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Coinciding with the final days of the local students’ holidays, you sense the electricity across the city of Oslo in the lead-up to Øya festival.
Previously residing in the city’s medieval park on an island in Oslo’s breathtaking fjord, Øya festival has been nestled in Oslo’s pretty inner city Tøyen park since 2014, with a late night club program spilling across the city’s venues. Although Chance The Rapper pulled out of the festival back in May citing scheduling conflicts, this year Øya bounced back, booking huge names to play the relatively small site. Norway's population is just less than that of London, making these billings all the more impressive.
As the festival gates opened for the 2017 edition of Øya, the heavens opened and heavy downpours set in for the first day. Festival-goers in plastic ponchos squeezed into the nearest sheltered tent stage, which played host to the pealing vocals of former Gossip frontperson Beth Ditto. If you braved the torrential conditions to cross the park, Roy Ayers’ blissful sunshine sounds awaited. The disparity was striking, but what had the potential to be a first day wash-out didn’t faze the Øya crowd, who arrived well prepared for the elements. Switching festival bucket hats for fisherman's hats, this was a crowd more than happy to take on the storm.
Atlanta rap trio Migos took to the main stage next. A boisterous crowd broke into waves of mosh pits, peaking for early fan favorite "Hannah Montana" and "Bad and Boujee." Across the park, Young Thug kept Atlanta on top, opening with melodic EBBTG material that was assisted by English singer Millie Go Lightly, before riling up his crowd to stratospheric levels by bringing out Quavo for "Pick Up The Phone," then all of Migos to re-up "Bad and Boujee."
The storm clouds finally parted for the sunset slot filled by Lana Del Rey, who’s soaring catalogue of hits captivated with effortless charisma. Lana met the gaze of her audience in Oslo, stopping to take selfies with fans and offering the mic out for a thundering sing-along to "Blue Jeans." Lana also dipped into darker moments from her archive, including the title track off Ultraviolence and "Shades of Cool." It was hard not to leave the site entirely mesmerized by her vocals, her band and a 20-foot "Music to Watch Boys To" neon pink sign.
Aside from flying in an international roster of heavyweight headliners, the festival spotlights local Norwegian talent. From Sigrid, one of the country’s biggest pop exports, to radio favorite Silja Sol and Norwegian hip hop crew Hester V75, the home crowd came out to support their local talent.
Oslo-based boy band Rytmeklubben headlined the festival’s warm-up evening of Øyanatt, an eclectic program of afterparties. Consisting of four DJs and producers, their sincere brand of pop remixes and R&B bangers sprinkled with sugary female vocals leaves them perfectly poised to dominate summer playlists. And with a line snaking out around the block outside club Dattera til Hagen, they certainly have a solid fanbase behind them. One member of the crew, Henrik the Artist, was later spotted out amongst the crowd for Young MA’s fiery set.
Fresh from their much-hyped Dekmantel back-to-back set, Discwoman DJs Umfang and Volvox each brought searing techno selections to the dark confines of Øya’s dance tent, Hi-Fi Klubben. The same spot played host to the ambient sounds of experimentalist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, as well as Marie Davidson, a reminder that aside from blockbuster bookings, the festival boasts a smart and inventive line-up.
Notably absent in the darker corners of Øya were the ravers you might come to expect from frequenting dancefloors across Europe. And with bar prices eye-wateringly high, frugality really pays. If pills and cheap beers are your thing, then this isn’t the festival for you. But, if the opportunity to get up-close to headliners like The xx, Pixies, and an opportunity to discover something new alongside sounds appealing, then Øya has plenty to offer.
Scrolling through social media after the festival, you might catch a wave of deja vu. Øya, Way Out West in Gothenburg and Helsinki’s Flow festival all occur on the same weekend and share a good proportion of acts. And while it’s not unusual for European festivals to split costs to ensure big US names, it goes some way to explain how they'd pulled all this off for a crowd of just 60,000.