“If you build it, they will come,” so whispered the sinister voice in Field of Dreams. And so it was that G! Festival was launched for that very same reason in 2002: to help promote the music produced by the people of the Faroe Islands.
The event itself has become an annual beacon attracting the attention of international press, albeit mostly those from Scandinavia, and has succeeded in helping to export a thriving musical community rich in diversity and talent.
The mystical, rugged Faroe Islands are situated between Scotland and Iceland, emerald green hunks of rock that jut out of the sea with breathtaking majesty. With host town Göta – population 1,100 – over an hour’s drive away from the only airport, this has to be one of the most remote and scenic festivals on earth.
Containing three stages right on the water, the G! Festival experience is one of the most unique anyone is likely to participate in.
There is no corporate sponsorship, and very little in terms of extra frills such as art installations. G! is all the better for it, however, with a solid and eclectic bill of performers, the stunning setting, and the charm of the Faroese people creating one of the most uplifting and individual festivals in existence.
With virtually every genre represented across the three days, a number of musicians popped up time and again. It quickly became apparent that these islands have bred an incestuous music scene, with certain artists being more than happy to spread their love around. This is a community that is happy to get involved, and does everything it can to help each other out.
In the name of research, Clash had the privilege to spend the weekend immersed in this Faroese musical collective, unearthing the gems that may be coming to a town near you in the near future…
- - -
Top Scandinavian jewels of the weekend
* Teitur (Faroe Islands)
With the biggest international profile of all the Faroese artists on the bill this weekend, Teitur Lassen takes to the stage for a glorious sunset slot backed by the local brass band.
Opening with beautifully sleepy ‘We Still Drink the Same Water’, he weaves his magic through the audience, working through a mostly melancholy and evocative set list of love songs.
The energy picks up for big numbers ‘Catherine the Waitress’ and ‘Louis Louis’, which garner big cheers from the crowd, while ‘Don’t Let Me Fall in Love with You’ shimmers with its sparse heartbeat from the rhythm section and keening guitar flourishes.
Well-mannered and courteous, Teitur closes his set with a gorgeously simple a cappella version of ‘The Singer’, his voice soaring out into the clear Scandinavian air. There are big plans afoot for him in the UK this year, so if you haven’t already, get ahead of the game and dive in. You need his music in your life.
* The Ghost (Faroe Islands)
This duo’s blend of saccharine electro-pop explodes in a burst of rainbow-bright confetti.
Singer Filip Mortensen and partner in crime Urbanus Olsen produce an infectious mix of minimalist Atari-esque bleeps and beats topped with acoustic guitar and the occasional flourish of tom-tom drum. Think Mika crossed with MGMT, with tinges of Röyksopp and Lemon Jelly added for good measure, and you’re kind of there.
Having recently toured with Ladytron and The Wombats, they’re already well on their way to breaking out of Scandinavia. Be prepared to see a lot more of them – they’ve signed to Rob Da Bank’s Sunday Best label and will be playing Bestival in September.
* Katzenjammer (Norway)
This female quartet of seriously talented multi-instrumentalists kitsch it up to the max, starting with their cute ‘60s shift dresses and beehives.
Playing the most active game of instrument musical chairs that Clash has ever witnessed - accordions, trumpets, harmonicas, ukuleles, banjos, keyboards, scatting and vocal duties are all passed around freely throughout the set - Katzenjammer are slick performers, whipping the crowd into a dancing frenzy with their distinctive circus jazz folk. ‘Demon Kitty Rag’ and ‘Tea With Cinnamon’ are particular highlights in a set which whirls through the streets of Göta with dizzying speed.
* Orka (Faroe Islands)
Studying the members of Orka, this is as close to a supergroup that the Faroese musicians get. Tonight, sometime members Teitur, G! Festival founder Jón Tyril and Hogni, the musician currently at the top of the Faroese charts, have joined the ranks to swell Orka’s regular line-up.
Crammed onto the stage with an assortment of home-made instruments, including a number of brightly painted oil drums, they look like an indie offshoot of Stomp!. The complex instrumentation even sees a lathe added into the mix, producing a futuristic, industrial feel, while the multiple layers of male vocals are deep and disturbing. Guaranteed to get inside your mind and turn it inside out.
Orka are one of the darlings of the Faroese people, and this is easily one of the most individual and exciting acts to appear in a long time.
* Petur Pólson (Faroe Islands)
Petur Pólson provides the most beautiful, affirmative moment of the weekend with his heartfelt performance. Setting a sombre tone with his opening lyrics: “I’ll drink myself into a coma, I’ll take any way out I can find,” he is more than a little reminiscent of Leonard Cohen.
A former member of Clickhaze, the first Faroese band to break out of the Islands’ watery confines, he has established a strong solo career with a sideline in poetry. With a backing band of nine people who look like they’ve been rounded up from the local high school, Petur’s silky baritone washes over the crowd as the late afternoon sun glints off the water in the bay.
His heartrending and uplifting songs have people throwing their arms around each other, while Clash spots more than a few people crying. Sadly the atmosphere is marred when Bogi á Lakjuni lobs his guitar into the unprepared crowd, cracking a girl in the back of the head and bringing the set to a shambolic and abrupt end.
* Veto (Denmark, pictured)
A down and dirty electro-indie proposition crossing from sounding like The Presets to Bloc Party and post-‘OK Computer’ Radiohead, sextet Veto grind through an eerie set of syncopated rhythm percussion samples and looped guitar riff weirdness.
The blinding light show only adds to the brain-frazzlingly fabulous performance they whip out. Quite how they have escaped achieving a higher profile in the UK to date is baffling, and hopefully will be rectified in the not-too-distant future.
* Boys in a Band (Faroe Islands)
Former Global Battle of the Bands champions Boys in a Band quickly get the crowd hanging loose with their good-time guitar licks.
Describing themselves as ‘cowboy rock’ and ‘Bob Dylan on amphetamine’, the quintet live up to their self-proclaimed labels, playing hard and fast to blitz through their clutch of two-minute tracks.
Pætur Zachariasson has more than a hint of Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist about him, as he screams, wails, beats his chest and does everything but gnash his teeth. Each and every band member is a consummate performer, strutting and posing on speaker stacks and the drum riser as if the spotlight is only shining on them.
A slick performance, and one that highlights the band’s potential to break into mainland Europe and beyond.
- - -
Find the official G! Festival website HERE.