Way Out West

While in Gothenburg, we made it to the final day of Way Out West, Way Out Westtouted as Sweden’s #1 music festival. This year’s line-up included 60+ bands at the main Slottskogen park site; taking a cue from SXSW in our former hometown, another 60+ played affiliated evening venues.

The sold-out event accommodated 25,000 daily attendees in a grassy maze of music tents, picnic grounds, and bar enclosures. Intermittent rain forced us under the tree canopy several times, though the Gothenburg crowd seemed to shrug it off.

Way Out West sparked controversy in 2012 for electing to provide only vegetarian food; this year was dairy-free as well (except ice cream, of course). Strolling coffee cows dispensed Zoegas, our favorite Swedish brand, with oat milk. By one account, the festival reduced its carbon footprint 20% by cutting meat; fortunately, the country that helped grow quorn knows tasty veg options.

A guiltier pleasure was test-driving Guitar Hero Live at the Sony booth. Hope my sabbatical doesn’t take too much of a hit when this comes out in October.

Fortunately, the music eclipsed the entertaining environs. Highlights included Todd Terje, whose touring band the Olsens captured the catchy sound of his inaugural 2014 album (video from last year’s Øya festival by bognorlittle):

Patti Smith was predictably potent, charging the crowd with revolutionary fervor only slightly redundant with Sweden’s leftist political history (live by rock and roll heart videos):

Chic’s vintage soul got the damp crowd dancing (live by aetl74):

Supergroup Amason was a great find. We didn’t understood the Swedish lyrics, but were swept up by the audience’s sing-along fervor (live by majstoffe):

We had high expectations of headliners First Aid Kit, and weren’t disappointed: the Söderberg sisters do Americana better than most Americans. Covers of Simon & Garfunkel and Black Sabbath (our engagement song!) were especially nostalgic. But the band’s originals truly shined—especially their emotional closer, Emmylou. Emmylou Harris, winner this year of Sweden’s Polar Music Prize, had played the same stage Friday, and the reverence in the sisters’ voices was palpable; worth a rainy day in the park for sure (video by TV4 at the June 2015 ceremony):

Oh the bitter winds are coming in
And I’m already missing the summer.
Stockholm’s cold, but I’ve been told
I was born to endure this kind of weather.

When it’s you I find, like a ghost in my mind,
I am defeated, and I gladly wear the crown.

I’ll be your Emmylou, and I’ll be your June
If you’ll be my Gram, and my Johnny too; no,

I’m not asking much of you, just
Sing, little darling, sing with me.

First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit closing Way Out West 2015

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