There are many good things about Way Out West, the music festival that occupied Gothenburg’s city centre last weekend. First of all, it is happening in the middle of the city. So even though there were rain clouds on the second day, everyone attending was able to catch a warm shower in their homes or hotels at the end of the night and could have a rest before heading back to the mud on day three. Wellies required, but no tents flooded! Secondly, it is pushing environmental-friendly ideas, such as being an all vegetarian and vegan festival. And last but not least, the music itself and the line-up is convincing. Though there were a few disappointing cancellations of major acts such as HAIM, TRAVI$ SCOTT, THE KILLS beforehand and ANOHNI being cancelled during the festival. With THE LIBERTINES filling in a day later after their originally scheduled performance, it also immediately sparked rumours amongst the festival goers that Pete Doherty wasn’t available to play the day before. It was a nuisance for those who had bought day passes to see both ANOHNI and THE LIBERTINES. However, there were a lot of other great performances to make up for it. Here’s our pick of nine performances that made Way Out West 2016 worth going:
When the rain dominated Way Out West’s second day and ruined it for some, it did the opposite for some artists and their performances, such as G-EAZY. Instead of letting the mood freeze in the rain, he managed to heat it up by engaging with the crowd to curse at the rain together. Fuck rain! And while we’re at it, also fuck Donald Trump. Covering YG’s tune, he made sure to make his opinion on the upcoming US presedential elections public. His own tunes made everyone in front of the Azalea stage dance, jump and sing along, especially with his most popular song “Me, Myself and I”. Even though Bebe Rexha wasn’t there to sing her lines, the audience sang all the louder. It was hands down one of the best performances of the festival, leaving not only the crowd, but also G-EAZY drenched with rain, taking his wet black t-shirt off and his usually slick hair sticking out in all directions. Though everyone was completely wet, they were also completely happy. And another reason for that is the fact that G-EAZY does not only have a great stage presence and knows how to perform, but he also turned out to be an extremely likeable person with a great stage presence, introducing himself as ‘some lanky white guy in black’ and emphasising again and again how much he appreciated being able to do his thing on stage and live his dream, seeming incredibly genuine while doing so.
Another artist who benefitted from the rain was JACK GARRATT. The young musician, hyped as one of the current new favourites of the British music scene, played in the Linné tent, a stage inside an actual tent compared to the other outdoor stages at Way Out West. His show began just the moment as it started pouring and even though the festival goers had already gathered inside the tent as they knew his show would be worth watching, more and more people joined to escape the rain and the tent was soon packed. JACK GARRATT managed to rock the tent all on his own. Alone on stage, proving that he is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist. He did not only sing, but also played the drums, guitar and piano himself, all the while controlling electronic emphasizer sounds. Literally doing everything himself without the help of a band, his show was more than fantastic. There was no way to not enjoy it, from his most popular tunes such as Breathe Life or Worry to his album tracks. Everyone who hasn’t made up their mind about his music from his recordings, will surely be convinced of his talent after seeing him life. JACK GARRATT is definitely worth the hype.
The most anticipated performance of the first day was without a doubt MORRISSEY. Playing his classics and putting them in new contexts, his show was full to the brim with political statements. In times where negative news dominate our screens, it is important, yet also difficult to position oneself politically. Difficult enough for many public figures from actors to musicians refrain from it completely, in fear of failing the test of political correctness. But not MORRISSEY. With the festival being a vegetarian and vegan one, THE SMITHS Meat is Murder was at the centre of the performance. With videos of cruel animal mistreatments as a backdrop, it made many squeamish and was nothing for the faint-hearted. It wasn’t the only song accompanied by political statements or meaningful imagery. Stock footage of wrongly executed violence criticised the US police force and a picture of Will & Kate entitled United King-Dumb made fun of Britian’s political situation after the Brexit decision. The US elections and the inability to make a vote of confidence was also touched upon in a speech. At times it felt as it the daring political statements took centre stage, merely supported by MORRISSEY‘s songs, but the performance was still a highlight, not only for this loyal fans.
After the shows at the festival site are done, Way Out West is far from over. With Stay Out West the party goes on long after midnight at different venues all over town, giving room for upcoming talented musicians. One of them was DUA LIPA, performing shortly before 2 a.m. at Pustervik. The energetic performance of the 20-year old singer from Kosovo engaged the youthful crowd well into the late night, previewing her promising album, which is bound to be released 2017. Though her debut album has not even come out yet, she has clearly gained a following already and is starting to prepare herself for the fame that is yet to come, holding screaming fans’ hands and learning how to act around them. She and her three-piece hipster band sure know how to make the crowd go wild. There are many factors to DUA LIPA‘s imminent success – her impressive vocal range, her youthful energy, her tunes that sound like chart-topping hits. It is clear where she is heading and what she is striving for. A pop princess in the making.
Another young musician, who has already had his big break and is still worth mentioning, is JAMES BAY. When on stage, singing and rocking out with his guitar, his talent becomes apparent right away. His talent is obvious in his voice, shifting from soft to forceful. He also proves his skills of playing his guitar, electronic and acoustic, when live on stage, when giving songs such as Let It Go a rough guitar intro. No matter if album tracks or favourites such as Hold Back The River, the crowd sings along. His signature hat – does he ever take that hat off? – is a testament to his attitude and he is naturally admired by the young crowd. While his band, most musicians equally young as him, sometimes look bored af, he is clearly having the time of his life and wants to give back to his fans, giving a very solid and great performance, which is worth seeing.
Born and bread in South London, STORMZY brought Grime to Gothenburg. And like most of the rap and hiphop gigs at Way Out West, his performance was another highlight. Even though his show was relatively short with only 45 minutes, he got the crowd in Linné tent jumping from the first minute and even tried to motivate them to have the world’s biggest moshpit towards the end. Instructing the audience to scream and sing along, he decided to include this very performance in the music video of his new tune Code, immortalising the fun times at Way Out West.
Sometimes, when the music and the setting of a show combine perfectly, it becomes something special. It is exactly what happened when JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ played Hjördan stage at Way Out West, his music resounding powerfully in the little valley at the edge of the forest. Creating a smooth singer-songwriter sound with his soulful voice and guitar as well as electro and deep bass sounds backing him, it was a truly relaxing performance that took one’s mind off worries, even the bad weather and the rain. The musician seemed to be happy to play in his hometown of Gothenburg, giving a heartfelt performance.
With another performance on Hjördan stage AMANDA BERGMAN, also known as the lead singer and voice of Swedish band AMASON, rung in the last day of the festival at noon. Her voice is calm and soothing, fit to fill indie-electro music with words. Same as the music of AMASON, which was previously featured on soundtracks of indie films such as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, her music feels very timely and contemporary, while the dresscode of her band made them look more like a band from the 70s. With wide-legged pants, gold-glittery blouses, fake furry vests, cowboy hats, patterned shirts and her male band mates sporting funky moustaches or beards and braids at the same time, they look like a band from another era, spreading peaceful post-hippie vibes. A highlight was the last song of the show, when she was joined by three female vocalists including her sister, making four very different female voices harmonise perfectly. The whole show was proof that the voice defining AMASON can also work very well on her own.
Closing the festival was another brilliant grime performance in Linné tent. Playing at the time as SIA, it was a tough competition for SKEPTA at Way Out West, though he was sure to attract his own crowd of hooded figures, ready to jump at his rap tunes. Promoting his new album Konnichiwa, a Japanese flag design and parts of the album cover filled the screen on stage. Expectedly, he closed the show with Shutdown as his second to last song, with the Way Out West crowd bopping up and down, raging one last time. The tunes were worthy of being the last fading notes at Way Out West along with SIA’s Chandelier. It’s a fond farewell that says: Until next time, Way Out West. It was a pleasure.