A festival that started back in 1999 with just a handful of bands and grew up to need 6 stages in 2010 where hundred of bands perform. And let's not forget the Ã˜yanatt every day after the festival and klubdaggen the day before, during which tons of other artists perform in plenty of clubs and bars all over Oslo. The festival is more or less a city event now, no longer just an area with stages, music and crowd. The main action happens in the Middelalderen park in Oslo, a place that hosts the ruins of a church from around 1200 and a nice little lake, adding a special charm to the event. But the organisers try to take good care of the historical place, trying to convince the people not to sit on them or vandalise them. Besides that, the whole festival is under the sign of color green, as it promotes a lot of ecological systems (electric cars, bikes that produce power, recycling devices) and it was actually a pleasant surprise to see how clean the place is at the beginning of the next day. Unfortunately it is also under the sign of rain for the first day, yet it got really excellent at the end despite the Wednesday with rain pouring down from the sky and making the area a really messy swamp at various places where people pass by the most. A thing I love about the festival though is that it addresses all ages and all music genres enthusiasts. You see on the playlist names from the darkest of black metal to African rhythm based music, to techno and electronic and to acoustic stuff. It brings a different color to it, compared to most other festivals I go to (considering they're all metal) and it also allows people to bring their kids along, which make the whole atmosphere more friendly and happy when they run around with their huge ear protections and pretty little faces painted as all sorts of creatures.
About 5 on Wednesday PM when I initially wanted to leave from home, it was simply pouring down so I waited a bit more to decide upon the choice of clothes and shoes and all. When I got there, the French electronic melodic pop duo AIR started to perform on the SjÃ¸siden stage. I stayed for 2 songs just enough to take some photos, but I was not at all impressed by the effects pulled out through the various keyboards that both dudes played at. Nor by the robotic voice that one of them used to talk to the crowd. So I rushed to the smallest stage, Camp Indie, located in a small tent close to the exit. Considering the stage also hosts something like a record store where you can purchase vinyls and CDs, plus some couches by the walls, more than 30 people in there make it feel crowded.
I went to this small stage to watch Therese Aune as what I read as a description of her music sounded good. She played on the keyboards herself, but on the stage she was accompanied by other 4 people: a girl with a violin, one with a cello, a guy with accordion (who stepped on stage right from the middle of the audience) and a guy at 'drums'. Drums being a cymbal and a big snare drum, covered with some cloth on which various noise making objects were displayed, so the guy was hitting them for a multitude of cool effects. He even played the cymbal with a … ah, can't remember the word for what one uses to play the violin with. And Therese with voice and keys, as I said, plus a very old style small piano at the end. The songs were very cozy and sweet, but the voice was mind blowing. I kept thinking about Regina Spektor for the whole concert as Therese's voice seemed as powerful and flexible, and I believe this girl can have a big future if she keeps on with her music.
On the main stage, Enga, it was soon time for the highlight of the day, Iggy & The Stooges. He's definitely one of the ugliest singers I ever saw and the fact that he plays without tshirt, showing each wrinkle on his body, makes it even worse. But it's easy to get over it once he starts playing. His energy, considering his age, seemed limitless and he danced and ran along the stage all the time. And the dance moves are his trademark and one of a kind at times, especially when he shakes his butt. I am not so familiar with the Stooges' songs though, but it was a nice surprise to see the crowd around me recognising them, screaming and singing along. At the 3rd song or so he asked people to come on stage and dance and some of those who did went really wild up there. I got lucky to film this The crowd in front got a special treat, twice actually, when Iggy went down from the stage and walked by the people in front shaking their hands and having them sing in the microphone. I'm really happy I got to see him live.
I went to the new stage called Klubben, which is a really huge tent occupying a new area allocated to the festival I think, and there I saw some songs from Shinning (Norwegian band). I thought they played mainly jazz, but their music was something very brutal combined with jazz. It sounded elevated to say so, but not something to enjoy from the very first live audition. It takes more time to digest it, so I left rather quickly to meet up with some friends and we decided to check out M.I.A. for a little while before heading home. I wish we skipped the checking part, as for about two songs there was a girl playing the DJ on stage then some other two girls came and repeated the same 'ooohs' and 'aaahs' and few other words all over again on a techno/electro backing music. Nice light beans coming from the stage though and projecting funny effects on the trees and crowd. But not nice enough to have me stay any longer.
Thursday, sun, good mood, people sitting on the grass eating something from the decent variety of foods sold there, drinking beer or wine, dancing, etc. I went straight to the Klubben scene to see Wardruna, who describe themselves as a Norwegian musical constellation set out to explore and evoke the depths of Norse wisdom and spirituality. A rather empty tent so I found myself a place right in front and got the chance to closely study the really odd 'instruments' on stage. I mean, some of them may be called instruments (eer-hide frame drums and ceremonial drums, mouth harp, clove / hoof rattles from deer and goat, bone flute, goat and cow horns, Hardanger fiddle and bowed lyres - this I copied from their website, but I am pretty sure they had most of them on the stage). But there was also a tree trunk on which one of them was drumming. And one of the girls had two bones that she was hitting together to make an interesting sound. Nothing spectacular in terms of lights or effects, but who needed them when all you had to do was close your eyes and just get transposed in a totally fantastic old time through their music. I loved every second of this concert. Every scream or whisper or normal voice, both from the male part (including Gaahl and Kvitrafn) and the two female singers who gave me goosebumps all the time with their singing.
I hardly cared about anything else that day after I have seen one of the most beautiful concerts, but I came back to the Klubben stage to hear Nachtmystium as they were introduced as probably the only black metal band from USA. Indeed they had some black metal in their music, but overall totally different from what I am used to when it comes to the evil sounds from Europe. Besides, except the guitar solos, most of their music was way too repetitive and the stage lights were blinking/changing color faster than I could blink so I started getting dizzy and just left. I caught the end of LCD Soundsystem on the main stage but my tolerance level for electro music is really low, so I kept myself busy with other stuff until it ended. Next up, on one of the side stages, Vika, were the Norwegians from The Cumshots, one of the projects of a local star, Kristopher Schau, comedian, actor, TV and radio host. The music is described as Death 'n' roll, and even if not the catchiest ever, the stage performance is really intense and every second you expect that someone would get injured. The singer jumps high in the air making him seem much bigger than he already is, he runs around screaming and the guitarists just keep up with him. They got really famous as during one of their concerts, a couple had sex on stage, and maybe the crowd always expects something extreme during their performance. But I didn't stay to wait for that, as I was recommended to see the band on the main stage.
Pavement - one of the most influential American indie/alternative rock of the 90s who split around 1999. And this year they have a reunion tour and who knows if one gets to see them ever again, so it was quite an occasion to watch their performance. Unfamiliar with their music, it was nice to hear their tunes who at times made you feel like experiencing a jam session instead of a previously composed music as the guitarists were running from riff to riff. One of them in particular enjoyed performing his solos with the guitar over his head. Drumming has a lot of rhythm changes and to my surprise, I saw two drummers at some point. Previously, the 2nd drummer was only hitting a cymbal, but later on he got himself more stuff to play at. And I'm pretty sure he did some vocals at times, so he must be a multi instrumentalist in the band. The music reminded me either a bit or Sonic Youth and whenever the camera was focused on the crowd in front, there was someone knowing the lyrics to the songs. So the audience responded very good to the lively performance.
It had rained all morning of Friday the 13th but the luck smiled upon the festival in the afternoon, and it got way too hot at times. A bit of research on Spotify or main website, before heading to the festival grounds, made me decide to check out Trash Talk. I can hardly remember much about their music since from the very first second I got next to the stage, among a really shy crowd, I saw the singer jumping off the stage and going in the middle of the non moving attendants. There he started singing/screaming, running around, asking folks to start running in circle and altogether he barely spent some minutes with the rest of the band on the stage. There were a bunch of about 7-8 guys who were obviously part of the show since they kept following the singer, ran to his microphone and sang along and tried to start moshpits themselves. Or moved around swinging their arms in the air. So I guess that if the present Norwegians happened to be more of the 'extreme concert behavior' type, this would have gone really mad.
Going back in the sunlight, to my surprise, the main stage was full of people dressed in orange, the singer was climbed on the shoulders of someone dressed with a black bear concert and among the orange folk, there was a big red/blue inflated doll looking like a computer game character or a wrong version of Superman. This was Flaming Lips' performance and I think that prior to their concert, there was an ad saying they are looking for dancers on stage. Now I understood why. It was really fun to watch, not always great to hear, music tending to get too psychedelic. They even played the song used at American funerals and had a speech about war end and peace before the march started, and asked everyone in the audience to show the peace sign. So, to conclude, a peaceful concert.
Time for a new reprise of thrash, although way more hardcore, from the Norwegians of Purified in Blood. I was nicely impressed by their performance at Norway Rock and was looking forward to see them again. And there's a lot to watch on stage, considering the band has about 7 members, out of which two are vocals and each of them just moves around the stage at all times. Or goes into the crowd like one of the singers did. Their discography is not very vast yet, since they recently reunited, but the crowd reacted well to the songs from their first album and the band was happy to introduce their newest production.
On the main stage I finally got to see John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen, a young band from Bergen, Norway, who currently only has one album out but it got such good reviews and has brought them the main prize at Spellemannsprisen. Hence, going in the middle of the crowd to watch this made the concert twice as good. Actually, the performance itself is nothing extreme, except maybe the keyboard player who is overly enthusiastic. But when everyone around you sings and screams and knows each word, you cannot but enjoy what you see and hear.
The blackest concert of the festival took place in the Klubben tent. Actually I am really happy with the addition of this covered stage, since concerts like Wardruna, 1349 or Altaar would have totally been wasted in the daylight (it gets dark around 10:30 PM now). So, back to the front row in the tent to have a look at the black metalers from 1349 (Friday the 13th was quite a good day to see them) who came on stage with corpse paint, spikes, bullet belts, and even a cape worn by the bassist. I spent most of the time headbanging and staring at the drummer who despite the incredible speed he was blasting at, he seemed like the most relaxed person on earth who is about to read a newspaper and enjoy a coffee. They have an album out this year, so they covered quite a lot of stuff from it that was unfamiliar to me.
On the way out, I stopped for two songs to checkout The Specials. A bunch of people on stag with trumpets, guitars and other instruments needed to deliver their ska to the public. And the people loved it since I've never seen so many of them dancing at a concert at this festival. I ran towards the main stage to grab some beer, heard half a Robyn song and considering how dull that sounded, I had to go back to the Specials and dance along with the rest of the people. It was a good way to move the rest of my body after killing my neck at 1349. Altogether, this was a great day, way beyond expectations.
As for the last day of the festival, I have to make it short since it was way less interesting than the others. It won at the chapter for good weather though, as is was really sunny and at some point I just sat with my friends and melted for a long time, not having the mood to move a finger. I went to see Altaar but left after some 15 minutes, time in which they were not done with their experimental song and I would guess the whole concert was a song or so. Paul Weller was nice rock pop background music to enjoy while getting toasted. Then it was a long time of gossiping the crowd passing by, waiting for the local rappers from Karpe Diem to start singing. They were loved by the crowd, but as I was strongly recommended to go see Converge, I relocated to the Vika stage and stood next to my friends, by the fence, in front of the stage. 10 seconds after I got there, I got squashed by the moshpit that just started behind me. And it kept on, to the delight of the photographers and the surprise of the singer. His face kept on inquiring 'really??' and he threw the microphone twice into the crowd. Absolutely insane concert and after 5 minutes he looked like coming out from the swimming pool as the sun was shining straight on the stage and in his face. And the guitarist had the coolest looking transparent guitar of the festival.
Back to the place on the grass, with drinking beer and doing nothing while waiting for Motorpsycho. And while listening to Motorpsycho actually. The hard/progressive band from Trondheim, who started their career back in '89, had a poll on the festival's page asking the people to vote what album should be performed. The winner was Timothy's Monster, a 2 CD release from 1994, a blend of melodic and psychedelic songs, with a touch of Zeppelin or maybe Sonic Youth. But certainly quick changes of rhythm, or not necessarily changes, but weird additions of a riff or a beat, to an already existing rhythm. With some simple, soft acoustic blends in between. There was nothing fancy about their show, just good instrumental performance by the trio and a tired crowd (or maybe at a certain level of drunkenness) who didn't respond quite as expected for a final concert on the main stage. But the organisers made up for the disappointing end as they offered us a nice fireworks show that lit the sky over the sea in the fjord for quite a while and had some spectacular explosions to watch.
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