Taking over Gothenburg city
Hot Chip - Way Out West Festival 2012

If you have never been to Gothenburg, we suggest you stop reading this review right now and book a flight at the earliest available opportunity. Why? Because it's one of the coolest, most happening cities in the world, never mind that land mass we call Europe. Filled to the rafters with clubs, bars, venues, music, and the most beautiful people ever to walk this earth, a festival in Gothenburg is the musical and social equivalent of winning the lottery, such are the quality of the bands on offer, the overall set up of the whole thing, and the standard of the crowd enjoying it all alongside you.

Technically, this is actually two festivals. There's Way Out West, the main festival set in luscious parkland in the city, with open spaces and lakes encased in lush greenery, and Stay Out West, a whole host of satellite events and gigs dotted around the city in different venues - including a massive church.

So the important point to remember is, when you look at the line up and start planning your trip, expect to miss at least half of what you want to see, as the city gigs are generally queued out of the door with little chance of entry unless you're savvy enough to obtain guest lists, or wise enough to leave the main festival early enough to get in. But, that's not a complaint, as missing half of what you want to see happens at every festival, surely?

Of what we did see on the first day, Florence and The Machine were always going to be a highlight, and whatever you think about her new album, or the half singing, half wailing of her live shows, you can't deny that Flo knows how to put on a show, with a perfect understanding of what it is to be a front woman and engage with a crowd this big, as the likes of ‘Rabbit Heart’ are delivered with flame-haired gusto. After admitting herself that this is one of the most beautiful crowds she's ever seen, she encourages everyone to embrace each other under the hot sun, before launching into ‘Shake It Off’, which turns into a glorious four/four stomp that has large section of the crowd jumping in unison.

The Black Keys, once a skuzzy rock ‘n' roll two piece, may have gone mainstream, but they have lost none of their passion and energy, even when their sound is rounded out by a number of other musicians. But half way through their set, they announced “We're just going to play a couple with just the two of us now,” and for some, this back to basics approach captures the raw sexuality that made them such an exciting live band in the first place.

You sometimes forget what a genuine pop band Hot Chip are, full of delicate melodies and well-crafted songs, but the packed tent they play to love every second, reaching fever pitch when ‘Over and Over’ pipes out, a juddering baseline that has every ass in the room moving in time.

Highlights from Stay Out West include a stunning set by Purity Ring in the church venue, the crowd paying reverence to their breezy electronica by sitting in the pews, worshipping at the church of sublime sound. Another worthy show to catch was Bob Mould playing the classic Sugar album ‘Copper Blue’ from start to finish, bouncing across the stage with his guitar slung low in an energetic and well attended set.

The biggest draw perhaps is a reunited Blur, who take to the stage in preparation for their Hyde Park Olympic gig just days later. Classic British pop delivered with energy, the only down side is Damon's throwing of water, which manages to drown an unfortunate photographer's camera.

A$AP Rocky delivers an old skool hip hop set that leaves the crowd in raptures, before Mogwai take to the same Tent stage hours later to deliver a powerful, hypnotic set that is as moving as anything we've seen thus far.

We end our experience with the German lords of electronic music, Kraftwerk, whose frankly awe-inspiring set is set against a huge 3D screen, with 30,000 odd people all standing aghast and wearing 3D glasses. Strange, beautiful, and almost other-worldly, this is a perfect end to a perfect festival in the most perfect of settings.

Gothenburg, Way Out West… we love you!

Words by Mark Millar
Photo by Helen Boast

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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