09 February 2007

One From Spain, Two From Japan, 20+ From Sweden

In retrospect, it's easy to see the underlying Swedish themes appearing in past decade of my life. Shortly after university I had an imaginary electronic pop duo named Farmor and Farfar. To our credit, we aspired to move beyond the theoretical realm, but at the time I suppose I did as well. Then from 1998 - 2006 I lived in Chicago's Swedish neighbourhood, Andersonville (w t f d). Living in Andersonville as a young indie rocker naturally meant that I drank at the indie-rocker-living-north-of-Addison's pub of choice, Simon's. Simon's has a brilliant neon sign that only lights up for a few months each year. During those cold months, it proclaims "It's Glögg Time!" and, once lit, anyone within a 5 mile radius feels compelled to enter and consume copious quantities of this Scandinavian mulled wine (w t f d).

Until recently I had been mostly unaware of the massive quantities of excellent pop music this country was producing. Lucky for me, my friend Martin insisted that I get the I'm From Barcelona album "Let Me Introduce My Friends", which has quickly become a favourite of mine. Infectiously catchy, but with enough attitude thrown in to prevent sugar shock, it's a new staple of my weekly musical diet. Once I'd fallen in love with this record, there was no turning back and I told Martin to let me know if they ever came back to England.

Happily, they returned to play a gig on 24 February at the University of London Union. Well, most of them. Apparently they have about 29 members in the band, but I only counted about 20 that night. Still, that's impressive considering that almost constitutes chartering their own private plane for the occasion.

Focusing on their sheer numbers as novelty, however, misses what makes seeing I'm From Barcelona so special. It's not just a quirky gimmick, it's a necessary number: at all times it appeared as if there were a party happening on-stage. It mirrored the party happening off-stage, of course, in the crowd. In the end both threads wove together, as the band invited people up on stage and some of the band members wandered off into the audience. You could theorise all you wanted to about the line between the performer and the audience at that point, but it simply wasn't there anymore. And it was great.

A few days ago Ryan Air announced a sale too good to pass up which will take Rin and I to Stockholm for the early May bank holiday. It feels like Sweden is bursting at the seams with quality indie pop at the moment, so if anyone has any recommendations of record shops, clubs or bands playing Stockholm gigs 4 May through 7 May 2007, do please leave a comment!

Breaking news! I just received an email from Martin telling me that I'm From Barcelona is returning to London again, this time just a few steps from my flat at Koko on Tuesday 27 March. See you there!

- photo courtesy of Paul Wilcock (best of luck with your move to Australia, sir!)