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Bluesfest hangs up the phones to immerse themselves in the music

Sabrina Nemis | Fulcrum Staff

Photos courtesy of Mark Horton

BJORK’S PERFORMANCE ISN’T displayed on the jumbo-screens the way other performers do—if you aren’t close enough to see her, you just aren’t close enough.

But even from the back of the crowd on July 13, the penultimate day of Bluesfest 2013, it would be hard to miss her; she’s wearing a gigantic red wig and a sparkly blue outfit that’s half-dress, half-cape, it sounds gaudy but Bjork’s presence makes it memorable. Every twitch, step and hand motion is like watching a conductor possessed by their craft, it’s trippy but every moment is under complete control.

Before the concert a message on the main screen asked that concert-goers not use recording devices throughout the show in order to truly experience the performance. It seemed a pretentious, Luddite thing to ask in 2013—when everything is processed through the social media filter—but from the moment the show starts, the crowd is enthralled and there are very few smartphones above people’s heads. No one wants to interrupt the experience to share it with friends from home—if you want to know what a Bjork concert is like, you need to actually go to one.

The chorus of mostly blonde Icelandic girls dressed in blue and orange sparkly tunics and leggings dance and sing, and look like they’re having as great a time as the audience. The screens behind them displays video of sea creatures devouring a dead seal, phases of the moon, the Earth’s fault lines, and geometric shapes warping to the beat.

Every moment feels both spontaneous and orchestrated. Bjork brings the audience from a mellow, overheated stupor to a frenzy of chanting and arm waving. She didn’t just show up at Bluesfest to get through her set, but to make the audience feel that their evening was something special—ending with a softly spoken and accented, “Thank you, merci.”