So Oslo

August 11, 2005

Oslo's annual Oya Festival is a celebration (bitches!) of Norway's rock and hip-hop (i.e. Norway's rock), an opportunity to show the world how mind-meldingly really real the country's music scene is. Don't ask how or why (we'll explain), but we're here, running around taking snappy snaps with our boy Neil Massey and keeping the internets blowing up with ALMOST-REAL ALMOST-LIVE REPORTAGE. Keep your eyes peeled, people, this shit lasts till Sunday and is gonna be...actually we have no idea what it's gonna be like. But we're psyched to find out.

The general idea seems to be as follows: get a bunch of big international bands like Franz Ferdinand, Babyshambles and Sonic Youth, then fill out the roster with the motherland's finest to try to get the yocals some runoff shine from the big name acts. Of course the festival isn't on the scale of Bonnaroo or Leeds or Glasto (projected attendance is a modest but respectable 10,000 a day), so it's not like there's a blizzard or even a flurry of activity at Norway's borders. Which is to say that the bulk of the crowd is made up of the fine people of Oslo (like, really fucking fine).

Which is also to say that any international shine then, of course, comes from the imported journalists - us intrepid hacks who are here on junket to give you the scoop on what's really happening in these Norway streets (as long as we can find time between licks of the blessed palms of Alex Kapranos and Pete Libertine. Of course nobody believes that Pete is actually gonna show up, but rumor has that he's already in Oslo. We've seen neither hide nor hair of him.)

Before the main outdoor venue opens, Oya starts off with a weird but rad club night, where every space in town that can fit a keg and a stage has a packed house and four or five lesser-known bands trying to become less lesser-known. After drinking a few of the country's lovely and insanely expensive local pilsners to ward off the jetlag, we got credentialed-up and headed over to Cafe Mono, which seems to be highly regarded for it's consistently long line at the door. We were just psyched that the bouncer at the door looked so much like a plump version of Hutz. The first band we semi-saw was Norway's Oppnedbass ("upside-down bass"), but really Cafe Mono has this rad courtyard garden that was packed with lovely young folks, so we were out there seeing and being seen for most of the set. The couple of songs we did catch were hilarious and bizzare—the band is a trio of older dudes punk-plunking through what sounds like an absurdist and kinna punk-like-Violent-Femmes-punk take on what may or may not be Norwegian traditional music.

The next two bands kinna set the tone for what we imagine Norwegian rock to be like—performative to the point of absurdity. During their last song, Quit Your Day Job's drummer bashed his crash cymbal with an assortment of drum sticks, all of them broken, while the frontman flailed his guitar and screamed "quit your day job" and the shirtless electro-keys player closed one ear with his finger like Jessica Simpson trying to find a note and just yelped like a retarded, bald cat. As they left the stage, the drummer gobbed a few into the crowd while cat-man stormed to the back of the bar, padding his sweating hands on the bare shoulders of every lady in his path and saying something in Norwegian.

Point Shirley, a band that had come recommended to us, was up next. The band launched into a kinna Franz Ferdie like dance thing with the new wave guitars and the UNTZ-UNTZ hi-hats, and then the lead singer jumped on stage wearing rolled-up jean shorts, a grey tank top, thin black suspenders and a scarf. He immediately started vogueing his pretty blond ass off, doing little mini scissor kicks and launching into figure-skater-like twirls. The band is tight and the songs are decent—basically the Scissor Sisters' A&R dude needs to get his ass in gear. We've always wondered if Mick Jagger preened around like that when the Stones were still just some band playing tiny bars, or if Howlin Pelle had the balls to act like an arrogant jackass to crowds of like 30 people. You just wonder if dudes wanted to be famous so bad that they were willing to just go ahead and start pretending they were famous, then let the fame itself come as it may. You also wonder if it'd be weird to watch. Now we know - the answers are "yes."

On the way home from the bar we struck up a conversation with a local band and their friends, who were rolling gear back into their rehearsal space, which they eventually invited us into for a look around, some pictures and a smoke. Through a garage door, past a courtyard and down some steps is a massive space that our man and his friend built by hand. They built the walls from scratch, soundproofed the whole shit, and added the super-stonedy wall papering. Prolly nicer than any rehearsal space we've ever been into, plus it's smack in the center or town, well-hidden, well-soundproofed and complete with a mini guitar shop. Seriously - it's hipster entrepreneurship at its finest, people. Get your money up.

Posted: August 11, 2005
So Oslo