Finding its home in the lush, green setting of Oslo’s Tøyenparken, ØYA Festival is the city’s coolest, most diverse eco-friendly music fest. BEAT have just spent a week there, soaking up some serious rays (and hiding under trees on the one day it rained), seeing some great new bands and legendary acts perform to some very polite and – when necessary – rowdy crowds.
If you like your festivals to embrace pop and punk, country and electro, then chances are you’ll have a sweet time at ØYA. We sure did, so here’s our stand-out moments of the past week that will make you want to pack up your bags and head to a Scandinavian fest next summer!
Lana Del Rey Singing in the Rain
The first day of the festival was, weather-wise, a wash out, but torrential rain and heavy winds aren’t enough to deter Lana Del Rey’s fanbase from flexing their undying love for the star. Knee deep in mud, the poncho-wearing crowd managed to say ‘fuck it’ to the weather when she practically glided on stage like an angel sent from heaven – albeit one that wore a Fila sweatshirt and platform heels. Performing live, she’s every inch the glamorous icon that she comes across as in her music and videos, but she’s also stupidly sweet. After belting out ‘Born to Die’, Lana waded through the muddy grass to spend five minutes taking photographs with the hysterical fans in the front row. It might’ve taken some time out of her eclectic set – she sang ‘Music to Watch Boys To’ but decided to skip on her album’s eponymous single, ‘Lust for Life’. By this point it didn’t matter; for an artist who’s spent so long being accused of hiding behind a record-label set facade, Lana Del Rey’s ØYA set proved to a stunned audience that she was a bullshit-free and brilliant pop star.
Jamie xx Setting a Beer Garden on Fire (metaphorically speaking)
The following night saw The xx take to the main stage to deliver cuts from their new album, I See You, to a gigantic crowd. But while the BEAT cover stars are selling out festivals and arenas worldwide more frequently than most people do their bloody laundry, the real hot ticket on Thursday was the Young Turks afterparty, that saw Talaboman and some unnamed ‘YT DJs’ head to the nightclub, Jaeger.
Rumour had it that some of those unnamed DJs were Sampha and Jamie xx, and while both were in the building (Sampha was spotted watching the Talaboman set in the club’s basement), it was Jamie that got behind the decks. While crowds were downstairs, adamant that Jamie would be following Talaboman in the main club, he was causing a real meltdown upstairs, in what we can only truthfully assume is the venue’s beer garden. Hundreds of energetic Nordic kids swarmed on the spot, swinging from poles and dancing on tables to catch a glimpse of one of electronic music’s most in-demand DJs. It turns out the Mercury Prize-nominated producer can cause a live set shit storm whether he’s playing to 15,000 or 150 people.
Norwegian Teens Going Crazy at Everything
Regardless of how famous the performer was, there was always a really cool sense of unity between Norwegian acts and the local crowds. In some cases, like during Saturday’s night’s incendiary set from baby-faced rapper Yung Smul and his mob, the teenage audience moshed, yelled and danced like they were at some sort of seriously lit house party. It was cool, as if every one of Smul’s mates had rolled into town to see their (now Sony Music-signed) mate flex his foul-mouthed rhyming skills on stage.
But it was a different kind of energy the night before. As Pixies took to the main stage taking a huge chunk of the festival’s audience with them, Norway’s most bashful, brilliant music producer Cashmere Cat hit the Sirkus tent. Known best for transitioning from his eclectic, LuckyMe-released records to working with Ariana, Selena and Kanye, the first few rows were mostly high-spirited teenage girls who looked like they’d come straight from school to have the time of their lives, singing and dancing their hearts out. His headline set – full of colour, bubbles and pop vocal perfection – felt like downing a two litre bottle of Sprite. Once he’d given the crowd the peace sign and ran off stage, you realise that Cashmere Cat had made you a happier human being.
When Zora Jones shut down Revolver at ØYA Nights
The biggest mistake an ØYA-goer can make is assuming that the ØYA Nights programme should be treated as a mere afterthought. Trust us, it’s insane. With everybody from Perfume Genius to Sweden’s Spotify-top-spot-hogging group NEIKED waiting till nightfall to deliver their sets, this wasn’t just a series of well curated club nights.
That being said, the burgeoning DJ line-up that included Baba Stiltz, Blanck Mass and Nina Las Vegas would make a club kid salivate. On the last night of the festival, one act in particular really tore shit up. Hitting the decks after KOSO Club residents Soldal and SVANI, Barcelona-based artist, DJ and animator Zora Jones sent the whole of Revolver nightclub into a techno-induced stupor. If you thought you might get her mixed up with jazz crooner Norah Jones, take a listen to her latest EP or her collaborative project with Sinjin Hawke and Fractal Fantasy – you’ll feel black and blue once you’ve listened to them. For 90 sweet, relentless minutes, everybody in Revolver was going batshit crazy for one of the best producers to show face at this year’s festival.
Nils Bech Breaking Our Hearts
Norway native Nils Bech is a pretty big name in his home country. Heck, he’s amassed several albums and even sang for the country’s queen earlier in the year. But further afield, he’s still waiting for his big break. We’re torn about whether this should happen though, considering few musicians are as pure and downright lovely as he is. His latest album, performed almost entirely in falsetto and with a theatrical electronic production, could cause most music critics to falsely label his music “dreamy”, but that feels a little reductive. What he performed in the Sirkus tent on Saturday afternoon felt darker, like an exorcism.
With a scantily-clad male dancer, a bed, paintings and a fan-powered ‘ex-girlfriend’ on stage, there’s no doubt that Nils Bech is somebody who likes to tell a story with his shows. When the art and the music met, there was nothing the audience could do but stand back and be impressed by the power, heart and finesse of it all. Nils Bech is a genius – even if you don’t know him yet.
Get in on the ØYA action! Keep an eye on the festival’s official site to see when tickets for their 20th edition go on sale.