Postcard From Stockholm

Brighton Dome, 6th April 1974. The Eurovision Song Contest is about to be introduced to the Swedish pop phenomenon of the decade. “These are the ABBA group,” our man at the BBC explains, “Björn, Frida, Anna and Benny. They made their first record in 1972 and if all the judges were men, which they’re not, I’m sure this group would get a lot of votes. You’ll see why in a minute. Oh, and it’s Napoleon!”

Obaren, Stockholm, 12th March 2018. Hitting town on their first European tour, Brighton-born punk-pop stars in waiting Dream Wife are about to pile into the anthemic ‘F.U.U’. “All my Bad Bitches, come to the front!” demands singer Rakel Mjöll. “Bad Bitches to the front! Bad Bitches!”

We’re many years and hundreds of miles apart but SOURCE is holidaying in Stockholm, ABBA’s home town, and Dream Wife’s debut show here is too irresistible to pass up. With a day to fill before the gig, we slosh our way through the snow to Djurgården to pay homage to the mighty Swedes at ABBA: The Museum, finally facing our ‘Waterloo’.

Eurovision fans of Brighton who’ve not already made the trek should be reassured, here is a corner of Stockholm that is forever the Dome in 1974. Presenter Katie Boyle’s big night is preserved on a television loop, welcoming our continental friends’ jury votes through her earpiece alongside ABBA’s satin and glitter performance in videotape perpetuity.

Next to the video screen, four mannequins model ABBA’s Eurovision stage-wear. Except these are facsimiles, the authentic clothing displayed in the museum’s Gold Room further on. Perspex cases hold Björn Ulvaeus’ star-shaped guitar from the night, ABBA’s Eurovision medal and a red and gold BBC folder containing all the information performers on the night would need. Björn’s newspaper diary from his giddy, star-making week is blown up on display nearby, including the delicious revelation that he placed a bet on ‘Waterloo’ with a Brighton bookie before the contest, cashing in his substantial winnings the following morning.

Here at SOURCE, we’ve been following Dream Wife since their swooning ‘Believe’ hit YouTube back in 2015. Formed at college in Brighton the year before, Rakel, guitarist Alice Gough and bassist Bella Podpadec have developed from art project beginnings into a fully-fledged pop group, sharpening up their sound and politics along the way.

Tying their Stockholm show in with our ABBA pilgrimage isn’t entirely spurious, as Rakel was once an Icelandic Eurovision hopeful herself, performing the song ‘Beint Á Ská’ for her native country’s Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins (we know it here as A Song For Europe) back in 2011.

Supreme in confidence, she’s happy to invoke Eurovision on stage tonight in reference to the really quite strange stage upon which Dream Wife are performing. Obaren is impossible to find unless you’re in the know, situated without signposting within a shopping centre, through a rather fancy restaurant and up a flight of stairs in the corner (fortunately a helpful security guard takes us through).

The stage itself is built high above the audience but a row of tables elevated to the level of the footlights obscure the view from the crowd below. Luckily most of the packed-in Stockholm fans vacate their stage-front seats once the band appears. Those that don’t soon find Dream Wife nobly stomping among their coffee cups to give the rest of the room a better view.

Unfortunately the unusually designed venue is against the band for much of the set tonight. Rakel’s vocals are way too low during ordinarily euphoric opener ‘Hey! Heartbreaker’ and the stage lights remain largely focussed on the back of the stage. Every time the group jump forward towards the crowd, they descend into darkness.

Even so, Dream Wife are irrepressible. Tune-rich, fuzzbomb feminist singalongs like ‘Lolita’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Somebody’ hit their targets dead-on. A new city is won over and the back and forth tug of Europop goes on. Fuck Brexit.

Obaren, Stockholm, Monday 12th March 2018

Words and Photo by Stuart Huggett

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Stuart Huggett

Stuart Huggett grew up in Hastings, publishing fanzines and writing blogs about the town’s underground music scene. He is a regular contributor to SOURCE, NME, The Quietus, Bowlegs and more. His huge archive of magazines, flyers and vinyl is either an invaluable research tool or a bloody pain. He occasionally runs tinpot record label Dizzy Tiger, DJs sporadically and plays live even less.

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