Report: Torger Münzel
The festival season is nearly over, so one cannot be choosy where to go on a festival. Nearly last chance to see Kaizers: Periferifestivalen! But limiting the festival down to this, indeed excellent, concert would be a mistake, for it was quite some more.
Periferifestivalen is a very small festival, situated in Glesvær on the island Sotra, about 45 minutes drive southwest of Bergen. It was sold out, which meant that roughly 2500 people were there each day. The festival area was situated right within the dockside of the little fisher village, with fisher houses to the left and right, two lovely cafes and a boathouse, which made up one of the coziest venues I’ve ever seen (and they didn’t clean up much before…).
The main area had plenty of space though and was decorated with buoys hanging from the trees. There was no festival camping, but some visitors came by boat and there was, as far as I could see it, quite a party going on in the harbor. The weather was very good (Friday) and typically West-Norwegian (Saturday). Periferifestivalen is a unique and small festival, with a very intimate & friendly atmosphere.
Friday, August 24th
The festival started on Friday with just a handful of people showing up for Anja Viken. It seemed that many had decided to enjoy the good weather just a little more and thus missed this show. These people missed a performance that I personally enjoyed a lot. Anja Viken plays some decent Norwegian pop/rock, somehow reminding me of Avril Lavigne (which is rather a compliment for Avril than for Anja, I guess). The faster songs instantly made you bopping along while you could concentrate on Anja’s voice during the slower ones. The young Norwegian seemed to be rather shy with the audience, but that’s perfectly understandable when you have to open up a festival (and no one seems to take interest yet). Anja Viken was a pleasant surprise to start with and some of their songs (especially “Gatekredibilitet” and “Klæssar deg ned”) stuck in my head for quite some time.
After that I decided to go into the boathouse to watch at least some minutes of Stein og Mari, who played in a jazzy, blues, folk-music style. What I experienced then was a very unique concert. The duo managed to create an intense atmosphere, in which Mari’s voice merged beautiful with whatever instrument her partner just played (he changed a lot from guitar to mandolin, other string instruments and even to a zither in the end). But sometimes the songs were nearly too slow and quiet. So you could not only literally hear a pin drop, but even whenever somebody in the audience got a text message you could hear that very well, too. A very interesting and beautiful concert in the boathouse nevertheless and, what I didn’t know at the time, it was the only concert of the evening programs in the boat house where I was able to get in. The 200-300 spare places were usually taken long before a band started, and the queues outside were very long.
Next on the list was Lars Vaular, a rapper from Bergen, Spellemanspris winner, and, as many told me, the real co-headliner on Friday. He was eagerly awaited by his fans, and the main stage was packed for the first time. I’m not a big fan of rap music, but I have to admit that he got some catchy songs and the crowd, now containing mostly the younger parts of the audience, was enthusiastic. At least after Vaular played “Eg e fra Bergen” as third song (Some local patriotism had not harmed any artist, did it?), he had the hands up in the air and the crowd on his side. Vaular belongs to the gangsta rap genre, but the Norwegian version of that is far away from what is known from MTV. To me he seemed like a very nice, modest and likeable guy, and he and his fellow musicians obviously had some fun on stage. Especially Tarjei Strøm on the drums delivered quite a show as well. When the concert was over, the fans demanded Vaular’s hit single “Solbriller på” (and of course did not get it, as only the headliners were entitled to play encores) for some minutes before the crowd scattered.
I missed the next concert in the boathouse and decided to have a beer instead. While enjoying it, I got to know some Norwegians that were pretty undecided on the question “is the next band famous?”. (Quote: “Well you could know them if you knew Norwegian music well, but you really do not have to… They are kind of local heroes from the Bergen area, you know?”) They taught me that the next band, Jan Olav Nilsen & Gjengen, was mainly known for their kline-låt songs (make out songs). Well that seemed to be enough to fill up most of the space in front of the stage, but the atmosphere was kind of quiet and not so enthusiastic as you might think that it should be while the co-headliner performs. (And I did not see any people making out, thank God!) To me, Jan Olav Nilsen & Gjengen had a strong 80ies touch and reminded me a bit of The Cure there and a bit of U2 (80ies U2 that is, of course) here. It was a nice decent concert and many people enjoyed it, but there was not that jumping and celebrating that Kaizers or DumDum Boys managed to pull off. But maybe the audience wanted just to spare some energy for Kaizers Orchestra. 😉
With Kaizers, the first day of Periferifestivalen found a perfect ending. The report on them by Susi can be found on kaizers.konzertjunkie.com. I just have to add that Kaizers is the only band that gives me a smile on my face from the very first second of the intro until two or three days later, come what may…
Saturday, August 25th
After some improv in the boathouse (which was funny but would have probably been funnier if I had understood more Norwegian than I actually do), the first band to see was Jens Brun & De Hattmakers. They are a band for kids (and their parents) that plays classical pop/soul/funk songs, but rewrites the lyrics to make them more suitable for children. So James Brown’s “Sex Machine” became Kjeksmaskin (cookie machine), for example. I watched the Norwegian Raffi for some time and the kids loved it (or were told so, by their parents), but after 15 minutes of soul & funk I decided that I was either too young or too old for this and gladly turned my attention to the boathouse and the three young bands that were supposed to play there, each of them getting 15 minutes of time.
In the boathouse, I saw three very interesting concerts that I enjoyed a lot. Although all three bands being rock bands, they differed very much. Opening up were No Fuel, obviously the youngest of the three bands. The singer definitely is a future rock star to be, knowing how to entertain a stage. It didn’t matter to him that the audience, which seemed to consist mainly of parents and relatives, was seated and was probably not really knowing what was coming at it. No Fuel’s singer jumped around, high-fived the front row and just spread energy and a good mood. A very refreshing concert, and it was not a problem that the rock/punk rock played by No Fuel had some horrible transitions and other flaws since you should expect that from such a young band. Keep on rocking guys, you’re on the right track!
After three songs, No Fuel made way for Hvitmalt Gjerde. Susi and I had quite a discussion about that concert, as I found them to be really good, while Susi kind of disliked the behavior of the singer and the band. Musically it was a bit like Chuck Berry meeting Oasis. The singer was very energetic and conveyed a good rock’n’roll vibe. But while he was completely freaking out, the rest of the band seemed either bored or annoyed (or just nervous?). I think nevertheless that Hvitmalt Gjerde with their ability to sound 60ies and modern at the same time did an incredibly good job.
The last band in the boathouse was Grandma’s Tea Party, whom I liked from the beginning, as the first thing they did was to put some nice decoration on the stage (some flowers, tea, pictures and a cupboard – well they call themselves Grandma’s Tea Party for a reason!). The band appeared dressed up neatly in early 20th century style, that just brought some coolness on the stage naturally. Grandma’s Tea Party played some very decent indie rock, supported by a very good guitarist (who at one stage climbed the cupboard to play a solo. And guitarists climbing things are very well welcomed among Kaizers fans). It was catchy and musically flawless. The only thing you could criticize was the singer, who was just too shy and even too quiet for the music played around him. But maybe it was still the impression of the screaming Hvitmalt Gjerde singer, what led me to that conclusion.
I only took a swift look at Sgt. Petter med Band, which played some Southern Rock and had a tambourine player whose role in the band remained a mystery to me. But maybe we just came during the wrong song. It started to rain while they were playing, and nearly immediately, rain capes were offered by a nice old man walking around the main stage. (Big “Thumps up!” for that.) As it started to rain and as we were not too excited by what we heard anyway, we decided to go for a coffee break in the lovely café. With Sgt. Petter med Band, the day program ended and everybody had to leave the festival area for an hour. I passed the hour lying on the rocks above Glesvær harbor, dozing away to the sounds of the party taking place on the boats lying in the harbor. The fact that good old Freddie Mercury was played there with great endurance and loudness made it clear that the audience warming up for tonight’s concerts was notably older than yesterday.
Having really dozed away, I came too late to see Solveig Slettahjell, who played in the boathouse. But while I was waiting, Marit Larsen and her band were performing their sound check on the main stage, right in front of the handful of spectators who happened to be around by accident. I found it to be very interesting to see such a sound check (some of the songs got played for up to two minutes), and Marit Larsen, who either played guitar or piano, was smiling all the time, so she might have enjoyed it as well. After nearly half an hour she finished, went off the stage, just to get on again 10 minutes later. As it was still early in the day (6 pm), there were not as many people as I expected to be, but the ones who were there were very easily caught by Marit Larsen, her neat pop songs and the joy she and her band had on stage. Marit Larsen, best known for her hit “If a song could get me you”, is the Norwegian Queen of Pop, who plays radio-suitable, romantic pop songs. Though that might not be very unique, it is the joy and excitement that Marit Larsen conveys that made this concert special. You could see teenage boys, wearing some party shirts, dreaming away in the first row, enchanted by the music and Marit Larsen. There were a lot of smiling faces in the audience (notably male), and the whole gig was just very likable.
Next on the main stage was Magnet, which is the pseudonym of Bergen singer and songwriter Even Johansen. The festival guide recommended him as “having invented an own genre by himself”. That’s kind of true, but unfortunately I found that genre to be pretty boring. There is not much happening on- or off-stage during his performance, and the songs somehow tend to sound all alike. His folk/rock/song-writer music, with some electronic influence here and there, had some great lyrics and he created an intense wall of sound from time to time, but the last explosion, the last little bit to make a song exciting, was always missing. That did of course not bother the fans in the first few rows, who were enthusiastically waving signs and were cheering along. The rest of the crowd though reacted rather cool and was even irritated when Johansen imitated Janove Ottesen and the Kaizers-Halleluja scream. (I still do not know if that was supposed to be some mockery or some serious effort.) Halfway through the concert, I decided to go the boathouse to wait for Stein Torleif Bjella, but as many others also had this idea, the queue was already way too long. (There were even still more than hundred people queuing an hour later, when the Stein Torleif Bjella concert was supposed to finish in five minutes.) So I followed some more minutes of the Magnet concert, before we decided to have some pancakes in the warmth of the cafe and to wait for Sivert Høyem. In the café we came to talk to a nice Norwegian couple which was also very much looking forward to see Sivert. The big question that arose was “Will he play some old Madrugada songs?”, and we both were pretty sure that he probably wouldn’t. Well how wrong we were!
Since after some very weird intro (feat. German Krautrockers Amon Düül II, from the 70ies) and two rather unspectacular songs, Sivert Høyem played “Look away Lucifer”, which gave the whole concert a new direction. Before that, it seemed the crowd was reserved, maybe hoping for Madrugada songs but not knowing what to expect. After a first Madrugada song, it feeled like everybody was relieved and now able to really enjoy the concert. In the end, Høyem played three Madrugada songs, cleverly inserted at times when the mood of the crowd was lowering. Before “Majesty”, which was just magnificent and very well received, having all of the audience singing along, he sent away his band, explaining that the next song would be too difficult for them to play. After a very long and wild applause after “Majesty”, Sivert had a big smile on his face, which he kept from then on, throughout the entire show. “The kids are on high street” was the 3rd Madrugada song played, also wildly received by the crowd. But though he played these songs (and the crowd loved him for that), this was not a Madrugada concert and Høyem’s own songs, notably “Into the sea” or “Moon Landing”, led also to big singing and shouting. He performed with such an energy that it was really a pleasure to watch, and his incredible voice sounds better than ever. Høyem was supported by some of the finest Norwegian musicians (festival guide wrote: supergroup!) amongst others Catu Salsa on guitar and Christer Knutsen on guitar/keyboard.
Especially the latter made quite an interesting appearance. Musically absolutely brilliant he switched between keyboards and guitar and contributed a lot to the strong sound of the band. But being real rock’n’roll he looked pretty spaced out during most times of the concert and staggered across the stage during others. He definitely does not look healthy anymore…
Anyway, Sivert’s and his band’s performance on Periferi was great and you could also feel and see how pleased they were about this performance themselves. After the last song (“Red on maroon”), which he sang on his knees and with the microphone stand being thrown down the aisle, Sivert was smiling, bowing and waving and looked pretty happy. And so was I.
The honor to close the festival was given to the DumDum Boys, a true Norwegian institution difficult to compare with anything else. But after some thinking it seemed to us that every country has its own DumDum Boys: one hard rock/rock/punk band that has been there since 25+ years and has songs everybody knows since they were a little child. (In Germany this would suit for “Die Toten Hosen”.) Somebody told me: “They are a, no, THE partyband.” The concert and the music, which was probably the more entertaining the better you spoke Norwegian, was not entirely to my liking, as I thought some of the songs to be rather weak and monotonous. But the reaction the band had on the rest of the crowd was tremendous. Everybody, from teenager to grandma (yep, I had two lovely grandmas dancing next to me) was singing along, and especially the generation 40+ was really having a blast. From the very first row till the last people sitting on the green next to the FOH, everybody was shouting and singing to the well-known lyrics. The singer performed a classical rock show including all the hard rock poses one can imagine. He tore down his shirt to the end of the regular set, just to come with a new shirt to the encores, when he tore it down again. As I said before, the people really loved it and many said to me afterwards, that that was one of the best concerts they had seen in years. So although not my personal favorite, the DumDum Boys were a great last band for the festival and left everybody very happy.
So after two days out in the Norwegian wild we set sail southwards again (would be lovely to actually really come by boat – next time…). Tired but happy. Periferifestivalen was a wonderful experience, with friendly people, some very nice bands, an absolutely unique venue in the boathouse and a very lovely festival area in the middle of the village.