Wow wow wow, you guys! I took my first ever trip to Norway on the 8th of August in the name of Øyafestivalen – a green, outdoor music festival that will turn TWENTY next year!
Its nineteenth go-round featured a crazy-good (and notably female-driven) lineup – Jenny Lewis, Phoebe Bridgers, The Lemon Twigs, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar, Fever Ray, Yaeji, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lykke Li, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, Jorja Smith, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Courtney Marie Andrews, Alex Cameron, Khruangbin, Curtis Harding and Patti Smith were among some of the big ticket international names. Meanwhile, the Norwegian acts were out in full force – Sassy 009, Mall Girl, Young Dreams, Carmen Villain, Thea & The Wild, Cezinando, Sløtface and Lindstrøm all drew big crowds as national favorites. (And I am SO BUMMED, but I got in the day after my buddy Ida and her band Sassy Kraimspri had a gig. I am going to shamelessly plug their new single here.)
This was taken around 9PM. It didn’t get fully dark until after 10:30PM.
The whole shebang took place in picturesque Tøyenparken, which is located just a few minutes by train outside the city center. I planned it so that my Airbnb (in case you need a solid apartment recommendation) was situated super close-by, but it’s no sweat to commute from elsewhere, especially since the daytime programming wraps up before the park (and the train) shuts down for the evening, around 11pm. (Then things open up to different venues around the city at nighttime to keep the party going indoors.)
What’s nice about the way the talent was scheduled was that, unlike some other festivals I’ve attended, you could easily catch anyone and everyone you wanted to see. The bands were well-distributed across stages and set times for maximum viewing opportunities. And since things typically kicked off after 2pm each day, it left plenty of time in the mornings and early afternoon to check out Oslo, and/or get caught up on much-needed sleep.
One of my (unsurprisingly) favorite performances was an electrifying one from St. Vincent, partially because she’s a musical genius, but also holy bananas, would ya LOOK at that getup:
Lykke Li played just after St. Vincent’s set on the Amfiet stage, where I’d caught Charlotte Gainsbourg (also incredible) a few hours prior. Wearing an oversize patent leather jacket and rocking slicked back hair, her stage presence was undeniable dot com. She saved the classic “I Follow Rivers” for the grand finale, and (as you can imagine), the crowd lost its goddamn mind. (In a good way, duh!)
My boy Alex Cameron (check out an interview I did w/ him in 2016) gave a high-energy performance as well, with some solid banter coming from the one and only Roy Molloy. Chockablock full o’ dance moves, and pretty much the most fun:
And Khruangbin played to a packed Hagen stage lookin’ cool as goddamn cucumbers, but what else would you expect? They’re the epitome of vibes on vibes on vibes:
I’d be remiss not to mention the Norwegian acts, though, who truly KILLED IT! Sløtface (who I interviewed last year) drew one of the biggest crowds, which isn’t hard to understand if you’ve listened to their mega-infectious tunes. A true delight to watch live, and certainly a national treasure. I missed Carmen Villain’s set, which was a huge bummer, but I did get to say hey to her later on when she was walking around // I interviewed her in Chelsea a couple of years back, so it was nice to do a quickie high-five ‘n how-are-ya. (Crowded festival, small world.)
Another Norwegian highlight for me was Lindstrøm’s super vibey set down at the Sirkus stage. Now that I’ve entered my thirties, it can feel weird to do the whole semi-dance, semi-sway thing in a crowd of fellow festivalgoers who are often three hundred years younger. However (and this was another rad thing about Øya), there were people of all ages across the four day program, ranging from people old enough to be my parents, to toddlers running around with protective headphones. None of them seemed to give a fuck if I wanted to semi-dance, semi-sway forever, so I proceeded to do so with reckless abandon.
And let’s also just take a moment to appreciate the absolute VISION that was/is Cezinando! I couldn’t catch the full set because I wanted to run and set up shop for Patti Smith down the hill, but he is ALL OF THE THINGS, you guys. If you’re not privy, get on my level. Also, THIS OUTFIT:
Aside from the music, the festival grounds were great for drinking, snacking, and (of course) people watching. Pictured below are two of the budz I made! I had seen a guy walking around with a sequin kimono earlier in the day when I was on my way to the supermarket, and so when I saw him again in line at the bar, I obviously had to stop and say hi. Both of them were baffled as to why I would ever, under any circumstance, leave NYC. I was equally baffled by their bafflement, because Norway rules p. hard!
And, like I mentioned earlier, the festival is ultra-eco-friendly. The organizers have partnered with Nature and Youth (a big Norwegian environmental NGO) since 2002, and 150 volunteers were present to help with grounds cleanup each day. At least 60% of festival waste ends up getting recycled thanks to these kinds of efforts! Plus 90% of the food served is organic and locally-sourced, everything runs on zero emission electricity, and even the waste from the portable toilets gets recycled for district heating in Oslo! (Gross, but super cool!) Other festivals around the world have started taking note of these revolutionary kinds of practices, and it’s rad that Øya’s been at the forefront of the movement.
Which brings me back to the music for some full-circle closure! One of my absolute favorite sets happened to be the grand finale, which came from the one and only Patti Smith. In between songs, she made sure to use her platform to preach the good gospel about preserving and protecting our planet, both from an ecological standpoint, and from a humanitarian one. And of course the messages were nothing new, but goddamn, when Patti Smith says it with force, you just feel it that much deeper. Empowering AF.
Basically, this is one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended, not just from the lineup and performance angle, but also from the measures organizers have taken to make the four days so eco-friendly. I can only imagine what they’ve got up their sleeves for the big twentieth anniversary next summer! If you want to plan a quickie international summertime getaway, I’d highly recommend this as a solid option – like I said, you can check out Oslo during the day, and then get fully lost in some amazing programming in the afternoons and evenings. I’ll be talking more about my time in Oslo outside the festival tomorrow (so check back then), and that way you can get a better feel for things you might need to know if you’re seriously considering making the trip. In the meantime, a big ol’ TUSEN TAKK to the Øyafestivalen organizers and volunteers for being so hospitable and making my first (and definitely not last) time in Oslo extra-magical! Hope to see you all again, and drop us a line if you’re ever in NYC!