Öyafestival, Oslo 8/12-14/04

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #29 (October 2004)

This is Norway’s premier rock festival featuring mostly Norwegian bands but also bands from the US, France, Canada, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark. About 30,000 people over the 3 days in the heart of Oslo in a great location. It was damn hot these 3 days, up to 31C! A lot of women come out for the festival, for sure outnumbering the men! I hung out with the guys in WE the whole festival. We have backstage passes for the first day, as WE are playing so we can go everywhere. The Norwegian band, Black Debbath opened the festival stage. They come out dressed in old English judge robes with the fake hair and are ready to rock. I had never heard the band but have read good things about them. All but one of their songs was sung in Norwegian but they totally rocked. Sound a lot like Black Sabbath, a bit more 70’s style than say Mustasch. There are 3 stages and the music slightly overlaps at two of the stages at one time. Anyway, these guys are very political and read speeches between the songs, shot off fireworks, threw out buckets filled with champagne on the audience. Wild and crazy way to start the festival! Thom Hell was on the small stage but I did not see him. Next up was Julian Bernsten, from Bergen. He had a full band but also performed solo piano stuff. He really reminded me of John Lennon but not as cool of songs. TV on the Radio (from the US) played some alright stuff but not that interesting. (The guys were super cool and I had a really nice talk with them about a lot of stuff backstage and at the aftershow party). John Doe, were pretty straightforward commercial punky hard rock. Very popular and very boring these days. I caught a few songs by the US band, Your Enemies Friends before Soundtrack of our Lives. Your Enemies Friends play pretty aggressive stuff but have some strange synthesizer stuff thrown in. The small crowd dug them. I had to run off to see Soundtrack of our Lives, a band that I have a few CDs by but have never seen. They had a big crowd. Many more people than I had expected. They have a fantastic keyboard player and very charismatic singer, who was sweating buckets as it was hot as hell in the sun during their set. I thought the beginning of their set was great and really cool melodic interesting rock songs. Then they started playing new songs and I was so disappointed. Very standard commercial rock music. I left to go see WE.

WE were on the middle size stage but had a big crowd (1500 people it said in the newspaper the next day!). The band was very psyched up to play and this would be the last show with all the special guests. If you saw the bands broadcast from the Quart Festival on the internet, the set was nearly the same but the band really rocked this day and Thomas was very animated and gave the audience 200% effort. What a great front man. The show starts with the spacey Wooferwheels and sounds great. This segued straight into Livin’ the Lore. The band has a new CD, called Smugglers coming out on their own label on Sept 13th, only in Norway. It was produced by Chris Goss (Masters of Reality, Queens of the Stone Age) and is amazing stuff. They play Vroom and Crawling out of the Wreckage of Yesterday. A guest Sax player appears on Vroom. Two great female vocalists sing on some of the songs as well. The bands previous single, Kickin’, an AC/DC meets Rolling Stones style rock song is next. Rock and Roll (I put my life in your hands) is a really great bluesy slide song before the band kicks ass with Carefree! The band ends the set with the incredible Freak Capital of the Universe, which lasts 15 minutes and includes a great belly dancer in the midsection of the song! Awesome. This is a band that just gives it all live and knows how to rock and get spaced out and keep the audience interested!

I see a few songs by Silence the Foe and they are very heavy and aggressive. The UK band, The Streets, was after WE and we heard a few songs but it was just commercial rap Brit-pop stuff. A huge crowd gathered but not music for me. There was a mind-blowing sunset as we chilled out by the water when The Streets played. As I headed backstage to meet the band I caught the last two songs of the French band, Air. It was pretty spacey stuff and the last song reminded me of Van der Graaf Generator!

We went to the after party on the top floor of this building in downtown Oslo at like 1 in the morning. They closed at 3. A lot of the people from the bands were there and a lot of girls as well. It was a beautiful night and we sat outside but they would not let you have drinks outside after midnight? Strange rules in Norway for lots of things. We head back at 3.

Day 2

We get to the festival about 5 in the afternoon and catch only a few songs of Mark Lanegan. Wow... this was very tripped out stoner-heroin blues music. He only played for 30 minutes even though he had an hour time slot. People were a bit disappointed as we are all just getting into it when he quit. No encore, nothing. 30 minutes. I saw a few songs by the Norwegian band, Silver. They had a big crowd and a huge religious backdrop (I did not know they were all Christians!) and a small girls choir on the stage. They threw out 10,000kr to the audience as well during their set. Next up was Weird War. Don and Thomas from WE and I drank some beers and checked them out. This was for sure the surprise of the festival. This band was totally cool. The singer was a very far out and funny spastic guy on stage and they played this totally cool Funkadelic-Hendrix-garage rocking stuff with funny lyrics. Awesome!

I then went off to see a new Norwegian band called Animal Alpha. This is a cool band. This is very aggressive rock music with fantastic female vocals that give the songs all really different twists and moods. The vocals are sometimes subtle and other times over the top. I really enjoyed them a lot. They have not released any CDs yet but have a demo out. Now over to see Gluecifer, who have a big crowd. It is a hometown gig for them and they deliver the goods. Straightforward ass kicking rock. A bit too much the same after 55 minutes but rocking none the less and songs you can sing along to! Now, what everyone was waiting for, Velvet Revolver. This was totally overrated, cliché driven rock and roll with a punky edge. The singer seemed like he was on coke or something. They did not say much to the audience... just came out and rocked for 1 hour and were gone. No encore, nothing. They got a great review in the paper but I thought they were just an average band playing average songs. No magic at all. We saw a few songs by Minus from Iceland but I can’t actually remember what it was like. Sorry. I did not have the chance to come on the Saturday but the big names that day were Lemonheads, Spiritualized, Buck65, Bees, and Euroboys. The Danish band Under Byen also played. A really great festival and only 50kr for 0.5l beer! Not bad for Norway!

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