The thirteenth Working Class Hero festival happened this weekend, and it was an artistic success, with artists like Ida Jenshus, Morten Abel, Mercury Motors, Oslo Ess, Judy Collins, Valkyrien Allstars, The Felice Brothers and many other artists and bands. Too bad that the people of Drammen don’t understand how lucky they are to have people who spend a lot of time, energy and money to give them this happening every year. (Picture above: Oslo Ess)
I have attended the Working Class Hero festival twice before, in 2009 and 2012, and I have liked the setup both years. So also this year. The festival is held at Union Scene in Drammen, a rehabilitated industry area by the river. The venue is one of the best in the greater Oslo area with great sound and lights. In addition to the main stage, the festival had set up an outdoor stage just outside with the back to the river, plus one acoustic stage in the backyard to the hotel that is the neighbor to the venue.
The festival started with Judy Collins as the main act, plus Rita Eriksen and Unnveig Aas on Thursday. I didn’t attend the concert, but the reports I have got said it was a great evening.
Friday started with An Ananas, General Forsamling, Torgeir Waldemar and Alexander Lindbäck. The last two artists are both very good singer songwriters with personal styles and truly great songs.
The first act on the main stage was Valkyrien Allstars, a folk band with the harding fiddle as their main instrument. The setup is three fiddles, bass and drums, no guitar or keyboard. The sound is personal and very rocky, with Tuva Syvertsen as the front person. One of the three fiddlers is on leave, but it worked perfectly fine with two fiddles. In a way the sound becomes more clear that way.
My first really positive surprise Friday night was the Felice Brothers. They are a band with two brothers in front, Ian and James Felice. Their sound reminds me a bit of early Dylan, and also of early Wallflowers (with Jacob Dylan in front), and I truly loved their performance. Hopefully other festivals will book them, too, so more people will get a chance to see them.
The headliners Friday night were Oslo Ess on the main stage and Blood Command on the outside stage. Oslo Ess is a post punk band from Oslo, with an energetic live show. They have played intensively live the last year, and it shows. I have sen them twice before last year, and they have gone from very good to even better.
Blood Command is a punk band from Bergen with Silje Tombre as the singer. She is an excellent singer and front person, and the band is also hard, precise and with great energy. Silje’s singing style is a mix of clear singing and growling, and Blood Command is also a great live band that I love seeing.
Saturday’s artists were Morten Abel, Ida Jenshus, Mhoo, Razika, Lucky Lips, PING, Dig Deeper and more.
Razika is an all girl band from Bergen. They have had local success in Norway and got great reviews for their first CD in NME, New York Times and the Guardian. Their style is indiepop with influences from ska and reggae, and they do a good live show. Their songs are also good and most of all, catchy.
Lucky Lips are a Oslo based bluegrass band with the very charismatic singer Malin Pettersen in front. They released their first CD last year, and have built up a steady following with impeccable performing and a personal style. Some purists would say they they mix too much pop in their music, but I think this makes them more interesting. Their songwriting is also of a high standard.
Mhoo is an interesting band. Really a duo with Oda and Miriam Kjoelen. They are both excellent guitar players, and they perform with a band with bass, drums and two violinists. All the musicians sing harmony, too. Their songs are really strong, and the band give them a unique style. Their performance at the backyard stage was cancelled due to technical problems, so the festival gave them a spot at the main stage after the last act. Many people had left at that time (1 AM), but there was enough people left to make it one of my highlights from the whole festival. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from the concert.
Mercury Motors is a hard rocking trio consisting of Joern Christensen on guitar, Per Vestaby on bass and Oyvind Hansen on drums. They all played in the band Can Can with Anne Grete Preus in the mid 80’s, but when that band quit, they started as a trio and changed their name to Mercury Motors in 1987. From then until 1996 the played regularly and released five albums Since then it has been quiet from the band, but now they have started playing together again, and Saturday night was the first time I heard the band in twenty years. They sound like then, but their added age has seasoned the sound in a way that suits them. I hope I get a chance to see them again soon.
The two headliners Saturday night were Ida Jenshus and Morten Abel. Both of them are three time Norwegian Grammy winners – Ida from the later years, while Morten won his in 2001.
Ida Jenshus has grown into a fantastic artist since her debut in 2008. She started out as a country artist, but has moved more and more toward her own personal style that more resembles artists like Emmylou Harris. Still she first of all has her own style, and both her songs and the way she and her band perform them is top class. I have seen Ida Jenshus many times, and will see her again in a month’s time. Her performance at the festival was also one of the highlights for me.
Morten Abel had his best period at the end of the 90’s and the beginning of this century. He started out as the singer in the Stavanger band Mods in the late 80’s, then he was the singer in September When before he went solo. The last years we haven’t heard much from Morten Abel, but he got a renewed interest in his career though the TV show Hver gang vi møtes (Every time we meet) this year. His performance is very professional with good songs and a stage show more that is very professional in an American how style.
The Working Class Hero festival is an intimate festival with some good booking. Not the biggest headliners, but big enough names to be more than enough interesting for those who attended it. It should also have been interesting for many more. Therefore it is too bad that the two days I was there it was far from sold out. I really hope the organizers don’t give up, but make a new festival next year, and I also hope the people in Drammen understand what a great event this festival is. I will definitely come back next year.
All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.