A laid back yet high tempo mix of metal, hip hop, shoegaze indie & more

It’s hard to imagine that in only a 2-hour plane journey away from the UK’s north lies a festival so remote and eclectic, so free and so friendly, so well catered for and yet so lacking in all the usual mudfest ned-infected turnoffs to be found elsewhere. Basically a festival so… un-British.

The Norwegian fjord-ick surroundings of Tonsberg again played host to Slotsfjell - a laid back yet high tempo mix of metal, hip hop, shoegaze indie, and just about every other genre ones mind could conjure or invent. The festival is now in its 8th year and again brought together a momentous mix of musical representation from what seemed like all corners of the planet. In few other festival line ups would you be able (or willing) to catch metal- royalty such as Anthrax, only to show up again a few hours later to find one of the UK’s campest guilty pleasures in the form of Erasure.

The opening day saw Norway’s native Royksopp take to the mainstage as headliners. Hours before the early-risers were treated to crack-pot scream-masters Cerebral Ballzy - a brash, ‘couldn’t give a fuck’ shoutfest which mainly consisted of lead singer Honor Titus climbing among the stage apparatus, chuck cans of Heineken at the crowd, and before almost every song, explain each meaning which all seemed to be about skateboards and ‘skipping class man’.

On the many smaller stages spread throughout the site played one of Norways most ‘hotly’-tipped new girl bands Razika. Whilst others got to grip with the UK’s very own Wolf Gang and latterly Two Door Cinema Club, elsewhere we watched on with excitement and, due to soaring crowd levels, mild-struggling to the ever-attractive prospect of ‘the future of Norwegian ska-punk’ as one colleague explained.

The day soon drew to a close as many of us had expected to end it with the never more-than ill-looking Bradford Cox and his never-less than brilliant Deerhunter. Beforehand, however, we were treated to a surprise festival highlight. Anthrax, contrary to my snobbish prejudice, ran amok on the mainstage and played hit after hit - all of which belted out with the kind of enthusiasm which proves so contagious in the sheer beauty of this kind of setting.

Even after the mild disappointment of a Frank Turner and Gallows cancellation, day two would also bring more anticipation and well established artists with the likes of Biffy Clyro and Monster Magnet who both went down a treat despite the rare sight of the rain.

Elsewhere Lemonhead-sound-alikes Yuck got to the stage to try convince the sceptical amongst us of their worth however in the end only succeeded in confirming the obvious comparisons. They were followed by indie dance-troupe specialists The GO! Team who put on an energetic spin matters despite the heavens opening up all around.

Just as Friday night’s main attraction took to the stage so did the sun as it shone like a nature inspired spotlight on Grinderman, the raw and nihilistic side of Nick Cave and his mish mash of Bad Seeds and pals. The thumping bass of ‘Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man’ begun things off, with uncle Nick himself roaming about the stage, full of vicious pointing and rarely seen levels of crowd interaction. “He sucked her and he sucked her and he sucked her dry…” cried the legendary frontman as the Norwegian festival goers seemed to lose their, until now, customary cool and politeness, clearly eager to get in on whatever Grinderman was screaming towards them. Aggressive, brutal and sometimes even pornographic in sound (hear Kitchenette), Grinderman wowed all who looked on.

Another day to go and the levels of excitement amongst the promoters and journalists did not let up. Even after the many spectacles available on the final day of Slottsfjell, one final party would still be had away from the festival site with BBC Scotland dj Vic Galloway, Modern Lovers resident dj Craig Gillespie and Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, all joining to bring the show to an typically cool tune-ending with their mix mash of 60s garage rock. Before that final Scottish fling, Braithwaite himself performed his trademark thrash-ambience with Mogwai who were met with a surprisingly disappointing crowd turn out.

Perhaps not the band one would initially have marked from the outset, certainly not publicly, the hours drawing up to Erasure couldn’t come quick enough. From the moment onstage Andy Bell and Vince Clarke seemed to set fire to ones own camp inhibitions, parading around and spreading what can only be described as sheer joy to those who looked on. The smiles started immediately and stayed there long after the set (and festival) was over. Until next year, the Slottsfjell-London reunion is next with ‘you know-woo-hoo’ as the main attraction.

Words by Ray Jackson
Photo by Carina Jirsch

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