Haven Festival 2017 - Saturday

author MIN date 13/08/17

Haven Festival is a combination of all things food, beer and music with the only common denominator being the fact that it has to broaden people’s horizons. Gourmet chef and innovator Claus Meyer, brew-dog darling Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National have teamed up with Beatbox Booking to create an event specifically designed for these aforementioned subjects and melt them all together into an artistic haven. The quality and content of the food and beverages have been tweaked and tampered with, the musicians clash to create new waves, and friends are calling in favors to team up for several unique experiences – but more on that during the actual reviews. Safe to say, Haven doesn’t brand itself on being part of the lowest common denominator willing to cater to everyone – no, the team behind the event wants to show how things can be done without necessarily lowering the standards of what’s being offered on a festival.

With all the different music events popping up like mushrooms through our fair land, there’s surely a market for another innovative festival – despite the continuously bad weather (yes, it also rained on this festival). On paper, Haven Festival’s got it all sorted out: headliners include Iggy Pop, Beach House, Bon Iver and obviously The National, and the many different kinds of beer (black, sour, hoppy, et cetera) and food (all of which are freshly made) presented on Haven’s website is bulging. But how does it work in reality?

Music lineup of Haven Festival 2017

Unfortunately, we were at Rockfreaks only able to attend one day during the festival, namely Saturday. Relevant to our coverage, artists Big Red Machine, This is the Kit, Bon Iver and The National played on this day with varying success. However, before throwing you headfirst into the reviews, here are some thoughts on the festival site, food and beverages experienced and consumed throughout the day.

FESTIVAL SITE

Quite opposite to the other side of Refshaleøen’s huge B&W-hall where Copenhell roams the concrete-area every June, Haven takes place on the green grass right by the sea with a gorgeous view to the city and several large boats. Once you get off the bus, you walk 5-10 minutes to the festival site, and that’s it. I heard several people complain about the distance, but come on, what did you expect? It’s not a club, it’s a field where you spend the entire day. Who cares about a few extra minutes once you reach the gorgeous setting – the gorgeous haven?

The first part of the festival you reach is by the Mindfield Stage, the second largest of the three stages. It’s a relatively large white canopy-covered stage in front of an open field where several thousand people easily fit. Furthest back in the area there are many benches for people to sit on, surrounded by Haven’s “Beer Geek” bars (the standard bar of the festival) and miscellaneous shops and stands. It strikes me as the perfect place to chill while listening a bit to some of the bands you aren’t fully invested in – simultaneously, it’s the perfect place for people who want to talk while still feeling the buzz of the stage. No complaints here, moving on.

From the Mindfield you could venture down two walkways that weren’t marked “exit”: past “Baghaven” (an indoor bar) and unto the IKEA-installations in the back or past the Ragnar Kjartansson performance “Dope & Korruption” and into the “Food, Beer and Beyond” area, where several bands, performances and competitions flourished, not to mention the many food stands. At the “Food, Beer and Beyond” area I watched some strange improv-jazz and a competition about making food that I honestly couldn’t be bothered with, but unfortunately I didn’t make it to the IKEA or Kjartansson performances. The first went behind schedule and the second constantly had a long line I wasn’t willing to stay in by myself.

The festival unfortunately had too much traffic when people tried to cross the bridge that gapped the two half-islands at Haven – the bridge stretching from the aforementioned food stands to the huge field where the festival’s two remaining stages were located. Going back and forth simply took too long once every guest had arrived. At 17:40 I tried crossing, and it almost took me ten minutes. That is simply too long this early in the schedule and people start to get annoyed and stupid because of it. Fix it next year.

What I noticed, however, as soon as I entered the plain in front of the festival’s biggest stage, Meadow, was that wooden chips had been sprinkled across the field after last night’s rain. Well done, quick thinking. The field itself was big enough to have its guests either sitting in the grass, standing up or confining themselves on some of the benches in the back. Finally, there’s also the smallest stage, Værket, on the same field as the Meadow Stage, but in the opposite end. Nothing spectacular, Værket was primarily a gazebo with electronic equipment, which honestly paled when compared to the huge, professional setup at Meadow, but it fit the smallest acts.

On a final note in this section, I’ll add that although the vast field on this “island” was able to host more people than intended, the toilets unfortunately weren’t plenty enough. You can have all the space in the world, but if you don’t have enough toilets, people will complain. Even the urinal stalls had queues, and let’s be honest, you could easily fit another 50% extra stalls in there.

Plenty of spare seats.

FOOD

This is the part where I pretend to know anything about food. As much as I enjoy eating various and occasionally strange food, I’m a sucker for the good-ole burger n’ beer combo, which might show. Anyway, here goes:

Classic Burger: What is a festival without a decent burger? Well, today I won’t be able to answer that question, because Haven fortunately offers a savory, juicy hamburger with medium rare ground beef, smoked bbq-sauce and a deliciously soft and tasty bun. Granted, the price of 75 DK is a bit steep, but no more than Northside and Tinderbox charge. Very satisfied customer over here! 8/10

Butcher’s Manifesto: “The Menu” was a coarse flatbread-sandwich with both lamb, goat and beef – all spit roasted for everyone to behold – plus different greens and a lemon/olive oil dressing. Although especially the salty meat and surprisingly tasty bread were excellent, I felt that the menu needed something to tie the whole thing together. Most of the olive/lemon remained at the bottom of my sandwich, resulting in a good and rustic yet rather unhinged experienced. 7/10

Hooker’s Vinegar Fries: Salty and sour large potatoes with a good tartar dipping sauce. Although the vinegar could’ve been more prominent, these fries still satisfied my craving for fat and salt, and that dipping definitely pulls up the overall rating. 7/10

As you can see, everything I ate was good. Nothing mind-blowing or surprising, but then again I picked some safe choices. I won’t say that Haven manifests itself as a monument of exceptional gastronomy when compared to Roskilde Festival’s food court or Northside’s general offerings, but the relatively high prices at Haven matched the quality of the food. If you went to the festival on a low(er) budget, IKEA also had a few installations where you could buy soft ice, beverages and food at more reasonable prices. Had I gone to Haven both days, I would’ve liked to compare the differences.

The reason for me trying out the food I did was primarily due to the long lines around every food stand. The line for Butcher’s Manifesto by the main stage (Meadow) took half an hour, but at least I got to watch Feist (Canadian pop musician) meanwhile. Hooker’s fries I picked because I figured that particular service would run rather smooth, yet I waited in line for 25 minutes once again. In general I had the impression that lines for food were too long – maybe if Haven also had some “fast food” (but without the “junk”-tag), some queues would decrease. Then again, perhaps that’s in too much contrast to one of the festival’s main principles.

BEER

I originally intended to call this section “Beverages”, but I honestly didn’t buy anything but beer. I guess that bodes well for the festival already, right? Needless to say, I had the pleasure of drinking nothing but great beer all day.

The “Beer Geek” Bar: Haven Festival’s two standard beers were specifically brewed for the occasion: one presented as a pilsner, the other as an IPA. I started buying a regular pilsner, which I by the first sip honestly thought was the IPA. I went back to the counter and said that they’d given me the wrong beer, but the volunteer simply told me that the pilsner was very hoppy – and, ultimately, pretty similar to a pale ale. Once I bought the Indian Pale Ale, I understood the difference, but I was a little surprised at first. I like beer with high emphasize on hops, but I also know some who don’t. It seems like a high risk selling nothing but special beer once people want to party and just pour down one after the other, but I must admit that it works. I kept drinking the pilsner through the night to much satisfaction – it sure beats a Grøn Tuborg any day. 8/10 for an overall excellent “standard brewski” at a regular price (only 43/45 DK for a great beer).

Berliner Blueberry: Nicely filling the gap between beer and cider. Sour and easily digested, possessing a lovely, lingering bittersweet aftertaste, courtesy of the blueberries. Excellent quality and priced at 25 centiliters for 35 DK (plus the refund, but you get that back). 8/10

Porter B.A. Bourbon: A nice dark and round beer that smells like chocolate but tastes of bourbon and porter (like the name promises). The small 30-centiliter variant is plenty due to the full character of this beer, but overall it was very good. Once again, 30 cl for 50 DK seems reasonable for this kind of beer. 7/10

The beer selection at Haven was exceptional, and even though some beers were more expensive than others were, I never thought of the price as unreasonable compared to what I received. Should I return next year, I’d like to try some of the homebrewed ciders and other beverages I only heard about.

Bonus: Queues for drinks were rarely too long. Surely, during the headliners, you’d have to wait a little longer, but I never felt it was a problem.

REVIEWS

Big Red Machine @ 13:45 on Værket

Big Red Machine is actually a work-in-progress by Aaron Dessner of The National and Bon Iver’s primus motor Justin Vernon. Previously unknown, I can only describe the music as I hear it in this setting, but judging by the first few minutes it’s a rather peculiar soundscape. Ethereal jams mainly consisting of Vernon looping an electronic beat and repeating a few lines (“well, you better not fuck this up” on the second song, for instance) while Dessner plays guitar on top of it. In the back sits both a drummer and a percussionist who make some decent grooves and fills, and the entire outfit honestly sounds decent for a few songs. However, the experimental nature seems to lose focus halfway through and suddenly just floats around without any proper frame, causing the songs to blend into each other through the remainder of the set’s 30-minute duration. Especially Dessner delivers some interesting sounds on his guitar, but the set will remain nothing more than just that; interesting, yet worthwhile. [6]

This is the Kit @ 14:30 on Mindfield

I’ve seen This is the Kit before, but I must admit that they’ve never made any lasting impression on me, and neither do they today. The band plays pretty basic indie folk music fronted by Kate Staples and a lot of different people who’ve decided to join her on-stage (including Aaron Dessner). Although the sound works in the band’s favor and the first few rows in front of the stage are generously clapping along and cheering, the music remains bland. Staples herself is charming and charismatic, but her character only seldom shines through in her music, unfortunately. Whether it’s up-beat folk and banjo-galore or intimate guitar-picking over quiet drum-waddling, Staples and company only rarely manages to impress. Everyone seems to be having a good time, though: the sun’s reared its beautiful head out and the band’s lovely sense of unity almost makes me think of Woodstock while Staples higher register even recalls a particular performance by Joan Baez – but that’s about it. The changing dynamics of the band’s final song is actually intriguing – spoken vocals occasionally interrupted by instrumental outbursts – but there should’ve been more of this throughout. [5]

The next couple of hours I spend checking out some of the music irrelevant to our webzine and checking out the various items and experiences on the festival. I will, however, shortly describe what I saw: When Saints Go Machine opened the festival’s main stage with a just as demanding electronic set as usual, yet they always seem to deliver gracefully. I stopped by Mindfield to check out Kvamie Liv afterwards who put on a decent show with soulful yet catchy pop-songs, but only long enough for me to also see the electronic duo Mouse on Mars blare themselves across the water with intricate loops, loud scattering and schizophrenic patterns from their minimalistic yet advanced setup by Værket.

When it was time for Canadian experimental/indie pop artist Feist to take the Meadow Stage, however, I found myself confined in a 30-minute long queue for Butcher’s Manifesto. Therefore, I watched the first twenty minutes from a distance, thinking about how low the volume was. As I received my food and went closer to the stage, the volume was still surprisingly low, and the mix was completely off. Unfortunately for Feist, who was doing a great job, Haven’s setup couldn’t quite follow. Once Feist was done, I decided to catch another experimental pop-artist, Perfume Genius, who with his latest two albums have received quite a lot of acclaim. Dude’s got a lot of energy for sure, and his atmospheric soundscapes and personal lyrics make for an interesting and alternative approach to pop – a pleasant surprise in the rain. Shortly before the end of his set, I decide to walk towards the Meadow Stage so I won’t get caught on the bridge prior to Bon Iver’s first song. Now that you’re up to speed, lets proceed with the actual reviews.

Bon Iver @ 20:15 on Meadow

I’m sure I’m not the only one interested in seeing what kind of setup Justin Vernon brings to the stage, and luckily I’m not disappointed. Several people on saxophone, two drummers, a bassist, a guitarist plus Vernon himself who’s standing between a piano and an electronic effect-board with his headset on. Once the band’s highly emphasized and distorted the various elements on both “22 (Over Soon)” and “10 d E A T h b R E a s T”, it becomes pretty clear that the band’s going to not only perform their newest album ”22, A Million” in its entirety, but they’re also going to toy and tweak it into a proper full-fleshed live performance. Like watching an android come to live, it’s amazing to see how the highly digitalized, looped and sampled album suddenly grows a thick layer of skin and becomes even more organic and dynamic than usually, giving it the depth it needs to work in a live setting.

Third song “715 – CREEKS” sees the band let go as Vernon takes over with nothing but his voice and a vocoder. Both with and without the vocoder, his voice carries an unbelievable intimacy that feels genuine and fragile at its core. Not surprisingly, the song receives a huge applause where even the most skeptical attendee must’ve felt something; Bon Iver’s performance simply feels raw and uncalculated throughout. After having been taken down to the creek, the following songs all get the tempo up for a bit, proving the band’s versatility. The bass in the middle of “33 ‘GOD’” rumbles relentlessly to the static crackling on the screen behind the band, the drummer on stage right boulders impressively on “666 ʇ” and the saxophones make a storm during “8 (circle)” and “_45__”. Oh yeah, this is also the part where Aaron and Bryce Dessner decided to join on guitars.

Once the album’s been wrapped up, the beautiful, smooth opening chords of “Perth” arrive to much applause by an audience now hungry for the classics. Although the volume could still use an extra notch up during the quieter parts on this open field, hearing several patches of people in the crowd sing ”never gonna break” x3 during “Minnesota, WI” is sweet – and the thundering bass that follows only emphasizes both the quiet and the loud. “Holocene” gets aired before a breezy rendition of “Creature Fear” ultimately gets cranked up all the way and explodes like a volcano awakened from its slumber the way we’re used to from Sigur Ros. And that’s about it. Justin Vernon and his band proved how you can still manage to be innovative, unique and damn brilliant at the same time. The only draw-back, really, is that we could’ve used 15-20 minutes more from the first two albums to end the set (those 75 minutes in total felt really short), and perhaps a bit more volume overall. A few casual listeners seemed to lose focus during the extended delivery of “21 M00N WATER” in the middle of the set, once again reminding us that music should be turned up so loud that we can’t hear each other. [8½]

The National @ 23:15 on Meadow

As if intended by the festival’s organizers, the rain stops just in time for The National’s set. Obviously, there’s been a lot of speculations going on whether the band’s going to perform material off their upcoming album “Sleep Well Beast” and whether anything special’s going to happen during the show. A quick reply would be yes and yes: eight songs in total from “Sleep Well Beast”, and some very special and… weird… “things” are going to happen – but let’s go back to the start. The first thing I notice is what a wonderful applause the band receive as they take the stage. It’s nice to see the band receive the acclaim they’re worth here in Denmark, as everyone I can see looks thrilled. In a very nonchalant fashion, both Matt Berninger and the Dessner brothers greet us and proclaims that they’re going to perform some new material for us tonight. But first, a heavy rendition of the melancholic “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, where it quickly becomes evident that the volume has been turned up – thank you!

“Day I Die” is the first new song we’re treated to, and with its twangy punk guitar hook it’s a pretty good choice to get the show going. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” then comes on and reminds me why I fell in love with the band seven years ago due to its overwhelming chorus and oblique yet endearing lyrics: ”I still owe money, to the money, to the money I owe // I never thought about love, when I thought about home”. The melodic guitar towards the end of the song gets people jumping along, and like that the band’s got us in their grasp. A brief humorous interlude occurs during the guitar solo in “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” as Berninger slips on the wet floor, but it only adds to his likeability. He quickly manages to get up with a smile on his face and performs a classic example of “just go with it” as he laughingly picks up his cup of wine and ice and throws it in the air, resulting in the floor becoming even more wet than previously.

Prior to the beginning of “Nobody Else Will Be There” (also new), Justin Vernon of Bon Iver joins the band on stage, which unfortunately is where things start to go downhill. Although the guest musicians all play their part nicely, it feels a little forced to have three different guests in the short span of five songs: Kvamie Liv joins on “I Need My Girl”, Kate Staples on “I’ll Still Destroy You” and Vernon on “Guilty Party”, too. Instead of feeling like one smooth motion, the set has too many interruptions between songs. It’s a shame, really, because The National are doing a terrific job on their own: the many screeches and loud noises causing cacophony highlights the brilliant melodies lying beneath the surface of the Dessner brothers’ guitars, the Devendorf-duo’s rhythm-section is brilliant and unpredictable as ever, and Matt Berninger excels as usual. Berninger has taken more of a backseat this time around as the Dessner’s talk to us most often, but that’s only natural on this festival that they themselves have helped create.

Once Kvamie Liv exits the stage, we fortunately get the gorgeous “This is the Last Time”, the raucous “Turtleneck”, the beautiful “England” and the masterful “Fake Empire” before the encore. A heartfelt story about Aaron Dessner’s departed mother-in-law opens up the band’s latest single “Carin at the Liquor Store”, where especially the guitar and saxophone co-create some beautiful harmonies. Just as The National has gotten back on track, they decide to invite Ragnar Kjartansson unto the stage to sing Kim Larsen’s “Smukke Unge Mennesker” in honor of Aaron’s father-in-law. What should’ve been a two-minute joke extends to several minutes where even Berninger looks puzzled and instead starts to whistle along. It’s awkward and weird and unfortunately throws the band a bit off, causing the usually rocking “Mr. November” to feel lackluster. Well, at least “Terrible Love” finishes the band’s performance with a loud, distorted thunder. What could’ve been one of The National’s best shows is unfortunately wasted on too many guests and a weird Larsen-moment that makes me wonder if maybe the rest of the team gave the Dessner’s too much flexibility in the scope of a 100-minute concert. [7½]

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

Thanks a lot for reading so far! In case some parts got too long or you just didn’t feel like sitting through the entire write-up, here are the essentials summed up in our usual “good”, “bad” and “ugly” sections.

The good:

  • Excellent surroundings.
  • Wood chips strewn across the big plain in front of the Meadow Stage. Excellent!
  • Excellent selections of food and beverages at a reasonable price.
  • The IKEA-part of the festival made sure that everyone attending could afford something to eat and drink.
  • Except for the queues and bridge, the festival made use of good logistics in general and turned the festival site into a wonderful haven.
  • The many different installations and performances gave the festival a nice, constant buzz.
  • Plenty of benches, especially by Mindfield. But I’m not one for sitting down a whole lot during festivals.
  • Aaron and Bryce Dessner being champs and performing during as many different sets as possible.
  • People up front were a lot better at staying quiet during shows than usually.

The bad:

  • Queues for both toilets and food stands were too long. 30 minutes or longer isn’t fair to anyone.
  • Værket felt kind of naked and alone down in the furthest corner of the field.
  • Some shelter from the rain would’ve been nice. I am a firm believer that you need to dress for the weather when going to a festival, but there’s always going to be a few left standing wet once the rain ponchos run up.
  • During the middle of the day, the music lineup started to feel a little homogenous. Chance the Rapper, who unfortunately cancelled, would’ve been a nice change of pace/sound.

The ugly:

  • Sound on the main stage was often too low or just plain bad. The wind by the sea probably didn’t make it any easier.
  • Crossing the bridge from one area to another took too long, especially considering the tightly stitched lineup. A solution has to be found next year.
  • Ragnar Kjartansson ruining The National’s encore.

Overall, the festival definitely has some start-up problems, but with a positive attitude and the right raincoat, the bright aspects outshine the grey weather and overshadow the lengthy queues. Hopefully, that’ll all be sorted out for next year’s edition! Depending on Haven’s lineup in 2018, I’ll come back – heck, the beer alone is almost enough to justify the ticket.

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