Norway’s dizzying summer season of music and cultural festivals was starting to wind down this week, but with one of the biggest and most successful of them all. After months of hype and preparations, the annual Øya Festival could finally open to sold-out crowds and sunshine in Oslo.
Festival organizers could expect 15,000 people at the concert site at Oslo’s Middle Ages Park every day of its run through Saturday. They announced on Tuesday that extra tickets would be sold at the gates every day, too, in an effort to dampen prices on an illegal scalping market that’s reared up in recent days. Organizers also cautioned against buying tickets from scalpers, warning that some may be counterfeit and won’t be accepted at the entrance.
It’s all a sign of how popular Øya has become since its humble beginning in 2001 when just over a thousand music fans showed up. It sprang out of the former Kalvøya Festival that ran for years on the island known as Kalvøya (“øy” means island in Norwegian, “øya” is “the island”) just off the shore of Sandvika in Bærum. The Middle Ages Park at the site of Oslo’s original settlement is no island, but adopted the name and a commitment to feature promising new Norwegian bands.
It didn’t take long for the festival to also attract international stars, with this year’s line-up including the legendary Kraftwerk (they’ll perform Friday evening) along with Blur, the British pop band, and Wu-Tang Clan, billed as one of the most important hip-hop collectives of the 1990s. Norwegian performers will include Tønes, Razika and John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen.
Øya, which newspaper Dagsavisen hailed as “one of the biggest cultural events in Norway,” sold out despite some major competition from other events going on in and outside the capital on Wednesday. Neil Young, for example, who earlier has performed at the Kalvøya Festival, was performing at the Oslo Spektrum Arena Saturday night, while the Liverpool Football Club was playing an exhibition match against Oslo football club Vålerenga at Ullevål Stadium. Most of Norway’s political elite, meanwhile, is down in Arendal, where the country’s biggest political gathering of the year was also taking place. None of it caused problems for Øya, nor do concert-goers seem weary after a long summer of other music festivals.
It all started back in May and continues through this month, with events ranging from the traditional Festspill in Bergen, to Norwegian Wood and the Vestfold festival in June to Moldejazz and Notodden Blues, Cellolyd in Lofoten and Riddu Riddu in Kåfjord. There have been music festivals on remote islands, in the mountains and along the fjords, and then come all the other cultural events like Olavsfestdagene in Trondheim and the Stiklestadspelet in Stiklestad. Not a week goes by in Norway in the summertime without some festival somewhere.
Few are as successful, not least financially, as Øya, though. It has attracted important state funding plus major sponsors but is also simply wildly popular both in Norway and abroad. It’s the place to see and be seen, claimed one commentator this week, and this will be the last year at its current site. Next year it will move to Tøyen, near the current Munch Museum and at a site that’s also hosted an annual circus.