From Florence + Beck to Susanne Sundfor, Slutface + Emilie Nicolas - the best from Oslo
Andrew Trendell and Liz Hainsworth

20:38 17th August 2015

Gigwise spent a week over in the Norwegian haven of Oslo for the 16th edition of Oya Festival. With one of the finest line-ups of the summer, it was only ever going to be nothing short of life-changing. 

These are the 26 greatest things we experienced at Oya Festival 2015. 

1. Susanne Sundfør is an absolute Goddess
"Is this the sound of your heart?" pines Susanne Sundfør on the bubbling elegiac grace of 'Fade Away'. Judging by the collective dumbstruck awe in which the masses stand, one could well hear a pin drop or the thud of a heartbeat in between the majestic blasts of pristine electropop and the wild screams of adulation. 

This is by far the biggest gig of Sundfør's career so far. With six albums to her name (numerous topping the Norwegian charts) and having collaborated with the likes of  M83 and Royksopp, her influence on bringing credibility to the dancefloor over the last decade is never in question. She stands neck and neck with the likes of Beck, Florence + The Machine and Nile Rodgers as bill-toppers this week, and while they may throw a great deal more weight internationally, there is an undeniable universal language to her majestic and soulful disco that makes that ranks her among the rarest of talents - and one capable of compelling and converting even the most casual of passers by.

There is never a lull in Sundfør's epic closing set. Whether during the cinematic ghosthouse chill of 'Accelerate', the much fuller sound of her devastating rendition of Lykke Li's 'Never Gonna Love Again', the gut-wrenching stillness inspired by 'The Brother' or the decadent disco and infectious lust of 'Delirious', she may be holding us captive with a tender piano solo or spreading reckless dancefloor abandon with a wink and a grind, but she remains resplendent throughout.

It's quite fitting that Norway's premiere festival ended on a high with the queen of their homegrown talent. Should she ask again, this is the sound of falling in love. 

Photo: Oya press/Ihne Pedersen 

2. Slutface are your new favourite band
We must admit, we went to see this band based purely on the name alone. What we discovered may well just be the best new band we've heard in a long, long time. 

In the sweltering and blinding midday Oslo sun, frontwoman Haley Shea sings about "bright lights shining in my eyes, take me away from the edge of the stage", we can relate. With the riot-grrrl attitude of Sleater-Kinney met with the pure rush of Blood Red Shoes, the emerging Norwegian quartet Slutface throw out infectious pop punk riffs and irresistible choruses that demand every moment of your attention. 

Using every inch of the stage and more,  Haley brings her punky Brody Dalle approach  square into your face for the brilliant 'Bad Party' from 2014 EP We're Just OK. Telling us the story of going to a guys house, and finding him there with another girl, she launches herself into the crowd, surfing like a pro.

'Call To Arms' begins with the caveat that we must sing along, not a problem. Calling upon the audience to participate in the show as much as possible, being a passive listener is not an option. Saving all their energy for the furious closer of 'Angst', the result is pure a adrenaline-filled full stop from a band who you're soon to hear so, so much from. 

We have seen the future, and its name is Slutface.

3. Beck is welcome round our place, any time
"If anybody has a kitchen floor, we'd love a place to crash tonight," says Beck, casually sauntering the stage. Indeed, that would seem like the ultimate end to the night. With the collected cool in which he plays master of ceremony and the sheer and staggering range of good time alt-rock classics that get us moving, this feels like the ultimate college party. This is Beck's house, and you're all invited. 

Opening with 'Devil's Haircut', the classics came in thick and fast. Held together by elastic dance moves and exquisite showmanship, Beck and co turn the sunset hours of Oslo into one hell of a disco carnival. The ageless twisted charm of 'Black Tambourine', 'The  New Pollution', 'Loser' and 'Hell Yes' rank Beck as an artist in a class of his own, and this was just in the first half an hour. 

Soulful cuts from the Grammy-winning Morning Phase provide tender respite as  'Blue Moon', 'Lost Cause' and 'Wave' soulfully tug at the heartstrings as the twilight hour sets in, before the party returns in full swing with explosive renditions of new single and ultimate summer jam 'Dreams', 'Girl' and a raunchy rush of 'Sexx Laws'. 

Returning with a costume change into a pure white suit, Beck sensually ran through a version of 'Debra' that would have made Prince blush, before getting up close and personal for one hell of a finale - revealing that Norway is his true homeland, after his great, great grandfather 'jumped off a boat and swam to Brooklyn'. The reception suggests there are quite a few Hanssens in the house tonight. We all feel like family. 

"I feel so comfortable with you right now," he croons before sprawling himself across the floor during a breakdown of 'Where It's At', "I just wanna sit here and be with you."  

He can crash on our kitchen floor any time. 

Photo: WENN

4. Father John Misty is the ultimate lounge lizard
"This is gunna be easy," dryly smiles FJM at the hollering fittingly near-religious fervour of the masses following opener 'I Love You, Honeybear'. "You people are up for anything."

Indeed we were, all the liquid-limbed lounge lizard lothario slinked and darted across the stage for a faultless set which he confesses is 'designed for maximum panty moisture'. The wide-eyed screaming love from the many men and women gathered suggests his mission may well have been accomplished.

It's one thing to just roll through the cuts of what may very well be 2015's best album, but as a showman Joshua Tillman simply couldn't give any more. The sheer abandon he displays as he twirls his mic stand, invades the crowd, films himself of fans' phones, flirts with the front rows and maniacally rolls across the floor and squawks at the climax of 'The Ideal Husband' calls to mind the likes of Nick Cave and Iggy Pop at their most unhinged, but FJM wraps it up in a classy chaos all of his own.

This may well have been the best live set we've experienced this year.

Photo: Liz Hainsworth

5. All Norwegians are beautiful
It's commented on by the majority of bands from stage, but it must be said - they either cull all ugly babies at birth or there's some miracle element in the water, cast into the Fjords by magic many centuries ago. Either way, the immaculate appearance coupled with the embrace of the constant hospitality and good manner of the Norwegian people makes them a true pleasure to be in the presence of. We're told that there have been no arrests during Oya's 16 year history, and it's easy to believe - but difficult to imagine being able to say that of any UK festival. 

Photo: Oya Press/Erik Moholdt

6. Florence is now a natural-born headliner
The cynics and trolls swarmed to Twitter when Flo was announced to replace Foo Fighters at Glastonbury Festival. With just a few twirls of her hips, she'd already silenced the critics. Here at Oya, it's ever more clear that headlining festivals is in her DNA. 

Performing before a huge glitterball backdrop, Florence Welch twirled and darted across the stage as she led her band, complete with horns and choir, through a career-spanning set - drawing heavily on 2015's How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. 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".

The joy is all ours. 

Photo: Oya Press/Anna Lerheim Ask

7. Learn the name: Emilie Nicolas
We approach the stage for Emilie Nicolas again awaiting an unknown quantity and to sample a local delicacy.

With the dark pop-noir melodrama of Lykke Li and the streetwise sass and beats of Banks, it could be easy for Nicolas to disappear in a seemingly endless sea of sultry songstresses, but the fact of the matter is that there's a piercing edge to this rising Norwegian star that puts her in a league of her own. 

We're reliably informed that she rammed the more intimate Sirkus tent at Oya to the rafters off the back of just two EPs. Now, with a No.1 album in Norway to her name, she finds herself among headliners on the main stage. From the building Portishead-esque glitch beats building to the face-melting doom-rave crescendo on 'Fail' through to the crystalline brilliance of 'Pstereo', it's inevitable that she'll conquer the world, having won her nation's hearts.

With fit-inducing laser light show and catalogue already with the staggering consistency worthy of an artist twice or thrice her years, it seems as if Nicolas arrived on this artist as an artist fully-formed. We found her by a wonderfully happy accident, now do all that you can to make her part of your life at once. 

Photo: Oya Press/Ihne Pedersen

8. Nile Rodgers probably wrote this song
Drawing on an epic catalogue of disco classics, as well as an utterly bewildering range of collaborations and modern hits, it's most dumbfounding that these were all written under Rodgers' umbrella - and he won't let you forget it.

The likes of 'Everybody Dance', 'He's The Greatest Dancer', 'We Are Family' and 'Lost In Music' saw the Norwegians finally throw caution to the wind and lose themselves to dance, but it was the likes of Madonna's 'Like A Virgin' and David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' that unified all of Oslo in sheer disco abandon.

The night reached an emotional climax when he told the story of how his battle with cancer led him to work with Daft Punk and Pharrell on Random Access Memories, before bursting into a soul-tinged explosion of 'Get Lucky'. Cancer free, full of vim and at the absolute peak of his powers, Nile Rodgers truly is invincible. He's made of music.

Photo: Oya Press/Johannes Granseth

9. Courtney Barnett is the queen of all festivals
With the laissez-faire flow of her smouldering grunge-pop and the easy-going nature of her stage presence, Barnett is resplendent as one of the most magnetic talents you could hope to see this summer.

Drawing on cuts from her Sea Of Split Peas double EP and astounding 2015 debut album, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett effortlessly blends the raw aggression of Nirvana, the dry class of Pavement and a playful poetry all of her own. Many who try to add a touch of the wistful to rock end up with something quite contrived, but from her banter to the ease with which she wraps herself around the twisted charisma of 'Dead Fox', 'Depreston', 'Avant Gardner' and 'Pedestrian At Best' before clawing at her howling guitar on hands and knees, Barnett is only ever herself.

She is without doubt an utterly natural talent, and if she maintains this consistency, a legend in the making.

Photo: Oya Press/Erik Moholdt

10. 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 isn't a sweaty kebab or cold, limp box of soggy chips in sight. From an unreal falafel, gourmet selection of tacos, stone-baked pizza or what may very well be the freshest fish & chips we've ever had, everything on offer is gourmet. Like everything in Oslo and Oya, perfection is the order of the day. 

Photo: Oya Press/Pal Bellis

11. Team Me make everything feel better
Team Me are an eclectic collection; delicate daisy chain head decorations, tie dye t-shirts, and a variety of fringes. Having won the title Best Pop Group of the Year in 2011 with their debut album To the TreeTops! at the Norwegian Grammy Awards, Team Me wasted no time getting straight into award winning features. With up beat bopping tones and earth shaking bass and drums bursting through their quirky synth sounds, they create lucid dreamlike bridges with real danceability. This is a band to be enjoyed whenever and where ever you like, just make sure you have plenty of space to play air drums.

Photo: Oya Press/Anna Lerheim Ask

12. Bendik will not settle for less
Shimmering dreampop seems to flow from Norway like so much water into the Fjords, but the aching melancholy of Silje Halstensen soars high among the best of them. This is pop lifted above all others by an ambitious post-rock backing, and a singer who gives her absolute all to her performance. Utterly enchanting. 

Photo: Press/Ihne Pedersen

13. Krakow are terrifying
Some ten years after their formation, Norwegian talent Krakow took to the Hagen stage on home ground, bringing much appreciated variety through experimental post-metal. Long, teasing tones ring out from lead guitarist, Kjartan Grønhaug, beckon a flocking crowd.

Loured in with a doomy unsuspecting intro, the mood changes rapidly when the pace is picked up and energy amplified with guttural guitar and vocals from frontman, René Misje. Illusions of calm tranquility are shattered with thrashing tom drums and melodic chords are shaken up with Misje's hellish growls. After a busy summer of Inferno Festival, and touring with Arcturus, Vulture Industries, and more throughout Europe, the band are now focusing on new material. Keep your eyes open.

14. Belle & Sebastian = summer
With every moment of their canon of indie classics carrying the weight of their playful character and bookish romance, Belle & Sebastian are always a delight.

"We're going to play this next song in celebration of the beautiful weather we've been having," smiles frontman Stuart Murdoch, "but not back in Scotland - we've been shat on". As the crowd bursts to life to maniacally bounce through 'I'm A Cuckoo' and 'The Boy With The Arab Strap', it feels like the sun shines wherever Belle & Sebastian stand.

Photo: Oya Press/Johannes Granseth

15. We may never tire of Future Islands
"Don't be afraid to dance now," said Future Islands Gerrit Welmers, threatening to break the reserved nature of the Norwegian bystanders and succeeding as he maniacally stomped the stage with an infectious energy. 'Seasons (Waiting On You)' may have been the anthem of summer 2014, but it still carries one hell of a kick.

Photo: Oya Press/Anna Lerheim Ask

16. Ibeyi prove that less is more
Using the sparse elements of just their sweet vocals, keys, a box for percussion and a few knee-slaps, French-Cuban sister ensemble create a sublime and fulfilling world of their own. Their symbiotic sibling connection emanates an inclusive charm - the perfect embrace for their rich summer sound as the sun bakes down on Oslo. 

Photo: Oya Press/Johannes Granseth

17. In Flames
For the metal faithful, In Flames brought a bolder self to Oya than had been seen at Download Festival in June. Clearly more comfortable on familiar ground, their vocals roared from the stage with a new found force.

Since forming in 1990, the band have released no less than 11 studio albums. Yes, it is crazy to think that a band who sound this fresh and on point have been around for 25 years, but let's not forget that In Flames, along with At The Gates pioneered the genre we now know and feel has always been with us - melodic death metal.

Brilliant though it is that In Flames graced us with their presence, it's also a miracle given their crammed Scandinavian and European tour of album Siren Charms. Replacing Mastodon on the Oya line up at the last minute, is no easy challenge, but In Flames made it look so simple. Bringing the noise to Oya's Sirkus stage, a space designed to optimise the encasing surround of metal music, this was the perfect setting for the band. Headbangers gathered, drenched in bass and destroyed guitars, the crowd at the front drenched in the sweat of others.

Frontman, Anders Fridén, spits out commands, baiting the crowd to show him what they are made of. Without warning, we are plunged into pitch black darkness (the likes of which Norway doesn't experience until winter). Electrified and amplified is an under stated, we are in awe of In Flames.

Photos: Oya Press/Ihne Bilder

18. Amenra are not good for a hangover
Sunlight does not penetrate the enclosed Sirkus stage at Oya - it is dark, dusty and smokey. The impending surround sets the perfectly uncertain, eery atmosphere for Belgian doom metal quintet, Amenra. Lead guitarist, Mathieu Vandekerckhove, a man with presence and the power to silence a room with one glance, purposely takes to the stage. Nuances cry from his guitar, instructing the rest of the band to join him. One by one, they do. We are teased and enveloped in the emotionally intricate intros that don't let up. Entranced, locked in their intimacy with the music, all five slam their heads down to the ground then up to the sky in flawless unison. Put simply, if you're rancidly hungover, don't see this band. They will make you search your soul as to why you partied so hard. The up side? They were intensively incredible.

19. You'd struggle to find a more perfect place for a festival
Oslo is basically the fulfilment of the Scandinavian dream - an idyllic and wealthy paradise, a land of plenty. From the natural beauty of the sea, harbour and surrounding islands, to the wealth of great restaurants, bars, museums and colourful nightlife and music scene, this is a town begging for a visit in itself - the fact that there's a festival here is the cherry on top. We were even treated to a mountain-top performance by a band of Vikings. You just don't get that at Reading.

And then there's the Oya site at Toyenpark - a tree-filled green wonderland, perfectly designed series of stages, each with crystal clear sound, resting at the bottom of a hill so everyone gets a perfect view. Queuing is kept to a minimum with the ideal amount of toilets, bars and stalls and the result is an atmosphere of total peace and contentment. It may sound dry, but these are the things that turn a great festival into a perfect experience. 

Photo: Oya Press/Steffen Rikenberg

20. Hookworms bring the noise
As we wince and blink into the fittingly blinding sun, the Leeds five-piece weave a thick web of sound where driving krautrock underlies a mesh of psych, stoner rock and electronica. 'Radio Tokyo' and 'Teen Dreams' form the perfect template for what this band do like no other: this is real music, torn inside out and rebuilt as an utterly glorious noise.

Photo: Oya Press/Ihne Pedersen

21. You should not mess with Run The Jewels
With their disarmingly honest and brutal banter, RTJ do not suffer fools.

"If you've got a selfie stick, put that shit away. If you're wearing brand new sneakers and sitting around drinking on Chardonnay, get the fuck out - we're about to fuck this shit up." Indeed, they don't suffer fools, and don't take kindly to casual listeners - they want you to give everything, as they take shots at Jed Bush, honour the victims of the fallout of Fergusson and unite Oslo in a vicious blow to politicians in a deafening chorus of "lie, cheat, steal, kill, win - everybody's doing it."

Photo: Oya Press/Markus Thorsen

22. At The Gates
As for At The Gates - never before has Swedish metal sounded so intricate - compelling every member of the crowd to ryle their fists and stomp the golden green ground. Crowd-geering, baseball cap wearing, voluminous hair owning frontman Tomas Lindberg exuberantly hollers at the willing cult following before him, demanding the attention reserved for no less than metal gods.

Fusing his passion for melodic death metal with his desire to see as many front row faces as possible, Lindberg uses every inch of the stage, lapping back and forth as if possessed in the moment. If points could be given for the number laps completed on stage while giving a flawless vocal, Lindberg would top the chart.

So compelling are At The Gates, that even a baby aloft shoulders pounds both tiny fists, repeating relentlessly on the head of the parent brave enough to hold them high, adding to the bountiful appreciation coming from every member of the metal-mad crowd.

This knockout performance was only ever going to go one way - down in history. After a long awaited album release, At War with Reality launched in late 2014, the band's only album in the past 19 years, it really is no wonder this was such a momentous show. Now back in full roaring swing, At The Gates are now on a world-wide tour until March 2016. Don't miss your chance to see them at their only UK gig, November 7 at Damnation Festival, Leeds.
Photo: Oya Press/Pal Belis

23. Lapsley has a pretty huge future ahead of her
Fans were spilling out of the tent for Brit kings and Sound Of 2015 Years & Years, but the true newcomer success story came in the form of Liverpudlian teen Lapsley - an utterly enchanting master of twitchy electro-pop, both sublime but soulful as she pierces sparse atmospheres with a depth and grace far beyond her years. When the world does catch up with her, she's going to be massive. Expect her debut album to be a true highlight of 2016.

Photo: Oya Press/Anna Lerheim Ask

24. Thea Hjelmeland is an utter delight
In the distance, a white star-like shape approaches in a harness topped off nicely with a turquoise helmet - safety first. “Hello, my name is Thea”, she says with a smile - once she’s caught her breath from travelling up a ridiculously long and high zip line to meet us at the top of Holmenkollbakken ski jump.

She reaches for a small but charming string instrument, “This song is 'Perfume'”. No less than four minutes later, “Okay, see you at the bottom”, off she sails, fearlessly straddling both arms and legs. Where to start with Thea Hjelmeland.

Firstly, WOW. Once back on firm ground, Oya plays host to her enchanting tunes and larger than life stage outfit. With eyes tightly closed and delicate plucking at the strings of an instrument we’ve never seen before, Thea captivates every soul trying to cram into the tented Sirkus stage. Thea told Gigwise it was her dream, her goal to play at Oya festival.

Congratulations Thea, you smashed it. Our Queen of the Fjords and a new but firm favourite in our music collection, we don’t know we lived so long without Thea’s wondrous charm, warming smile and illustrious music. When you listen to her, we know you’ll feel the same.

Photo: Oya Press/Erik Moholdt

25. Wardruna  will blow your mind
It is midnight, pitch black, there are Vikings. We fear for our lives.

We reach a clearing lit with firelight, faces illuminated and shadows shattered, sitting cross legged on a bridge over glass-like water, we await our fate. This is how, in the sacred woods of Ekebergparken, we first met a small portion of one incredible group. Their name, Wardruna.

“This is a goat horn, I’ll show you how it works”, says the quietly calm voice of Einar Kvitrafn Selvik carried gracefully on the night air to a bewitched and compelled crowd. Using replica instruments traditionally employed by the Viking’s, Wardruna bring the 10th century into to the 21st. An almost a cappella introduction to authentic nuances of the past. The stunning beauty of the voice and vices is sensual and earthy, primal and affecting. Singing in Norwegian, Wardruna’s carefully crafted storytelling transcended translation, evoking teary eyes and contemplative minds, connecting you with a spiritual side you never knew you had, almost inspiring you to forget about worldly goods (we don’t speak Norwegian but still, this is how Wardruna made us feel).

For transforming NaudiR from Runaljod – Yggdrasil (the second album from the planned trilogy,) into an almost nudely stripped back acoustic performance without losing a grain of impact or significance, is not less than extolling and somewhat overwhelming. Only problem with Wardruna? We want to be in pitch black woods with candles every time we listen to them. That’s just not practical.

26. There ain't no party like a Dan Deacon party
The late night after-parties put on by Oya are absolutely insane. From a sweaty affair with PINS to a guilty pleasure carnival of 70s and 80s covers from local heroes Yacht Rock, there's never a good enough excuse for an early night at Oya. It's safe to say, we saved the best for last. 

"Oh, I'm just going home to work on my mixtape," says Dan Deacon, mocking a stoic hipster for refusing to rage along with everyone else. This is the final night of Oya. Dancing is compulsory. The sweat is dripping from the ceiling as the room is divided into two separately choreographed teams for the brief interlude of an epic dance-off before we all collapse in on each other to return to the mind-melting assault on the senses from tribal drums, howling distorted vocals and blistering rave sounds.

Is there a better kiss goodbye than a pierced ear drum? We think not? 

Photo: Liz Hainsworth/Press/WENN