Øya seems to be Norway’s most renowned music festival, bringing outrageously good line-ups to Oslo’s city centre Tøyen Park and hosting stylish club nights across the city. It’s a slickly-organised event which swerves the grimier aspects of most European festivals for good, clean fun. Check out our five takeaways from 2017’s event to see if it’s for you.
Atlanta won Wednesday
Øya properly kicks off on the Wednesday, and this year’s back-to-back billing of Migos and Young Thug created a huge buzz, proving that the global demand for Atlanta rap continues to grow. Despite Norway’s widespread love for metal, by and large the Norwegians don’t mosh to rock genres – but they do go wild for a trap beat.
Thousands of fresh-faced teenagers gathered at the mainstage for Migos, opening up a massive pit for the trio’s intense 2 Chainz collab Deadz early in the set. You can probably imagine how Bad and Boujee went down. Over at the Sirkus tent, Young Thug took a little longer to warm up. British collaborator Millie Go Lightly joined Thugger on stage to sing her parts of the country-tinged Family Don’t Matter and the uncharacteristically conventional track She Wanna Party from his pop-orientated Beautiful Thugger Girls LP. But it was comparatively stripped-back Barter 6 classics like Best Friend and Check which really going the crowd going. Then, as we’d hoped, Quavo came on stage to perform his Pick Up The Phone verse, while Offset and Takeoff emerged for another go at Bad and Boujee – with most the crowd mustering up the same raucous energy for the anthem they had less than an hour ago.
These sets probably provoked the most energetic crowd response of the entire festival, but there’s one major problem with both Migos and Young Thug’s performance styles: both acts rely so heavily on vocal backing tracks that their actual voices are sometimes totally drowned out. The thing is, while Thug’s slippery slurps and squeals might struggle to cut through the bass of festival speaker stacks, when Migos cut the backing track their voices sound great. Have a little more confidence lads!
Pixies have still (just about) got it
Recent years have been dispiriting for Pixies fans. In 2013, everyone’s fave Kim Deal left the band, and replacement bassist/backing vocalist Kim Shattuck was abruptly kicked out within months. The reviews for their new material since have ranged from lukewarm to scathing (although I’d argue Head Carrier is a decent record). But despite an absence of stage banter, they’re still a great live band. The melancholic sleaze of Hey still makes for a strangely great festival singalong, 2014 track is Madgelina is as great as the old stuff and closer Into The White sees bassist Paz Lenchatin takes lead vocals as smoke machines completely submerge the band completely before they disappear. Way more fun than I’d anticipated.
Oslo is lovely, but it's eye-wateringly expensive
Øya is an excellent festival Oslo is a cool city, but if you’re coming from the UK this is going to be a pricey trip. A large beer, for example, generally seems to cost about a tenner. I’m not saying it’s not worth the cash if you’ve got it, but if you go make sure to stock up on duty free booze on the way, as hotel pre-drinking is essential.
It's good for electronic music, but not the sesh
Guitar bands, trendy Scandinavian pop acts and rappers tend to fill the larger stages at Øya, but there’s still a lot of love for electronic music. The Hi-Fi Klubben is a cosy tent tucked in the corner of the site which boasts a quality soundsystem. Wednesday afternoon saw Discwoman represent with sets from Umfang and Volvox, while on the sunny Saturday Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith cooled down a mature crowd with ambient synth textures and soothing new age visuals. The Øya night programme was also an incentive to explore Oslo’s clubs, with the likes of Kornêl Kovács, Baba Stiltz, Antal and Serbian DJ Tijana T being booked across the city. While we’re here, it’s probably worth mentioning that – aside from the very occasional waft of weed smoke – there’s little evidence of casual drug use among the Norwegian crowds. Presumably, naughty substances cost a fortune too.
The headliners are massive, but the vibe is chill
Øya’s line-up took a blow back in May when Chance The Rapper pulled his Europe summer dates due to “scheduling conflicts”. That said, with Lana Del Rey, The xx and Pixies headlining Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively, Chance was hardly missed. Anyone who’s attended a major UK festival will be familiar with the discomfort endured to get a good glimpse of a big headline act – apologetically squeezing through a packed crowd and forfeiting the hope of toilet breaks or a trip to the bar. In comparison, Øya’s mainstage feels intimate – with a reasonable capacity making it easy to slip into the crowd mid set and the grassy hill opposite offering those of a shorter stature a decent view. Perfect.