DiS is in Norway once again for the second Hove Festival - find our coverage of the first (featuring Amy Winehouse, Slayer, 65daysofstatic, Ludacris, My Chemical Romance, The Killers, The Gossip, Mastodon and Bright Eyes) here. In our first diary from the site, near Arendal on the Norwegian coast, Sam Lewis brings us word on The Cool Kids, Les Savy Fav and Jay-Z.
After a bumpy, cosy Ryanair flight we land in Torp. No one is really sure where Torp is. We buy little Norwegian beers and sit on a tiny, barren patch of grass, waiting in the afternoon sun. Eventually a minibus arrives to collect us from the airport. Dutifully we pile in; head bowed I feel like a schoolboy again, as the van full of journos sets off. The rowdier lads gravitate towards the back (naturally), all hooting with pleasure as the DVD for the journey comes on – Old School Rock. The driver seems delighted with his selection; sadly the novelty value wears off almost immediately, and for over an hour the likes of Status Quo drench me in a thick layer of ‘heaviosity’, the music infiltrating my truncated sleep. Outside the Norwegian countryside rolls by, miles of tall pine trees and dense, craggy grey rocks.
Hove is run with an almost militarist efficiency, gleaming local kids shooting past us on quad bikes as we enter the site. The people here all look preternaturally, unfairly healthy – smooth skin and luscious blonde hair. We’re taken to our cabin, a semi-hut near the main stage. It feels like the setting for some strange sitcom, NME, DiS, Artrocker all living cheek by jowl for a week. The site is bordered by more of those same sturdy pines; through them, at the back of the house, you can make out patches of the sea, a deep, surreal shade of blue. There are long swings in the trees; you feel that in England this would tempt broken necks and fractured limbs, but here beautiful girls sway playfully in them. One of them almost careers into me, a bright Converse swooshing past my head as I misjudge her swing.
The Cool Kids
- - -
The Cool Kids are the first act we see, kitted out in their usual attire, all high tops and shades. The sound system is surprisingly good, the bass thriving in the big speakers. The band takes it all in their stride - natural, confident showmen supported by a bass punch that lends them even more swagger than on record. There’s an instant rapport with the crowd, almost all wearing similar matching day-glo blues brothers glasses and American Apparel-esque gear.
We rush over to see Les Savy Fav on the ‘amphitheatre’ stage (pictured), the grass behind the standing area sloped upwards, the whole area bracketed by more of those selfsame lush trees. It’s the first time I’ve seen the band; despite knowing how they’re supposed to be a great live act I’m still surprised by how much I enjoy the set. Tim Whathisface strides the stage dressed like a perverse superhero, tight lycra pants, ripped vest and oversized red cape. He commandeers an audience member’s bike, before running into the woods and crawling under the plastic tarpaulin that covers the ground. At the end of the set he stands proudly on a box in the middle of the crowd, imploring crowd members to sing along. In response, thick, slurred Norwegian accents howl back at him, "Are you sick of being pretty?!"
Les Savy Fav
- - -
It’s then onto the main attraction: Jay-Z. The main stage area is completely packed, a delighted buzz flying off the crowd as the big screens show the man being driven to the edge of the stage in a blacked-out Hummer. He plays with a full band: it’s all highly professional, the backing group appropriately wearing suits. You feel it’s a set that’s been catered for a European festival audience, the presence of the live band taking most of the edge off the music, the constant use of samples (here we get snippets of AC/DC, Winehouse and The Prodigy) lending the set an jukebox air. If it’s an attempt to make it less ‘threatening’, less ‘gangster’, and I suppose it works. Glastonbury shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
- - -
Animal Collective arrive on the ‘amphitheatre’ at one in the morning. Already the daylight has receded to a twilight, the sky adopting a luscious, murky green colour. Animal Collective work through a typical set, each track bleeding into another, the rhythm constant, ebbing and flowing as the night progresses. In amongst the freeform, dissonant noise you can make out ‘Fireworks’, ‘Banshee Beat’ and even little moments lifted from Panda Bear’s Person Pitch. It’s the most intense performance I’ve seen from them, the music frighteningly imaginative. As the band continue their exploration of flux and harmony, so the sky shifts tone in response; by the end of the set the area is crowned with a slight, haunting purple.
- - -
Tomorrow: more updates from Hove Festival. Find the fest’s official website, where you can see who is playing where, and when, here.