When Øya Festival kicked off yesterday in Oslo, many of the acts performing were local — a real treat after a jam-packed festival season in the U.S. that had featured mostly bands I was already familiar with. With three stages and one tent, the grounds were manageable and the schedule was laid out so that I was able to bounce between stages and really discover stuff I didn’t know before.
The first few bands I saw were all a good time: Razika’s girl-power pop sounds had all the ooh—ahh harmonies you could want to ease you into your day, with dudes in Lacoste polos holding down the brass section like a couple of country club runaways. Anneli Drecker was next, bringing ambient instrumentals and calming, deeper vocals to the Sirkus tent. I particularly enjoyed The Switch, who gave me almost an Eagles vibe and were celebrating the recent release of their latest full-length B for the Beast.
By far my favorite discovery of the day was Fay Wildhagen, whose charm on-stage was noticeable almost instantly and reception with the mostly-Norwegian crowd was extremely warm. While many of the lyrics were not in English, lines like “We destroyed each other for fun” were cut with a spirited demeanor and playful dynamic on stage that didn’t let the melancholy tone of Wildhagen’s voice affect the mood.
Familiar artists showed up, too: Courtney Barnett seems to be getting more and more charismatic on stage with every festival gig I’ve seen her play. Highlights included “Nobody Really Cares If You Go To The Party” and “Pedestrian at Best” along with the popular “Avant Gardener,” to which I saw even a tiny flower-crowned child singing all the words. The War on Drugs ran through hits from last year’s beloved release Lost in the Dream, and Sondre Lerche predictably held the crowd in the palm of his hand with his almost-theatric performance.
I wrapped up the day on the grounds with Foxygen, who are almost entirely a different band than they were when I saw them at SXSW 2013. Back-up dancers, an is-it-or-isn’t-it-staged tumble and wild dance moves made for an exciting performance that was just there right level of unhinged.
Øya has only just begun — stay tuned for updates from Thursday on the festival grounds and take a peek at photos from the festival in the gallery above.