Kalabalik på Tyrolen is a festival arranged by Klubb Kalabalik annually at Tyrolen – a picturesque site located at Blädinge not far away from Alvesta, in Småland, Sweden. The arrangement has a history that dates back to 2011 and live-acts such as The Horrorist, Kite, Schwefelgelb, Dernière Volonté, Absolute Body Control, Martial Canterel, and Portion Control – to mention a selection of the diverse multitude of electronic and non-electronic acts alike – that have played there.
The club itself, Klubb Kalabalik, have hosted a multitude of club nights in Växjö since 2005. Christoffer Gunnarsson and his crew seem to have placed themselves high above many festivals, which made one eager to visit and see what it was like. This year included acts such as Diesel Dudes, Sturm Café, Die Selektion and Kaelan Mikla – in what I personally wanted to see live the most, plus acts that I had never heard about or knew somewhat of – but wanted to give a chance.
Here’s my personal account of what went down musically and socially at Kalabalik på Tyrolen 2017.
After waiting half of the day until the train was going to depart from Malmö to Alvesta, I indulged in the playlist that Klubb Kalabalik had set up on Spotify. Upon hearing some of the acts that were going to play there, I didn’t really muster up any excitement for my trip. As the time to depart came even closer, one became increasingly nervous as to what to expect from this festival. Going from the scenic beauty of the Scanian landscape to the darkness of the dense forests in Småland was a change of scenery one hadn’t felt in some time. Everything went as it should on the trip and the train was cozier then anticipated.
Upon arrival in Alvesta, it sure was very different from Malmö. A tiny society in comparison. But it felt like a breeze in comparison and somewhat of a vacation from the ‘big city’. Since there’s not an ounce in me that wanted to pitch up a tent in the now rainy Småland, a hotel felt better suited for me as a form of relaxation and a better place to live, quite frankly. After having checked in, settled in, and the time closing in for the first act that I wanted to see on Tyrolen, I called a cab and went down to await it. It took some time before it arrived, but I was greeted by fellow people going to the festival themselves.
I thought it was going to be a further ride into the forests then it actually was, about ten minutes away from Alvesta itself. Quickly the ride became more of a social event then I would’ve thought it had been and the people I shared a cab with were really nice to talk to. A dimension of traveling to this festival that I hadn’t accounted for when I was on my way there, was meeting with all the people I know through my zine and label. Upon arriving to Tyrolen, it wasn’t the picturesque kind of place I had thought it would be – but as we got out of the cab, getting closer to the entrance, I was proven wrong.
A very picturesque and stylish sign, in bright red and yellow stated the following: “Tyrolen“. As one walked through the entrance, the bright lights that formed a column straight forward also gave off a nice aesthetically pleasing vibe, which was especially true the darker it got throughout the day, as the evening was closing in. Before the first act was going to play, that I was personally excited to hear live, my newfound friend and I became more acquainted and discussed the schedule and what to see. We were both, apparently, going to see Kaelan Mikla.
To be honest, I had been shunning Kaelan Mikla and their music for some time. First time I heard them, they were really exciting – but it got tiresome at one point to listen. As we moved down to hear them play, it really was a seance-like appearance they quickly laid down. It was enthralling to hear every song they played and it was very different to hear them play live then it is listening to their records. One part of me couldn’t stop moving to the beat of the music and the further into the live-set we got, the more I danced.
What appeased me the most was the bassist and her style of playing, it really added to the theatrical vibe that Kaelan Mikla managed to pull off convincingly. There was something about her rocking back and forth which made one be able to completely enjoy dancing and at the same time viewing their prowess on stage. When the final song was to be played, frankincense was lit and the mood became even darker, a perfect end to a great show.
The core of their music became more appealing as they channeled their ritualistic nature completely and let it self-destruct. It was almost as a religious experience dancing to it, especially after they had plowed through a few songs. Certainly a great start to an increasingly exciting festival to be at, which had frankly just started.
Next up was Lode Runner – a band I had never heard of, apparently they were from Russia. Having had a discussion as what to see next, I parted from my newly found friend as I went over to see what all the fuzz was about, as a bigger crowd of people were gathering outside the next, smaller stage called “Joddelero” – “Rotundan” was the bigger stage, where Kaelan Mikla performed. Here is where I began to seriously dance my ass off. Even though many of the songs had the same rhythmical component with different variations, the music was beyond great to listen to.
The energetic nature of the post-punk that Lode Runner bestowed upon us made for some very unorthodox moves on my part. Even though the experience was not close to the religiousness of the dance that went down to Kaelan Mikla, there was some shoegazing happening and a foot forward, two steps back kind of minimalist dancing. People were getting more and more excited as to what lay ahead of them and it was a noticeable shift from the more gloomy, not as enthusiastic dancing going on earlier.
After having heard them perform, it was clear that nothing could beat them live – having listened to their music afterwards in comparison. They can truly be considered to be more of a live-act then a studio act, for the moment at least. As people got increasingly drunker they let loose a bit more and it seemed like people were excited for Die Selektion. Before all of this I had also met some of the people that I met in Malmö a year ago, one of them actually performing with Forces later that night.
Die Selektion. What can I really say? I enjoyed their latest album “Deine Stimme Ist Der Ursprung Jeglicher Gewalt” which was a refreshing insight into what they’re capable of, so of course I had to watch them play live. Enthusiastically at first, I stood in front as they began to play and song after song poured out. Here, somewhere, I hit a metaphysical state of questioning my experience at Kalabalik, induced by the mesmerizing nature of trumpet-playing and energetic maneuvering by Luca (the singer). It became some kind of existential angst, a blurred line between just existing and philosophizing – which made me go further back and sit on the bench through the rest of the show.
Really a clash of two perspectives – being active and dancing to their music – and sitting back, enjoying how other people seemed to be into it in full, at the same time analyzing the bands move from subliminal presence to a full-on assault musically and owning the stage. As the show went on it became more and more interesting to watch and listening to, from a “shy” beginning to an outburst of emotions only available to those present.
It really felt as one was blessed by their presence and the curse of the existential angst slowly but surely faded away. As they said their goodbyes and the stage was going from full to empty once again, the excitement grew for seeing Diesel Dudes live for the first time. As quickly as they set up, as quickly the show started. It was time to get involved for real. Cue a blurry picture and enter a complete war-zone.
In come two burly dudes. The epitome of Diesel Dudes. After laying my jacket and hoodie on the floor, I quickly were to be involved in frantic dancing with the lead singer of Lode Runner in close proximity around me. What began as frantic dancing as the most, slowly became an outdoor gym where testosterone was administered by Douglas Du Fresne (the singer) together with his pal in a quite bizarre fashion, musically. After the first song or so, the dancefloor grew to be a wild mosh-pit that included virtually everyone in a big half-circle, to the joy of more passive onlookers.
When people were beginning to flail their arms violently and totally flip out, everyone was in some sort of ecstatic camaraderie and everyone who took a tumble was quickly helped up to continue the electronic body music-infused madness that had slowly brewed into a complete storm. Douglas even influenced me to do a few push-ups. There was a certain shift in attitude the further everything went on and it was evident that people got more excited and involved as the songs were quickly thrown out there until there was none left – but then people shouted they wanted more – and were given some.
Diesel Dudes have a uniqueness about them which I’ve never felt on a show for a long time, maybe even seven years. Their brand of electronic body music takes on the anarchic side of electro-punk and the attitude they bear with them resounds throughout the audience enough to make everything you do intense. For those of you who missed out on this show, it was really one of the two highlights of the festival. A once in a lifetime experience – to be honest.
Unfortunately for the other musicians, here’s where I was fatigued enough to just sit back and enjoy everything else from a distant. Here’s where the social theme of the festival became more evident, as I met more and more people I hadn’t met before. From hearing Whispering Sons from a distance, to wondering what could be made out of Easter to completely abandoning everything to socializing backstage with people. Even though the social aspect of this festival can be exaggerated, as people tended to move within their social circles and little cliques, there were a certain friendliness backstage among the artists that had performed and us others.
Now the time had arrived to move to Forces, but unfortunately not much of it was experienced due to hanging out backstage and venturing further away from the festival, nearer the DJ-tent. But it was perfectly enjoyable to hear them play from a distance, it invoked a certain kind of feeling which enhanced the social sphere and made the conversations more appealing in the end. Unfortunately for the DJ’s the electricity came and went like it wanted, which was a shame. There were some really good jams coming out of there, as I spent my remainder of the time going from a caravan to a backstage-caravan.
For someone like me to last through the whole night is a unique thing. My last experience of a festival being Peace & Love in 2011 which was nothing in comparison to what this had become. One thing can be said about the social atmosphere of the festival and it was meeting people you’ve either made releases with, written about or simply learned to know otherwise in connection with Repartiseraren. The appreciation and knowledge of what I do was astounding, even coming from people I haven’t chatted that much with.
After almost falling asleep and not being able to catch a cab until two hours later, in the middle of the night, almost the next morning – was a frustration. Coming home from that, with the experiences that I was given on the first day of Kalabalik, was a lot to process and reintegrate into the mind the other day. So many good and positive things on the same day, giving in less and less to the more anxious side of things.
Saturday the 26th of August
Sleeping from early in the morning the next day, up until it was time to venture out to Tyrolen once again, it became even more attracting as it was my opportunity to say hello to more people I didn’t have time to greet the first day. I decided to come there a bit later since I really wanted to start off the evening by seeing Sturm Café live for the first time ever. This was one of those moments I had been waiting for and one of the main attractions for my visit to Kalabalik.
My newly found friend from the first day was munching on a pizza and followed me to the bigger stage were we sat down to look at Sturm Café. Just about ten to twenty minutes before that I had greeted Gustav (the singer) of the band and hoped to hear what they could produce as a live-act – which didn’t concern me since they are veterans themselves, and have played many shows before. Before they went on-stage the inversion of Diesel Dudes were playing on the other stage, and they had some really catchy tunes, as Morning Hands. It was from a distance, like experience the total opposite of what Diesel Dudes had been about on Friday.
Queue the anticipation as Sturm Café went on and everyone from the festival seemed to be gathering at the same spot – literally most of the people were present at this concert, and from my view it was the most popular out of them all, in terms of the audience. Unfortunately I was too tired to re-live my experience at Diesel Dudes the other night, but they surely churned out some tunes and everyone were dancing lively to the pop-sounding electronic body music that Sturm Café have mastered throughout the years.
This time they played mostly classics and also delivered the best versions of these songs -as they should be heard – live. The execution of each song was absolutely flawless. After having a highlight for my first day on the festival, this became the other one and the best one, really. Upon hearing “Koka Kola Freiheit” the whole place erupted and the drums were amazing – the bass was resounding and blurting out uncompromisingly to everyone’s delight. The dancefloor was alive once more. It seemed like the quality of the sound was somehow enhanced, be that because of the production of the songs or the digging engineer in front of me, should be untold. But there was an overall difference.
I wish I had seen them earlier, they are really much more than what can be described about them. I am proud to have contributed to their discography in the form of a cassette-release. They have a certain quality musically that not many groups in the electronic body-genre can produce. Even though one might scorn them upon a first listening, this is one of those groups that can’t be dismissed just on their approach to the genre in terms of lyrics and concept.
Around the same time as Friday, the festival turned into more of a social event and I managed to hook up with more of the people I had only seen profile pictures of, or had spoken with before without being able to meet them in person. It gave a certain quality to the social interaction being on the same festival as them. It is a shame that it is only a yearly occurrence. I had been stoking the flames of my own excitement for Bestial Mouths, but even though they delivered some nice interpretations of their works, it didn’t give me the same kind of motivation I had gotten earlier.
Then I heard Xarah Dion from afar and was enthralled about her emotional deliveries of the music she’d created. I hadn’t really listened that closely to the music itself before but was attuned to it even more the more times I passed going from inside the festival to just outside in the camping-area. She had some really great songs in her repertoire, even though I didn’t experience it closer than that, it was a pleasant listening session for myself in my newly found social environment.
It is hard to sum up this festival and it isn’t necessary to have actively participated in every DJ-set or live-act, but it turned out to be a great listening experience whether one was directly involved by dancing or appreciating the music closely, or simply hearing it from a different perspective whilst engaging in other activities. I must say that I have never been to a more well-organized festival in terms of music, general pleasurableness and the non-existence of violence and anti-social behavior. Even though Kalabalik på Tyrolen is a very small festival in comparison to other counterparts – it is hands down – the best festival I’ve ever been to.
The sheer work of Christoffer Gunnarsson and his crew should serve as an inspiration to other D.I.Y.-festival makers for the future. It is really an impeccable show of hostesship. The fact that you can also get closer to the artists is a huge plus. Otherwise you’re locked out of that opportunity. They’ve really outdone themselves for me as a first time visitor and I was lucky enough to be personally invited as well, which for me is an honor and just cements the importance of Repartiseraren further. For the first time in these environments, since being invited to The Foreign Resort backstage in Christiania – have I felt that what I do make a difference and that people actually enjoy it.
I would be dismayed if there weren’t a Kalabalik på Tyrolen 2018. I would go again even if I weren’t a guest to the festival in terms of my hobby. They have another important factor about what makes them great as well and that is the representation of more established artists and smaller artists that get the same playground, basically. You’re intrigued about watching artists perform that you haven’t heard about and even though not everything might be one’s cup of tea, the variety is stunning for such a small initiative.
Thank you so much for one of my best experiences in terms of music, in 2017. It brought up so many feelings and the organizers, artists, new friends and old friends have my deepest respect. You are the variation we sorely need.