Sweden’s biggest rock band Kent decided to put together a festival of their own, the way they thought it should be done. They named it #KENTFEST and brought along a Ferris wheel as well as many of the most interesting young women on the Swedish music scene right now.
The crowds had started gathering well before the gates were opened to the fenced-in part of the green fields of Gärdet in Stockholm. The most eager festival-goers picked up pastel-colored flags and pink or white paper crowns, as Kent had seen to giving people some props for their festival experience. The festival area offered plenty of sales points for food and drinks, including a couple of those trendy food trucks (nevertheless the lines were very long later in the evening) AND an amusement park of its own with a Ferris wheel and other rides.
The day’s proceedings were very tightly scheduled – when one artist finished playing, another started on the other stage. With no pauses in between, there was no time to waste moving between the two stages so as not to miss anything.
The music started on the smaller and more intimate Stage 2 with the wonderful rising electronic pop starlet Ida Redig, who really charmed the smallish crowd that had turned up so early in the day. The larger Stage1 was opened by one of the hottest Swedish music exports of the moment, Tove Lo. She got the audience going with over-the-head-claps and a bit of a sing-along to Habits:“You’re gone and I gotta stay high all the time…”
Next up on the small stage was the Swedish-Barbadian Naomi Pilgrim with her soulful voice and R&B-blended pop. The definitive highlight of her set was the harder and heavier sounding Money, though. This was followed by Junip on the big stage, which was my only obvious time slot to take a break and grab a bite. Not that José González isn’t talented, but the first two songs didn’t really tickle my fancy and I had really come for the girls…
One of the absolute highlights of the day came next on the small stage, with Beatrice Eli’s star qualities and strong melodies. And to top it all she had brought along some very street-credible special guests: Julia Spada and Silvana Imam. The audience was also teeming with plenty of girl power when Beatrice and Julia sang about, you know, touching themselves and Silvana let it rip to Svär på min mamma. The natural climax was of course Beatrice’s coming-out-anthem Girls.
The big stage next offered genuine Swedish pop royalty, Nina Persson (of The Cardigans fame), who released her first solo offering early this year. Having seen her in more intimate settings before I had doubted whether the new material would work well for a big crowd outdoors, but she created a pleasant and almost spellbinding atmosphere in the crowd with her emotional voice, while the clouds covered the sun and gave a suitable darker backdrop for her melodies.
Next up on the smaller stage was an artist I was personally most looking forward to, having been slightly obsessed with her music during most of last year while following her star rising. Seeing Miriam Bryant for the tenth time now, she was stronger than ever. The months spent in America alongside Zedd and riding on the success of the song Find You (from the Divergent soundtrack) were showing in a very confident performance, and the three new songs she showcased were every bit hit-worthy. The set ended in a big sing-along to last summer’s super-hit Push Play.
Rushing back to the larger stage once again, Elliphant was already pounding on with her riddims and rhymes. The sun was out again and she got the audience dancing and enjoying the beats of Music is Life and Down on Life. But she really hit the jackpot with Revolusion, which she tied in with a political message of caring for each other and fighting racism (which really was a theme with several of the artists during the day).
The last act on the small stage was Alina Devecerski, whose energetic form of electropop entertained the crowds. De e dark nu set a somber mood for a while, but the crowd went wild with Jag svär and especially the finale Flytta på dej. As soon as it was over though, the crowds dispersed to prepare for the main attraction.
Although Kent has been a dominant presence on the Swedish rock scene since the mid-90s I need to confess they have not played a big part in the soundtrack of my life. That made me feel slightly out of place when the audience had counted down the last seconds before showtime and Kent started playing. I sort of found myself in the middle of Allsång på Gärdet where most everybody around me seemed to be singing along to just about every song.
Singer Jocke Berg and the rest of the band seemed to be genuinely enjoying playing live and they were very much present in the moment, exuding confidence. The stage presence was further strengthened by the impressive choir formed by Miriam Bryant, Naomi Pilgrim and Ida Redig, who have taken care of the backing vocals on the rest of the Kent tour as well – and had all played their own sets on the smaller stage earlier in the day. They definitely gave the sound of the band more warmth and diversity. Kent also brought out further powerful female vocals when Beatrice Eli joined Jocke Berg in singing Godhet and Petra Marklund followed suite for a moving rendition of Svart snö.
The audience, which had grown 23 000 strong by the time Kent was on stage, got what they came for, an emotional musical experience of epic proportions.
As for my own part I’ve come to the conclusion I like Girls (to quote Beatrice Eli) – the girls were what I had come to Kentfest for, and they all delivered and made my day… So my sincere thanks and huge props for Kent – for understanding where the most interesting talent lies in the Swedish music scene right now, and for bringing these wonderful artists out to their own big audience.
PS. Make sure to return to our Fresh Swedish Sounds playlist, which just happens to include most of the artists who played at Kentfest.
Kent photos courtesy of Tomi Palsa
Beatrice Eli and Miriam Bryant photos by Nina Uddin