Pstereo Festival 2011

Norwegian new kid on the block
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In recent years Norway’s music events have become an oasis for Brits desiring something beyond insanitary camp sites, Trainspotting toilets and musical bills which always seems to feature Pendulum, Kasabian or some old geezers going through the motions for a fat fee.

Øya, Slottsfjell and even the small Træna island gathering, are all firmly established on the itineraries of the international festival connoisseur, offering the opportunity to check out interesting acts in a civillised setting.

Trondheim’s Pstereo is the new kid on the block and was founded in 2007 by pillars of the local scene. The city has a proud alternative music pedigree, immortalized by a Sex Pistols bootleg recorded at a gig in 1977, and more recently, the impressive Rockheim museum, which charts Norway’s pop rock history.



So, with the festival site not opening until 4pm, it seems fitting to head to visit a friend in the radical Svartlamon neighbourhood to sample something else this former Norwegian capital is renowned for: karsk.

A mixture of local moonshine and strong coffee, it takes the edge of a hangover incurred at the excellent Familien bar the night before, and makes the walk through the serene streets of charming old houses all the more pleasant.

Tickets are collected in the shadow of the impressive Nidaros Cathedral and then it is a short walk to the festival site, which is located at the foot of slope next to the Nidelva river.



Among the first acts on are Norway’s most exciting new band, Honningbarna, fronted by a cello-playing teenage vocalist. This young five piece punk outfit look and sound amazing, their stage presence even eliciting a response from the country’s typically reserved crowds.



The only problem is that onningbarna’s relatively early billing means that their songs are still ringing in the ears when Susanna Sundfør begins a few minutes later, making it difficult to focus on her earnest synth compositions. And while local heroes Wanskrækk draw a large and enthusiastic crowd, their brand of rock sounds dated when compared to the rawness of the young pretenders.

Of the later acts, Santigold proves to be a highlight, underpinning a confidence in her set by playing her best known track 'L.E.S. Artistes' early on. The visually striking show is enhanced by two women dancers dressed up like they are members of a gospel church who decided to get into a bit of street dance on the way to worship.

Saturday’s festival begins at 11am with a picnic for under 18s. A local ska band plays to an audience filled with children, while lunch is prepared on temporary barbecues. Rain puts a bit of a dampner on proceedings, but the main area boasts large tarpaulin carpets, which ensure the site does not turn into an instant swamp. With proper footpaths connecting the four stages, it also means that the festival’s inclusive vibe extends to making it accessible to wheelchair users, the slopes ensuring that there are also decent site lines.

Towards the end of the afternoon, American singer Lissie seems to strike a chord with the audience, although it is difficult to understand her appeal beyond the fact that she says nice things about playing in Norway. And while Häken Hellstrom is huge in Sweden and bears a resemblance to Patrick Herrnandez of Born To Be Alive fame, his brand of upbeat, jangly Svenskpop doesn’t compare with the cheesy delights of the 70s disco merchant.



Like the previous day, the real gems on the bill are young Norwegian acts. Trondheim’s Mageplask [which means belly flop] combine chunky guitars and growling vocals which act like a magnetic force pulling the audience to the front of the small stage. When they finish, both band and crowd look genuinely disappointed that they are not allowed to do an encore.



Fortunately, Mageplask are followed by an equally impressive offering of electro madness courtesy of Autolaser, who sounds like he has been mainlining Justice records while playing on a vintage Gameboy. Only half way through the set does it sink in that his two cohorts on stage seem to serve no purpose other than animating the crowd to go mental, at which they prove extremely adept.



Pstereo closes with The Roots, who live up to their reputation as a great live band - not least because the line up includes a sousaphone. When the site closes, many of the 7,500 ticket holders take a short walk to several downtown venues where acts including the excellent Casio Kids are playing late gigs and several musicians are Djing.



While some might revel in the festival camping “experience” wallowing in filth and having neds hosing on their tents, for those with more refined requirements, Pstereo is another fine Norwegian festival to add to the list.

Words by Olaf Furniss
Photos by Jannica Honey - http://www.jannicahoney.com

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