Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Park Life - Exploring the Way Out West festival in Gothenburg

Way Out West is the archetypal big festival but differs due to its non rural greenfield setting, instead held in Slottsskogen, Gothenburg’s Hyde Park (if Hyde Park had a zoo and forest). The proximity of the park in relation to the city’s housing means no music will be blaring out of the park after 11pm but acts will instead head to Gothenburg’s clubs to play on into the early hours of the morning where their music will be isolated by the walls of the venues. There is also no campsite therefore reducing the footprint of damage done to the park and boosting business for Gothenburg’s hostels and hotels who must appreciate this model as much as the residents that inhabit the perimeter of Slottsskogen and  the festival goers who are spared long queues to the showers in the morning. The only downside being that festival goers are forbidden to bring their own alcohol inside and must purchase it from within the festivals fences. You could think of these devices as a way to maximise profits but they also provide an alternative to the grime that usually goes hand in hand with a large festival by ensuring all revelers would have beds and showers thus providing everyone with the opportunity to start each day fresh faced and ready to go, whether or not anyone feels the need to take advantage of this is another matter.

Day 1 

Thursday had arrived and after passing through the main entrance we found ourselves in the middle of soulful Albama Shakes. Instantly inspired by their conviction and strength of their music I felt I had suddenly been dropped into the festival. The next door to open took into a psychedelic world with Tame Impala as my guide. Their smooth riffs made all the more trippy by the appearance of a US, less unidentified and more quadrocopter with neon lights, Kevin Parker’s attempted to connect with it ET style, but ultimately never able to reach the dizzying heights of his robotic companion and its pilots ability to tease.

The night fell and as the sound dissipated from the stages of Slottsskogen people headed to venues of the aptly named Stay Out West. We headed to see rapper cross-dressing Mykki Blanco who was performing in the Clarion Hotel, one of Gothenburg’s most expensive establishments. Once through the queue we entered the room which was possibly the cleanest music venue I’ve ever stepped foot in. The low ceiling and odd bounce of carpet under my feet reeked of business conferences rather than a space that had seen it’s fair share of gigs yet nevertheless I was intrigued to see how this space would face up to a rapper the likes of which Sweden had never seen before. The result was not well at all. The bass was non-existent which meant the music lacked any punch, exacerbated by the carpet and soft furnishings present in the space, perhaps it was a conscious choice of materials enforced by the hotel to shield it’s customers or perhaps the venue would have been better suited to a less bass dependent genre of music. Dripping in sweat and topless, Blanco maneuvered into the crowd then up on to the bar to saved what was definitely not an aural assault with an inspired performance. DJ Rashad and Spinn came on and seemed to be ideal to see the night out too but the room quickly emptied and I was left feeling underwhelmed in masses of space surrounded by the props that were thrown into the now non existent crowd. Encouraged by my friends we left and headed home.

Day 2 

A comfortable bed, a shower and a good hearty breakfast left us in good stead for the day that was to ensue. We headed towards the main arenas only to walk past a giant disco ball on a crane, momentarily intrigued then recalling Giorgio Morodor was to make an appearance we realised what we had stumbled upon. The vibe was amazing, considering it was August in Sweden the weather was fine with the sun shining down on us all and with the absurd giant disco ball it was impossible to resist the feel good synths playing while being marshalled by Giorgio who seemed to be orchestrating the crowd with his finger and then regaling us with his voice via a vocoder. Our initial plan to stay for 30 minutes escalated into a few hours, having the knock on effect of us missing Angel Haze’s and Roudrigez’s sets.

Giorgio Morodor

During the night we headed to Nefertiti, a traditional club this with an even lower ceiling than that in the Clarion due to it being a basement venue and caught Svensk Bas, a record label specialising in bass heavy sounds, and this time the bass was anything but lacking.

Some friends asked if we wanted to head to an after party, not one to refuse we headed on an excursion that I would soon realise I was not prepared for in the slightest. I questioned the location of the venue but no one seemed to know exactly where it was so after a lot of conferring with google maps we took a tram to get somewhat closer to our destination. We departed with almost everyone else on the tram at a peaceful residential setting under the soft glow of street lights. Swarms of people all headed in the same direction in waves to higher ground and then to some obscure steps leading up into the woods when eventually the street lights gave way to the black of the moonless night sky. The scene would not be out of place in any zombie flick. Nothing was visible for what could have easily been perceived as a period of 1-3 hours, only the sound of those making their way back from our intended destination could be heard, their cackling laughs, screams and foreboding warnings of “there’s nothing up there”, “where are you going?”, and “everyone’s left” rang in our ears but we decided to persevere with the promise of alcohol and party. There was a stage during this journey where, whilst sobering up and continuing our walk into darkness, not much was said and we all silently brooded over the decision to embark on this journey only to be interrupted occasionally by one of us hearing phantom party sounds which, on closer inspection, turned out to be the rustling of branches, chirping, the odd howl and thuds made by those on the descent back from their pilgrimage.

Alas eventually the phantom sounds turned into the real unmistakable chirping of tweeters and thump of woofers, light bulbs appearing, at first in isolation and then linked together by a chain strewn through the foliage that acted as a canopy over our heads effectively isolating us from the night sky. To the right of us lay a sudden drop into what I can only recall as a large lake and around us lay the festival goers who were looking for the late night outdoor comradery and music that they weren’t meant to find during Way Out West. Unfortunately for us the alcohol had stopped flowing and although the Mars Bars and Twix’s looked appealing sitting idly on a foldable table I couldn’t bring myself to believe the woman standing guard over the chocolatey goodness who tried to convince us they would be restocked within the hour. The thought of an entourage carrying crates of beer up the same path we’d just trodden didn’t seem feasible and so it was there and then I decided my night was over, even the van the woman stood in front of and the fact that the dj shack and lighting was probably driven there couldn’t dispel my mind that the promises of beer weren’t empty promises conjured to keep us trapped at the top of this mountain by a siren in a never ending party where the drinks didn’t not flow. The crowd was littered around the floor, some embracing the current stage of their high, others chatting & reveling in the achievement of reaching this after party in the sky and some tired from the days events, and possibly lack of more beer, sleeping on ground. The music was playing but only served as background noise to the social gathering that ensued. A completely unauthorised illegal gathering of people who didn’t want the party to stop, all in little not so sunny Gothenburg.
The walk back down proved very stimulating, either because we were moving downhill or perhaps just in the knowledge we would be able to finally rest our aching legs. Taking the descent in our strides we celebrated our achievement by taunting those still making their way up, even meeting a stumped Aussie on the way embracing his nationality by wearing a stereotypical cork hat, mainly confused as to why flocks of people were heading down we ensured him that if he wanted to party that up and into the sky was the only place to go.

Reaching the top of the mountain

  Day 3 

Packed full of music, we listened to some of it then headed to another ‘Illegal’ party in the woods. By now the main stages were the savoury part of our day, wholesome good family fun, and the night was the sugary delight that came after, full of debauchery and all that comes with it.

Friday consisted of GOAT, with their energetic tribal style one can only help but be mesmerized swinging to the beat. We missed James Blake for Danny Brown whose energy and stage presence left us wanting more. Truly giving the crowd his all and feeding off the energy given back to him. The night was finished off Disclosure. An apt end to the night, we arrived late and decided to utilise the empty space at the back of the tent to bounce around to their beats and take in the light show. It was definitely one of if not the highlight of Way out West.

The Knife

The end of the performance marked the end of Way out West but for us and many others it was just the beginning of the night. Some of the friends I was with were invited to DJ at another party in the woods and with a playlist consisting of trap music in hand we headed to another non descript forest scene, this time luckily for us it wasn’t located at the precipice of a geological rock formation. This time, on the side of a hill with a steep incline but only a few hundred metres from society. The DJ booth consisted of a plastic tarpaulin that was hung from a tree and protected the sound system. The refreshments were provided from a single story brick building located at the bottom of the hill and we were served through a set of bars that protected the money and alcohol from any opportunists. I seemed to have free reign of the supplies for some reason and found myself over encumbered with refreshments for the night. The weather made a turn for the worst yet this didn’t dissuade the crowd. The trap music received a few complains for its misogynist content but it continued on into the early hours of the morning, with back to back sets. The night seemed to fly by and at around 6am I head with a few others to attempt breakfast at a hotel but we didn’t arrive at our destination due to the indecisive passengers in the Volvo Estate and arrived back to the party during daylight and to my surprise to find the party still going, not so strong and on it’s last legs but nevertheless it was there in what resembled a mud pit rather than a hill.

All in all it was a great festival. Not having to slum it in a tent made a great change and the alternative to the roulette game of trying to get into a Stay out West club was much preferred. Seeing the quiet town of Gothenburg suddenly transformed with an influx of people from around the world was great and is something that I'm looking forward to relive next year!


Mandeep Singh is a co-founder and editor of PAPER and is currently working at Wilkinson Eyre Architects in London.

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