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Øya Festival 2009

Above Photo by Erik Moholdt

Earlier this month, XLR8R was invited to come and check out the 2009 edition of the Øya Festival in Oslo, Norway. Over the course of five days, we scampered around Oslo, saw a dizzying number of bands, hopped on a boat to check out the fjord, and thoroughly enjoyed what has to be one of the most laid-back, diverse, environmentally friendly, and well-organized music festivals on the planet. Here are some of the highlights.

Day 1

Photo by Jan Erik Svendsen
The festival kicked off with a main stage performance by Norway's own Jaga Jazzist, who had what looked like a couple dozen musicians on stage. Their groovy set of leftfield jazz was a nice warm-up for the week's festivities.

Another band that really caught our attention was Long Beach quintet Crystal Antlers, whose organ-soaked punk howls sounded just as good on a big stage in picturesque Oslo as they do in grimy basement venues on this side of the Atlantic.

After catching a bit of Vampire Weekend and a reunion set by Norway's Kåre And The Cavemen (best known as the previous band of Euroboy from Turbonegro), a sudden rainstorm, not to mention a crippling bout of jetlag, sent us rushing back to the hotel to recharge for another day.

Day 2

Before the musical portion of the day began, the Øya folks took us on a boat trip through the local fjord, which includes dozens of little islands, some of which are dotted with little cottages originally built for working-class citizens. (These days, the boutique homes are apparently a hot commodity and people from all walks of life are clamoring to get their hands on one.)

Our festival day began with Marit Larsen, a pixie-esque little performer whose Vanessa Carlton-esque pop stylings aren't exactly XLR8R material. Nevertheless, she was cute as a button and oddly enough, sat next to me on the plane from the U.S. to Oslo. (Apparently she had been in Las Vegas filming something for a German game show — WTF?!?)

After about 10 minutes of Miss Larsen, we wanted to hear something with more teeth, so we ran to catch the end of Norwegian noise-poppers I Was a King, whose fuzzy and distorted take on '60s pop melodies were a breath of fresh air.

A true live highlight was another of Norway's own, Mungolian Jet Set, whose oddball costumes and PIL-meets-'70s soul jams really got the crowd moving.

They even had a chorus of backup singers—The Mungolettes!

An alien friend also stopped in for a guest appearance.

Photo by Steffen Rikenberg
After snoring our way through insufferable sets by Wilco and Glasvegas, we checked out a bit of Brooklyn pop trio Chairlift. Like everyone else, we dutifully waited for them to play "Bruises" (that song from the iPod commercial), which they smartly placed at the end of their set.

Next up was fellow Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear, who looked like four regular guys who just showed up and decided to drop what was easily the best set of the entire festival. I was totally ready for some boring dad-rock, but dudes were seriously amazing live. They even brought out Victoria Legrand from Beach House (who we somehow missed the next day) to sing on "Two Weeks."

Photo by Siv Randi Vinsrygg
Capping off our day was a live performance from Fever Ray (a.k.a. Karin Dreijer Andersson from the Knife), who came out amid a crazy lazer show in an outfit reminiscent of the monster from that M. Night Shyamalan movie The Village.

The live show captured the spooky aesthetic of the album, and the intense lighting and visuals only added to the ominous vibe—although it did leave Karin as little more than a shadowy blur for most of the evening.

Day 3

After an early-afternoon trip to Oslo's famed Munch Museum, we made it back to the festival in time to see Brooklyn weirdo dance outfit Gang Gang Dance. Although Tinchy Stryder sadly didn't show up so they could perform "Princes," the band's noisy, percussion-heavy jams sounded good in the afternoon sun.

As expected, Memphis DIY rocker Jay Reatard delivered a blistering sonic assault. While his records bear traces of blues, soul, and the early days of rock n' roll, the live show was pure '77-style punk rock. Playing one song after another without stopping, he humorously remarked that other bands must be under the impression that festivalgoers are paying to seem them talk.

Photo by Erik Moholdt
While Norwegian dance rockers Datarock had home-court advantage and used it to thoroughly rile up the crowd, their stadium-rock antics and Franz Ferdinand-esque riffs left us underwhelmed.

We wrapped up our day at the festival grounds with some bass-heavy dubstep smashers from Magnetic Man, who performed alongside Benga and Skream. Earlier in the day, Lily Allen wrapped up her set with a promise to get drunk and go dance her ass off to Skream and Benga. True to her word, she showed up and was going nuts in the front row with the rest of the crowd.

After a quick breather at the hotel, we decided to step out again and check out the DJ stylings of XLR8R Artist to Watch L-Vis 1990. Besides the massive four-day concert, the festival organizers also put together a nightly variety of club shows dubbed Øyanatt, which included performances from Junior Boys, Hudson Mohawke, Zomby, Holy Ghost!, Jesse Rose, Idjut Boys, Todd Terje, Prins Thomas, and a whole lot more.

Day 4

Photo by Bjørnar Håland
The final day of the festival was unfortunately marred by a constant downpour of rain, but that didn't stop us (or the throngs of festivalgoers) from making it out early to catch Swedish post-punk band bob hund. Unfortunately, the guys haven't aged too gracefully—we expected to see the cool dudes from this video and instead saw some middle-aged guys dressing up like Interpol and a bleach-blonde frontman wearing pearls, Audrey Hepburn gloves, and a masquerade ball mask. How do you say "yikes" in Norwegian?

Photo by Bjørnar Håland
One of the more pleasant surprises of the festival was Norway's Harrys Gym, whose dream-pop sounds compare nicely with bands like Asobi Seksu and Blonde Redhead.

Photo by Bjørnar Håland
Amanda Blank showed up and did her whole retro-sex rap thing.

Photo by Steffen Rikenberg
By the time The Very Best took the stage, the dreary weather was becoming a major bummer, but not even damp skies could mellow the band's feel-good vibes and Esau Mwamwaya's endless supply of smiles.

Photo by Bjørnar Håland
We decided to wrap up our festival experience with Toronto duo Crystal Castles, whose dizzying blur of strobe lights, smoke machines, and pounding 8-bit beats seemed like a great way to end our stop at Øya 2009.

All uncredited photos by Shawn Reynaldo and Marta Sanmartin

1 comments Øya Festival 2009

skils (not verified) Wrote

Tue, 08/25/2009 - 05:10

wow looks amazing

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