The Nordic Roots Festival, formerly held every autumn at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, has featured many renowned acts in the new Nordic folk genre. The Swedish band Hoven Droven, who combine the Swedish fiddling tradition with punk and heavy metal, have always been a fan favorite at the Festival. Now I wouldn’t say that Hoven Droven have made an album of the same caliber of the genre’s best, like Hedningarna’s Tra, Gjallarhorn’s Sjofn, or a number of Värttinä’s CDs. I wouldn’t even call them the best live act, at least strictly in terms of the quality of their musical performances; that distinction belongs to Väsen. But they do throw the best parties. The most memorable of these party/concerts at the Festival took place on October 1, 2005. Hoven Droven were in outstanding form that night, but more significant from my perspective in the audience was the way the band and the crowd fed off each other. The Festival audience likes a good, high-energy show in general. Hoven Droven gave us more than we asked for that night, but we responded in kind. At the band’s request, we put all of our seats off to the side about halfway through the show, and the rest of the show just became a frenzied orgy of spinning, screaming, and, well, jumping. NorthSide presciently had the recording equipment running that evening, so the music was preserved and has now been released as a double CD titled Jumping At The Cedar.
Hoven Droven’s set combined the most familiar tunes from their back catalog with a bunch of new tunes off their recently released CD Turbo. About a third of the pieces were traditional, with the rest composed either by fiddler Kjell-Erik Eriksson or guitarist Bo Lindberg. While the band did show off its mellow side on a few tunes, like the traditional “Årepolska,” they rocked early and often, and usually quite hard. The opening tunes “Bjekkergauken” and “Tachen” got the audience warmed up, but the party really hit full swing with “Okynnewals.” Björn Höglund set the tune up by steadily building up the volume on his drum intro, while Erikkson asked the crowd with increasing urgency if they were ready for a waltz. Perhaps the crashing mayhem of Erikkson playing a rock solo on amplified fiddle and Jens Comén getting some ungodly sounds out of his sax in the second half of that track worked better in person than it does on disc, but by the end of that tune Hoven Droven had completely galvanized the crowd.
The CDs do not include the between-song banter. I feel an exception should have been made for the moment when Erikkson asked everybody to put their seats away, because that was the turning point of the show. The “jumping” began in earnest during “Skuffen,” a march off Turbo composed by Erikkson. Lindberg started jumping up and down in place during the second part of the tune. Soon Erikkson, Comén, and bassist Pedro Blom followed suit, and within a few seconds the entire audience was doing it as well. The crowd was already quite into it, as can be heard plainly enough on the preceding track “Dortea,” but from this point we just kept getting louder and more excited. This can definitely be heard during the blistering schottish “Slentbjenn,” so people who weren’t there can get at least some sense of the crowd response that night.
All in all, Jumping At The Cedar is a fine example of what a Hoven Droven concert sounds like, and fans of the band will certainly enjoy it. The crowd was a huge part of the performance, though, and even a video recording might have had some difficulty capturing what really went on that evening in a way that could compete with the memory and legend of it for those of us who were there. If you’d like to relive that evening, or get some idea of what went on, I’d recommend getting a bunch of friends together who are seriously into new Nordic folk music and play this CD with the volume up and the lights down in a tightly packed room. Then, when you get to the second part of “Skuffen,” start jumping up and down and spinning whichever way you feel like, and scream your approval as the spirit moves you.
Here’s Hoven Droven playing on the same stage some 13 years later.