Their instruments look like they’re held together with bits of tape and band stickers. To my ears they sound like how a Steve Albini fronted New Order might’ve been, if he’d steered them away from the NY disco scene and towards the dirty synthscapes of Suicide instead. Victor, who you might recognise moonlighting from his day job in MF/MB/, yelps and barks his way through the songs like a man who knows that every second counts. God knows what he’s singing about, but whatever it is it sounds like he means it. Daniel, when not abusing his keyboard, dances around like a marionette being operated by an epileptic.
Don’t ask me how many songs they play, or how any of them differ from each other, because I couldn’t tell you. I'm swept up by the whole thing, and before I know it, it’s over. The music stutters to a halt, the spell broken and off stage they traipse. So it’s back outside for a beer and feeble attempt by me to avoid the plumes of smoke emanating from the young things around me. Then Malmö’s loudest voice™, Erik Börén (our MC for the evening), announces that it’s time for us to trundle back inside as local hero Noe Spagato is about to play. So trundle inside we do.
I like Noe Spagato, I like the lone 7” he put out on Psychic Malmö and I really like him live. He’s a hands-on analogue kinda guy. There’s some sort of technical hitch though and for a few minutes everything looks to be a bit touch and go. There’s no sound coming from the stage. Which when you’re about to play a gig is a pretty big deal I imagine. Noe Spagato, or Fredrik as he’s known when not up on stage surrounded by ancient keyboards, doesn’t look at all phased though. He squats down and calmly waits until everything is fixed, no tantrums, no histrionics. He’s dressed like a resident of Mega City One, he’s not one of us. In fact come to think of it, this is only the second time I’ve ever seen him not wearing roller skates.
Then all of a sudden something clicks and we’re underway. Fredrik coaxes all sorts of burbles and squeaks from his keyboards. This is no minimal, sleek lap-top and black box set up. He sounds like the missing link between mid ‘70s Tangerine Dream and early ‘80s John Carpenter, or perhaps Klaus Schulze if Klaus Schulze hit his stride during the house era. What do I know? Either way it sounds great.
As an added bonus there’s minimal drum accompaniment from whom I’m reliably told is his girlfriend. She mainly sticks to a rigid hi-hat and kick drum combination with the occasional cymbal flourish. She underpins everything, allowing Fredrik to noodle away to his heart’s content. Which works like a dream. So much so that when she turns her attention to a woodblock at one point the whole track elevates three meters up into the air.
The gig ends and I wander off to the bar feeling a bit drunk. Have to get some water, mustn’t forget to drink water I think to myself. I order another beer, all thoughts of H2O completely forgotten. I wander outside to talk rubbish to friends and bump into my friend Emos. Before we can get chatting though it’s time to head back inside for the return of The Loodz, the ‘supergroup’ made up of various Malmö music types. The Loodz are fun, they made their debut at last year’s Rundgång Fest and were easily the highlight of that night for me. Their set is all very tongue-in-cheek with guest vocalists for each song. I’m starting to sway a bit now. It must be getting late. I check my phone and see that it really isn’t.
Various people clamber up on stage and karaoke their way through various Swedish classics. Some I recognise, some I don’t. Dennis attacks Bäddat För Trubbel’s Inte New York, elsewhere two of Arre! Arre! have a stab at Familjen’s Det snurrar i min skalle. Smulan (Christine from Nightmen & MF/MB/) Suzi-Quatros up Brainpool’s Bandstarter, turning it into a chugging double-denim clad rocker. Perfect. Last up is Katja (Arre! Arre!), who thunders her way through the Bob Hund anthem Nu är det väl revolution på gång?, like she’s about to storm Drottningholm Palace. Everyone joins in, even me, singing every last word. It’s only after the song ends with the biggest applause of the night that I realise that I only actually know the words to the chorus, and even then I’m not 100% about that.
More beer, more chit-chat then it’s into the main room for tonight’s headliners, K-X-P, who I don’t really know anything about, except that they’re from Finland and everyone says that I’ll love them. They’re not wrong. Three robed monk-like figures make their way across the stage. Two of them take up their positions behind drum kits, while the other picks up one of those fuck-awful cricket-bat guitars. Then it begins. H O L Y F U C K. They’re good. They must be involved in the black arts. The drums pound, the guitar wails and then one of the drummers starts playing a trombone. It’s like something from a particularly weird David Lynch film. All we need now is a dwarf.
I look around at the audience, who for the most part are entranced by what is happening on stage. The temperature in the room noticeably rises. K-X-P should never be allowed to play during daylight hours, they should carry a warning sign that all children must be safely tucked up in bed before they can begin. They grind onwards, time becomes elastic, their set lasts forever and is over within minutes. Although that could just be the beer. When they do clamber down from the stage they walk through the audience and I shake their hands as they pass. I don’t know why, I just do.
I drift back into the bar area, Emos buys me a beer that I neither want or need, but once it’s in my hand I gladly gulp down. The night is dying, there’s no more wood for the fire. Erik and Nopan are spinning vinyl that should make everyone head for the hills. Meatloaf, Boney M, ABBA and far worse things that I’ve excised from my mind are pulled out and slapped onto the turntables. The dance floor is packed.
Oh the irony. Here we are celebrating the best record store in town, the only place that stocks obscure Kosmische LPs alongside hand-folded 7”s by local bands that will only ever be bought by their friends. Yet all ideas of cool vaporise in the sweat of the dance floor which is heaving with beanpole-thin-tote-bag-carrying girl-boys, tattooed punk types and everyone in-between, all screaming the lyrics to Dancing Queen at the top of their lungs.
It’s a Swedish thing. You can stand at the same bus stop, with the same five people for years over here before you’ll get any sort of conversation out of them. Get a few pints down those same five Swedes though and you’ll find yourself getting messy on the dance floor with them, doing shots, planning trips to the countryside before running down to the beach for some 4 a.m. naked swimming.
I’m half-joking of course, but Swedes are kind of funny like that. Hyper-hip to every little nuance of changing trends, yet if an evening doesn’t end without being able to get at least one last beer inside them whilst listening to something that would normally have them exclaiming ‘the horror, the horror’, then it’s deemed a failure. Still, it beats the punch up and chips English version of a night out I guess.
It’s a real ‘it’s me not you’ situation. Erik and Nopan are playing exactly the right music for the right situation. I feel like a music snob, worse than that a drunk music snob. I take this as my cue to head home. I feel rough-as-fuck and realise as I stagger along that I never did manage to drink any water. That’s me fucked then. Hangovers are bad news once you hit 35, and end up lasting longer with each passing year. I’m 42 now, and after each one hits, I always consider retiring from alcohol altogether. Well, for a day or two. Fuck knows how I’m going to cope once I hit 70. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it though. I’ll just have a glass of water when I get in, that’ll do the trick I think. Might even be adventurous and have two. Ten minutes later I’m in bed adjusting my body to the Earth’s gravitational pull, trying to find that one angle that unlocks sleep. All thoughts of water long forgotten. I drift off quickly and dream of setting fire to my Dad’s bathroom with some dodgy indoor fireworks. He wasn’t best pleased I can tell you.