Before this trip, Norway was a country that I’d never visited before, and I’d heard many things about the place. Mainly that things that many people enjoy (i.e. alcohol, food, and the like) cost a lorra lorra money, and that the people there are rather beautiful.
What I found, though, was that the friendly folks of Slottsfjell accommodated us with so many drinking tokens and OH SO MUCH barbecued food in the guest area that I didn’t have to spend a single penny. Apart from on a keyring souvenir at the airport, that happened to be priced at around £15 despite being not a lot more than an inch squared (okay, so it’s really expensive).
Walking into the site, you’re greeted by hoards of giantesque Anglo-Saxons – tanned, bronzed, broad figures, dappled in the remaining dusk sunlight and casting shadows on the green hilly site of Slottsfjell festival. Everyone’s gulping at plastic pints of ice-cold pear cider and have broad grins plastered all over their oh so attractive faces.
The area itself is spotted with stages and stalls selling snacks – like the coveted nation favourite of bacon crisps that are quite similar to Frazzles. But what’s most overwhelming about this place is the setting. As you walk to the back of the main stage and up a steep set of slightly uneven stone stairs towards the top of a huge hill, a bright grey mini castle comes into view, the Norwegian flag on top of it flowing in the wind. Norwegian pop bands are playing on the two stages at the tor. We turn around to absorb the full vista: the hill dips down into a deep emerald fjord dotted with wooden boats, and the sun is setting. The sky is a tie dye of peaches, light blues and lilacs. We walk down back down the steep, rocky hill, passing various sounds of scandipop emitting from the few stages as we go, and catch our ride back to the residence.
Home, for the weekend, is situated half an hour away from the site in a countryside farm. The guest building is c-shaped, with a courtyard where you can sit outside in the sun and read in the daytime, or listen to music, or drink coffee. The building is quaint – quite wonderfully wooden – and our communal kitchen is stocked with all of our nutritional needs (chocolate, beer, wine, crisps... and all of the essentials). After my sleep, I’m prematurely woken up by the bright sunlight shining through my window (the nights are short in Norway during summer), and realise my view is of lush green grass that backs onto the beach.
What’s so bizarrely appealing about Slottsfjell is its truly eclectic line-up. On the headliners bill sits Janelle Monae, next to the hardcore headache of Chase & Status, with a goodly selection of Scandanavian acts. The first artist we see is on one of those stages sitting on the hilltop – Berlin’s Sandra Kolstad. She has short blond hair and blue eyes – and is bopping around the small stage in disco hotpants, singing over a synth beat backing. She seems like a bit of an indie sensation in Europe – but I can’t help thinking that she’s not in the same league as Marina, Charlie XCX, Nicola Roberts, or any other of her leading contemporaries.
After sampling a selection of Scandipop and Nordic indie that was not PARTICULARLY my cup of tea, I eat a selection of delicious barbequed buffet foods (the potato dauphinoise was especially divine), before being guided to the afterparty. This post-fest booze-up takes place every night, in an unsettling O.C.-stylee grandiose house and was brimming with what I could only guess were various members of Norway’s press, music industry, and Slottsfjell’s roster of bands. It would have been really fun if they weren’t all speaking Norwegian (all I can say in their language is ‘thanks’).
One of the bands we saw on day two was Cancer Bats, the raucous Canadian thrash metal band. Whilst their crazy fans got stuck right in the moshpit, we took a more reserved stance and observed this spectacle of passionate noise obsessives from a safe distance, popcorn in hands, puzzled looks on faces. However reluctant I was to get punched by Viking-esque Norwegian bearded blokes, this was definitely very good hard rock.
Bastille were up next. We managed to shimmy to the side of the stage to watch away from the crowd, who we soon realised were crazed fan girls. Even though the cinematic pop group have only been signed to a major (Virgin, EMI) for not much more than a year, their fan base seems to be pretty intense. A throng of blonde teens waded their way to the front of the crowd, screaming, singing along to every lyric, waiting for the ultimate Bastille hit: the set list. As said list was wafted to the front of the crowd by the wind, we witnessed the most crazy fan – a chubby Norwegian girl of about 16 years – at the very centre of the front line, snatching at the piece of paper. And as soon as she made sure she was holding it firmly in her hands, the girl burst into a fervent flood of tears. Which was genuinely baffling to me until I remembered the time I walked past the lead singer of Feeder, aged 14, in Thorpe Park, and almost collapsed with over-excited ecstasy.
The highlights, though, were definitely Team Me and New Order. The first for their stage show that included both normal sized and giant balloons of assorted colours (if anyone wants to win me over, do it with balloons. Srsly.). And New Order were outstanding, for reasons that are probably mostly self-explanatory. As we stood, jumping up and down frenetically, screaming the words to ‘Blue Monday’ and bursting with joy, the sun was setting. It was idyllic in every way possible, and this had certainly been one of the best gigs I have ever had the luck to witness.
My weekend was really bloody pleasant. Everyone was lovely, happy, and accommodating to our needs for food, drink, travel, and anything else. We were treated better here than at any other festival I’d been to – and by a long way. The most obscure European music may have been a little too inaccessible for my tastes – but there was enough brilliant music to make up for it. Slottsfjell was stunning, a sort of cleansing weekend for the jaded Londoner. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.