It had been a pretty crap week. The Brexit shitshow had reached new depths and the government, the leader of whom parts my brain were refusing to acknowledge as such, seemingly falling apart more quickly than even I had contemplated. I had spent most of the day moving furniture, the last bits of a six month house renovation nearly done, and had a quick look on line to see what was going on.
As I glance mindlessly at the screen, a message from a friend somehow jumped out at me. Träden were playing Sheffield… in four hours time… Träden… Träd Gräs och Stenar… one of the bands I’ve most come to appreciate in the last decade… I simply had to go!
I had come to them through the terrific series of box sets lovingly produced by Subliminal Sounds, covering the different incarnations of the band in the late 1960s and 1970s, Pärson Sound, (International) Harvester, and Träd, Gräs och Stenar. These set out what for me is the evolution of a sound that is timeless, yet imbued with tradition… a sound that seems to be ingrained into the Earth itself… something that has a really organic feel… combined with an atmosphere that feels on one hand blissful and free, but also very worldly; and this is something that the latest incarnation of the band, Träden, seems both aware of and able to retain.
As a result it was a mixture of surprise and excitement that saw me catching the bus into Sheffield City Centre to the excellent yet unassuming DINA venue along with what I estimate would have been around 150 others.
Before the main feature, though, a word about the support band Hearing Things, who were new to me… as was the piece they played… Rhys Chatham Guitar Trio (see here for score and performance direction). The first movement was a slow repetitive piece, a relatively simple ‘riff’ that that really got me into the mood and quietened my mind down. The second movement was very different, despite the retention on the ‘riff’, the band launched into a full sonic attack that just kept on intensifying… the six (yes six) guitars, bass and drummer going hell for leather through the gears… just the sort of performance to get me in the mood for Träden, in what was my first gig in months.
As the first track started, my memory is a bit off but I think that it was the wonderfully titled ‘När lingonen mognar (Lingonberries Forever)’. The band were immediately on it, and the song itself seemed to go on forever, something acknowledged at the end when Jakob Sjöholm laughingly announced ‘that was our first one’. From there they just seems to go from strength to strength… each track seeming more ingrained into my psyche than the previous one… the band locking together with such intensity and purpose in such a way that I have rarely witnessed. They were clearly enjoying themselves as they passed the putative finishing time by some distance.
The small, but hugely appreciative crowd lapped this up and fully played their part… Sjöholm had said at the beginning that they did not know what was going to happen… and the audience were part of this… certainly at the front it felt like the whole room were in it together… a room which, according to the conversations I overheard, were not really familiar with the band.
As the gig progressed I found myself totally ‘in the zone’ my mind and body reacting to the music in a way that does not happen that often at gigs. I really felt at times as if I’d hit that live music nirvana when everything just falls into place and you find yourself just willing the band on… to go to that next level… to just keep it going a while longer… to just play one more so the moment would be kept… to not break the spell!
As this happened I reflected on the beginnings of Träd Gräs och Stenar and their forebears… formed amongst the highly political movements on the late 1960s… part of the sort of confrontations and culture wars that seem to have erupted once more. Openness versus nationalism, environmentalism versus capitalism, permissiveness verses intolerance. I thought about how this band, despite its changing personnel, somehow reflected this… how their music demonstrated openness, environmental awareness and tolerance. How, as we danced away almost oblivious to what was going on elsewhere, there was an intensity of experience that was very unifying… very positive… very affirming… an oasis of beauty and unity that was exactly the tonic I needed after the week gone by.
Perhaps it was only me who felt this… who knows… but I left the building feeling very positive and in a heightened state of mind that had been fed by this amazing musical experience, one that has continued to fortify me ever since.
I am still not sure how Träden ended up playing that small venue a few miles away from my home last Saturday, they aren’t touring having just supported Thee Oh Sees the previous night in London. But that is moot really, I am just glad that they were there… that they did so and so clearly enjoyed the experience. Maybe that might encourage them back soon.
With thanks, too, to Tom Padmore for putting them on!
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