Oh, how I wish Rahul Gandhi was there with me last fortnight at the Slottskogen park in Göteborg, Sweden. Apart from the fact it’s a great place to get away to especially when it’s almost evil not to talk about corruption all the time, the annual Way Out West music festival in Göteborg is perfect for checking out gigs without going into the wild crush of a Glastonbury, Reading or Bonaroo.
The three-day festival is worth a sprawling chitter-chatter by itself — and I should be yapping on about it in a longer piece before you can say Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. But the concert sandwiched in between Noah & the Whale and Kanye West was the gig at the fest for me. It was Pulp.
So why was I so missing Rahul G of all people at around 9 o’clock in the evening, with the late-summer Scandinavian sky still well-lit enough for there to be no point for anyone sway their lighters? Well, because frontman Jarvis Cocker had just started singing the first lines of their last number, the iconic Britpop-New Labour spittle-ditty ‘Common people’. Rightaway, both my goose pimples and I found a new context to this 1995 track in a town far away from home two days before 15th August.
As Jarvis crackled his many-jointed body, making Mick Jagger’s calisthennics seem like a jar of lard melting, I sorely felt the ecsatic joy of a song latches on to something big in the real world like a monster cartoon dog on to an elbow. As I jumped in time with a jumping sea of people in front of the open-air Flamingo stage, Jarvis’ words made more sense than ever:
“She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College/ That’s where I caught her eye/ She told me that her Dad was loaded/ I said ‘In that case I’ll have rum and coca-cola’/ She said, ‘Fine’/ And then in 30 seconds time she said/ ‘I want to live like common people/ I want to do whatever common people do/ I want to sleep with common people/ I want to sleep with common people like you"/ Well what else could I do?/ I said ‘I’ll see what I can do.”’
Jarvis, to my mind, remains (along with Morrissey), one of the most acerbic performers in pop music. Pulp had gone into deep freeze — which frankly without the power of hindsight, I thought was the coffin — since 2001. So ten years later, the rakish, raffish, more psycho-history professor than rock’n’roll man Cocker returns and I get to see one of his wicked gigs after all. Referencing the recent London riots (“I had written a song about it way back then”), Pulp went through the repertoire: ‘Disco 2000’, ‘Do you remember the first time?’ ‘Razzmatazz’, ‘This is hardcore’.
And, of course, ‘Common people’. Oh, it was much better than in Ramlila Maidan gigs. I’m so sure Rahul would have loved it too. Especially that electric performance of ‘Common People’.
HARDCORE AND PURE
But if there was a new band that I discovered that pretty much knocked me out, it was the trio from Copenhagen, Thulebasen.
When I first walked into Park Lane, the club where they were in mid-performance, I first thought that a soundcheck was on. The guitarist-vocalist had a baseball cap on and ‘singing’ with a reverb-distort making his voice sound like solid helium. The lead guitarist had to be on some kind of tonic to be able to keep a tune with those drums and vocals. And those drums. The girl hitting the skins looked like a 14-year-old but playing as if possessed by the ghost of John Bonham.
Thulebasen’s sound is early Nirvana, free-style punk, with dollops of heaviness. Since the gig I looked them up on YouTube.
It’s quite not the same thing. Because live, this bloodburst of a band, simply keeps hitting your heart with pure passion-sound. I’m dying to hear their new album Gate 5.