In an attempt to shake that Beach House ear-worm he gets every-single-time someone says the N-word, DIS' editor went to Norway to catch Jenny Hval (pictured above, by Markus Thorsen), Beck, some black metal and lots more.
A is for ASTONISHING
Amazing is another A-word for Oslo's answer to Glastonbury and Primavera. Øya is one hell of a festival, and here's why...
B is for BECK
As one of the greatest songwriters and performers of our generation, it says a lot about how confusing the British music industry is that BECK had to play second fiddle to The Strokes in Hyde Park earlier this year. Mr Hansen headlined this year's Øya by dressing as Tom Wolfe in an all white suit, and dropping hits like carpet bombs. With
arguably some of the best musicians in the world backing him, he slithered effortlessly from 'Sexx Laws' and 'Loser' to the heart-breakingly beautiful 'Lost Cause' (see terrible cameraphone clip below). However, for all the 90s alt-pop anthems and noughties wonders, the highlight of his set turned out to be new song 'Dreams' which had the crowd - who were somewhat subdued during Chic the night before (apparently this is quite normal for Norwegian audiences) - throwing shapes like someone put some acid in the wedding cake. A true legend, who leaves tears and sweat in his glittering wake.
C is for CURATION
Curation has become a big buzz-word in tech circles and the media for a decade or more. From Facebook's algorithm 'curating' your feed to 'tastemakers' compiling - nay "curating!" - playlists, it has become a word at risk of losing its meaning. Curation is also undervalued and misunderstood. However, Oya really know how to put together a selection of music which flows from 2pm to 11pm in the field to 2am in the clubs around the city. To think that I watched Laura Marling, some black metal, Holly Herndon, a brilliant set from Hookworms, then took a quick dip in the back stage pool before Beck via 10 mins of Sophie, Jaga Jazzist, Alt-J and iLOVEMAKONNEN, all in the space of a few hours, is testament to what a great bill should be made of.
It's no exaggeration to say that for almost every moment of the 4 days of the festival there was something I really wanted to see or was curious to check out - I can't think of another festival where this happens. Especially at an event that has so few stages (it's quite a compact site with 4 main stages and two much smaller ones) and does not sling 300+ performers at the poster and hope some of them have some hits by the time the festival comes around. Bravo Claes Olsen, and the Oya festival crew!
D is for the Norwegian DAUGHTER
Almost everywhere you look around the festival you can see someone carrying a FAY WILDHAGEN tote bag. Intrigued by this onslaught of marketing, it was nice to discover that she's sort of the Norwegian Daughter. But smilier. And more prone to guitar solos. Performing with a few more musicians onstage than was really necessary (think: every local post-rock band you've ever seen with lots of people banging, blowing, and twanging).
Some of her tunes are still finding their feet, but there's definitely an exciting prospect here for anyone who likes things as widescreen as The xx, Alt-J and Daughter, but with a little less of The Cure's darkness lingering in the shadows and a few miniature Guns N' Roses guitar solos.
E is for EMO
Despite everything from folk-pop to noise via black metal, and Foghorn & The Machine; there wasn't very much you could slap an emo tag on at Oya this year. However, the brilliantly/terribly monikered (delete as applicable) SLUTFACE made up for it and then some.
Sounding like Los Campesinos if they were more into Paramore than Les Savy Fav, Slutface rocked their way through some brilliantly bratty hooks. Their rampaging sound has a little more in common with Speedy Ortiz than The Hives, but they manage to dart between various schools of rock with aplomb. The worst thing you can say about them is it that they're 'like a heavy Avril Lavigne'.
F is for FATHER JOHN MISTY
'Fucking fantastic!' - these are the words I found myself texting to a friend just five minutes into 2015's sardonic king's set. Playing songs from his album of the year contender I Love You, Honeybear, he did the bend-and-snap throughout his set and you could barely hear him for swoons (sorry about that!). Surprisingly, his live show is more like a Kings of Leon (which is no insult if you've ever seen how transcendentally proficient they are as a rock band) than John Denver on quaaludes. Every moment of this was by far the highlight of the festival/summer/year. A star is born, and he's drunk on love and high on witticisms.
G is for GREAT SOUND.
Dear Bowers + Wilkins,
Thank you for hosting a stage this year, but please can you now do every gig I ever attend as you've pretty much ruined live music for me. If a gig doesn't sound this good, I will now feel cheated of 30% of the sonic range. Kind Regards,
Your new biggest fan.
PS. It's like being upgraded to first class on a transatlantic flight, and then knowing you'll be back in economy forevermore. DAMN YOU!
H is for HVAL
Whilst musically she's a bit Arab Strap crawling from Patti Smith's carcass, visually JENNY HVAL's show is on another level. Think an avant Gaga on a lofi budget or Rammstein recreated as a college art project, there's constant threat that something might happen.
Hval managed to buckle the space time continuum for most of her 30 minute set. You could say that her spoken word approach to things is A Dark Twisted Nordic Fantasy, as it's all sexual imagery about bananas atop barely there grooves. Sort of like a localised and bastardised Hip Hop if it was made for the after-after party of a black metal gathering.
With her backing laughers and heavy-breathers breaking into a peculiar karaoke rendition of Lana's 'Summertime Sadness', paint flying freely and a 'dance' that's more like a group spooning, it's fair to say I've never witnessed anything like this before. The sparse soundbed for her late-night surreal phone-sex monologues shouldn't have such a punk energy to it, but it feels so intense and alive. As unwelcoming as it was enthralling, everything about this show left an impression. Full gallery here.
I is for IN FLAMES
As replacements for Mastodon go, IN FLAMES more than delivered the feast of noise that the crowd desired. With an almost impenetrable wall of rage, even five year olds on their parents shoulders were throwing rock-horns in the air. They were just one of many very-very heavy bands performing at Oya this year, and as a complete dilettante of black metal (or is it death metal? I don't even know what the difference is...) I absolutely loved wandering into smoke-filled tents to hear men growling over pummelling sounds. Although skip to P for the heaviest act of the weekend.
J is for JAZZ
But not Jazz as you'd know it. THE TRONDHEIM JAZZ ORCHESTRA, are sort of the Norwegian Broken Social Scene. They group is made up of various bands, which tonight was dominated by the operatic vocals from members of High as a Kite. Delightfully dark and mega-intense, fans of The Knife's opera and Colin Stetson's noisy brass should check them out asap. trondheimjazzorchestra.no.
K is for KATHLEEN HANNA
An actual living legend. I watched THE JULIE RUIN and saw Kathleen Hanna twist and twirl and shout and, scream, and do more cardio than a hyper sixteen year old does in a year during a middle eight. It was an utter masterclass and I still can't stop smiling thinking how lucky I was to witness it.
L is for LAPSLEY
Having seen the much-hyped Låpsley, I now know what a James Blake remix of Adele / Sam Smith / Boy George would sound like.
M is for MARLING
Having adored LAURA MARLING's music since her first demo, for some reason I wasn't expecting her to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Her new record, which is a bit Leonard Cohen on holiday in a Bret Easton Ellis novel, has been on a fair bit at DiS HQ, but it hasn't dive-bombed into my heart. Having caught her at Oya, I've listened to little else since.
Her flaming songbirds managed to mangle together what both The Stones and Dylan both do so well live. By turning a blues-like-drone into a backdrop for narratives, the subtle shifts and graceful pauses punctuated one of the most perfect mid-afternoon festival sets I've seen for quite some time. Although the glorious weather helped the context (it was 26-28 degrees every day!), I couldn't help but wonder why Laura Marling hasn't headlined every major festival in Europe, but still in her early 20s, her time will surely come.
N is for NO WAY!!!
One of the press trips was to the top of a ski slope. We were told there would be a live set. What we weren't told was that this is how Norwegian Grammy winner Thea Hjelmeland would arrive to sing us a gorgeous Imogen Heap-ish ditty on her banjo.
O is for OH WOW THOSE LIGHTS ARE AWESOME
Seriously, the lighting at this festival is great. Especially during Caribou's incredible set. Please note: this photo really does not do it justice.
P is for PHARMAKON
Margaret Chardiet aka PHARMAKON managed to make more noise than all the black metal bands on the bill put together. The New Yorker screamed as pulses of noise ebbed through the crowd, before climbing the barrier and stalking us. If you're a fan of Fuck Buttons and Health, then you need to see her ASAFP.
Q is for QUITE A LOT MORE
Having watched music for 4 days from 2pm until 2am, there is so much I could mention in here.... like.... WAXAHATCHEE melting The Lemonheads down and making an effigy to burn at your birthday party. Or COURTNEY BARNETT revealing what would happen if Dylan went Sonic Youth (although I'm quite sure one of her songs was 'My Sharona' in the style of The Presidents of the USA). Or SHAMIR with his pitch-bent Elmo-voice was far more subdued than I realised until he dropped 'On The Regular'. Or how FLYING LOTUS played in a sandwich of projections and his piano-being-catapaulted-into-space-hop made every atom in my being vibrate. Or how SONGHOY BLUES, with their synchronised dance moves and killer riffs transported Norway to the greatest party that Mali will never know.
R is for RIDE
The return of RIDE had men of a certain age salivating. En route to the festival 5 journalists tried to name a Ride song but we all drew a blank. I watched almost their entire set and I can't remember anything other than That Hat. Shame.
S is for SULLEN ANTHEMS
EMILIE NICOLAS has some of the biggest sullen anthems since Lykke Li. As does M83's mate SUSANNE SUNDFØR who headlined Saturday night. It's fair to say sullen anthems are what Scandinavians do very well, and also what some of the biggest crowds of the weekend lapped up.
T is for TRANSCENDENT
That's pretty much the only word that's required to explain how brilliant HOOKWORMS were.
U is for UNBELIEVABLE SETTING
As someone who often ends up stood behind 7' 2" chaps wearing hats and shoulder pads, it was refreshing to find myself at a festival on a slope. The whole site, which the festival moved to two years ago was a lush green, and laid out so that you could easily hop from one stage to the next without any sound bleeds. All the food was in one area and there was never a queue of more than two people to buy a pint. Plus it was only a 10-15 minute walk from the centre of Oslo, where you could find plenty of late night bars (which weren't as bankruptingly expensive as you may fear) or dive in the sea to shake off your hangover.
V is for VIKINGS
Like, actual [from the TV show] Vikings. Singing songs. In a Norwegian wood. At gone midnight. What a treat.
W is for WIFI
Would you believe it, a festival with free Wifi available at every stage?! Feel like I've been to the future and I don't want to go back to muddy fields with 5 minutes of 3G a day where it takes 14 attempts to text your friends, only for them not to get the message until they get home...
X is for 'XCELLENT
IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE were a late addition to the bill but even your normal stand by the bar and sulk sort of person (HI!) was dancing to their cacophony of rhythms.
Y is for YEARS & YEARS
Walking onstage to teenage squeals (you'd think 1D had just arrived), there's something far more Yeasayer about them than I realised... oh wait, no, it's all gone a bit too 90s big fish little fish... and the sight of a band member wearing a "vintage" Elastica T-shirt made me feel hashtag "old".
Z is for Zzz
The only criticism I can really make of Øya is that four days of music from 2pm with clubs going on until 3am is quite a lot to cram in. Apply the Jovi 'sleep when I'm dead' logic and you'll be fine. Or add a day of sightseeing to make sleeping in feel slightly less guilty. You should definitely hop on a boat to the islands around the city if you get chance.
DiS flew to Oslo on Norwegian Air and attended as a guest of Music Norway. For more information about the festival visit oyafestivalen.com.