Øya Festival long ago outgrew the suburban island it first called home, with the name now standing as a symbol of how far it is possible to reach.
As they take over the Tøyen park for the fourth year running, it seems as though Øya has perfected its set up, from the scenic natural amphitheatre that is the main stage to the heavy light rig of the Sirkus tent. Taking a firm environmental stand, the festival aligned forces with a series of organisations to ensure everything from their power to their trash is handled in the greenest way, with even the porta potties produce green energy.
Though the festival’s sustainable vision should be applauded, the real masterpiece this year was the immaculately crafted line-up that left even the most pretentious Scandi-hipster excited. Fitting in local heroes alongside world-class artists, the five day run (including a club day of local warm up shows around the city) is destined to crack the cold exterior the Oslo crowd is renowned for.
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The summery, psychedelic, dream pop trio Great News take to stage right as the sun finally breaks through the clouds. As the gig progresses in the light of this – what seems like – miraculous moment, even the more sour tunes receive a forgiving amount of enthusiasm from the crowd this afternoon.
Though the summer haze is soon gone as a hyper-conceptualised confrontation takes place in the form of Arcade Fire’s set. Juxtaposing their amazingly passionate live performance against a backdrop of a hyper-capitalist dystopia, the Canadian outfit’s latest offering only seems to highlight the band’s live strengths. Though the band’s visuals are victimized by the bright Norwegian summer, the concert will still be one to remember for the many that braved the sudden rain in favour of some true Win Butler magic.
There is nothing that screams 'teenage' crisis louder than boy bands and binge drinking, and both seemed to be well on their way as Brockhampton took to the stage. With a fan vomiting down the side of the barrier, the cliché became fact. The self-proclaimed ‘world’s best boyband’ still ticks all the boxes as far as boyband-expectations go. From co-ordinated outfits to well-rehearsed choreography, the Cali-boys did all the predictable things, and still you cannot help but find them a tad charming.
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It’s hard not to get sucked into the very same hole Alex Turner apparently fell into on ‘Batphone’ as Arctic Monkeys set out to conquer the first headline slot of the week. With the savagely charismatic rock and roll stage presence that only comes with years of experience, the guys give the crowd everything they want and more. Firmly lead by Alex Turner’s immense swagger, the performance fluctuates between stoically grand gestures and the heavy hitting guitar moves that marks their earliest releases. Arcade Fire made a tremendous effort, but there is no doubt that this day will be marked as the day Arctic Monkey’s ‘R U Mine’ brought down Oslo.
Arguably, it will be hard to ever top the massive proportions of the first day, yet for those that managed to shake off the hangover and catch the early shows, Fieh was the perfect reward. Her spacious vocals and enthusiasm made her show a blast. The untraditional mix of various musical elements had the stage looking like an instrumental clusterfuck and still Fieh somehow found room to move joyously around throughout the set.
Following the local opening of the day is Thea and The Wild with their dreamy darkness and undeniable Fleetwood Mac vibes. Though the effort is grand, Thea fails to capture the attention needed for the large-scale Amfi stage. From the sunshine to the indoors, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard brought their throbbing psych vibes to Sirkus to showcase a few of their five 2017 releases. Though their set wasn’t nearly long enough to cover more than a fragment of their catalogue, The Kings still made it a rollercoaster, from superbly sharp to once again raising the suspicion against bands with two drummers.
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Whilst Wolf Alice and Fever Ray discarded the festi-comfort for much more confrontational and frankly amazing sets, the headliner of the night seemed all too comfortable. Where Fever Ray left you with an absurd feeling of discomfort and awe, Kendrick Lamar served a somewhat underwhelming performance. Despite an amazing production and a more than willing crowd it looked like Mr. Lamar did not have the best day. The rapper gave a world-class performance, and yet you left feeling as if you’d expect more. Maybe Kung-Fu Kenny should’ve relied a little less on his audience for this one.
Grim weather make St. Vincent set at the tent stage an extra convenient choice, not that she needed the help. The uncomfortably glossy neon and the confronting visuals made St. Vincent’s performance a stand out right of the bat. Her musical prowess and refusal to follow any set norms when it comes to composition had the crowd captured within seconds. The set might feel overly saturated, and still the utter pretention seems to be rooted in something artistically organic.
Taking a break from the musical art installation, Annie Clark addressed her audience with a few wise words for the festival goers to keep: "No matter how down we get in our life and in our love there's always something to dance about".
Perhaps the wildcard headliner of the year, and yet when Lykke Li entered the Amfi stage it was with a power that for a brief moment spellbound the whole park. The melodramatic antics of the Scandinavian pop queen made for some beautiful moments, however the set never quite peaked where it should. With partially awful sound on the vocals, Lykke Li had a hard time convincing the crowd, and in the end, it was just alright.
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The immersive charm of Boy Pablo is exactly what’s needed to kick off the last day of Øya. With good flow and energy, the band set out to show what they’re made of. Playing up their own hit, Boy Pablo also show their capability as an uber-hip Michael Jackson cover band.
Continuing the chilled out vibe is Jorja Smith’s set. The soulful singer dazzles the crowd with pure charisma as well as stunning vocals. Truly inhabiting the stage, Smith comes off as both empathetic, edgy, and incredibly talented. A group that have no time to chill are Sløtface. Well-known for their ferocious live shows, the quartet have become the poster children for guitar music. It's an almost electric excitement as the Norwegian natives takes to stage this Saturday afternoon, and for good reason, after all, it's not often you see a band crowdsurf on the second song.
"Make some noise for guitar music, Øya" shouts leading lady Haley Shea as the band hammer out the guitar-lead bangers. Sløtface do everything right at this show, from the all-female mosh pit to the stage invasion, the show is a feat in its own right. If they keep this up they might headline larger stages one day.
Another artist to watch is newcomer Girl In Red. Though very fresh in the game, she’s already managed to make a mark with her unapologetic lyrics and hazy tunes. Though she’s played enough to mix up the festival names, the rookie mistake is easily forgotten with the charming LGBTQ+ anthem ‘Girls’. The five-day extravaganza is soon coming to an end, but not before the traditional headliner finale.
The festival has made a tradition out of having a Norwegian artist closing and this year’s honour goes to Cezinando. Having allegedly worked on the show for a year, the Oslo local leaves no room for mistakes as he takes on the triumphal task. Balancing the ambivalent edge between a larger than life attitude and incredibly vulnerable honesty, Cezinando proves why he is the Norwegian prince of hip-hop.The gripping authenticity the burst through the otherwise seamless production gives the show a nerve that has the crowd on the tip of their toes throughout the set.
And as the pyro goes off and a teary eyed Kristoffer Cezinando Karlsen shouts “Thank you Øya!”, it seems like the perfectly grand emotional end to what has truly been an extravagant week.
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Words + Photography: Aurora Henni Krogh
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