The highlights from Norway's biggest festival - from Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire and Kendrick Lamar to the best of the local rising talent showcased
With a raw-nerved take on indie-folk from her debut album ‘Stranger In The Alps’, Bridgers’ European festival debut is as intimate as you’d imagine. Self-deprecation rarely leads to such celebration, but there’s something about her open-hearted exorcism that strikes a chord with the many teen devotees in the front row. “I appreciate the ‘almost’ mosh pit to my songs,” she chuckles to her unusually maddened crowd. “No one has any fun to my music”.
Norway’s own Sassy 009 bewitched the Sirkus tent with their trip-hop tinged electro-pop. They’re weird, wonderful, and a very happy discovery.
A late afternoon co-headline set it may have been, but Arcade Fire still played like the last band in town. “I’d like to dedicate tonight to David Bowie,” said Win Butler, introducing ‘The Suburbs’. “I don’t think anyone should be here without David Bowie”. Amen.
“You are now watching the greatest boyband in the world,” shouts Brockhampton‘s Kevin Abstract on the Vindfruen stage. Decked out in a uniform of white T-shirts and black jeans, their pop-loaded hip hop finds many fans here in Oslo, inspiring more than a few moshpits and screams of adulation as they preach for sexual freedom and greater understanding.
It takes a certain something to break the chic nonchalance that Scandi crowds are often renowned for, but as the lounge lizard graceful tension of ‘Four Out Of Five’ rushes into a feral outing of ‘Brianstorm’, the bubble bursts in the revelry of witnessing modern masters at work. With no bells, whistles or banter, Alex Turner and co’s latest vampiric evolution on ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ dazzles with class, charisma, and a calibre of bona fide anthems that few can match.
With an affirmative energy and dizzying vocal prowess, Thea & The Wild deserves to be the the successor to Florence & The Machine's epic quirk-pop throne.
“We’re supporting Kendrick Lamar,” laughs singer Ellie Rowsell. "Right? How about it?"
They're eager for the main event, and it's plain to see with the sheer joy and punk abandon that they transfer to the crowd. Is there a better guitar festival banger than 'Yuk Foo'? Answers on a post card.
With just some Japanese B-Movie visuals, a backing track and the assured swagger that can only come from the inherent self-belief that the stage belongs to him and he needs to be heard, Kendrick's set was history in the making.
Dedicated as “a hymn for anyone who ever felt like they didn’t belong”, the quickened new mix of recent single ‘Slow Disco’ landed like an automatic fan favourite, before she took to centre stage for the emotional outro of ‘New York’ with lyrics altered to honour Oslo landmarks and neighbourhoods. Few other artists can match the sheer scope of St Vincent’s ambition and vision. She’s taken a sci-fi fever dream and turned the stage into a world of her own.
As she stalks the gangway and tends to the teary-eyed, hollering devotees that occupy the front rows, Lykke Li needs no high concept stage set or fireworks to show what a headliner can do. Her latest hip-hop-driven evolution on ‘So Sad So Sexy’ sees her liberated from the shackles from of her monochrome past and running with the colour and energy of her more-chart friendly energy. Who knew that sadness could be this much fun?
The closing day was for local talent to shine. While Boy Pablo may have millions of streams and worldwide critical acclaim under their belt already, you need to witness the bat-shit frat party of their live show for the appeal to really hit home. While their tropical indie bounce and Mac DeMarco-esque easygoing makes for a pretty slack summer soundtrack, the reaction to the band ripping their shirts off, donning hard hats and attempting to cover Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ makes all the juvenile mania make a little more sense.
Later, the crowd was bursting out of the tiny confines of the Bibliothek stage after ‘Girl In Red’ enjoyed four days as one of the most hyped whisperings to be passed around the festival. With a full band in tow and the anticipation reciprocated, there’s an energy and bite to her live that outstrips the lo-fi dreamwave sound of what she’s released so far. It’s playful, thoughtful, and worthy of the buzz.
Having risen up the ranks at Øya festival since their first appearance some years ago, the Norwegian pop-punk four-piece returned on the victory lap for their acclaimed debut album ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ for an early evening set on the Vindfruen stage. But freak out, they did, as the band repeatedly invaded the stage and even pulled off a ‘girls only’ moshpit.
With soaring vocals set above a space age and star-reaching blend of prog-pop and post-rock with an industrial crunch, Bendik hopped between guitar, keys and centre stage to prove herself an awe-inspiring talent worth travelling the North Sea for.
A local lad who grew up just down the road, Cezinando fulfilled Øya’s traditional slot of having a Norwegian headliner to close proceedings for the weekend. With a live production to rival Kanye’s, it was certainly worth skipping Patti Smith for. We may not have had a fucking clue about what he was rapping about, but the soulfful purity of his voice, joy in his movement and sheer natural musicality had us feeling every word.