About every big and small town in Norway has its own rock festival – that’s quite typical for the Norwegian music scene. Stavanger has been struggling with this a bit over the last couple of years. The last rock festival in Stavanger, Pulpit Rock, went bankrupt after the third year. But fortunately, it didn’t take long until a new festival was planned for the city, namely Rått og Råde! Not everybody welcomed this plan though, because the festival was scheduled to be in the middle of a residential area, where a lot of elderly people are living. However, the plans were approved, and so Stavanger was all set for a new festival for about 10000-15000 people.
I was really curious about how this would turn out, mostly because this festival was really HUGE for Norway. I gotta admit that I don’t like big festivals, I’m much more into the small and cozy ones, but then – even huge festivals in Norway seem more like medium-sized festivals in Germany, and I was wondering how they would manage to set up such a festival for the first time.
And I was impressed! Overall, the festival was just amazing. The area was big enough for the amount of people, there were enough bar and food stands and toilets so that you didn’t have to queue for long, the organization worked out very well, there were enough securities and volunteers to get everything to run really smoothly. Thumbs up!
A big plus was the weather of course: three days of sunshine without even the slightest clouds. Would you ever expect that in Norway in September? That was so nice, and even though it did get quite cold at night, this made the festival perfect. So it’s hard for me to really judge the festival… No clue how it would have been in the rain. But like this, it was just amazing!
So does that mean there was nothing to criticize? Almost, but not quite. The area was really nice for a festival. The stages were arranged nicely, you could see very well, and it never got too crowded – you could always find a nice spot in the audience. So that was perfect. But then, the festival was far from sold out. From what I heard, there were 10.000 people there the first and last night (and about 6000 on Friday), which wasn’t too bad, but still under capacity. With a few thousand people more, I think it would have been quite crowded. Not necessarily in front of the stages, but everywhere in between. There was a nice “market street” in between the two stages, where the food stands were located and where you could sit down and rest a bit. That part was usually quite crowded, especially when everybody was walking from one stage to the other. And as bands on both stages took turns playing (which means that there was always some music playing – great!), that happened quite frequently. There were a few narrow paths that just weren’t suited for a lot of people walking there at the same time. It worked out fine with the amount of people that actually was at the festival, but I’m not sure if it would be the same with even more people. And the same was true for the exit, by the way. It looked quite frightening to see everyone head toward the same narrow path at the same time right after the concerts. The organizers took every precaution they could, the path was well-lit, and there was just no way to get the crowd off the area more quickly. But this is clearly a bottleneck for the festival, which might pose a problem if the festival is continued and might even grow.
Apart from that, the area seemed perfect for a festival. Very easy to get to from the city center (and the bus transfer worked out just great – except that it was VERY hard to actually get hold of one of the bus passes that were advertised; nobody seemed to know about them), mostly gravel grounds (so it wouldn’t get too muddy with rain), and lots of space. I can understand it though that the people living in the area were not too fond of the festival, even though the concerts ended by 11 p.m. at the latest – there’s still 10.000 people invading your neighborhood, seven hours of noise every day, and quite a bit of hassle walking around the festival grounds. However, I think that this should be bearable, as it’s only one weekend in the year – and a big plus for Stavanger.
I gotta admit that this was more or less a “surprise festival” for me. The line-up sounded great to me, because I knew almost all names on the list. However, for most of them I had NO clue what to expect. This made it really exciting, especially since there was always a band playing. So I could just walk up, check them out, and decide whether I liked it or not. Pretty cool – but it also means that I can’t report too much about the bands, because most of them were completely unknown to me. However, I’ll try to do my best now to report on the festival concerts!
The first artist of the festival was Susanne Sundfør on the big stage. I didn’t make it to the festival until halfway through her concert, but I was impressed. Not only by the crowd of people that was already gathered in front of the stage, but also by the music. When I arrived, Susanne Sundfør was doing a part alone, which was very nice. After a few songs, the band joined her. I hadn’t even noticed they were missing! But they did give a different touch to her concert and added some variety. A very nice opening concert!
After Susanne Sundfør, Line Larsen took over on the second stage. Gotta admit that she didn’t convince me. It was nice music, but not catchy at all.
Next up was Karpe Diem, and my first surprise. I suspected… hmm… maybe some “dark” rock band? I got a hip hop act, which actually wasn’t too surprising I guess, I think I’ve even heard them on the radio before. They managed to get the crowd moving! I liked the show quite a lot, and so did the rest of the audience, as it seemed.
Then, before the main act, Casiokids played on the small stage. And I left after the first song… Sorry, but what was that? Indie-alternative-wannabe-rock? Not my thing, not at all.
So I had time to grab something to eat before a-ha came on. I didn’t really expect a lot from the a-ha concert. I knew that I didn’t really know them (just the hits of course), I knew that it’s not necessarily the kind of music I usually listen to, and I knew that it was really cool to get to see them play live once! And I got pretty much what I expected: A professional show, a bit too reserved in my opinion, a lot of nice pop songs, and a dedicated audience that was impressively loud when singing along. In the beginning, my attitude was mostly “okay, it’s something you gotta see once, but well…” Towards the end, they played more and more hits and thus songs that I knew, and I started to really enjoy it. Yes, guess you HAVE to have seen a-ha on stage once, and if it’s only to note that Morten Harket looks like David Hasselhoff, or that it sounds pretty awkward if a whole audience suddenly squeaks “STAY!”. *lol* But yeah… that probably sounds rather insulting to any a-ha fan, sorry about that. But they were never my heroes. =;-) And I did enjoy the concert, more than I had expected.
The second day of the festival was the big “Kaizers day”. =;-) First up everybody faced a hard decision: While Uncle Deadly (aka Geir Kaizer) opened the festival day on the main stage, Skambankt were doing a signing session downtown. Not sure how the signing session went (’cause I didn’t have any doubt when deciding for Uncle Deadly), but the Uncle Deadly concert was really nice. It was a bit of a downside though that it was so early in the day and there were only very few people on the festival grounds at that time. Too bad! You can read more about the Uncle Deadly concert in my report.
After Uncle Deadly, a band called Rub A Dubs played on the small stage. I hadn’t heard of them before, but they sounded very promising! I’m really bad at finding genres for bands – but they had brass, which is always a big plus, and they got people dancing!
Next up on the main stage was Mew from Denmark. Again, I didn’t know more than the name, but this time my expectations were about right. A nice rock band with some “weird” influences, with a front man in a dark leather coat, singing sometimes in normal voice, sometimes two octaves up… =;-) But it was really fun to listen to! And to watch the guy whose only job on stage it seemed to be to dance. Hmm… does that mean he’s part of the band?
The next band was also from Denmark, and my first impression was “they sound Danish”. Honestly, I have no clue what made their sound typical Danish (nor do I have any idea what typical Danish sound IS *g*). The band was Oh No Ono, and actually, I even knew one of their songs – which doesn’t mean I knew the band. They reminded me a bit of Casiokids. Just standing, hardly moving, pretty monotonic music… not quite my style. And it seemed that most people were thinking the same, as it was quite empty in front of the stage at that time.
Or maybe this was already because of the next band and people preparing for the BIG concert of the evening: Band of Horses. You don’t know them? Well, I didn’t either. But EVERYBODY in Norway does, and they really were the big highlight of the day for many. So people were really enjoying their concert. I found it was nice, but without knowing the songs (I had heard one on Norwegian radio though! *g*), I couldn’t quite figure out what makes them so special. It was nice music, well performed, but it didn’t really catch on for me.
Anyway, I think it would have taken a lot to take my mind away from the upcoming concert at that time. Because next up were Skambankt, who delivered a fantastic concert in front of an even more fantastic crowd! All about the concert here.
The headliner on Friday was The Prodigy. I’ve seen them before, twice even, and I always hated it – not because of the music which I find is quite suitable for festivals, but because it was impossible to listen to their concerts, as the bass was turned up so loud that it hurt. And not even in your ears, but in your whole body… It turned out though this time that it wasn’t too bad! The sound was absolutely okay, and I stayed almost until the end of their concert, even though I had planned to leave after five minutes. But no, I gotta admit, that was a fun concert! The crowd loved it as well – but it was obvious that there were a lot less people at the main concert than the day before.
The next day, like the first two, started in bright sunshine and warm temperatures, so that everybody arrived at the festival grounds early and everything started out very relaxed and happy. First up was Bare Egil Band. One guy with guitar and microphone, obviously quite funny, but I found out that my Norwegian might be sufficient for daily conversation, but not to understand what all this was about and whether it was good or bad. =;-)
That was much easier for me with the next band: Madcon! One of the few Norwegian bands of the festival which are known outside of Norway as well. In the beginning, it seemed like they had a hard time getting the audience to go along. They worked really hard though, making the audience scream again and again, splitting them into two groups and having them compete, making them jump – and it worked! The crowd was quite impressive for this time of the day, and it was obvious that everybody had fun. And rightfully so! Madcon seemed like the perfect band for that time and that crowd.
The next band, Tôg on the small stage, also had quite a few people in the audience. Not sure in which genre they should be placed – electro-alternative maybe? It was a nice mixture, in any case. At least from the musical side. Not sure why they all had black clothes and white scarves on their heads, that looked a bit silly. But it’s the music that counts, right? =;-)
Then we went back to the hip hop. Lars Vaular was another band where I knew only the name and nothing else – at least that’s what I thought. I did know their sunglasses song though. =;-) I watched their performance from the very back, so it’s hard for me to judge the reaction of the audience, but it seemed to me that they managed to capture the audience – but there weren’t as many people who let themselves capture as under Madcon’s concert.
While the main stage was turned into a hip hop stage, the small one now became the hardcore stage. I don’t like that genre, I can’t tell what is good or bad, but Purified in Blood were quite impressive. Less because of their music (it just sounded like “noise” to me), but because of the audience. There was actually a pretty big circle pit! OK, there’s circle pits at about every concert I see in Germany, but you can’t compare Germany and Norway in this respect. Honestly, I had never expected a real pit in Norway. But then I wasn’t surprised that it was _extremely_ aggressive in there. OK, it was nothing compared to later on, but before that…
… Thomas Dybdahl played on the main stage. Talk about different styles! =;-) Nice, melodic pop rock. The main stage audience seemed to like it. I found the concert quite nice, but I didn’t know any of the songs, and nothing really stuck.
So then it was time for Kvelertak on the small stage. Very similar to Purified in Blood, but more melodic and thus easier to listen to, in my opinion. But it might be that PiB is just as melodic, I just haven’t found the underlying melodies yet. =;-) I saw Kvelertak a few times as support for Skambankt, and while it’s not my kind of music, I have total respect for what they do on stage. I was pretty shocked by what was going on in front of the stage though. I’m quite used to seeing pogo pits, but that looked terribly aggressive. And I always thought people are in there together and not against one another… guess that doesn’t count for Norwegian pits, who knows. If I saw that correctly, it ended with the PiB singer being escorted out by the police… uhem.
For some reason, they were done fifteen minutes early (my guess was that they had planned for an encore, but people just left, but I don’t know whether that’s true), and then the waiting for Ozzy Osbourne began! I had seen him once before, in 1997 if I recall correctly. Don’t really remember anything from that concert except that it was raining and he covered “Singing in the rain”. =;-) Again, I didn’t really know any songs, just some fragments here and there, but it turned out to be an amazing concert! The audience was absolutely crazy, Ozzy was very friendly and entertaining, the music was great (well, except for the singing maybe – Ozzy was a bit off-key sometimes…), there was a foam sprayer and the first row, the securities and camera got covered in foam a few times, and Ozzy seemed very excited about the great audience. Honestly, that seemed a little bit fake to me… not sure why, because the audience was quite enthusiastic. But not really that loud, I thought. However, Ozzy seemed amazed and said he was amazed, so maybe he actually was. =;-) He played a really long set – almost two hours – and it seemed as if he would have continued if the hour hadn’t been after eleven, which was the strict curfew.
That definitely was a nice conclusion to a great festival. From what I read up to now, the sales weren’t as good as expected, so it’s not quite clear yet whether the festival will be repeated next year. I really hope so though, because it’s a great thing – and yep, every Norwegian town needs its own festival! Especially if it’s such a nice one. =:-)
Tags: a-ha, Band of Horses, Bare Egil Band, Casiokids, Karpe Diem, Kvelertak, Lars Vaular, Line Larsen, Madcon, Mew, Norway, Oh No Ono, Ozzy Osbourne, Purified in Blood, Rått og Råde, Review, Rub A Dubs, Skambankt, Stavanger, Susanne Sundfør, The Prodigy, Thomas Dybdahl, Tôg, Uncle Deadly