In Oslo you can go on a boat ride down a fjord. The ferry will drop you on a small island where all the houses were donated by the government to working class families in the early twentieth century. You pee in the woods and swim off a dock. There is a beach made of blue seashells and the water is warm. If you are lucky, someone serves you barbeque, cucumber tzadziki, and gives you beer. It’s probably sunny and I bet there is a porch. You will talk to people with very definitive bone structure and beautiful skin. You will also see a lot of music, because there is probably a big festival called Oya that flew you here because they wanted to know what you thought. I think many things here are some of them.
The first thing I think is that you don’t have to jam your fingers in your ears in Norway because they have free earplugs at all the bars. I know this because while I watched the duo Monolithic at a club show the first night of the festival I had my fingers jammed in my ears and someone told me I was silly to do so. She also said if you work in a club the government requires you to have your ears checked once a year. "Wow," I said, "it’s nice to live somewhere the government cares preventatively," and then because I am from the United States and cannot comprehend that, I balled up a piece of tissue from my shirt pocket and put it in my ears. Monolithic was still very loud. Regardless, I was happy to watch them because their drummer plays fast. Here is a video of his feet:
Also that evening was a sort of grindcore band, Arabrot, who had big fuzzy rebellious teenage hair and a generally dirty feeling. The guitar player also had no shirt and Hugo Boss underwear. After they finished, Cock ESP was scheduled to play a ten-minute set, which they did. A girl wearing sunglasses at night in a dark club described it was being a performance, and was about more than just music, and she was correct. Cock ESP was a tall man in a military jacket and crappy horse mask, an extremely obese man in a full body spandex suit with tiny American flags all over print and a black woman in a full white birka flying a Confederate flag. They put up a banner that said American Noise Rocks! And then the birka came off to reveal a red one-piece stripper outfit. Then she jumped off the stage several times yelling about America’s total sweetness while the two dudes made something that sounded like a computer overheating. The “music” (yeah, I said “music”) ended and she jumped off the stage again, hit a guy in the face and knocked him over. He stood up bleeding and pissed. She didn’t notice.
The next day, Wednesday, the festival began with Boredoms on the mid-sized stage, Sjosiden. Similar to the 77BOADRUM last month, Eye, wearing a bamboo hat with a yin/yang (8/8/08?!) played his rack of guitar necks, though this time gingerly, like a dainty painter. The three drummers, of which Yoshimi is obviously my total favorite and the most adorable, blasted through with jazz stance and professional finesse while Eye stroked strings and did something with an orb. Then, somehow totally randomly and perfectly planned, they began to play something which I can only describe as tropical disco with Yoshimi turned around in her drum stool playing keyboards and singing a diva serenade. Then they eased back into total blast, but not before Yoshimi played a bunch of pedals like a foot theremin, never touching anything physical. I think Eye said the word “sun” five billion times and they finished. I was pretty much ready to go home after that but instead I stuck around and watched, over the course of four days, every other band that has ever existed.
Staying on the non-Euro tip I then saw surprise crowd favorite Tinariwen, a Malian guitar based group. Teenage Norwegian girls with dreadlocks really like them. I wonder if Tinariwen would have guessed that? Also feeling Tinariwen was the very old Malian man who was in Tinariwen. His job was sometimes to sing, but mostly to dance. Wearing the Tinariwen uniform of a blue crushed velvet looking robe and white headscarf he looked like my great uncle at a fun Bar Mitzvah, except way more handsome than any Jew ever. For better or for worse, it would not be unapt to describe Tinariwen as a sort of jam band, half African blues half total enthusiasm for jammed out riff bliss. “Welcome to the desert” they said from the stage and though I’m probably not trying to live in the desert, right then I wished maybe I was.
Lionheart Brothers from Oslo looked like rockstars from Europe, which is probably what they will become with a little practice. Fancy lad music, they looked like hip sailors and played chest puffed power rock with licks. It was okay.
Bonde do Role were Bonde do Role, which is to say that everyone in Norway wanted to be the air they were humping. They made fun of Amy Winehouse for canceling, “Tried to make me go to Norway/I said ‘No, no no,” and people went bananas.
Kim Hiorthoy, who is somewhat of a Norwegian renaissance man (though he lives part time in Germany) performed with Paal Nilssen-Love, a free jazz drummer and occasional Sonic Youth collaborator. It rained during his set so I missed the first half of it trying to pull a large plastic bag over my entire body (the umbrella I had with me was no good because the security guards consider umbrellas weapons and take them away from you). When I was finally waterproof I caught a very excited dude jamming out a lot of things with buttons while PNL went to town on some scrap metal and a trap kit. In Norway people love Kim Hiorthoy and they are right to; dude is like your best friend from the dorm who you’d see every day and he’d be like “check this out” and show you how to shred super hard at Tony Hawk 14 on PSP or whatever except instead of video games it’s like “check out how I made fourteen albums, multiple books, designed a bunch of very impressive graphics and live internationally." He looks the same as the regular dorm guy, though, which is kind of endearing.