Good things come in small packages. And Norway’s teeny-weeny Sommerøya Festival is indeed a very good thing.
What started in 2010 on a tiny island off the coast of Oslo (Sommerøya means Summer Island) has grown - thankfully not that much - retaining its small festival status but with line-ups to beckon house and techno fans from across Europe. In fact, if it weren’t for the scandalously high price of Scandinavian booze (made only slightly more stomachable by the fact the beer is literally, and never not amusingly, called ‘Aass’) this might be the best small festival in Europe.
A short free tram ride out the capital’s centre and sat atop a hill, surrounded by woodland and a sculpture park, Sommerøya hosts about 3,000 music fans. Like the lifeboats of many a coastal town, this much-needed weekend service is only possible thanks to the work of local volunteers. Around 15 of the festivals top-bods all have ‘proper jobs’ elsewhere.
When Mixmag popped over the North Sea to see what Sommerøya was all about we found a b2b2b2b2b2b2b of Oslo’s finest club residents setting the tone for the weekend; intimacy and audio excellence. Det Er Grovt’s live show gave us some sizzling electronica accompanied by their trademark echoey live vocals. And this wasn’t the only live show of the evening as both the UK’s Surgeon and Spain’s Henry Saiz brought more than their USBs and headphones to the party. If all this clever techno wasn’t obvious enough for you, Claptone headlined the main stage on day one with a party set including Sandy B’s ‘Make The World Go Round’ and Basement Jaxx ‘Flylife’.
Day two was kicked off with a dozen or so artists in a Hardware Jam; all their various machines and gadgets conjoined to create scenes and sounds resembling a Roman orgie in a Detroit hackathon. However it was DJ Koze who stole the weekend, layering percussion and acapellas over twinkling dreamy tech house while sunlight darted between the overlooking foliage. The set, like the festival, felt so at nature. We’re sure the sun timed its brief dips behind little fluffy clouds with the filtering of Koze’s summer-defining anthem ‘Pick Up’. But there was no time to get sentimental. Oliver Koletzki and Niko Schwind brought more 'bwaaaaa' bass wobbles than a Christopher Nolan trailer whereas in the Techno Arena, ANNA’s got the ground moving to Assailants' ‘Effort 7’. With Nastia going in hard on the main stage bringing the evening to a close, no one told the skyline it’s late; at this latitude the sunsets go on for hours and the sky is still light as we wobble our Aasses back down the hill to get lost in the OFF-SO after-parties.