Way Out West is interminably hip. There’s no two ways about it. If you were to find yourself in a field in Berkshire during the Summer months, you’d probably be faced with a throng of fancy dress and over the top sartorial choices. Cute girls with cat faces and handsome lads in meggings would probably seem pretty normal. Not at Way Out West. No, less is definitely more.
The crowd at Way Out West (all of whom seem to be blessed with truly dazzling beauty) are an immaculate bunch. Not content with throwing on a daisy chain head-dress and getting mucky, you’ll find them draped in Moschino and Boy London holding court with vague indecision as the likes of Outkast and Slint played some of the best sets of their careers. Our best guess is that it’s a cultural thing, or that the bureaucratic restrictions for onsite drinking surely play a part in the majority of the crowd’s stillness and unwillingness to get involved. Then again, we get it, we’ve had countless internal conflicts over navigating a 1,000,000 strong crowd of fancy dress clad Henrys and Matildas, trudging through miles of muddy oblivion or staying home and just like, reading a book or something.
Still, we found ourselves awash with great music, and the site itself is gorgeous. Clouded by enormous trees, boutique stalls line the festival area’s driveway. They peddle everything from Vegan chicken burgers to high-end fashion. The driveway ends in a culmination of two huge stages facing one another. The arena is never silent for long, with bands taking over from each other almost without any gap. It’s this precision that makes Way Out West what it is; a reserved, charming, boutique festival with a line-up that rivals the world’s gaudiest, most repulsive mega-fests. In all fairness, the opportunity to see bands you could only see in swathes of rain and dickheads in a tiny field with 20,000 fairly relaxed revellers is actually a very special experience.
Aside from a positively electric set from Outkast who really got the crowd moving (we saw one girl tapping her feet rhythmically) and a typically off-kilter offering from Slint (who actually benefited from the crowd’s motionless gaze) the general rule on onsite music was one of reservation. Conor Oberst made his way through some of the greatest moments from his Bright Eyes career which only served to make songs like MOAB – a song that felt particularly poignant considering the recent allegations – sound as strong as anything he ever recorded with the band. Sharon Van Etten surpassed her mythically siren-like status as she smiled down on us with the same confidence and cool we see in her friends The National, who also impressed with their effortless alt-rock cool before Bill Callahan made us feel like we should be drinking all the whiskey and smoking all the cigarettes.
Headline sets from Röyskopp &Robyn and Queens of The Stone Age also provided a wildly euphoric counterpart for us, as we found ourselves singing along and dancing our way through supremely executed pop and rock. Apart from the music on site we were also overwhelmed by the festival’s commitment to greenness and cleanness. All food on site is vegan or vegetarian and the selection is brilliant, from pizza to churros and everything in between. There is also a no paper policy, so the programme is only available as an app. Bad news if you don’t have a smartphone, but y’know… you probably do.
Outside of the festival, the music continues each night in the town for Stay Out West. Whether you find yourself watching Kurt Vile in an opera house or Mac DeMarco in a theme park, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity and variation in the venues. Metz tore a hole in the legendary Gothenburg venue Pustervik, whilst Zebrakatz set at Gothenburg Film Studios was nothing less than dazzling; the 6 ft something master of experimental homo rap throwing his chiseled form across a stage in a giant warehouse was a spectacle that’s hard to explain but let us just say it was, in equal parts, heartwarming and turned the fuck up.
Our favourite show of the weekend came from Nils Frahm at the Opera House, an experience that challenged what we knew about classical music in classical environments. Frahm’s flirtatious banter encouraged the audience to laugh and feel at ease as his emotionally spellbinding compositions swept us off our feet. The final show of the weekend from our former cover star Kelela at Nefertiti was far from disappointing. Her glowing stage presence and emotional performance shone as she brought our weekend to a close with an RnB flecked bang.
Way Out West isn’t like a typical festival experience, booze devouring Brits abroad would probably do well to give it a miss, but for the discerning music fan or the party shy hipster, it might just be perfect. An airtight mix of Swedish precision and curatorial elegance that really takes flight at the city-wide after parties. Sitting against the beautiful backdrop of Gothenburg and smothered in sunshine, there’s really no reason to stay away for too long. Way Out West is fabulously curated, Gothenburg is exciting and it’s many, many young people are gorgeous, we only wish they’d lighten up and give the artists the energy they deserve.