Here are our picks of the best acts at Øyafestivalen 2012. Pics by
Bang in the heart of Oslo, annual international music festival Øyafestivalen takes place in the beautiful scenic surrounds of Mediaeval Park. Overlooking a lake and forest but right in the city centre with excellent transport links, it is a great festival for those wanting something classier than your typical mud bath, ravers and overflowing portaloos affair. Renowned for presenting an international diverse line-up that included Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bjork and The Stone Roses, the price of a ticket goes a long way – spanning 5 days and 5 night-time events where the local clubs and bars are taken over by the festival with after-show parties and exclusive one-off events. This city does not sleep for the entire duration of the festival and is definitely worth visiting if you are a music fan with eclectic taste and a hunger for interesting sounds.
Leading not only the Nordic assault on the music industry but perhaps the most innovative and avant-garde musician we have on the planet right now, Bjork’s inspirational 20 year career feels like it’s only just scratched the surface in terms of her immense capabilities. Largely performing from her new ground-breaking album, Biophilia with a nod to tracks from her impressive back catalogue, this is perhaps the most strip-down and minimal we have ever seen her. Backed with just a handful of choral girls, an electronic whizz kid and the most dynamic drummer/percussionist to ever grace a stage, Bjork takes you on a surreal but welcoming journey across Icelandic volcanic plains, dancing glowing lights and the cosmos with stories of human testaments and love. MIND-BLOWING.
Willis Earl Beale
Leadbelly-infused punk blues are the first words that spring to mind. His raw, primitive backing tracks and minimal musical set up gives a two finger punk approach to the fancy finger-work of traditional Blues, a nice juxtaposition to his hard-hitting soulful voice, which is 100% Blues through and through. Flitting between heavy beats and simple synth lines on his tape reel to plucking an acoustic guitar with his trusty toothpick, Beale takes you on a journey that covers everything from his ancestry, recent plights such as being homeless to his steely ambition to take over the world. Every punter walked away knowing that this guy could be the biggest living musician of all-time. He is THAT special.
One of the most hyped acts in the world took to the stage a day after Frank Ocean provided thousands of fans with a short 15 minute set and a very abrupt departure. News then filtered through that he had lost his voice. That made our 45 minute wait for him to take to stage in the scorching sun relatively OK then. OFWGKTA turned up with 7 members all of whom took turns to spit on the mic. It’s great to see a hype band who actually live up to the hype, crank it up to 1000, pump it up some more and then take a massive musical dump on it. Predisposed superstars.
Lee Scratch Perry/The Congos/Max Romeo
The festival organisers pulled off a magnificent feat by bringing together three Jamaican reggae legends in a one-off performance. Oslo turned into a mini-Jamaica for the evening as old school reggae and dub filled the warm summer skies. A responsive crowd reveled in the musical prowess of The Congos whose incredible vocal melodies and energetic antics certainly stole the show. Another septuagenarian, Max Romeo followed with some of his greatest hits including ‘Out of Space’ and even brought his young grandson onstage to belt out a few. The carnival atmosphere reached its peak when Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry distanced himself from the term ‘producer’ and stepped out as ‘musical artist’. Dressed like a human disco ball in mirrored hi-top trainers, baseball cap and bright red hair and beard, Perry looked every inch an exotic bird of prey. He wandered across the stage, revving up the crowd and was so comfortable that the organisers had to pull the plug on him to get him to stop singing. A bit harsh but an epic set nonetheless.
Playing not one but two sets at the festival, Artrocker caught Moore’s latter, experimental midnight show with renowned Scandinavian saxophonist, Mats Gustafsson. The two were also joined by a drummer, percussionist who spent most of the time scratching a plastic fork across a cardboard box which was equally annoying as it was bewitching, a violin player and two more pedal-drenched guitarists. This band of merry noise polluters took the audience on a madcap journey through a barrage of free improv soundscapes. It looked like half of the audience went on a journey of their own (through the exit doors, removing their earplugs and breathing a huge sigh of relief) however those of us that remained were able to see a bunch of supremely talented musician push their artistic boats into new unchartered territories and walked away knowing that one of the many beauties of free improv is that we were the only people in the world who would ever see and hear those particular delights.
Watching Maus live makes you feel like a voyeur rather awkwardly observing the rapid social demise of the friend you really like but who just gets a bit too embarrassingly enthusiastic when out in public. The growing cult status of these lo-fi sonic heroes like Maus and Earl Beale mark a goalpost in contemporary music where music geeks seek out and crown their own worthy heroes. These sweet hero-discovering victories destroy everything that is bad about the music industry e.g. nepotism/who you sleep with/how much you pay your press guy etc. Maus gives it all on stage which is a lot for his audience to take but for the front half of the crowd who supportively power-pump their fists along to every jerk, jump and wail that oozes out of Maus, they are in the throngs of sheer ecstasy and delight.
The band consisted of almost all the original line-up and after an almost 20 year hiatus, would David Roback and Hope Sandoval still have the awkward chemistry that touched millions of us? The band attracted a massive crowd which was a great start. Heavily performing a set that drew from their three early albums, the band were definitely playing for their crowd, most of whom looked liked they had been there the first time round. It was great to hear my favourite songs, 'Look On Down From The Bridge' and 'Give You My Lovin'' however part of me felt like the dreams I have when I listen to their records will always be how I would like to remember them.
The Stone Roses
News of their reunion was met with a barrage of mixed reviews but I had a thoroughly open mind and cool pint in hand as they took to the stage. They didn't fail to disappoint at all. Proving that they were always technically truly gifted musicians with a now ageing cheeky chappy on vocals, it still really worked. Feeding the crowd the greatest hits - I Wanna Be Adored, I Am The Resurrection, Fools Gold, She's A Waterfall and Shoot You Down, left us all grinning like it was 1989.
This local Norwegian metal band played one of the infamous festival after-parties. Their sludge/doom rock channels what little remains of the intensity and displacement that surrounded the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the early 90s. Bring them to London.
A$AP made it pretty clear from the start what his goal is: “how many people here know proper weed?!” he asks the rather bemused crowd. He is met with silence and then blows a klaxon down the mic to cut the awkward air. This is pretty much his entire repertoire. It does wear slightly thin after a while and I’m left wondering hours later whether A$AP’s 20 questions on great weed actually got him some by the end of the night…Entertaining nonetheless.