Category Archives: Festivals

MCM London Comic Con — The view from the inside

This past weekend, I had a unique opportunity for my life and my career: to cover the MCM London Comic Con — the largest event in comics, games, and entertainment in the United Kingdom. What follows is a short account of my experience with this imposing event, so crowded with people, so full of life and so full of novelties.

Getting there
Let’s start with the basics: I had a long ride ahead to reach the ExCel Convention Center — as I live in Swansea, a five-hour bus ride away from London. However, arriving in London presents another challenge: the journey from Victoria Coach Station to the ExCeL Centre – one hour and three tube journeys in a city I know very little about. The trick? As any convention goer knows — follow the cosplayers.

Despite having read much about it, I was still unprepared: the MCM London Comic Con is simply immense. Occupying more than half of the giant ExCel Convention Centre near the Thames, about 120 000 people visited the convention during the three days of the event – I was around for the first two..

The event itself
In simple terms, the reactions on arrival on Friday – a day of less activity, partly due to working hours – was of jaws dropping. A diverse crowd that ranged from families with small children — some hoping to meet Daniel Radcliffe, there to promote his new movie, Horns — to bearded fellows wearing fantasy gaming T-shirts. Passing by amateur and “professional” cosplayers, nerds of all kinds and even some old ladies (one I saw again on Saturday with a bag overflowing with memorabilia from Marvel – whether for herself or as a gift, one can only wonder+.

Here I have to separate between two things: Comic Con as a convention and in terms of its feel. As a convention, it’s a dream: a cluster of nerds and fans of all kinds, celebrities from the A to the C lists (those actors and illustrators who are only known by fans of * insert thing here * – people like Robert Llewellyn and Hattie Hayridge, from the excellent Red Dwarf series, colorist John Paul Bove – Judge Dredd and Tranformers ReGeneration One, and the eternal Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amber Benson). An insane amount of sellers of all kinds of geeky junk, autograph sessions, panels with staff and crew from series and movies…it’s a dream, in a nutshell. Even despite all the practical problems.

This is even before you get to the chance to play games before they come out on the market and equally amazing, the chance to find products that have long been off the market, as in “too cheap to be on ebay”. Conventions, as we know, are the nerd paradise – and this is not any different.

However, the practical problems are many and at some points are really troublesome. As I said, there are about 120 000 people in just three days; overcrowding is a guarantee, either within the convention, or around it. Some of the booth shops were almost impossible to see, given the throng of people around you – and if you managed to stop  to take a look, you were guaranteed to be bumped into. At the end of the second day, all the ATMs inside the ExCel Convention Center and several around it were penniless. I only managed to follow one whole panel – that of Daniel Radcliffe – as all the others I tried to go to were either crowded or with huge queues.

Stranded in London
At the end of the first day, not to run the risk of missing my bus back to Swansea, I missed the panel of the original cast of Mighty Morphin ‘Power Rangers – despite having a guaranteed seat as part of the press. A big mistake it turns out – as despite leaving early, thanks to the delayed ExCeL DLR I arrived at Victoria Coach Station ten minutes after my bus – the last bus.

This then provoked another memorable experience: getting lost in London without having anywhere to go (until a colleague of mine offered me a place) – I found it an immense city, always busy. Crowded streets and tube stations, especially on a Friday night. I encountered the strangeness of a full bar on a Friday closing at 10pm but eagerly grabbed the chance to cover the second day.

Day 2

If the first day was an amazing experience, the second was twice as good. The popularity of the saturday – even in the early morning at 9am – made ​​Friday seem monotonous. Passing through four lines of public transportation to get there, the last two – two DLR lines – were fully packed with people going to the convention. Imagine sitting in a crowded train full of cosplayers – to the point of being difficult to move without bumping into someone – and this is a vague picture of the experience; however to know the feeling you needed to be there.

I had the chance to meet some actors and artists in person. The afore mentioned Robert Llewellyn and Hattie Hayridge (Holly and Kryten from Red Dwarf) were flattered with “the first Brazilian fan” they’ve met. Jack O’Halloran (Non from the Superman II) decided not to grant an interview. Ian McNiece (who played Winston Churchill in Doctor Who and the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Dune miniseries) gave me a brief interview about his many roles. I faced some huge queues to try to talk with some top celebrities (like Japanese director Shinichiro Watanabe, actress Amber Benson, the staff from the gaming site Rooster Teeth and the original cast of Mighty Morphin ‘Power Rangers) – without much success. Maybe I should have “pushed my luck” with the press pass.

I saw bits of panels, tested a few games before launch (three of which I will speak about in another article – one that I found great, one “average but fun”, and one that made me angry). I saw the beautiful Square Enix Play Arts Kai line stand with brand new figures (some exclusive to the Con). All the while Professional cosplayers from Star Wars (including one perfect Chewbacca, and a Tusken Raider who roamed the con halls “threatening people”) circulated throughout the convention centre.

Offers, statements and releases
However, the best of a con is never what is being offered by the event itself – but what businesses and shops have to offer. Gaming companies demonstrating new titles, raffling DLCs, games and even gaming consoles. Toy companies showing old and new products. Specialty shops selling from Star Trek Tribbles to giant Gundam model kits that led me to ask how they even got the boxes in. All types of comics. Shirts, caps, gloves and thematic hoodies. Oriental food (because it is inevitable that a nerd event be overtaken by otaku). Antiques and rarities of all kinds – and at extremely friendly prices. Among others, I saw two copies of the set of Trench Bluster & Mech Ideas – a set that only 500 copies were produced. Whatever it is you’re after, this kind of event is a great place to get it – especially if it is large.


Pedro will be bringing us more from the event throughout the week…

 

Words by Pedro Leal

Image Credit: The london vandal

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‘Smukfest’: Did the Danes find a way to have it all in one festival?

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Have the free-spirited Danes done it? To hold a festival where children run around collecting bottles with a smile during the daytime, and a Danish a rapper lights up a joint on stage without no one doing so much as raising an eyebrow – despite it being illegal in Denmark. And by night the festival is taken over by techno music, luring the crowd into mosh pit madness.

Pandeia presents to you Skanderborg Festival, or Smukefest, held in the middle of Skanderborg’s most beautiful woods; a festival where people can charge their phones, forget them overnight, and still find them laying there the morning after.

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Smukfest is Denmark’s next biggest festival, run completely non-profit by 12,633 volunteers who all work for “fighting against loneliness”, as they state on their website

55 % of the guests are locals from Jylland, but despite being mainly for Danes, Pandeia took a look at this unique event that is undoubtedly the most beautiful festival in Denmark – living up to its name.

Being very well-organized with limited ticket sale, the biggest perk of Smukfest is that you don’t end up spending all your time queuing.

The scenes are arranged in the midst of trees with lights hanging in between, creating a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. ‘Hygge’ is a Danish word that translates very badly to English – the best attempt is to translate it to ‘cozy’ and Skanderborg festival is the definition of cozy.

Despite all the coziness, there are plenty of attractive and exchiting concerts to attend. A vast number of musicians play every year well known names as 50 Cent, Bastille, Skrillex, and Go Go Berlin filled the scenes of Smukfest.

Some guests don’t book their tickets just for the music, but rather for the purpose of enjoying the atmosphere and having a great time with other guests. Plenty of guests come year after year, and even whole families attend together.

banner?Politeness and comfort dominated the ambiance; I was never pushed aside by the crowd, kid you not. Only that one time I thought it would be a good idea to stand upfront for Skrillex performance, an electronic dance DJ, in the middle of a mosh pit, that I was pushed back and forth. Needless to say it was a bad idea; I am not even 160 cm tall. The sweat and jumping didn’t seem to bother the teenagers who enjoyed it to the fullest, well along with my grown up friend who dived in too.

If the mosh pit wasn’t for you,during the daytime you could listen to more relaxed music from various Nordic countries, some of Denmark’s biggest rappers and pop bands, as well as some international ones too.

Nevertheless, Smukfest was not perfect. 50 cent, the biggest name performing at the festival, was a complete disappointment for many of the guests. “He just wasn’t good” was a common reply when asked about his concerts.

He entered the big stage with a golden chain and cab, looking ready to entertain, but ended up disappointing the crowd with a dull and powerless performance.

20140806_201647It seemed for a while like the concerts would turn out alright when he sang the lyrics “I am a V.I.P.,” sprayed water over the audience, and the performance slowly picked up the pace. When he finally sang “Candy Shop”, the crowd leaped in excitement.

It did the trick and worked up the crowd for a while.

The end was a mystery to all, as 50 Cent left the stage his band kept on playing well-known songs from different bands, like “We will rock you” with Queen, and as the crowd was left to party on its own (which was not a problem to it), it was left to wonder if 50 Cent had gone to bed.

Considering a bad choice of one artist, or perhaps just a bad night for 50 Cent, was the only downside of the festival that offered this variety of music, you should not miss out on this festival if you plan to visit Denmark in 2015.

Do we recommend this for non-Danes? Yes for sure, but be prepared to listen to a lot of Danish music – don’t worry you will be glanced away by the magic of the festival, kindness of people and well, let’s face it, the amount of consumed beer; the Danes know how to drink their beer – and become very friendly when with a drink in hand.

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If you have an unfulfilled craving to experience a Danish festival – that has it all – without exhausting yourself with queues or impoliteness, Smukfest is the one to go to. Families, young people, children, teenagers, too drunk and yet friendly people – it has it all. The Danes certainly managed to host a festival that has it all.

Take look here at the website for music for next year.

 

 

This is not another summer night

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ROMANS USED to vomit during banquets plenty of food to be able to eat for a long period of time; some unlucky men were trained to fight against each other – sometimes against lions – to entertain the people and please the Emperor of the time; even they used to ‘brush’ their teeth with pee. However, among this brutality the Roman civilization had a rich culture with very cultivated people. They created a lot of masterpieces in all branches of art and built magnificent buildings that we still enjoy today.

Festival-de-Merida-Logotipo-Fondo-BlancoThat is the case of Merida (Extremadura, Spain), the capital of what was once an important Roman province where if you dig with a shovel deep in the ground,  you will most likely find some Roman ruins. The Emperor Augustus founded it for the retirement of veterans of the legions – Gladiator was from Merida -, a time when, according to old stories, a monkey could cross from Seville to Galicia without getting off the trees.

Here the International Festival of Classical Theatre takes place every summer since 1933. The Roman theatre of Merida is extraordinarily well conserved; its decadency came with the spread of Christianity until it was completely buried revealing just seven peaks. After the Muslim occupation, these seven peaks were called ‘The seven chairs’ and the legends attributed for decades by mistake those imaginary chairs to the seven Muslim kings that reined over the country.

However, our civilization doesn’t differ that much from the past. We still vomit for several reasons, we still fight against each other and brush our teeth – fortunately the toothpaste has been invented-. But we also still enjoy those magic places that hold something special in it, located in a mystical position and surrounded by art, as it is this Roman theatre.

Miguel de Unamuno stated that “all that was done to last forever again be restored, in one or another way”. The main stage of this theatre has become a very prestigious scenic spot for Spanish players while retaining its original function. Because when you are there you don’t feel in a theatre, you pass to somewhere else. Many actors agree, as Concha Velasco declared, that is “an absolutely overwhelming experience”.

Mérida, 14/07/2014 60 festival de Mérida. Dido y Eneas. foto/ Jero Morales

 

Eunuch
A eunuch is a man who has been castrated. They used to be servants or slaves during the Roman Empire. Terence, a classic Roman author, wrote a comedy with this tittle in 161 BC. More than 2.000 years ago this play has made the grandstand of the biggest Roman theatre in Spain laugh out loud once again.

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A free Spanish version of this ancient Rom-Com – with a taste of Baroque style and some Shakespeare connotations – was up to an audience (around 3.000 people) that clapped incessantly, and was sold out everyday. No play starts until late at night. The moonlight is an important element for illuminating the stage, as it used to be. When everything is dark enough, the orchestra starts playing within a perfect acoustic and the actors come down through the people to the stage.

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Love and hate are intertwined in three stories, in which all the actors sing and dance. Homosexuality takes part in the story naturally and winks to the supremacy of women are made constantly. It would be considered a very modern play if it had not been written two millenniums ago.

 

Eunuch is one of the ten plays included in the programme of the Festival. An opera by Strauss, a flamenco ballet or plays by Homer, Aristophanes or Shakespeare have being represented during the summer. The ticket prices range between 12 and 39 euros. In addition, other buildings that are part of the archaeological set of Merida can be visited, such as the amphitheatre, the Roman circus, several aqueducts, temples, arches, bridges and much more. This is, moreover, seasoned with a delicious cuisine and exquisite wines from the region. For all this, a night at the Roman theatre in Merida is not another summer night.

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Words by Ana Escaso.
Photo credit: Festival Internacional Teatro Clasico de Merida.

A ‘native to native’ guide to surviving Edinburgh Festival

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AUGUST IN EDINBURGH means one thing: The Festival. For most of Edinburgh’s permanent or recently adopted residents, this month long gathering of Britain’s finest humanities graduates (either in the show or, more probably, behind the bar) is a bit of a double edged rubber sword.

On the one hand, we can drink for about 20 hours of the day like Scottish people were bred to do (all the good hours too, leaving just enough respite for a nap and a fry-up between 5am and 10am). Edinburgh is full of life and sunshine and light entertainment and festivities. Almost everyone can get some sort of part time job, as long as they know how to pour things or juggle fire or cycle short distances with fat tourists strapped to their bikes.

But therein lies the problem. The fat tourists. The busy streets of pushy promoters and dawdling holidaymakers who cause your commute to anywhere to triple in length and hassle. The assumption by everyone that your home city is theirs to enjoy and abuse, like some sort of cultural Centre-Parcs. One minute, your quiet local comprises only of the friends, staff and fellow alcoholics you have chosen to spend your days with – the next, it’s some sort of makeshift jazz venue with a wine list and unexplained 50p surcharges on beer mats and toilet visits.

To help fellow natives struggling to keep emotionally afloat during this exciting but difficult month, we have very kindly come up with some hints and tips on how to not only survive, but thrive, in Edinburgh Festival.  We were going to give a comprehensive list of shortcuts, untouched drinking holes and indications of where you can find cheap ticket sales, but I feel like that might be too obvious. Lets make like a mime artist and think outside the invisible box here.

1) FEEL FREE TO BE A BIT OF A KNOB

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Edinburgh Festival is famed for its cultural diversity. The majority of Edinburgh’s August residents are strangers to these parts so will be unsure of our usual social norms. They are also usually self-described liberals who will be far too embarrassed or principled to mention any funny traits you decide to adopt. Take this opportunity to recreate yourself for the month. Try out a new look, practice a hilarious walk or test out your impression of any accent you like for the festival’s entirety. There are enough w*nkers pretending to be something that they’re not that you’ll fit right in.  If you are Scottish,  my personal recommendation would be for you to try faking your own accent in an exaggerated, stereotyped “och-aye-the-noo” way to confuse Edinburgh locals and tourists alike. Textbook Festival Double Bluff.

#2: Get Political…

Optimus Alive: a festival to be told

 

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IMG_5133LISBON BECAME A big party last weekend as the 8th edition of the Optimus Alive festival took place on the 10th, 11th and 12th July. More than a hundred international and national performances were enjoyed by nearly 55,000 people that took the festival up from all over the world.

Stepping off the train the floor started to vibrate: we were in Optimus Alive festivalThe sun was heating the road while thousands of good looking young people flowed through the check-in control by the Tagus river, in Alges district. There, on top of the line of guards that checked no one was holding anything to commit a crime, it was the first stage. A small palco that literally faced the crowd since the festival began until it was over.

Once inside, three enormous stages – Stage Nos, Nos Clubbing and Stage Heineken – were the most visited places; other events as Jardim Caixa Comedy Stage weren’t that successful. However, the atmosphere was relaxed under a colourful sky that blurred between the lines of the sound during the sunset and made you feel that everybody there was a passionate music lover.

IMG_5144The first day started with some ups and downs. After a disappointing Imagine Dragons and a quiet Interpol, the much anticipated Artic Monkeys appeared offering the brilliant show that everyone was expecting. However, no doubt the surprise of the night that persuaded a non-stop dancing public was the stunning Parov Stelar. They were, for many fans, one of the best bands of the festival.

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The War on Drugs playing at stage Heineken.

 

But this had just started. The Last Internationale opened the second day, followed by the supreme Black Keys, Buraka Sound Sistema and ending with a colossal show performed by the Canadian band Caribou.

Although Portuguese people were complaining about the organisation of the festival, the general view that can be given is not that bad. Charging stations for cellphones, special access service for disabled people and pregnant women, cloakroom to keep safe your stuff or 2,000 seats in an open-air food area were some of the services available.

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Sbtrkt at stage Heineken in the second day of Optimus Alive festival.

What is considered the best edition of this festival came towards the end by the hands of The War On Drugs, the national band Paus – with its unique drum players sitting in front of each other- and the DJ Nicolas Jaar among others. And then she came, and broke the ceiling hypnotizing the crowd that couldn’t believe their ears: she was Nina Kravis, the queen of electronic music.

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The band Daughter playing at Stage Heineken the last day of Optimus Alive festival.

The next edition in 2015 will be celebrated from the 9th to the 11th July and will be held in the same place. Rumours and speculation are already deciphering the line-up for 2015 NOS Alive – which will change its name next year-. Some of these guesses include Sam Smith, Kings of Leon or The Black Keys. But nothing is confirmed yet.

Words and pictures by Ana Escaso.

 

Football fans are ruining festivals

 

"Excuse me, does anyone know the score?"

“Excuse me, does anyone know the score?”


THE ISLE OF WIGHT festival was a long weekend of incredible music. So incredible, there were evenings in which I stood for seven hours straight: dancing, jumping and swaying. We ate dinner, an overpriced pizza, standing in the crowd. A desperate desire to be at the front of every act we loved, which was most of them, made these decisions seem perfectly rational. It was all about the music.

The weekend’s headliners were Kings of Leon, Calvin Harris, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Biffy Clyro. Seeing just these four acts would have been worth it, yet the lineup was littered with several more big names. Passenger, Katy B, Peace, Rudimental, Fall Out Boy, Clean Bandit, Tom Odell…the list goes on. The Isle of Wight festival is all focused around the music and the great acts they manage to bring in.

So you can imagine my surprise when hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people chose to watch the football on a big screen instead of seeing big names. This was particularly evident on Saturday evening. Instead of watching the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, or other acts like Clean Bandit and Gorgon City, many chose to watch the England v Italy game on the BT ‘Field of Dreams’big screen. Why pay £190 for a weekend ticket if you are not going to see headliners?

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Don’t get me wrong, I love football. I’m a huge Norwich City fan and season ticket holder – perhaps unfortunately considering our recent relegation. I love the World Cup, not just because of the football but because of how many people it brings together. Yet I was still surprised when so many people decided it was more important than the music they payed to see – why watch football on a screen when you can see huge names live? Especially when it’s England – I mean come on, what were the chances of us winning? Maybe some of those fans simply did not want to see the Chilli Peppers, though I question why you would pay to go to a festival if you are not a fan of the headliners. There are so many throughout Europe, at least choose one where you will get the most for your money!

The football was hugely prevalent throughout the weekend – this I was not surprised about. Although the vast majority of

why pay £190 if you miss the headline acts?

why pay £190 if you miss the headline acts?

football chants and flags were, unsurprisingly, for England, the crowds gathered for other games were nearly as impressive. Spain v Netherlands, for example, had many spectators even though it clashed with Rudimental and Biffy Clyro. Of course, I was in the crowds for the music so did not get a first hand view of sports spectators. Yet from photos and accounts it is clear how popular watching the World Cup was.

This said, many fans did choose music over sport. Flags – from Mexican to French – were all over the place, especially in the crowds. There were huge numbers of painted faces. To me, this seems far more sensible. People were still showing support for their teams, but accepting that maybe they will just have to catch the highlights on TV later on or check the score on their smartphones.

More than 55,000 people camped over the weekend; it makes sense that many were bigger fans of football than they are of festivals. Perhaps it was the extent of this which surprised me. I was simply not expecting so many to ignore the music they had paid to see. If you were such a huge fan, why chose to visit a festival during the World Cup?

How much would you sacrifice to support your team in this year’s World Cup? How terrible do you think the England team really are? (We might be kidding with this one…) Were these bands worth a miss? Tell us your thoughts.

Words and Pictures by Sarah Newey 

 

Northside: Can we do it again?

 

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After an hour long lead-up, the excitement in the crowd had reached its zenith and Robyn came on stage in her cosmic outfit wearing outer-space inspired leggings: a blue shirt with a red bib over – looking a little like Superman.

Robyn started the show with the song “Be mine” and Northside Festival guests in Aarhus in Denmark seemed very pleased with the selection of the song.

Newest single with Röyksopp

Robyn and Röyksopp just released a short-album together called Do it Again last May and started a tour through Europe and North America, beginning at Sonar Festival in Spain. Robyn and Röyksopp have collaborated before on their tracks “The girl and the Robot” in 2009 and the song “None of Dem” in 2010 and now continue their successful collaboration.

 

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You and Me Together, Stars Forever

Under the clear sky in Aarhus,Robyn sang the song “Stars 4-ever”, the concerts were a mix of Robyn’s old and new songs. When Robyn ended her song “Dancing On My Own” she turned her back to the crowd, hugged herself dancing ‘alone’ and let the crowd carry the song out – nobody in Northside Festival seemed to dance alone through the night.

Robyn greeted the audience in Danish, “Hvad så?” (How are you?) and continued, “People of Århus, how are you holding up? Are you warming up?” The crowd immediately replied ‘yes’ as it had waited through an hour-long warm up beforehand and Robyn didn’t waste any more time talking and started singing “Call your Girlfriend”.

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Disco Heads on Stage

After finishing “With Every Heartbeat”, Robyn ran off the stage as it was prepared for the income of Röyksopp, the Norwegian electronic music duo from Tromsø.

Röyksopp made their entrance on stage with all members of the band wearing a disco ball on their heads. It was a full face-covering disco ball hat that they kept on the whole performance. The DJ, standing in the middle of the stage, wore a gigantic space helmet.

The new single “Say It” began and Robyn entered in a big balloon like jacket, that was blown up on her back and she had on her trademark buffalo shoes. She started the song laying on the floor replying to Röyksopp´s “I want you” refrain with the response “I want you”, and bounced on her back on the floor dancing in an almost trance state that ended in somewhat a turtle-like dance.

It was like a spaceship had landed on the stage in Aarhus.

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Do it Again

The performance was artistic and full of raw energy. Robyn’s dance was untamed. “She is so fucking dirty” said one of the male audience members, as she danced solo on stage.

At the end of the song “I’m in love with a Robot” she laid down over a keyboard as part of her performance as an act of the performance to seem exhausted and when the song was about to fade out, suddenly a staff member poked her and took the tiny keyboard out. It wasn’t quite clear if it was planned or not.

After almost two hours of dancing and marching on stage the performance came to an end with the song “Do it Again”. When the song seemed to have ended, the music turned up again and the worlds ‘DO IT AGAIN’ boomed into the park and the two bands played on for a while longer.

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An entertaining and mind-blowing performance that Robyn and Röyksopp put up for the guests of Northside, that obviously had been the result of a lot of effort. A truly artistic show that was more than worth watching!

Northside is a festival held in Aarhus, Denmark that has grown quickly in the last five years, with over 25 000 guests in attendance last year. It was first held in 2010 as a one-day festival with only a Danish line-up. It has grown every year and now features big names like Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, Bombay Bicycle Club and The National. You can find more information at their website.

 

Svanlaug Árnadóttir