first ever Ja Ja Ja Festival brings Nordic cool to Camden's Roundhouse

Ja Ja Ja Festival 2013 review

published: Wed 13th Nov 2013

Friday 8th to Saturday 9th November 2013
Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Rd, Camden, Greater London, NW1 8EH, England MAP
£25
last updated: Wed 13th Nov 2013

Whether we’re binge-watching The Killing, devouring the books of Jo Nesbø or lusting over IKEA’s stylish flat-pack furniture, us Brits have a real taste for all things Nordic. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, to see people packing out Camden’s iconic Roundhouse for the inaugural Ja Ja Ja Festival - a self-styled ‘Nordic affair’ in the heart of the capital.

An expansion of the popular club night at nearby venue The Lexington, Ja Ja Ja Festival is a two-day celebration of Nordic music, film and food. Despite a disappointing last-minute cancellation by Saturday’s headline band The Raveonettes, the musical lineup is impressive, with Mew, múm, Annie, NONONO,and LCMDF among those performing, and Shout Out Louds stepping in to close the event. On top of the musical treats on offer are screenings of Nordic documentaries such as Efterklang’s The Ghost of Piramida, exhibitions of art created by band members, a record fair and pop-up food stalls providing guests with cuisine from the region. 

Friday marks Danish trio Mew’s first live London appearance in over four years, and the alt-rockers’ return to the stage proves to be more than worthy first-night headline material. The experimental band enchant the Roundhouse, with frontman Jonas Bjerre’s soaring vocals and Bo Madsen’s dreamy guitar suiting the majestic venue perfectly. Much to the audience’s delight, the set draws heavily from celebrated third album Frengers, with tracks like ‘Am I Wry? No’, ‘156’ and ‘Comforting Sounds’ going down a storm. Sadly, ethereal electronic outfit múm – who are stunning on record - aren’t as successful in captivating the crowd, with much of the Icelandic group’s fragile beauty becoming lost in the Roundhouse’s vacuous Main Space. 

While the absence of the fabulous Raveonettes is certainly felt on Saturday, Swedish five-piece Shout Out Louds do a formidable job as replacement headliners. The band’s energetic indie-pop anthems make for a hugely enjoyable finish to the festival, leaving everyone with a smile on their face as they exit the Roundhouse at the end of the night. Naturally, infectiously catchy singles like ‘Walking in Your Footsteps’ and ‘Illusions’ are the high points of the set and produce the most movement from the crowd. Another highlight of Ja Ja Ja’s closing day is surprise gem Truls, a Norwegian artist whose music is an unusual blend of alternative rock and R&B. Sure, it sounds like it shouldn’t work on paper, but it does – definitely a name to look out for. 

There are plenty of discoveries to be made on the smaller Ja Ja Ja Stage, too, such as the nostalgic noise-poppers Black Lizard, the lush, folky Sin Fang and the youthful, fantastically upbeat Kid Astray. It’s just a shame that this stage is situated in the far-too-tiny Studio Theatre by an overflowing bar on Friday, making it almost impossible to access and catch the opening day’s acts. An issue that definitely needs to be addressed for future years. 

Ja Ja Ja may showcase a wealth of top-notch musical talent, but it’s the extras that really stand out. Alongside an exciting selection of films from the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival - The Punk Syndrome is a riot, for example - are wonderfully quirky freebies like the Nordic Sound Bite experience. This pairs music and food together to create ‘taste bites’ based on a selection of bands from the lineup – a particularly wacky offering was horseradish and seaweed caviar on a toothbrush (yep, really). There’s also a pop-up from much-loved Icelandic eatery Tommi’s Burger Joint, traditional Swedish coffee from Fika Bar & Kitchen and vinyl, CDs and even cassette tapes available to buy from Bella Union’s label market. These extra touches transform the festival from being two days of live music into a full-blown cultural experience.

It might have a teething problem or two, but Ja Ja Ja Festival succeeds in being a must-attend event for lovers of Nordic culture. Its combination of great bands, interesting films and authentic food works perfectly, and deserves to become a yearly fixture.


review by: Nikki Bonnett

Friday 8th to Saturday 9th November 2013
Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Rd, Camden, Greater London, NW1 8EH, England MAP
£25
last updated: Wed 13th Nov 2013


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