After I spent basically every weekend this summer at some festival in Germany, I finally made it to Norway now for… a festival, of course. =;-) Festivals in Norway are interesting: pretty tiny (compared to German festivals), a line-up ranging from “very local and unknown band” to “international star”, very cozy and nice with people really “living” for their festival. So in a way you can compare Norwegian festivals to some of the really tiny German festivals, just that there are much bigger bands playing at the Norwegian festivals.
This year, I decided to go to Kartfestivalen – the line-up was nice and interesting, and the festival wasn’t too hard to get to with only a 2-hour drive from Oslo. Gvarv, where the festival took place, is a tiny little town right next to Bø in Telemark. So there wasn’t really anything else to do in the area – but that didn’t matter; we spent a great weekend at the festival!
When we got to Gvarv, it had already been raining for quite a while. Grr… not the way you want to start a festival, of course! But well, Skambankt would be playing, so we got out our rain coats and umbrellas and got going. The first impression of the festival grounds was very positive: Not too big (but actually impressively big for a festival in a town of this size!), two stages (a tiny one where the first bands of the day played and a “normal” one for the main acts), some food stands of course and a lot of tables and benches to sit down – all under a tent roof, so that was perfect with all the rain.
The only downside (except for the rain, of course, but that’s not in the responsibility of the festival organizers…) was the food and drinks. Food and beer was ecological – I think it’s a great idea to have such a motto for a festival, and especially to really stick to it for everything that is on offer. But then, the choice was fairly limited. For the food, it wasn’t that bad (even though I have to admit I didn’t really like it, but that’s a matter of taste of course), but with drinks? There was beer, wine, coffee, and water. Pretty limited if you have to drive afterwards… OK, there was also apple juice, but it was out the second day. =:-(
Well, to make up for that, there was a supermarket and a gas station right next to the festival grounds, so you could get something from there – but that’s not really the way it’s supposed to be, and I felt a bit bad getting my drinks there. I’d rather supported the festival by buying stuff on the festival grounds, but that wasn’t possible, unfortunately.
OK, so back to the festival itself. We got there at the time when the second band of the day, Ellen M Trio, was just finishing their set, so unfortunately I can’t really report about them. Next up was And her name was Frank, followed by Lemmy Caution Strikes Back. Both sounded pretty nice, but the rain ruined their concerts a bit. There weren’t really a lot of people in the audience yet – those who had ventured to the festival grounds already were mostly seeking cover under the roof.
But then, everybody seemed to accept the rain. Lady Moscow played on the main scene, and even though there weren’t that many people there yet, those who were decided to ignore the rain and see what was going on on stage. And that was a good decision, because Lady Moscow played a great concert and managed to get the audience involved! From what I had read before, I placed them somewhere between Kaizers Orchestra and Tom Waits, which wasn’t that far off. Not that much Kaizers actually, but some unusual instruments; they had a stand-up bass, accordeon, and violin. And yep, the singer undoubtably likes Tom Waits. =;-) A very nice performance!
After that, more and more people arrived, so that it filled up very nicely in front of the stage before the next concert. Because then it was time for the “Kings of rock” (as the announcer called them): Skambankt! I really loved the concert, and the atmosphere was great – the audience seemed to really have fun throughout the show, which is just the way it’s got to be! You can read a detailed report about the Skambankt concert here.
The headliner of the first day was Big Bang then. I gotta admit that I’m not that fond of them – I’ve seen them twice at some other festivals, and I was always pretty bored. This time, they did surprise me though; I enjoyed the concert quite a bit! Again, it was pretty crowded in front of the stage, despite the rain, and the atmosphere was really nice. I would have expected a bit more enthusiasm from the crowd maybe, but well, everybody was cold and wet after all. And when Big Bang finished up with “Prettiest girl in Oslo”, everybody was celebrating and having a great time.
After that, it was time to get back to our cabin at Beverøya camping (didn’t see any beavers though, he he) and dry up. The next day, we woke up to really nice, warm, and sunny weather – yay, that’s the weather you want to have at a festival, not the stupid rain!
The festival day actually started with some free concerts downtown. OK, as much “downtown” as you can expect from a tiny little town like Gvarv, I mean. =;-) But hey, that sounds so negative, but I really don’t mean it like that. It was a great way to start the festival day, and it was very very cozy – at the town square, with a tiny improvised stage, some seats in front of it, a little café and great sunshine. And it actually got quite crowded after a while! First up was Raven Coloured Love, who also played at the festival lateron, playing some acoustic cover songs. Next was Ugrass, a band formed just for this occasion, playing some country/western/bluegrass style songs. And last but not least it was time for Roy Lønhøiden, a singer/songwriter that I actually knew from my Norwegian class. =;-) All in all, this was a great start for the festival day – a nice and cozy get-together on the town square, involving not only the people who came for the festival, but all Gvarv inhabitants, no matter whether they cared for the rest of the festival or not.
Shortly after, the “real” festival started again. It seemed to me a bit like I was seeing two completely different festivals those two days. Now, the sun was out, it remained dry troughout the evening, and even though it got quite cold at night, this was the perfect festival weather. And of course that left its traces on the audience as well, and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The first band on the small stage was Bad Hair Day, a very young band from the area, with one of their first “big” concerts, I assume. They did a great job! Of course there’s room for improvement and they seemed to feel quite insecure on stage, but they knew how to play their instruments and had their own songs even. Just that maybe “When I was young I found a river of wisdom” is not exactly the right topic for a teenager band… =;-) But it was a nice gig!
Next up was May Kristin Steffensen, alone on stage with her guitar. She did a few very nice songs in singer/songwriter style, before Raven Coloured Love had their turn again. Actually, I liked their acoustic cover set a bit better, but they played some nice and energetic rock music now – with their own songs this time. For both of these concerts, it was a bit of a pity that there were so few people in the audience. But those who were at the festival grounds already enjoyed themselves.
We missed Emma Ejwertz after that but were back in time for Tellusalie (by the way, the name makes sense, if you look at it again *g*). I have to admit though that they didn’t leave an impression, even though they had some strange instruments. I do remember the tree that was used as percussion instrument though. I felt sorry for it. =;-)
Then it was time for the highlights of the night. First up: Katzenjammer! I don’t have to write much about the four girls, I guess – they are just amazing, and they manage to conquer any audience within minutes. I’ve seen them play in Germany a lot lately, and somehow, this was the complete opposite. In Germany, they are playing in tiny clubs that are crammed with people who know they have to expect something weird (but great!). Here, there were a few people (actually quite a few, ’cause it started to fill up again) who had probably heard the name Katzenjammer but had no clue what to expect. So at first, everybody was just watching. Then for the next two or three songs, everyone was astounded and… amused. People were actually laughing at the band! But in a very nice way. =:-) And then Katzenjammer had won, and everybody was cheering, dancing and singing. I LOVE it when that happens and a band just takes over! And Katzenjammer so deserve it. Especially ’cause they had to cut down on their set, as it seemed Jethro Tull wanted more time…
The whole day, there had been lots of people around wearing Jethro Tull t-shirts, so it was clear who the headliner of the day would be. Or well, honestly I was always confused as soon as his name was mentioned. It took me a while to figure out why everybody was talking about some guy called Jedro Tyll, uhem. *g* Honestly, I didn’t expect much from that concert. Of course I knew “Bourrée”, and since I play the flute as well I had of course stumbled across Jethro Tull, but yeah… well, overrated. And when the strict regulations were announced – no smoking in front of the stage and a 100% photo ban (thus no Jethro Tull pictures) -, that only confirmed my attitude towards him. The typical snotty, arrogant rock star… pff.
I was mistaken. I was sooo mistaken! The concert was absolutely amazing. Perfectly performed, very varied and entertaining. I just didn’t get the “standing on one leg” thing. Maybe I oughta try it… =;-) And no, neither snotty nor arrogant, the guy came across very very likeable. And humorous! After the first two songs he announced: “Okay, these songs were from 1968 and 1969. But don’t be afraid that we’ll play only this old stuff, no, by far not! The next song is from 1971…” *rofl* And so on and so on. Perfectly entertaining and absolutely awesome. Can you tell I was amazed? =;-)
Jethro Tull was the headliner, but not the last artist of the evening. As last band, Grand Island went on stage. I saw them as support for Kaizers Orchestra earlier this year and had gotten the latest album right away – and fallen in love with it. So I enjoyed the concert a lot; and I wasn’t the only one! A lot of people had gone home already, so it really wasn’t crowded anymore, but all the people who were still there were really enjoying themselves. There was line dancing, singing, screaming, … the perfect conclusion for the festival!
So all in all I can just say: yeah! That was a really really nice festival. The weather the first day was stupid, but well, nothing anyone could do about it. And the organizers did the best they could – there was cover, there was no mud, and there were rain ponchos on sale. =;-) Everybody, also the people who were working, seemed to be enjoying themselves, the atmosphere was very friendly, and the program was great. Two thumbs up!