North by Northwest: By:Larm Festival

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On a cold weekend in February (19-21, to be exact), I hopped a plane to Oslo, Norway to check out their By:Larm festival, which surveys the current landscape of Scandinavian bands, from Danish electro-rock to Swedish pop, from Finnish hard rock to the local Norwegian disco delicacies. There were some great times not caught on camera (dramatic Danish band Valravn, housers Ost & Kjex) and I hardly got to see all Oslo has to offer (Rockabilly barbers! Bakeries with black metal murals in their basements! Eating reindeer!), but here’s a few snapshots from the trip taken by myself and KEXP’s Kid Hops.

This was the view from the plane mere seconds from touching down at Oslo’s Gardermoen airport. As you can see, Norway’s got a lot of trees and snow.

I could show you a million beautiful snowy photos, but I’ll try to limit myself. Here is a view over Oslo center city.

Black metal guys are way too core to be playing at a standard festival, but regular death metal guys don’t mind. A shot of Oslo nihilists Bloodspor, who had a bass player that looked not unlike Rusko.

You have to get pumped to play metal. Perhaps these strange, hanging, dried meatstuffs help.

By:Larm shows were spread out over more than 30 venues, most of them in the city center. Among them small, cool bars (Fisk & Vilt, Revolver, Mono), dance clubs (Villa, Bla), and huge buildings with multiple venues packed into them (Rockefeller, Folkets Hus). The central watering hole was this Dagbladet tent, where bands played and fish snacks were served (which I think they’re advertising on the side of the tent where it says “mer a snaake”?). And now you can see what a night of walking to clubs in the driving snow might look like.

Local hero Lindstrøm, whipping up a trippy, cosmic excursion to the black hole of the disco-verse.

Apparently, the chef in the tent was a local superstar, and here’s some of his delicious creamy fish soup being consumed by Paul Hanly of Frenchkiss Records and Justin from Mute.

The back of the Dagbladet was devoted to serving dried meat snacks in traditional tents with campfires and furs. It was much less Burning Man than it sounds.

Finland’s K-X-P, featuring members of Circle and Op:L Bastards, were definitely one of the highlights of the fest with their spaced-out Krautrock-meets-drummy-disco dance party.

I was trying to take a picture of the lead singer of the hyped Fjorden Baby, but he was flailing around so much it was really difficult. With his KLF t-shirt and borderline retarded dance moves, you could definitely tell he had been watching a lot of Happy Mondays videos. The rest of the band was technically good, but have you ever really wanted a Rage Against the Machine-meets-Sublime-meets Balearic fusion? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Speaking of Balearic, these dudes in Skatebård (pronounced “Skateboard”) were on it. This trippy-looking trio was pretty dope, presenting a percussion- and effects-heavy low-tempo dance trip.

A look at Skatebård’s set list sort of reveals where they’re going with this: “Caravan,” “Cosmos,” “Hall of Shame.”

From what I could gather, Norwegians flirt by getting really drunk and then wrestling and having snowball fights in the street. Not a bad look.

Bergen act Datarock threw a party for the bands from their label, Young Aspiring Professionals, and it was pretty hype. This is Karin Park: a bit tropical, a bit punk, a bit The Knife, a bit straight-out pop. After her set was finished, she went on to sing with MT Six, a punk band where the lead singer wears a wife beater and a straw cowboy hat. A little unsettling, but the music was good nonetheless.

The front room of underground dance venue Villa was hosting skwee DJs (you’ll be hearing from us about them soon), but in the back Diskjokke was playing you know what… Quality disco!

We should have known from their name that this band was going to be awful. But we had to go see Denmark’s I Was A Teenage Satan Worshipper because we had crushes on the goth girl in the band, Blackie Loveless (you can see her on the left). She spent the entire time on stage barely playing keyboard and looking totally bored while the spazzy lead singer and his cohorts did lame rock ‘n’ roll antics and sang songs about art school and Skeletor (complete with Skeletor moves). I don’t blame her, I would be embarrassed to be in the band too.

Not my thing really, but all-girl band Norma Sass was good and playing some very cute pop.

We went to a rad Full Pupp vs. Shari Vari party at this warehouse space Bla, but by that time, we were too drunk on Ringness beer and whiskey to take any good pictures.

After I missed my flight, I ended up staying a night on the MS Innvik, a boat that has been turned into a hotel and cultural center. When I arrived, there was a reggae band playing for a bunch of kids eating waffles.

The boat was right across from one of Oslo’s star attractions, their boat-like opera house, made even more beautiful perched against an icy sea.

And finally, the view from my bunk bed in the boat hotel. Goodnight!