9 June 2008


Sonore’s concert at Fasching on the evening of the 12th was a real surprise. I expected the music to be strong but there was also a large and listening crowd. Based on my previous experiences at the club this was something unusual. In fact, it was the first time that Mats had played there in years because he had become so frustrated with the venue’s policies and treatment of musicians. Now, under a different management, things seem to be looking up. A number of friends and musicians made it out- Fredrik Ljungkvist, Magnus Broo, Per-Åke Holmlander- something that always means a lot when on tour. Mats had another long drive to Malmö, seven plus hours, we basically got in town in time for some dinner and a browse through a record store before heading to the venue to set up to play. The space, called Jeriko, is pretty large, potentially seating more than two hundred people. The last time I played there was on at a festival in a duo with Paal Nilssen-Love, also on the bill was Atomic, and the place was packed, but tonight? I wondered how many people we’d get on a Thursday. Things turned out exceptionally well. Not only was the place full, it was full of young people listening with curiosity and enthusiasm for the two sets we played. The program director was smart. By using support funds to help pay for our fees and expenses, he was able to make the admission fee for students very cheap, so they came in droves, willing to take a gamble on music they didn’t know. This was a great example of how to use funding to expand the audience, and it was based on trying to understand how to generate listeners for challenging music without dumbing anything down except the price; a really fantastic night.

The drive to Göteborg wasn’t too bad, so with the extra time the three of us headed to the art museum. The exhibitions turned out to be a major letdown after what I saw in Stockholm but man, what a bookstore! Perhaps the best collections of photography monographs I’ve ever seen in one place; hard to get out of there and impossible to do so without dropping a bundle of cash. Unfortunately, the conclusion of the day, and the final gig of the trip, turned out to be pretty brutal. The folks running the music at Nefertiti are great, working as musicians and label directors themselves, and they made sure all the details were super organized. But you can’t predict the way certain members of an audience will act, or why idiots would pay good money to come to a concert by a non-commercial group like Sonore and then talk through the music while having dinner… Likewise, it’s impossible to predict when you’re going to get hit with an inability to find something worthwhile to say with the music. Even when playing alongside musicians who are as creative and inspiring as Peter and Mats there are times when nothing seems to work, and on that Friday I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark for both sets. By the end of the concert I felt like I had been punched in the mouth and the head all night; not the greatest way to end two and a half weeks of work with two friends and collaborators. For me, the best part of the evening took place backstage, during a long discussion about the current state of the music, what’s happening now and where things may be going. Talking with Peter and Mats about the responsibility of creative work- always choosing challenge over compromise, searching for what you don’t know instead of coasting on what you think you understand- can be intimidating, but it always affirms that the struggle is worth the effort, no matter how the results are understood. Whether on stage, back stage, in a car, at an airport, on a train, at a sound check, having a cup of coffee, or drinking a beer, I know that I am always learning when working with musicians like this. It’s irreplaceable.

The next morning came early; we had to get Peter to the train station for a long trip home. Back at Mats’ place I spent the afternoon taking photos in the amazing Nordic winter light that comes right before dark. Then some dinner, some scotch, a midnight nap, an early train to the Copenhagen airport, and a flight back to Chicago. Time for some sleep, for me the Brötzmann period of 2007 had come to an end.

-Ken Vandermark, Chicago, 6/09/08.

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