The last day of the Øyafestivalen 2017 had a more Nordic mix than the other days. Or it can be that I chose Nordic that day – six Norwegian acts, one Danish and one Swedish. With no other big international (“un-nordic”) names on the schedule, artists like Mø, Lars Vauler and Hellacopters showed that they can headline a festival just as well as many bigger acts from the US or the UK. (Photo above: Lars Vaular)
The festival has a tradition of starting early the last day with a family friendly band or artist. This means that there is a sizable crowd already at 1 PM when they start. The biggest crowd in former years must have been in 2006 when the duo Knutsen & Ludvigsen was the first act. This year Vazelina Bilopphøggers was first out. They are a rockabilly band with humorous Norwegian lyrics to original songs from the 50’s and 60’s.
Vazelina Bilopphøggers have been around since 1979 with their music and antics. The band originates from Toten, a part of Norway that is best described as hillbilly land. Their lyrics and presentations is also done in a totem dialect. But one of the reasons for their long success is that they are true to their songs’ origins, and their performance is high quality with great musicians and singers. The concert was a big success, and we got all their classic songs, including my personal favorite “Feil side ta Mjøsa” (originally Wrong Side Of The Rainbow by Ronnie Milsap).
Pom Poko followed at Vindfruen. They are a relatively new band from Trondheim that combines post-punk, jazz and noise. The band is a quartet with guitar, bass, drums and Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit on vocals. The first time I saw them was at Trondheim Calling in February, and they charmed me with their fantastic energy and brilliant playing. On stage Jamtveit is jumping and running around on stage, which is a charming contrast to their quite avant garde music.
Back to Amfiet after Pom Poko, I saw Morudes + Bushman’s Revenge, a constellation with two guitars, two drums and bass, with Amund Maarud mostly in front. Their music was hard, heavy, guitar based, but with catchy melodies and lots of brilliant details and duels on guitars and drums.
Next out at Amfiet was Mikhael Paskalev. He is part of the same musical collective as Billy Van who played on Friday and Jonas Alaska. And in Paskalev’s band, Billy Van played keys and sang, while Jonas Alaska played piano and guitar. The band is tight, you can hear that the musicians know each other well, and Paskalev’s songs are good. I have earlier found him to be more introvert than the two others, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance on Saturday.
The second highlight on Saturday came with Stein Torleif Bjella at Amfiet after Paskalev. Stein Torleif Bjella is a troubadour with depressive songs about people and life in general. He writes and sings in a way that makes it quite the opposite of depressive to listen to him. And with some of the best musicians in Norway behind him we got a one hour study in high quality songs with often subtle and implied meanings that you have to really listen closely to. Coupled with excellent guitar details by Geir Sundstøl and Amund Maarud this was one of my best concerts at the Øyafestivalen this year.
My first Danish artist at Øya this year was MØ. She is the Danish queen of electro pop and is also known for her gymnastic stage show. The first time I saw her was at Øya four years ago, and then at the Pstereo festival in 2014 plus the Stavern festival last year. Every time she has made a good show, and Saturday at Øya was no exception. She also has a solid fan base who were singing along from the first song. Although her music isn’t my first choice, I really like artists who give their fans a good show, and MØ is one of those.
The headliner at Amfiet on Saturday was Lars Vaular. He is in my (and many other’s) opinion the best Norwegian rapper. Three years ago he played the second stage at Bergenfest, and last year he headlined the festival’s last day. He played at Øya, in the Sirkus tent, two years ago, and this year he headlined at Amfiet. Vaular had prepared a god show for his fans, singing in a kind of wedding dress and being lifted up above the stage in the third song. I liked it, but to catch the other headliner in Sirkus, I had to run after the third song. Lars Vaular has won awards for his lyrics, and he shows us that hip hop can be art and not only crotch-grabbing artists with derogatory lyrics about women and partying.
The Hellacopters are a Swedish garage punk band who had their main period from 1994 to 2008 when they disbanded. But the came together in 2016 for the 20th anniversary for their debut album, and they also played at the Roskilde festival this year before playing at the Øyafestivalen. For me this was the perfect way to close the festival. Dirty, sweaty, loud and fast and unpretentious rock played by excellent musicians with Dregen from Backyard Babies on guitar, Nicke Andersson on vocal and guitar and Sami Yaffi from New York Dolls on bass.
The Øyafestivalen was sold out all days, even if the really big names were missing. But the festival has so many musical gems on the schedule that personally I don’t care that much if the headliner is a legend or big name as long as they deliver the goods. I missed the first day with Lana Del Rey, who I know gives a good show. The xx was a bold move from the festival, and I liked their low energy show, even if some of the critics didn’t. Pixies was this year’s legends, and the fans were satisfied, while Lars Vaular gave the right nod to the Norwegian music scene. And then I haven’t mentioned all the other bands and artists in all kinds of styles and genres that I missed. The festival is known for their excellent booking, and I am already looking forward to next year. And then we will not get the torrential rain that poured down the first day either!
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.