Hi guys, even though this is all over the interwebs already, I still thought it's a good idea to post it on here, too.
Øya festival is the largest outdoor music festival in Oslo, Norway and promotes a diverse line-up from across the globe. Situated right in the heart of the city, the festival site boasts with four different stages catering to every genre you can possibly imagine. Basically Øya is a dream-come-true for music fans across the board where it’s nothing special that zef-rap crew Die Antwoord rub shoulders with indie royalty Pavement and experimential popsters Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.
Arriving on site on Wednesday, for the first festival day, just in time to catch a glimpse of Raekwon’s set, Øya’s atmosphere is incredibly laid-back and friendly. Corey Woods, who is better known as Raekwon, confirms his reputation as one of the best MCs from the Wu-Tang Clan. Raekwon serves up plenty of tuneful smash-hits ranging from old Wu Tang material to his new solo stuff. Hitting the crowd hard with chant-along raps and his typical swagger, this first set at Øya is a good indication of the high quality of the festival.
Next on the main stage is punk veteran Iggy Pop and even though he has seen better days performance-wise, the crowd welcome him warmly. Overhearing a couple, who are watching his set proclaim that “there must be a reason why so many people are here to watch Iggy”, one can assume that his iconic status is more of a crowd magnet than his show. Despite Iggy’s best efforts to set the stage on fire with his never-ending thrashing about and writhing whilst belting out old hits such as ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, unfortunately the spark doesn’t really catch on.
Experimental-trance-poppers Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti play the smaller stage next, which doesn’t hinder them to put on a grand show. With their unique mix of absolutely bonkers tunes and perfectly refined guitar magic, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti are a band that equally entrances and inspires. Kurt Cobain look-a-like and mastermind-singer Ariel Pink calls their genre ‘World Goth’. These four music whiz kids play chill-wave, which is clashing with stoner rock which is having a little dance with electro pop, which is colliding with geek-rock. Pink’s squeals and shrieks stretch further through the octaves and Haunted Graffiti’s rhythms are both tighter and more expressive, at times even veering into math-rock territories. Ariel Pink’s set was undoubtedly one of the must-see highlights of Øya, where the melodic married the dissonant and the harrowing embraced the healing. In a world where everybody is making up about stupid genres such a ‘Witch-House’ Ariel Pink show that sometimes it’s best to make music so obscure that no genre name will ever encompass it. Absolutely brilliant and breath-taking set.
M.I.A. is headlining the main stage next and her set is unbelievably energetic and gratifyingly danceable. Stunning in sounds and beauty, M.I.A. pulls off a show that leaves the mass of fans ecstatic and sweaty. She’s got the beats and brains to entertain and crowd-pleasers such as ‘Galang’ and encore ‘Paper Planes’ go down a storm. A worthy ending to a fantastic first festival day.
The second day starts with a lacklustre set from US emo-rockers Against Me!, who play their usual bland stadium rock, but things look up soon when Surfer Blood take to the stage. Like a more cheerful Weezer, Surfer Blood bring the proverbial LA sun to Øya with their pure and tuneful indie pop.
After Surfer Blood, psych-rockers The Black Angels gather a devoted fan-crowd, who lust after the band’s blend of moody rock and fuzz-pop. These Texas-based trance-rockers subtly combine the Velvet Underground’s mysticism with Spacemen 3’s outlandish drone- rock and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s feedback heavy loops. The sonorous voice of lead-singer Alex Maas paired with the heavy guitar and bass creates a wall-of-sound grandiosity, which makes this set very enjoyable indeed.
Brooklyn’s Yeasayer do what they do best next – make the crowd dance. With a set that could best be described as ‘tropical disco’ Yeasayer step up their musical game by integrating multicultural and multi-harmony weirdo pop. Merging references from Middle Eastern pop and nonchalant indie to something approximating Balearic house, Yeasayer’s bleepy bliss set is astoundingly eclectic. Sounding somewhere between writing a Nintendo theme tune and the next big indie hymn, like M.I.A ., the other musical world fusionist, Yeasayer move away from one-dimensional genre boundaries and instead embrace the odd, eclectic and individual. Thanks Yeasayer.
Pavement headline the second day and even though their legacy pulls the biggest crowd so far, their dreary set at Øya doesn’t justify their mass appeal.
Friday starts off with a mind-blowing set from South African Zef-Rap-Crew Die Antwoord, which makes for a spectacular viewing and could indeed be ‘The Answer’ to all your musical dreams. Even though minuscule singer/rapper Yolandi Visser and mentalist MC Ninja started as an online hype, Die Antwoord prove that there is much more to them than just empty words. With flow and energy so infectious and beats to catchy, Die Antwoord perfectly encapsulates everything that is ‘now’. It’s a collision in raw urban rap, refined electronica and simply mental world music, which makes you forget you’re losing the plot to crazy tunes at four in the afternoon. Never too early to embrace the delirious, notorious and genuinely great Die Antwoord.
Flaming Lips pull off an equally fascinating performance next with their typical gadget-heavy set, which sees singer Wayne Coyne walk over the crowd inside a giant rubber ball, handle all sorts of confetti blasters and throw massive balloons into the crowd. The tunes are good, sometimes great especially the ephemeral beauty of ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ and ‘Do You Realize’, but what really stands out about Flaming Lips is their ability to put on a circus-like show.
The highlight of the last day was half-Norwegian/half-British singer Lucy Swann, who performs in the tiniest tent at the festival. However, the small venue doesn’t distract from Lucy’s immense stage presence. With her amazingly strong voice, which Lucy loops over and over to create a sense of a choir of a multitude of Lucys, the singer gives you goosebumps with her fantastically inventive and unique mixture of electro pop. Walking the thin line between emotive fragility and emotional strength, Lucy is a magically powerful singer. In this background-blizzard of clapping and clinking, Lucy Swann’s soulful voice stands out with its poignancy. Her raw honesty combined with her vocal performance and musical arrangements certainly make her one of the most exciting new performers around. Think Bat For Lashes’ exquisite voice paired with Patrick Wolf’s organs and mysterious story-telling and 80s keyboards and you’re only half way there. Lucy Swann is definitely one to keep in mind for big things.
If you like your festivals aesthetically and musically beautiful and prefectly organised, then Oya is the place for you. Fall in love with the festival and the people and the city. I certainly did. See you there next year!