FOCUS // When In Rome: A Memoir On The Colossal Weekend Festival In Copenhagen

My name is Vlad Matveikov and I started Small Pond Recordings. Over the years I played in a number of bands and currently am a permanent fixture in Intechnicolour and Luo. Let me start by saying I don’t fucking like reading show or festival reviews, I only maybe read 4 or 5 in my whole life. Unless you live in a place extremely secluded (Himalayas, Puerto Rico, anywhere past zone 6 in London) I think they are mainly obsolete. And even if you did live so far away surely your first stopping point would be YouTube and a hearty search for any decent footage of the band you are into. Anyhow, rather than watch every band from start to finish, listing their set lists and rating their performance out of ten I will do something different. I am slightly drunk and sleep deprived in Guangzhou airport, so fuck it. When in Rome. This is going to be an atypical review of the first edition of Colossal Weekend held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

colossal-poster-5-1I went on this trip with Will Gardener and Joe Gosney, who collectively make up one half of a band called Black Peaks. I have known them for years and it is no surprise to me that they signed to Sony and that their debut that was released last month charted and was received to a high critical acclaim. It was a surprise to many people who thought progressive and experimental blend of heavy rock and metal doesn’t quite belong there but lets not focus on those cunts. If you somehow managed to miss this band you either don’t hunt down the best up and comings in music or you live in a cave in the Himalayas, Puerto Rico, or somewhere past zone 6 in London.

We left for Copenhagen at 5:30 am. As soon as we landed we found out that Sweden is 15 minutes away (should have done some fucking research really) so we spontaneously hopped on a train to check that country out and get a beer. I include this section in the review to give you a warning in case you are considering going to next year’s Colossal Weekend and want to visit Malmoe. Don’t fucking do it. We spent 100 pounds in 2 hours split between three train tickets and three warm Calrsbergs. Outrageous. I think I would rather have dick breath for the rest of my life than do that again.

Once our en-culturing improvisation was done and over with we went back to Copenhagen.

We were staying at Morten’s house (bass player from Town Portal) who, as most people who play in this genre, had to be at his day job until 5. That was fine with us because it gave us 6 hours of solid wandering around town and drinking. We found out that UK’s Special Brews haven’t got shit on Denmark’s 10% Master Brews. The 7% Elephants don’t mix well with White Russians, and shotgunning beer next to a canal in Copenhagen can get you some unexpected pals.

By the time Morten found us we were already fucked, shouting abuse at architectural landmarks and urinating into every body of water we could find. One of those canals had a little boat, which actually carried the prince of Denmark, whom we waved at and than went off to Christainia to get our hands on the strongest hash we could find.

I don’t know if it was due to me being white-girl-wasted by 8 pm, but when we got to Christiania it seemed bloody magical. Happy hippies, sunset over the lake, beautiful Danish women, the whole shebang. And of course being drunk tourists that we were, instead of buying one carefully selected joint we ended up buying 4 grams of different hashes and went over board. It was a drunken and stoned haze from then on until we got a shwarma from a place called “Kebabistan” (I shit you not) and than passed the fuck out on Morten’s floor. Day one was done.

Next day was brutal, all the jokes were gone, the dehydration and headache that combined into a brutal hangover set in and the festival had not even started. Morten went to work and we had until 8pm free, we only needed to get our press passes and make sure we parked our bodies in front of the stage and watch Town Portal… so we started drinking. Again. Heavily. Joe – who by the way was the “official photographer” and showed up with only his fucking iPhone – put it well. We were about an 8/10 drunk by then and on about 30% of energy reserve. And this was the first band. And what a band; motherfucking Town Portal!

Town Portal
Town Portal
I fan-girled the fuck out with their set – which is great until you kind of get the conscious feeling that you are dancing and drumming out odd time signatures and extended phrases in a room full of people that cant do it, and they give you that look that every eager fucking fan girl gets. I didn’t care.

The played through bits of Chronopoly and The Occident with such ease and prowess. In a time when the math rock scene is imploding and to outsiders the word math starts having an almost negative and alienating connotation I say these guys are not a math band, they are a mature instrumental outfit easily capable of enamoring any audience and crushing any stage. They were the highlight of the festival for me, and the main reason for flying out to Denmark. If you have not listened to this band, I strongly urge you to fuck off reading the rest of this review and go listen to their music instead.

I got to be flat out honest, I am not the biggest fan of the band. I find their style of instrumental rock, in vein of ASIWYFA, not to be my cup of tea. With all this being said and the skepticism I carried, their performance really pleasantly surprised me. It is the best I had ever seen them play and the time I most enjoyed it.

Even if the music they make is not 100% your thing, their collective sound, endless energy and endearing attitude will make you jump along for the ride. Aided by a great sounding venue and unreasonable amount of beers the Scottish four piece powered through a great set. I definitely “re-discovered” this band and the joy of watching them that day.

With all this being said John Niblock got way too drunk and tried really hard to get laid with this hot broad (that’s how you know it was in Denmark, there was a hot chick in a math concert). She tried to get with all of his band mates first, but unfortunately for her they all had girlfriends. You could see the disappointment in the girls face when she realized she had to settle for a bassist, a ginger, and a John Niblock. However she soon after started chatting to someone else and John was once again downgraded to making love to his hand.

Russian Circles

Russian Circles
It was a bit of a shocker to see Mike Sullivan (guitarists of the band) carry his own head and roll out his own cab after the show had finished and load it into the van. It was such a reality check that a band that myself and so many other hold in the highest esteem, will after 12 years of an incredible career still be doing these things.

I got closer, congratulated on the performance and asked him how he thought it went, to which he replied, “it was a real nice and mellow show”. Like fuck it was. It absolutely melted most people in the audience. The lighting engineer went to town on this and the sound was near perfect. The overall performance was such a sensory overload and encompassing experience that you had no choice but to be fully present in the moment and be in awe. It was ever so impressive to hear him say that it was mellow because I could see and feel that he meant it, he wasn’t putting on a show for me there to try and look cool.

In a time when so many bands sound alike they have managed to find and maintain an individuality and sound that set them apart from there rest of the scene. To this day Russian Circles remain one of my favorite instrumental bands, they are truly special and I would strongly urge you to Google when they are next playing in your town and book a ticket to see them.

I had never heard of these guys prior to coming to the festival but they were easily the most out there, original, sounding band I had heard during the weekend. Long drone passages, saxophone solos, a song with only two notes in it – whatever weird shit you can think of and name they probably did it in the 45 minutes of their set.

It is refreshing to see bands take such risks and do whatever the fuck they want in a time when everyone is pussy footy-ing about and trying to make all the right decisions. Really recommend catching these guys live if you ever get a chance.

This Will Destroy You
Head torches – a bit of risky move, but one that proved quite nice at the end of the day. Everyone except these guys were trying to outdo each other on lights and sound, and these guys took an entirely different approach. Turning all the lights off and creating an intimate setting was not easy and they slightly lost the attention span of the audience towards the end of their set, who were a tad rowdier and more energized than their mellow passages of post rock.

Cult of Luna 1
Carefully crafted and layered post rock, perfomed to a high standard. To be flat out honest with you it was a bit long winded for my drunken state of mind and I was already for the main reason for flying to this weekender – Cult of Luna.

Cult of Luna
I think that the best way of describing Cult of Luna is that it is like watching your parents do something when you are a kid. It looks so magical that it feels unattainable. Shattering bass tone, emotionally engaging passages. Both screaming and mellow vocals. Anything that anyone did at this festival, they did better. They were truly the rockstars of the event, and this was apparent from their tour bus, to their light show, all the way to their performance and they way they carried themselves. It was a true pleasure and honor to see them in such a small sized venue for a band of their stature.

Overall I was very impressed with Colossal Weekend. The event was well curated and presented, my rating would be a hearty 8.8/10 and you better fucking believe I am booking a ticket for next year.