Disaster in the Universe
Disaster in the Universe, Einar Stray Orchestra, Making Marks, Øya Festival 2012
Øya Opening Night: Making Marks, Einar Stray, and Disaster in the Universe,
Greetings from Norway where—swaddled in a cozy/confusing fog of jetlag—I’ll be spending the next five days taking in Olso’s fourteenth annual Øya Festival. A recent study conducted by Wired magazine named Oslo as the lead European music tastemaker, which is pretty impressive when you consider the fact the city is roughly 1/7 the size of Los Angeles. Øya is also a leading tastemaker when it comes to festivals, where 15,000 attendees enjoy four days of activites that are environmentally green, safe (zero arrests in fourteen years!), organic, and filled to the brim with great music. Arriving into the city involved a long, dark tunnel, leading me in my sleep deprived state to wonder—have I died and gone to heaven? (Probably.)
Tomorrow promises music by the waterfront. But tonight (jetlag be damned) I made the decision to check out a few local acts. Unfamiliar with the majority of the names on the evening’s lineup, I rolled the dice and—with a little help from my lovely guides for the evening, Anna and Marie—ended up catching Making Marks (formerly My Little Pony), Einar Stray, and Disaster in the Universe.
Only downside of the evening: My Norwegian isn’t nearly strong enough to understand the stage banter (shortly before getting off the plane I Googled “Hello” and “Thank You”…and then promptly forgot both. Beklager Norge…)
Making Marks kicked off the evening. While the Oslo-based quartet’s melancholy instrumentals were lush, it was their secret weapon—cotton candy-spun male/female harmonies—that got the packed out bar moving. (And sloshing around a bit of very expensive beer—exchange rates being the only thing in Oslo not working in a music-lover’s favor.) The performance was congenial—up-and-coming hometown heroes playing to a highly supportive crowd.
Next up was Einar Stray. What Making Marks had in sweetness, 22-year-old Stray possessed in emotional gravitas. Performing the majority of his 2011 album Chiaroscuro, Stray and his four-piece band took cues from the likes of Ólafur Arnalds and Sigur Rós, flooding the small bar with waves of violin, piano, and percussive sound. His voice, however, was pure Conor Oberst—an emotionally wounded beast of a wail. Wow.
The last stop of the evening was to see Disaster in the Universe—who at first I was unconvinced weren’t a figment of my overworked, jetlag mind. An impressive gaggle of musicians dotted the stage—decked out in nothing less that orange and green body paint, dreads, and (for a few amazing moments) a Carmen Miranda-style hat. Their music was likewise an eclectic bag, featuring horns, xylophone, ukulele, finger snaps, and French chants. Had Kevin Barnes appeared on stage I wouldn’t have been any more surprised that I already was.
Congratulations Oslo—I didn’t see that one coming!
And so, the opening night of Øya is in the books. Will Laura manage to get any sleep tonight? Will she remember to eat? Will she attempt to start a citywide dance party? Tune in tomorrow to find out.
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