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ØYAfestivalen 2014
August 5-9 2014, Oslo, NORWAY

Robyn in da hood So, congratulations, ØYAfestivalen. Welcome to Tøyenparken. It suits you. Most fitting. Welcome back, next year. I am not sure but I feel like ØYA has a somewhat schizophrenic programme. When going through it, during the festival, and now, as the last gig has faded, the festival seems to have moved more and more away from the 'indie', or should I say, modern rock festival it once used to be. Well, don't get me all wrong here, it's still a festival where to find indie rock bands, or another new wave of new wave bands. But, the majority of the booked bands are for bigger audience: R'n'B acts, metal acts, hip-hop acts, stadium rock acts. It is a crossover festival, for sure, for a wide and broad audience. Well, the bigger the festival have become, the bigger stars arrive. But, there is another but. ØYA has always been good at letting new Norwegian bands up and out. I would say 50 per cent of the artists are Norwegian. Yes, a lot of Norwegian bands and artists also headline the festival. And, well, during earlier years the festival has had some badmouthing about male dominance among the artists. Not so this year, as the list of female bands and artists were longer and stronger than ever. Especially on the festival's final day, Saturday was the day of the women. More about this later. Since there's a lot of big mags and papers around to handle the bigger names, like Outkast, Janelle Monáe, Queens Of The Stone Age, Robyn & Röyksopp, Rival Sons, The National, Jonathan Wilson, Todd Terje, Bryan Ferry, Neneh Cherry, Clean Bandit, Future, or semi-big names such as Conor Oberst, Neko Case, Deafheaven, Slowdive, Jungle, Sharon Van Etten, DARKSIDE, Omar Souleyman, Highasakite, Jon Hopkins, Gojira, and others. Me, I surfed around for some of the smaller acts, well, plus a couple not so small. Here we go!

The Districts I started out with Bodø's finest, Kråkesølv (English: Mica). The quartet released their fourth album this spring, and are doing better and better. The lads, all in their mid-20s+, play indie-pop with boyish charm. They perform catchy melodies with some rough guitars and noisy bits in-between. Refreshing and youthful stuff. They are cool and laidback, very charming, and their music is indeed appealing. They sing in their local dialect, and their lyrics are heartfelt, true, honest, and - most of the time - quite good. Next up on my plan was The Districts, a quartet out of Lancaster County, PA, which I had not heard before (well, only a couple of songs). The band ruled from the start! This was a most welcome surprise. The four youngsters (aged 19?) was led by a wild and wonderful singer/guitar player, Rob Grote. He was backed by Mark Larson and Connor Jacobus (guitarist and bassist respectively), plus drummer Braden Lawrence, and they performed a short set with songs from their EP released by Fat Possum last January, plus a few more. Probably older songs from their self-released 2012 album, Telephones. Soulful and spirited indie-rock, dripping with bloody and sweaty blues-tones. Check out their "Funeral Beds", and then go check out some more.

The National And then... The National. It was the first time I saw the band perform live, but I was convinced. They're good. Yes, The National are a bunch of introverts. They perform introvert music, and their songs are mainly sad, or have this touch of sadness or sentimentality. However, the band have full and total control of what they do on stage. No bullshit. There is a lot of drama involved, of course. However, like I said, no bullshit. The band is a real tight unit. The Dessner bros. and the Devendorf bros. are two special teams: one guitar/keyboard team and one rhythm team. Together they deliver gold. And, along with Matt Berninger up-front, sipping wine from the bottle - the last man standing - this is a band of gold. "I Should Live in Salt". "Bloodbuzz Ohio". "Squalor Victoria". "Fake Empire". The tear-stained ballad "I Need My Girl". "Terrible Love" is simply stunning. "Mr. November". They have songs to kill for. And, yes, of course, Berninger takes his usual crowd-walk, during "Mr. November", almost disappearing with the long mic cable being his long tail telling where in the crowd he is. Back on stage, but then again, he takes another run out there, only to appear with one 8-9 year old fan on his shoulders. Crowd going crazy. Magnetic. Majestic. Great band.

Fay Wildhagen So, last, but not least, and maybe the biggest surprise on the first days of the festival: the young and rising Fay Wildhagen! Flowering. This young girl appeared on the smallest stage (BIBLIOTEKET - the Library tent stage), just to perform four songs with her band, counting, bass, drums, cello, violin, trumpet! Neat! I got this Elephant 6 feeling, or vibe, somehow. Fay and her friends was in a good mood, because the tent stage was crowded and the mood was good and intense. Anyway, Fay and co blasted through the mini set which oozed with charm, joy and good songs. Friendly and poppy folk-rock, maybe in a way related to The Polyphonic Spree or Danielson Familie (a more serious branch, maybe). Norwegian band Team Me could be another reference name. "We Are", and three more. That's all we got. A taster. Fay was all smiles. She is young, and happy, and up-and-coming. We have to wait for an album, or an EP, or a single. "We Are" is the only recorded track so far. Best of luck! Great show!

Jeff Mangum, Neutral Milk Hotel I would like to mention Farao and I would like to mention I Was A King. Farao (AKA Kari Jahnsen) put out a 4 track EP earlier this year, and play some sort of shoegaze, electronic pop with a touch of folk music. Comfortable and charming stuff. Jahnsen's voice is great, and she was backed with drums, keyboards/synth, and guitar/percussion. Together they span through a short, but vital set, and proved to be a solid outfit. And, more important, she/they did not care about image and looks, which is a good thing to notice: an artist less focused on fashion than on writing songs, and how to sound. I guess we saw an artist on the rise. Like Time Out Magazine (UK) has said: "Farao's subtly supernatural folk is the next big thing to come out of the fjords." IWAK was a charming act and good company early in the afternoon, as well, as they were the second band on the main stage, AMFIET (The Amphi stage) on Friday. The indie pop band, fronted by Anne Lise Frækedal (guitars, vocals) and Frode Stræmstad (guitars, vocals) have been going on for some years, and they put out their fourth album, Isle Of Yours earlier this year. Their suntanned, jangly guitar rock roam the same valleys like, say Teenage Fan Club and related bands, and leave you bright and cheered up. They do not revolt the music industry, but... who cares. Enjoy. Then, what did we ( some 2-3,000 more) wait for....namely...Neutral Milk Hotel. And, yes, they did good! I was a bit worried in prior to this show: how would the band be like in the summer-sunny afternoon, playing outdoors, and in a green and summerly, cosy park? I had still good memories from the London shows in May in my head, and...well, I hoped for the best. For another great show by Mangum and his cohorts. And, yes, they did, it worked. First, Jeff Mangum solo, performing "Two-Headed Boy". Then the players joined in: Scott Spillane, Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes, plus (as in London) Jeremy Thal (from Briars of North America) on French horn, trumpet, trombone, bass, etc. and Astra Taylor (documentary filmmaker, writer, and musician - and, yes, she's Jeff Mangum's spouse) on accordion, guitar, etc. The show was a blast, and the audience was thrilled, and moved. Well, too bad the sound (the vocals) was crappy in the start, but things got better. And, Mangum was even in a good mood, as he corrected the guards when they tried to 'police out' the band's strict photo prohibition. 'Hey, you, VAKT people, let's try to... figure this out in a way...' (something like that). The classics came rolling: "The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One", "The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two & Three", "Song Against Sex", "Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone", "Holland, 1945" "Oh Comely", "Ghost", "Untitled", "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", "The Fool", "Ruby Bulbs", before Mangum - alone again, in the end - ended everything with "Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two". Amazing man. Amazing band. After NMH I simply had to tune down, chill down in the small Library tent with Dagens Ungdom (English: Youth of Today). They're a most charming, laidback indie-folk-pop band, who put out their debut album in May. The album have received some great reviews, and the band have been compared to bands like The Go-Betweens. Well, they for sure was the right band to relax to this early Friday night as most people around was waiting for Robyn or some metal band. They have some cool songs, some easy beats, and some summer lazy-dazy lyrics and arrangements. This was just the right end for this night.

Bow To Each Other & Hanne KolstÝ I mentioned all the women and ladies of the festival earlier on. Yes, it seems that ØYA this year have aimed for more female artists. Don't know if it's intentional or not, but: Monica Heldal, Brody Dalle, Emilie Nicolas, Fay Wildhagen, Hanne Kolstø, Janelle Monáe, Farao, Lulu James, Neneh Cherry, Kelela, Janne Hea, Robyn, and on Saturday: Bow To Each Other, Angel Olsen, Sea Change, Vilde Tuv, Nadine Shah, Sharon Van Etten, Aurora Aksnes, Mapei, Neko Case. Of the Saturday's ladies I opened with... no, I opened with a man in black: Stein Torleif Bjella, and I really had a good time. Bjella is a man of honor, as he opened with his "Heidersmenn" (Men of honor). On his strong dialect he sings his sad-ridden cowboy music with loads of warmth and humour in it. Bjella was good in the sun. In fact the sun took a hiding when Bjella and his 4-piece band took the stage. In the band was among others the brilliant guitarist (and banjo player) Geir Sundstøl - a left-handed gun, plus a female keyboardist and saw-player! Great. Then I went to see the ladies, and started with Bow To Each Other, whom I had a chat with a couple of days earlier on. BTEO put out the excellent, The Urge Drums last winter. Gunhild and Megan performed many of the songs from their acclaimed album; "I don't hear all the noise", "Feathery Smoke", "Bigger and Stronger", "Oh England, you're a bull", and the highly danceable "Darkness" - which is a dark tale dealing with depression behind the rhythm facade. The BTEO duo are now both part of Susanne Sundfør's live band, and on-stage they seemed very eager to get going live. Too bad they had too short time, and had a spot so early in the day. BTEO are for sure talented musicians, singers, composers, and lyricists. Next time around we'll hopefully see them indoors, at a later time of the day. They ended their set with Anders Tjore (of pop band Montée, formerly of Turns) on guest vocals before leaving us with cheers and smiles. You rule, ladies! Then, off to check out next young Norwegian act, Sea Change, who is Ellen A. W. Sunde. Back in March we checked out her Let's Dance single, and this tickled my curiosity and led me to visit ØYA's smallest outdoor stage, HAGEN (The Garden) to see what Sunde and her two cohorts were up to. Sea Change played ice cool lo-fi electronica in the rather hot day, and it worked rather well. Loops, samples, laptop fun, some guitar, synth drums, straightforward. No special f/x. And it was quite cool for a while. I did not stay the whole gig, I am sorry to say. Not because it wasn't good, but simply because I had a busy day. Next one up was the young Vilde Tuv, inside the indoor SIRKUS stage. Young Vilde is a peculiar one, playing minimalist pop. All alone with her guitar, and a bass drum. She's on the naive side of pop music and that is meant in a positive way. She sings "Mine armer" (My Arms) and "Cellevevet" (Cell tissue) and it is hard not to be somewhat fascinated. She states Dead Moon as one of her influences on her facebook site, but asking me, her music is closer to Young Marble Giants. Or, in-between, she sounds even more eccentric, like I said to a friend of mine: it is like she is Daniel Johnston reborn (not that he's dead) as a young girl from Bergen. Cool and a bit weird. Vilde Tuv herself commented after two songs: "I've been kicked out of every band I've ever been in, because my guitar's always out of tune - but: it's such a nice guitar!" My next stop was Sharon Van Etten. And, well, after a somewhat drag opening (maybe due to jetlag..?), the concert picked up, and Miss van Etten's show ended up being rock solid, very, very fine. Van Etten's sardonic humour coloured her little comments and wry remarks between the songs, but her set unveiled her fine talent as a songwriter. She is a little Miss Tristesse; of course, it is as she is nourished with tristesse and sadness. That is through her songs, that is. Like it is some sort of therapeutic effect. Her set flowered, and the woman in black smiled in the end and seemed very happy with her show indeed. So was the crowd. Sharon Van Etten was cheered and enjoyed. And the sun was still on. "Maybe I'll see you during Neko Case's show", she said. And then she said goodbye, and so did I. Well, first I did go see some of young Aurora Aksnes's concert. She is another one of the oh, so young (just turned 18?) pop stars out of Bergen. She improved with us all with a very fine voice and some good songs, but couldn't keep my attention for more than 5-6 songs. Not that it was bad. I just was not in the right mood, and had a spot too far back (it was quite crowded, this was the second biggest stage, VINDFRUEN, The Wind Lady). So, what did I misss out, then? Yes, I'd like to see, but I missed them (no big deal): the old Smog-meister, Mr. Bill Callahan, the truly talented Hanne Kolstø, the elegant lady Neko Case, the mix-master Jon Hopkins, maybe Conor Oberst (even though I've seen him as Bright Eyes some years back), possibly DARKSIDE, and probably the gentlest and coolest gentleman himself, Mr Bryan Ferry. So, who would I love to see - who should have played at ØYA this year? Well, yes, to be honest: Ásgeir Trausti, Woods, Dana Buoy, Akron/Family, Califone, Andrew Bird & Handsome Family, Team Me, Building Instrument, Acres Wild, Aiming For Enrike, Simian Ghost, Owen Pallett, Strand of Oaks, Polly Scattergood, Moddi, Swans, and many more.

And, yes one more thing: Fuck Mayhem and the horse (well, pig, or, rather, dead pig) they rode in on! There's no excuse for homophobia. (Same goes for racism. Or neo-nazism. Or any other right-wing stupidity, or extreme and narrow-minded twisted 'belief' or 'philosophy') But, hey, that's not ØYAfestivalen mistake, as this (being a quote from some a documentary film made several years back in time) surfaced in the media the same day the band were to play ØYA. Anyway, it's not alright. Stupidity breeds. Fuck'em. Mayhem (not ØYA, that is). But, I guess, this means that the ØYA staff/board need to discuss some ethic issues/concerns for the future. And, over some completely other other topic: If I was the one to decide I'd say: find yourself a new brewery deal! Ringnes sucks. But, I guess, that's a golden deal you've got yourself there (money talks loud)... The so called Beer Paradise of the festival... no point having a Beer Paradise, or calling something a Beer Paradise, if you can't find beer to send you to heaven and back. Ringnes can't do that. Period.

So, again, best of luck for future festivals ØYA. You, will survive, because you are a stayer. Your new home-ground is the best you can get. Take care of it. Take care of the neighborhood. Take care of all neighbors. Both the ones that likes your festival, and the ones that weren't too happy about having the ØYAfestivalen as the new next door neighbor. This time. You can improve a lot of things, you. Because I hope you've come to stay. Welcome back.

Copyright © 2014 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

Photo credits: Robyn © Morten Frool / The Districts © Luna Kafé / The National, Fay Wildhagen + Hanne Kolstø © NRK / Jeff Mangum © Joseph Niépce

© 2014 Luna Kafé