Shadow Dancing in The Desert: Fever Ray Hits Coachella

Posted by Aaron Detroit, April 1, 2010 10:00am | Post a Comment

Reason 1,867,456,378 those Indio bound this Spring have cause for celebration: Karin Dreijer Andersson aka Fever Ray is bringing her astonishing stage show to Coachella this year. And that is exactly what she brings: a stage show. Fever Ray’s 2009 Lynchian performance at The Fonda was one of the most visually evocative and vividly memorable Pop music shows I’ve ever attended. Stage set with an array of blinking antique lamps, Andersson appeared through heavy smoke and incense decked out in a colorful quilt-like shroud and a head-dress that could have come straight off of one of the Wild Things. Anderrson served as the ringmaster over a band of masked men (which features Fever Ray album collaborators Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid) for an intense 12 song set that also featured a bevy of stoner-ready laserlight grids that created an eerie green virtual ceiling for the living-room-in-the-middle-of the-woods/Pagan-Seance vibe that she appeared to be going for. But unlike most high-spectacle Pop concerts, Fever Ray’s presentation was not done to mask low-quality/without-meaning Pop songs, it was there to enhance the stark, supernatural atmosphere and sometimes even somber moods of her songs. During “Keep The Streets Empty For Me,” the ‘virtual laser ceiling’ lowered over the crowd to make the large space seem uncomfortably intimate, if not claustrophobic, then dissipated just as Andersson intoned, “Uncover our heads and reveal our souls.”

The show proved that Fever Ray’s visual side is an integral part of its art, not just complementary to its music but completing a whole narrative. This also became obvious over 2009 as Andersson released six (!) Fever Ray videos, including one for the project’s eerie cover of Nick Cave’s “Stranger Than Kindness.” Karin seemingly loves the melding of the two, as her other recent release is a soundtrack to an opera about Charles Darwin entitled Tomorrow, In A Year, written and performed by her other main project, The Knife. When Fever Ray won the P3 Guld Award (aka the Swedish Grammy) for Best Dance Artist (huh? Dance? maybe as in Shadow Dancing?) this year, Andersson accepted in a red Burqa-style veil only to reveal a flesh-colored ‘melting’ mask and then preceded to grunt and wheeze instead of spewing the usual ‘thank-yous’ to 'God and My Manager.' Many brushed this off as GaGa-aping but her intentions were apparently much deeper and to draw attention to worldly horrors: The mask was meant to represent the acid scarification many women suffer from violent attacks used in some predominately Muslim countries as a form of punishment and subjugation for "offenses" like going to school and appearing in public with an uncovered face. As with most Performance Art, it was met immediately with uncomfortable laughter, confusion, and your usual doses of skepticism and angry dismissals. For me, Karin Dreijer-Andersson is the 21st century pop artist I’ve been waiting for.

There’s no word yet whether or not Fever Ray’s Friday (April 16) Coachella performance will be the same show that Andersson toured last year, but Fever Ray in the California Desert should be something to behold. Please enjoy, now, all six Fever Ray videos culled from its debut.

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Coachella 2010 (12), Van Rivers (1), Fever Ray (5), Lady Gaga (26), Coachella (41), The Knife (10), Subliminal Kid (1)