Bergen Fest 2018 – Sigrid, James Bay, Sondre Justad, Astrid S, Fieh and more

James Bay 16062018-15Saturday was the last day of Bergen Fest this year, and as the tradition is, the day started early, kicking off twelve hours of live music from four stages. Nineteen acts all together. This day was also a predominantly Norwegian day, with some of our best newer artists like Sigrid, Sondre Justad, Astrid S, Fieh, Halie and Sløtface, together with veterans like Real Ones. And with nice weather, mostly sunny, a packed venue and James Bay as the closing act, this was a perfect ending to another successful festival. (Photo above: James Bay)

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I have talked about the excellent booking at Bergen Fest in an earlier post, and Saturday was an example of this, even if the artists this day were from a mainly pop landscape. Of the six artists I saw this day, four were female and Norwegian, and that gives an extra plus for the festival. Of these four, two are up and coming, and the other two are more established, but still young. I general the audience Saturday was younger than the preceding days, but also mixed with both older people and kids.

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First out were Fieh. They are an eight piece band with singer Sofie Tollefsbøl, originating from the Music College in Oslo where they all are students. The band’s music is a mix of many things, pop, hip hop, funk and jazz, and their songs are not the typical straight forward kind where you know what’s happening after you have heard 30 seconds. Check out the band’s video to Glu to get a feel for their music. Live the band is fresh, extremely well played and great fun to watch.

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The next artist I saw, and the first of the day on the main stage, was Astrid S. She has had great success as a streaming artist, having got together more than three hundred million streams on Spotify on her two songs Hurts So Good and Running Out. Astrid S is one of the few artists who have had a career after being in Idol. Her music is straight pop, catchy and aimed at a young, single-oriented audience. On stage she is smiling, looking good good and quite like the girl next door. She sings well and got good responses from the audience.

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Sondre Justad is one of the rare pop artist who both make great songs and is also a vocal political person. He has spoken out against oil drilling in the north of Norway and also against the way Norway’s conservative government has handled the refugee crisis. On stage at Bergen Fest he also gave some political comments in between his songs, but his performance is what most people noticed.

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He started out singing on a plattform beside the sound tower at the back of the audience before he ran up to the stage and finished the song there. After a few songs he moved to a smaler plattform in the middle of the crowd and did a song, playing guitar, from there. Later in the show he did a song from the same plattform, but this time on top of a ladder before he crowd surfed back to the stage. The crowd loved it, and beside admiring his physics, I also loved his songs and the very tight band. Check out his songs, they are well worth hearing.

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After Sondre Justad I was looking forward to seeing Sigrid on the big stage. Her career is only two years old, but at 21 she has accomplished a whole lot. Playing at Glastonbury, the Reading festival and the Roskilde festival, winning BBC’s The Sound of 2018, This Year’s Newcomer at Spellemannprisen and being featured at the Jimmy Fallon show.

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I have seen Sigrid several times since her debut at by:Larm in 2017, and her stage present is still as fresh and good as the first time, but more and more professional. She has a very natural way of performing and looks genuinely happy to be able to sing for so many people. Sigrid will definitely be an artist to consider for many years to come.

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Halie is another young artist with a promising future. She is only 17, but is under the same management as Sigrid and Aurora, meaning she will get the best conditions to develop her talent. Her music is melodic pop with a touch of hip hop and soul, and she has a soulful voice. We will definitely hear a lot more from Halie in the years to come.

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My last artist at Bergen Fest 2018 was James Bay from England. He made his debut in 2015 with the song Hold Back the River and the album Chaos and Calm, reaching number 1 in the UK and 15 in the US. He won several awards for the album and was nominated for three Grammies. Hold Back The River and Let It Go are both streamed several hundred million times on Spotify, and his two albums, the latest from 2018, have both sold well.

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James Bay doesn’t rely on extra effects in his show. His band follows him loyally and he sings his songs straight forward. Live he is much more edgy in his sound than on his albums, and the concert was a refreshing change from the synth-oriented sounds of most of the earlier artists this day.

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Bergen Fest 2018 is over, and it has been yet another successful festival. Great booking, some obvious artists, many great musical surprises, a friendly atmosphere. And I must admit that the brisket burger from Søtt of Salt really made my days.

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All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.

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