Our fresh faced writer Michael Lomax reports from the world of By:larm
News flash: This is the first time Bad Sounds writes anything positive about Norwegian hip hop. Enjoy!
Fresh off the many impressions left behind of the baffling performance of guitar legend Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society band last night at the Rockefeller venue my brain is recalibrating to absorb the information that this year’s by:Larm is live and in effect. The ground zero of Youngstorget welcomes us with a warm and upbeat yellow haze of three intertwined stages only a few feet apart. The body is screaming for painkillers and rest. Instead I feed it Dent pastilles and breathing exercises. Showcasing as many as 15 different artists and acts just this first day, many of them from around Scandinavia and some even from the UK and USA I take a swift and brutal choice and decide to narrow it down and focus on the upcoming talents from Norway exclusively.
Off to a strong start, Pumba is tearing up the Redbull stage as I’m wading through the excited crowd who are raising their fists and counting imaginary stacks of money as the young rapper fires bravado and life lessons like a pro at the enthusiastic audience. Being hailed as the next big thing in Norwegian hip-hop comes with some amount of pressure but Pumba doesn’t flinch. Known for his contributions laying down verses on already established acts like MadCon, Karpe Diem and Jaa9 & OnklP, Pumba has been primed for his own mainstream career ever since the release of his Pengelens-mixtapes a few years back and signing with the infamous rap label Tee Productions has made him among the inner circle of Norwegian rap luminaries. Pumba repays this trust tonight with delivering an on point set of solid bangers. With beats pumping hard, the still mostly sober crowd cheers sounding content with the first artist offered up this year.
Overheard in the crowd:
“Points deducted for having a white guy with a beard and a sixpence on stage. Somebody should tell that guy he’s not playing with Mumford & Sons.”
Heading over to the P3 stage I see the Bergen five piece Kjært Barn present their songs to a curious audience. This new group coming out of the NMG/G-Huset of their hometown are the latest group to embrace singing in their native dialect, reinforcing a strong local identity and pinpointing them to their geographical roots. Kjært Barn may, perhaps unfairly, run into comparisons with their town contemporaries, John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen and Fjorden Baby, but gravitate towards flirting more with a peppy afro-beat vibe and a fresh electronic sound. Their towering front man comes across like an imposing, brooding figure but still showcasing a sensitive side. Stating bluntly “I’m here to sing, not to talk” (I can relate) he dives straight into their next song. The band’s music invokes the spirit of popular groups as diverse as Vampire Weekend and Future Islands but with a cold Brit-Pop influence buried in there as well, making them a positive surprise for this evening.
Overheard in the crowd:
“It’s like Jan Eggum, but with downs”.
Back in the Redbull tent Oslo based Olefonken are slowly churning out their first song and it’s a slow building, carefully crafted atmospheric piece of music, complete with chill wave chirping bird sounds and almost whale humping new age overtones. Their intro is greeted with a roar from the jam packed venue and the band launches into a retro-disco groove sending associations to Giorgio Moroder goes Chck Chck Chck meets Tame Impala and back to Daft Punk and Farell. The crowd eats it up like deliciously spun cotton candy as the set dives into a warm lounge DJ-ish fever of comfortable, soothing and throbbing sounds. Making the drummer a central part of their live show up front on stage was certainly a good idea since the muffled vocals take a backseat role in this setting, and with a little tweaking this young group might just be the next big thing out of Norway. Certainly a tour the force of a performance and making a strong case for Olefonken’s continued limitless success and potential for total world domination. Really don’t know about that name though.
Overheard in the crowd:
“That guy looks like he has toured Jamaica and the Caribbean two years straight without showering or changing his clothes”.
“Is that a drug dealer poncho?”
“This sounds like a Fruity Loops instructional video soundtrack”.
The closing band for the night on the P3 stage is the Bergen band WDSTCK who made it all the way to the Urørt finals this year with their patented brand of funk and 70ies rock. Citing influences among greats like Prince, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin this group have been making a name for themselves in record breaking time and are getting a lot of buzz and attention. Working the crowd into a frenzy with their hit, Flowers, the band clearly have a flair for giving the crowd what they want. With a great sounding rhythm section like a tight and well-oiled machinery and a wild looking friendly flower-power wielding front man they know they are a good time delivering band. A high energy show with a positive air about them, flirting with disco and easily digested vocoder. Alas there is something left to be desired as all their songs kind of blend together and become a little anonymous. But with the fact that this outfit didn’t even exist 12 months ago in mind they sure have come a long way and I’m sure WDSTCK have more to offer.
Overheard in the audience:
“I guess Baba Nation are back?”
Stay tuned for day 2!