The Buzz

Canadians rock Oslo's Øya Fest

Categories: Music

MetzToronto's Metz performs at the Øya music festival in Oslo. (Laura Thompson/CBC)

"Thank you for listening to experimental music!" declares Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Canadian electro-pop artist Grimes, as she humbly presides over a crowd of thousands. But she's not in Kansas (nor Vancouver) anymore: this is Oslo. It's a place where Grimes fans know every word to all her songs and the change of scenery is treating her right -- the rain cleared for her set, but not before Tretorn made a killing with a (genius!) rain boot pop-up shop. She's on a bit of a Scandinavian jaunt at the moment and before jetting off to Sweden and Finland, she's here at the Øya Festival.

A bit about this Øya Festival (pronounced "oeuil-ya", like "eye" in French): first, the slashed "o" is important to get the translation right. Øya = island, so the Øyafestivalen translates as The Island Festival. It's not exactly on an island per se, more like in a parkette, but it's metres away from the Oslo fjord. Middelalderparken, or The Medieval Park, is a historic grassy plain that also boasts the ancient ruins of a couple of churches as well as the former royal estate. Pretty neat.

There are gourmet food booths with eternal line-ups for the "Illegal Burger" and giant tubs of "popkorn," plenty of beer stands, plus wine and kaffe vendors. The soggy grounds are covered with enormous strips of canvas to keep mud puddles from ruining anyone's day. Music bounces off the brand new Oslo Opera House nearby, which adds a cool echoey texture to the atmosphere. It's also a festival with "green" on its mind, as it strives to be one of the environmentally friendliest in the world.

Øya FestivalCanadian acts, from Grimes to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, are rocking the Oslo festival, alongside acts like Rodriguez, Kendrick Lamar and Of Monsters and Men. (Laura Thompson/CBC)

There are 4 stages -- Enga, Sjøsiden, Vika and Klubben -- and Grimes isn't the only Canadian who made the trek to the Land of the Midnight Sun for this.

Toronto's Metz brought its celebrated signature aggression to a packed tent of hyperactive revelers. Vocalist Alex Edkins wailed his heart out, while bassist Chris Slorach head-banged his way to glory. Meanwhile, Hayden Menzies kept the drum beat pummeling.

That '90s orchestral collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor is back, after having laid low for the better part of the past decade. The group performed a lovely, shimmery, symphonic set that was in great contrast to Kendrick Lamar's riotous rap fest happening simultaneously down the path.

Earlier in the day, Rodriguez, of Searching for Sugar Man fame, kept things low key, but attracted perhaps the biggest audience. L.A.'s Local Natives impressed with a delicious cover of Talking Heads' Warning Sign. Iceland's breakout band Of Monsters and Men handily plowed through their now-ubiquitous collection of radio-friendly gems to the crowd's delight.

Still to come: Beach House, Kraftwerk, Slayer. There's something for everyone at the Øya Fest.

The 2013 Øya Festival runs through Saturday.

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