After my arrival at the airport in Kristiansand, I got at first a little confused. Three youngsters, two girls and a boy sat on the baggage conveyer in their red dungarees which were adorned by Edding scribblings and went with their baggage round after round. Because no one seemed to be bothered by that, I assumed that the last drink on the flight was bad and ticked this whole thing off for now. On the next day we got the explanation for it. After I was picked up by one of the organizers, Dagfinn "Mister D" Bjelland, I got a little "out-of-the-car-window-sightseeing“ before we arrived at the Scandic Hotel where the rest of the foreign media had already gathered. With Caroline Traitler of www.photopit.com from Austria, I met an old friend again - many of you know her pictures from last Summer Breeze and many other occasions. With Elke Huber of www.powermetal.de I had mailed before and so our little gang was complete. After Dagfinn and Jon Vassbo provided us with a pile of CDs, I asked about the sampler that led to the festival which we were pryinly looking forward to.
What actually is “Straight Out Of Vennesla Vol. II”? This was a question that could be answered by Dagfinn and Jon. “The first sampler was released 3 years ago. I had set my mind on getting the bands out of Vennesla. I sent the sampler to radio stations and magazines and gave it to record stores in the region. I thought we had an exciting story to tell because I think it´s remarkable how many good bands hail from such a small town with less than 14,000 residents which is in the middle of a region with extreme religious coining. The bands themselves are quite lame if it comes to self-advertising, thus I found it a nice thing to do it for them. The only thing the bands had to do was to deliver the songs on time and pay a little contribution of about 100 euros. We had positive feedback, the sampler turned out to be success and so we have the second one ready now and this festival is some kind of a release party” Dagfinn explains. “We are from a small town where all the bands know each other and are friends. D and I just wanted to help the bands and boost their careers. We took a song by Green Carnation and Trail Of Tears and put it together with small bands from Vennesla on the sampler. This is a huge opportunity for bands to get some attention from a crowd that they otherwise wouldn´t reach.
Before we headed off towards the university with public transportation, I explored the picturesque town on my own.
Kristiansand The second biggest port city of Norway has about 70,000 inhabitants, not heavily populated but already the fifth biggest town of the country. Yes, we are in Norway! Founded by the Danish King Christian IV in 1641 and colonized with Sorland people. The city is arranged like a chess board and if you want, you can walk around and have a short look at the city in one day – you can´t get lost because if you walk long enough into one direction you get to a shore. The town is pictorially beautiful.
With some asking around we caught the right bus and we finally arrived at the club we had almost passed. Luckily we espied a young band that later turned out to be The Laundry who were just about to drag their equipment into the club. Let´s start with the first festival day!
Østsia is a nice club that i spart of the university campus. It has a capacity of 400 people and serves alcohol, thereby leaving the under-18s out in the cold. Norwegian laws are quite harsh on this point. You have to be 20 years of age to legally buy anything stronger than wine and drinking alcohol on the street is prohibited to everyone. Smoking seems to banned more or less everywhere. What strikes me the most is that everyone seems to stick to the rules and consequently go outside to smoke. The organisers, Dagfinn Bjelland and Jon Vassbø have this to say: „To the under-18s it is pretty hard because the clubs serve alcohol and are therefore not accessible to them. So they rarely get the chance to see a gig. That´s why we decided to arrange this at two different venues. The Saturday venue, Samsen is a sort of youth club with no bar. The aftershow party, however, will take place in a bar, so there will be no minors there. On the other hand there will be enough beer for everyone!“
The first band of the evening enters the stage in front of a still tiny audience at 10pm, one hour later than scheduled. Forget everything you thought you knew about dark looking, deadly serious Norwegian musicians, or at least do not lump them all together. The Scrotumbabes, formerly known as a Turbonegro cover band called Nazipenis, brought us to the verge of convulsive laughter. Imagine six young lads: Bass, guitar, drums, vocals and tambourine as well as… body performance?! The latter two danced around wearing blue underpants and jackets. Their dance intensified for each song. It was a nice distraction from the music, which was by no means bad. It is grounded in a rock sound a la Pearl Jam. This band is represented on the Straight out of Vennesla compilation. I prefer seeing them live, much thanks to the choreography. Nice and freaky, but a bit too short. Although, we were later this evening - after a very long day - kind of happy about the fact, that beside the last three bands, none played longer. During the breaks between the gigs, all nicotine addicts met outside. I noticed little till none of the vaunted Scandinavian coldness. On the contrary Elke and me (Caroline as well, but as she is a nonsmoker - she prefered to stay indoor) got during the first cigarette already into interesting conversations with the friendly people of Kristiansand and Vennesla.
The second band of the evening comes from Vennesla and plays catchy rock with a touch of melancholy. The members all look about 20 years of age. The frontman, Martin Wikstøl ist the one to notice. He puts a spell on the audience with his clear, emotional and amazing vocals. The songs remind me of REM and Kent. The band left me with a feeling of wanting to hear more. And we probably will hear more of the Laundry. Very good.
Soon you'll find an interview on our site!
Stoner rock from Norway and Finland proves that you do not have to come from sunny California to contribute to this genre. Ask B´s music contains a considerable portion of Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator), but they also gain a certain element of nu-metal thanks to their shouter „Mr D“ (Dagfinn Bjelland). After a few sound problems in the beginning they got their rocks off. Their stage performance was funny with D looking like a manic dervish between the stationary bass player and guitarist. The barefoot, white-clad, slim giant screamed his guts out and danced around, making it difficult to get a good photo of him. After this followed a less successful finish where the singer left the stage and let the rest of the band finish on their own. A rather eccentric move. Goes well with his diva personality.
The only none-Norwegian act this night comes from Finland, but do not sound like it. No keyboards, no pronounced melancholy, but some sort of crossover rock. The singer has a very significant voice which contributes to the distinctive sound. Comparisons to other bands are difficult to draw. Unfortunately, they stop being interesting after three good songs. After that it is just the same hooklines with different lyrics. At least there were announcements between the songs which we were able to understand: „Can I smoke here on stage? Hmm, I don´t think so.“ The singer asked initiator "D" to join the band on stage for the penultimate number. When "D" sang the song together with United Underworld he was wearing again a new outfit. (He changed his outfit leastwise four times this day!)
If United Underworld work on their new songs at the same level of ambition as on the first three songs of the set and avoid repetition, the German market will lie open to them. In good old finnish favouritism manner, their single “Into The Sun” was produced by Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Charon). Right direction - keep up the good work!
A review subsumption of their single „Into The Sun“ and their 3-track ep „Astral Pilot“ will follow soon at: www.stalker.cd/
A review of their dvd “Live At Gloria” will be soon here: www.stalker.cd/
The allrounder D´s main band is well known in Kristiansand and the size of the audience is equivalent to the fame. Unfortunately, it is not quite as full as the organisers and bands would have wanted, but nevertheless. In a new outfit and with endless power D kicks out the jams with his power trio. All three of them seem to be local heroes. Inchi play music you would best describe as emo/progrock with hardcore influences. Hard breaks between fast, aggressive parts and slow melancholic parts prevent the songs from feeling immediately catchy, but on the other hand they do have a presence quite of their own. However, this does not go for Inchi´s newest song, “Kill Your Idol”, which is very catchy.
All three of them contributed to the stage show. Something extraordinary was shown by the drummer, who at the beginning wore a hippie shirt which looked like something he might have stolen from his sister. He later took it off and poured water over his head in a manner previously seen only in shampoo adverts. My colleagues liked it. I did not quite agree. Anyway, you should all go and check out Inchi. There will be an interview with the band shortly.
The review of Inchi´s album „A New Departure“is here for you.
I really can´t stand it if I don´t know a band yet and everyone is raving about them how great they are and that I would see the highlight of the evening. Firstly this raises the expectations too high and secondly I´m then rather negatively prejudiced and annoyed. And so I allowed my feet a little break and listened to the first song from El Caco while sitting. But already at the end of the first song I had to admit that the band is really good. Okay, the singer Øyvind Osa reminds a bit too much of Kurt Cobain regarding performance and his looks and also in the way he uses his voice but Kurt Cobain was a remarkable, genius singer – there could be worse idols. From quiet whispered singing to extreme shouting Osa creates atmospheres. El Caco play, generally said, some kind of stoner rock with elements of grunge. The nicely impelling guitar solos from Anders Gjesti and hefty drums from Thomas Frederiksen contribute largly to the individuality of the trio. At the end their merch guy was called to the stage and gave a growling guest singer show act which was a worthy finale of the first festival day.
Because of the delays it was already 2 a.m. and, like my colleagues, I was up since 6 o´clock in the morning and accordingly pretty done. Therefore we denied ourselves the after show party and adjourned everything else until the next morning.
Saturday, April 29th, 2006
Because the breakfast buffet was served only until 10 a.m. our night was quite short and when Norwegian hotel employees say 10 o´clock then they mean it. Exactly at 10 a.m. the fire alarm was triggered and all late breakfasters – besides us parts of the Finnish band United Underworld – were quite adamantly shooed out of the hotel. I was still able to save my coffee, and one of the Finns who spent all his time creating the perfect five-storey sandwich gave way only together with his plate. By the way, the Finns were the only ones who had rushed to the after show party on Friday and thus had all the beers for themselves – that´s how they smelled at least and we puzzled if they had slept at all! Those Finns! When we came back to the restaurant, after the alarm was over 5 minutes later, the whole buffet was miraculously gone. Very mean but consistent and wily…
Sightseeing with Kjetil Nordhus The breakfast was followed by an extensive sightseeing with Kjetil Nordhus (Trail Of Tears),
and his friends Espen Bentsen and Kristine Tesse who he once successfully had set up. Espen works as a teacher for foreign students about one hour away from Kristiansand and lives in a forest in a small village. The nurse Kristine who works in Kristiansand had sometime mentioned that she would like to move to the countryside and so Kjetil put two and two together and his plan worked out.
If I try that with friends it never works but Kjetil somehow has the right touch. We eventually ended up in a café where we could sit outside thanks to wonderful sunshine and heating lamps. From here we could watch the brass bands of the village fair and all kinds of other hustle and bustle.
We soon realized that we are walking with a quite famous guy because every 5 minutes someone came to salute Kjetil happily and sit down for a short while. Because I anyway have a weakness when it comes to names and faces I had to surrender after half an hour and thus can only say that everyone was super nice and we had a really beautiful noon/afternoon. Then we had a meeting of a special kind. Imagine you sit with your old friend Kjetil in a café and then 3 foreign representatives of the press tell you that you look exactly like the singer of a Finnish band from the previous day… Spooky? That´s what Espen thought too and appeared a bit deranged when looking into my camera with Kristin. In the evening the two met up with each other and apart from the fact that the Norwegian is 2 heads taller than the Finn both really look confusingly similar.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
Then Kjetil told us about those red dungarees that we had seen at the airport.
Like the Finns celebrate their graduation from high school with silly looking white sailor hats the Norwegians do that with those dungarees and this over a period of half a year in which they largely have the freedom to do whatever they want. Are all Scandinavians completely nuts or are we just boring?
Trip to Vennesla In the afternoon we met up with Dagfinn and he became our new guide because Kjetil had to go to the sound check immediately. Dagfinn took us 3 to Vennesla, the origin of the festival and home of (apart from El Caco) all Norwegian bands who we had heard so far. Churches, churches and parish halls… it´s really smothering here. For 14,000 residents there are 16 houses of God from all sorts of Christian sects. Scary, isn´t it? And so Dagfinn tells of a man, who we just passed, that he had raped a mongoloid girl and was forgiven by his church. Fortunately there is still a law but nevertheless it didn´t harm his reputation in the parish. I noticed that most churches were built of stone and not wood what you would rather assume in Norway. Some of them were said to be of wood in the past and because of fire and fire hazard were rebuilt with stone. Whoever is not grinning right now is lying!! Music seems to be a great outlet and explains the high number of bands in this small village. Believe it or not but both Kjetil and Dagfinn tell us about the huge drug problem existing in Kristiansand and Vennesla. Hard to imagine if I look at those picture-book houses and the nature but after considering for a while and a little fantasy for the life situation here it doesn´t seem so far-fetched anymore. Paradises exist only in books. After a longer ride through the picturesque nature and along a road lined with parishes Dagfinn says: “By the way, that was Vennesla City!” This resulted in bemused head turning but he has to know… Our next destination was Jailhouse Studio.
Photo by Caroline Traitler We arrived at a studio whose outer façade wasn´t really done yet but inside looked the more professional and modern. From the outside it appeared to be not more than something garage-like and therefore it didn´t really fit here. The history of the studio began 1990 in Kristiansand. “In the 90´s there were hardly any possibilities for bands in Southern Norway and if then they were so expensive that only a few could afford a recording”, tell studio boss Hans Eidskard and our all-rounder Dagfinn Bjelland. “Back then I recorded a lot of stuff but metal was always my passion” Hans remembers. “Yeah, in 1992 Green Carnation recorded their demo and then everything happened in rapid succession. In The Woods recorded four or five albums and many others too. In 1996 the studio moved to Vennesla and bands like Trail Of Tears and Scariot recorded their demos and albums here. Green Carnation and Trail Of Tears still record here. Actually all bigger metal bands from Southern Norway.” “Inchi too” Dagfinn adds whimsically.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
“Well, in the 90´s there were just not that many studios around. A band had 2 possibilities, one was to book a very expensive studio, which metal bands just couldn´t afford or they came to me. I let them record for a very cheap price so that really all bands could afford it. I still had a day job in a factory and everything that I took in with the studio went back to it in the form of new equipment. 2 years ago we started to build a new, bigger studio,” Hans remembers. “Yeah, exactly 5 minutes away from the old one and a bit more in the nature, where we are now. This is the most modern and professional thing we´ve ever achieved” Dagfinn explains proudly. “Hans, Frank and I needed 2 years but now it´s ready.” “At least from the inside – we still have to do some work outside” Hans adds. “In the last eight months we recorded the new Inchi album here besides working on the studio. The sound is really something special now” Dagfinn raves.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
“The prices here are still very moderate. How much is one hour, Hans?” “I think it´s 70 Marks” Hans reckons. “They have the euro! Well, it should be about 35 euros per hour” Dagfinn calculates. “This is very cheap compared to other studios in Kristiansand and surroundings. Hans could easily demand twice the amount and still have enough bands but he wants to record with metal bands and they are, as is known, no millionaires.” In between, Jailhouse was out of action for 2 years because of the move but now it´s well booked again. “I would like to welcome some foreign bands in here, too” Hans says invitingly.
Location: Samsen Kulturhus in Kristiansand (without age limit)
Samsen is a lot bigger than Østsia, has a nicely big stage and appears like many middle size venues in Germany if there weren´t… well, if there weren´t anything to drink. No, I don´t hint at beer and age limitations, I really mean nothing to drink at all! I don´t know if the organizers knew that the juice and Coke bar closes in the early evening and we asked ourselves if it´s also prohibited to sell Coke to young people in Norway because they missed out on that source of income and so the fortunately a bit more numerous crowd strolled in irregular intervals to the Shell gas station 5 minutes away to stock up on Coke, water and co. No one was controlled for beer after their return but as with the smoking the Norwegians stand to their rules. We had also provided ourselves with soft drinks and deposited the beers that Caroline and Elke had bought yesterday backstage. What caught my colleague Elke´s eye and can only be confirmed by me was that the crowd here is extremely relaxed and diverse. From red dungarees people over jeans and band shirt, gothic girls, smaller Mohawks to normal sweaters everything was present and also all age groups although most people were under 18 years. Of course, if they otherwise don´t have a chance to go to concerts… It´s nice to see that not everything´s so deadly serious as for example in Germany.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
The first band of the evening was Mania, a young band from Vennesla. They played, compared to the rather pleasant surprises of yesterday, more what I had expected. Metal with some serious grunting from singer Stian Beurling. But also they surprised with partly groovy sounds in between the death-thrash storms. However, the band has to work a bit on their stage presence but they definitely are an insider´s tip for fans of the genre.
Relationship of Command
Photo by Caroline Traitler
Oops, that´s Dagfinn again and I also know the song?! After I recognized the first beats of “Kill Your Idol” from Inchi and got the explanation from a girl from Vennesla I can now solve the mystery. Relationship Of Command is Inchi, only under a different name. To my “Why in God´s name?” she replied that this is some kind of very peculiar, local humour. OK!! And because I don´t like to repeat myself and the performance was identical to the one from the previous day I can only add that it was even more fun because now we knew the songs already. Also this performance didn´t lack the diva-like departure of the singer.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
This band from Dublin was for me the anticlimax of the evening. I like Irish rock! Even a lot but what this band, who were called Revile before and had a singer, does now without him is just plain boring. Nice guitar sections, melancholic atmosphere... all of that is good and reminds me a bit of Anathema who for me are one of the greats but even with Anathema more than 2 instrumental songs would be boring for my ears. I would like to hear this very untypical Irish band with singing sometime.
Second Shadow Now it was actually time for 45 minutes of metal à la Nile what would have been the best thing after Parhelia but sadly the Second Shadow concert was cancelled. It turned out in an interview with singer Jon Vassbø that their drummer was stuck for about 6 hours somewhere in the North of Norway and they had just learned about it a few hours ago.
A review of the album „Line Up (Execution Style)“ from the band is here for you.
An interview with their singer Jon Fassbø is also on STALKER here.
Trail Of Tears
Earlier than scheduled Trail Of Tears entered the stage. That they are by far the biggest band in Kristiansand and surroundings you can already tell by the crowd. To tell the truth, I didn´t really like Trail Of Tears in the past because at some point I got tired of that whole warbler faction but now the band is equipped with 2 singers who couldn´t be any more different from one other and they complement each other perfectly. Ronny Thorsen´s murky grunting and hissing paired with almost sacral appearing clean vocals from Kjetil Nordhus. Kjetil from Green Carnation is no stranger to the band but only since the last album „Free Fall Into Fear“ he´s officially with them. Optically, Ronny and Kjetil appear like night and day. The only thing that the two have in common is that both of them are tall. Kjetil looks, with his bald head, the beard, the big blue eyes and his robust figure, like the typical Norwegian from a book. Ronny, in contrast, with his very scrawny figure, the black latex outfit, the black shoulder-length hair and the almost unreal looking, piercing, azure eyes, looks just gloomy.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
The first announcement from Ronny was in English for all the foreign guests which was of course very nice of him. Onstage there was a funny competition between the two guitarists and the bassist which a little bit brightened up Ronny´s dark performance because even he couldn´t refrain himself from laughing when looking at the three who were now playing while almost doing the splits. Who can go the deepest? The prize was won by the man with the bass whose facial expressions made a serious look impossible. We had learned from Kjetil that the band had recently rehearsed only once – you couldn´t hear that at all. The fun that the band spread onstage was extremely infectious and songs like „Joyless Trance Of Winter“, „The Architect Of My Downfall“, „Cold Hand Of Retribution“ or „ Carrier Of The Scars Of Life“ didn´t take anything away from the atmosphere in which you were caught.
Nice gothic metal and the highlight of the day! Among the headbanging crowd in the first rows you could spot, besides almost all other bands of the day, Terje Heiseldal (ex-guitarist of Trail Of Tears and their biggest fan), Communic singer Oddleif Stensland and Morten Veland (Sirenia, ex-Tristania).
You find an interview with those two singers here.
The Danes played in Norway for the first time and thus they were something special. Although singer Bo Summer, in a hip “We Suck” shirt, didn´t appear any different than on concerts in German regions everything here was a bit more close and real. Already with Trail Of Tears it was funny to see how the first rows of the crowd suddenly changed and now mainly female bangers challenged the boys for the best places. I like to stand behind long-haired, spin-banging blondes ´cause they are like a ventilator in that hot, stale air.
With the second announcement Bo suddenly recognized Caroline in the media pit and asked in German if she´s changed her clothes which contributed to the amusement of all attendees. I needed a break and Caroline told me later that Illdisposed gave everything they had and endless groovy riffs paired with Bo´s shouts didn´t leave anything to be desired. Apparently the soundman also needed a little break and so the sound got a little worse towards the end but it was hardly bothering. I was back again for the last song and with “Burn Me Wicked” I got a little, promising-sounding foretaste of the next album.
The after show party In the company of Michael Krumins from Trail Of Tears and Terje Heiseldal (ex-Trail Of Tears) we went to the after show party in a bar called „På Hjornet“ which was 15 minutes away (at normal speed 10 minutes).
We still had the beer from my colleagues and tempted the two young musicians to commit a real Norwegian crime by publicly drinking a can of beer on our way. We are soooo bad…
At the party we saw the rest of a Billy band who performed there. „På Hjornet“ is the only rock/metal bar in Kristiansand and thus well-attended.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
Thanks to some drink coupons and, by Norwegian standards, still moderate beer prices we (including me) soon had the amount of beers that you normally would drink over the whole evening, consumed in only 3 hours. I was given 2 CDs as an insider´s tip which I don´t want to withhold from you and will review soon. Just check our reviews from time to time. We celebrated with newly gained friends until the bar closed at 3:30 a.m.
Photo by Caroline Traitler
If I still had had energy I could´ve continued partying but I think I get too old for this.
Conclusion: Sheer idealism is behind this festival and you can sense that everywhere. I seriously hope that the deficit of a few thousand euros that the guys made because of the insufficient crowd numbers, won´t keep them from organizing another “Straight Out Of Vennesla” festival again next year. Next year everything will be easier! There´s always chaos at the first time – even though it´s a beautiful chaos! I know what I´m talking about *g*. They, without doubt, have a sense of finding new talents and making up a good combination of bands. A special mention goes to the dedication of the organizers and all participants; furthermore thanks to all people from Vennesla and Kristiansand who we met because I´ve never seen such a hospitable place on earth. Hats off & På gjensyn!
On the sampler “Straight Out Of Vennesla Vol. II” you can find from the above mentioned bands: The Laundry, Inchi, Scrotumbabes; Mania, Second Shadow, Ask B and Trail Of Tears, as well as Ramp and Green Carnation. The review is here for you.
And finally another festival tip:
Quart- Festival The annual Quart Festival takes place on a small island near Kristiansand, which was a military island in the past. Every year in the beginning of July a state of emergency is declared on several stages. This year will play here: Depeche Mode, Opeth, Green Carnation, Tool, Muse, Coheed & Cambria and many more. With 10;000 people (more wouldn´t fit on the island) and the sea in the background this festival promises to be one-of-a-kind. Outside the festival weekend the island is an idyllic natural paradise with woods, shores, jagged rocks and a pond. Amongst others a film studio, music companies and Sublife Productions (label of Kjetil Nordhus) are residing here. www.quart.no