The sprawling four-day Øya music festival is jam-packed with variety, with the promise to provide something for everyone in its gorgeous Tøyenparken setting. It’s Oslo’s answer to Glastonbury and Primavera. Øya is also absolutely stunning and unique in its own way. One of the things you’ll notice right away is just how clean it is. Since its inception in 1999, Øya has maintained its status as one of the most environmentally sound festivals in Norway, and gives visitors the opportunity to act in an environmentally conscious way as well. The festival organizers work hard to understand how they can maximize sustainability and have won numerous awards in doing so.
And you guessed it: 100% organic food! From local Oslo caterers! Norwegians don’t do crap festival food. In the tree-shaded designated food court, complete with live chickens for lessons on eco-friendly living and eating, there’s no sweaty kebab or cold, limp box of soggy chips in sight.
We begin with a press tour to the top of the Holmenkollbakken ski jump. We were told there would be a live set, but we weren’t told this is how Norwegian Grammy winner Thea Hjelmeland would arrive to serenade us with her banjo: in a harness, traveling up a ridiculously high zip-line.
There’s a nice balance to the curation of both Norwegian and international acts at Øya. Incidentally, we ran into Tyler, the Creator backstage. The leader of the disbanded shock-rap crew Odd Future and his cohorts stole a couch and put it on top of a trailer. (?) Then there are the Vikings. Real Vikings singing songs at gone midnight. We reached a clearing lit with firelight and sat cross-legged on a bridge over glassy water in the woods of Ekebergparken. ‘This is a goat horn. I’ll show you how it works,’ says Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik of Wardruna. Using replica instruments traditionally employed by the Vikings, the band brought the 10th century into the 21st.
We found the cool kids! Honningbarna—a five-piece punk band from Kristiansand—means “honey children” in Norwegian. They look like the boys of summer, don’t they? Widely touted as one of Norway’s most exciting musical exports in recent years, it’s easy to see why after catching their high-octane performance. Unfortunately, Edvard Valberg, vocalist and manic strummer of the most unlikely of punk instruments—the cello—was sporting a cast over his broken foot. Also, they donated all the booze money the festival gave them to charity. Yeah. We have dreams, too!
What’s left to say about Florence and the Machine? Can you imagine her doing anything else? It’s in her DNA and she fucking nails it every time. Performing before a huge glitterball, it was an emotional headline slot at Øya. Speaking of her battles with alcoholism and having a breakdown prior to the release of her last LP, Welch told the crowd, ‘You’re the reason it all happened. With you, it all becomes joyful.’ Also, did you know she’s naturally a brunette? We’ve been had!
As for our favorite “discovery” at the festival, here is Norwegian songstress Susanne Sundfør:
‘Is this the sound of your heart?’ pines Sundfør on the bubbling, elegiac grace of “Fade Away”. Øya marked the biggest gig in Sundfør’s career so far. With six albums to her name (some topping the Norwegian charts) and having collaborated with the likes of M83 and Röyksopp, her influence on bringing credibility to the dance floor over the past decade is never in question. She stood neck and neck with the likes of Beck, Florence and the Machine and Nile Rodgers as bill-toppers this year. There’s a universal language to Sundfør’s soulful disco that ranks her among the rarest of talents, and one capable of compelling and converting even the most casual passersby. Sullen anthems are what Scandinavians do exceedingly well and it’s quite fitting that Norway’s premier music festival ended on such a high note with the queen of their homegrown talent.
Browse our gallery for a more detailed look at our festival experience, also featuring CHIC, Future Islands, Lianne La Havas, Taake, Sauropod, Sondre Lerche, and Years & Years!