Rock Werchter, Benicassim and Roskilde boast the biggest names. Exit (in an ancient Serbian fort), UVA (in a mountaintop Spanish vineyard) and Secret Solstice (partly inside a fucking glacier) have the best scenery. Tomorrowland had the most literally-on-fire stage of the season. But in terms of bang for your krona talent, progressive attitudes and highbrow sideshows, Way Out West festival in Swedish music capital Gothenburg is probably the most sophisticated of the Euro-fest circuit. Here’s what makes Way Out West so worthy of its acronym.
Okay, so The xx and Lana Del Rey are injecting a hefty dose of lethargic grace and loucheness into plenty of festivals this summer, but only Way Out West has seen fit to give them a suitably boho backing bill. Regina Spektor isn’t exactly a regular on the festival circuit due to the sort of piano quietude that saw her insist on other stages being turned down for her set at Secret Garden party a few years ago, but she brings her funny-noise romances back to Way Out West, eternally grateful for its minimal stage bleed. Perfume Genius splays his grandtronic soul bare on a stage bedecked with palm fronds on Friday and The Shins fill the main arena with glorious displays both floral and folk-indie. The coolest Canadian vibes own the Azalea stage on Friday, where Mac Demarco’s poolside haze gives way to Feist trying to hook up all of the single people in the crowd like some kind of folk rock Tinder.
Nestled on the banks of Lake Geneva, shrouded in cocktail bars and casinos and with a breath-taking view of Mont Blanc, it’s undoubtedly the most stunning festival locale in the world. The problem with Montreux Jazz Festival, though, is all the jazz. So Way Out West runs it a close second for Euro-fest gorgeousness; set within Slottsskogen Park, where toddlers mini-golf amateurishly around the outskirts and ducks flee the Afghan Whigs on the central lake, it’s an oasis of sloping lawns and artistic water features. The odd casino or two wouldn’t go amiss, mind.
“You are now entering a milk industry deprogramming zone” reads a billboard at the entrance. Yeah! Down with milk! If anything’s driving the world to the brink of mutually-assured destruction right now it’s those cowtit squeezing milk industry bastards, invading the safe spaces of our precious heifers for their wicked milky ends! But this is just the first sign of Way Out West’s ultra-environmental approach. Inside meat is entirely banned – the burger stalls cheekily advertise in the small print that that their burgers are ‘0% Angus beef’ and the pulled pork stall, when you get closer, reads ‘Fooled Pork’, all of which certainly cuts down on the violent Nando’s rampages we see at so many other festivals.
Hey, Way Out West loves the environment so much that they want you to get smothered in it. Hence they start confiscating umbrellas at the gate as the Saturday showers begin, forcing everyone to wear plastic rain macs sponsored by phone and hi-fi companies and destined to choke at least one dolphin each. So fuck their environmental attitude actually. Unless they’ve hatched a foolproof plan to tempt Trump back on board with the Paris climate deal with 50,000 umbrellas.
The side events
Culture and discussion is another key component of the WOW philosophy. The Hojden tent is turned over to films about starting a quercore punk revolution, talks with local artists and discussions about Standing Rock and other global political issues. It’s basically Latitude but in Swedish. Um, you can speak fluent Swedish, right?