First Aid Kit
The War on Drugs, Øya Festival 2012, Øya Festival 2012: Day 4, Best Coast, First Aid Kit, Jessie Ware, Charles Bradley, SBTRKT, Bon Iver
Øya Day Four: The War on Drugs, Best Coast, First Aid Kit, Bon Iver and More, August 11th, 2012
Øya, day four. The best way to avoid jet lag is to never sleep—but by this point I was experiencing a new sensation: festival lag. On the way to the day’s events, I passed a man in the hotel lobby, sleeping soundly in a small nest of beanbag chairs. He is my spirit animal.
Once again blessed with extraordinarily good weather, the festival grounds filled up early—attendees eager to catch a few rays. Eager to see a band or two, but not feeling terribly ambitious, I scaled the small stage side hill to watch War on Drugs. Feeling even more boss-gazy than normal, the band’s set accumulated in a New Jersey-worthy wall-of sound jam. Frontman Adam Granduciel was so excited to be playing the festival that he took a shot of the crowd, something he claimed to have never done before.
Best Coast weren’t nearly as engaging. Despite doing her best to sing for every California girl with a broken heart, frontwoman Bethany Cosentino still comes across as more nervous teenager than the Stevie Nicks 2.0 that she longs to be. I opted for an afternoon drink with friends rather than more than a few songs of the The Only Place-heavy set.
First Aid Kit, on the other hand, was one of the festival’s most thrilling surprises. Still young performers, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg held their own on the main stage. A tip of the hat to their audience, they changed the lyrics of “Ghost Town” to include a mention of Oslo. In a nod to their label, Rabid Records, the band covered Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up.” Despite having previously counted myself a First Aid Kit cynic, it was a moment so sweet and emotive I found myself tearing up. Count me a fan.
Jessie Ware failed to win me over. Sure, she has a pretty voice—but it appears that the British songstress will struggle to rise above the sea of hype thrown her way. Unimpressed by her paint-by-numbers, 1980s-flavored tunes, I left after a few songs.
If First Aid Kit was a pleasant surprise, Charles Bradley was like being hit by a musical steamroller. Nicknamed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” the Daptone musician lives up to his title. I cannot stress enough how exciting his performance was without smashing my hand down on the keyboard. The combination of big tent revival leader and kindly grandfather, the 64-year-old brought the house down with a combination of old-school style and timeless enthusiasm. Memo to Sharon Jones: please, please please take this man on tour!
Also rating high on the fun scale was SBTRKT. After a mix-up at SXSW, I went into the set with a bit of incredulity—concerned I was in for 45 minutes of button pushing. Not so. Alongside singer Sampha, producer Aaron Jerome put on a dynamic, dance-worthy set featuring synths, live drums, and—of course—tribal masks.
After SBTRKT, the crowd pressed in for Bon Iver. Justin Vernon and co. pulled out all the stops for their Norwegian fans, performing behind a row of faux candles and flickering light patterns. Vernon used “Blood Bank” to shout out the band’s Scandinavian heritage. Despite encroaching exhaustion, I found it me to stay until the set’s midway point before being forced to call it a night.
And so my Norwegian adventure ended on a high—albeit physically exhausted—note. A huge thank you to all the coordinators, bands, publicists, and fellow journalists I met over the week. You truly made my first trip to Oslo an event to remember.