A friendly giant called Silvert picks us up from airport, and on the way into Kristiansand explains that he is training to be a religious studies and maths teacher. Apparently this is not such an unusual career choice in what is known as Norway’s bible belt, and a pretty good way to secure employment.
Once home to Norway’s huge Quart festival (which went bust in 2009), Kristiansand has been experiencing a bit of a musical renaissance of late, with a diverse range of acts emerging from the area, including Clash favourites, Honningbarna.
Celebrating the local scene, as well as inviting a few foreign bands along for good measure, is Sørveiv (Southern Wave), which combines daytime advice seminars for musicians and managers, with two evenings of great music across several venues.
Unfortunately, we set off too late to catch more than one song by the Fjellfolk (hill folk), which is a shame because the trio’s blend of traditional Norwegian music infused with traces of electronica, sounded quite promising. However, at least the topographical theme continues with Alice and The Mountain (real name Silje Kåfjord) one of many Norwegian female singer with piano combos, albeit more listenable than most.
She turns out to be the calm before the storm, which is delivered by some respectable metal courtesy of Benea Reach and girl punk outfit, Frk. Fryd. However, the best gig of the night turns out to be the last act Eik, who are on in a dingy basement venue called Six Pence. The four piece dabble with nineties house, combining keyboards, live drumming and female vocals belting out the obligatory lyrical clichés typical of the genre. Towards the end of the set, many in the audience are in danger of sustaining cranial injuries as they try to avoid hitting the low ceiling while dancing.
Saturday’s festivities begin with a show of a different kind, as a local bar owner and an employee from the nearby Nøgne Ø microbrewery, treat an appreciative audience to a tasting session. This proves an excellent aperitif for retro rockers Bottlecap, a trio from Sweden whose impeccable posturing on and off the stage, suggests they deserve to be playing to a far larger audience.
A couple of hours later, fellow Swedes Dying For Some Action, treat the audience to some breakneck rock’n’roll, unreconstructed eighties metal styling and several abusive tirades suggesting revelers who buy merchandise will improve their chances of getting laid.
Whether Gatebrigaden are convinced by their predecessor’s sales pitch is unclear, but they certainly deliver a testosterone-fueled set on the same stage an hour later. Fronted by a mustachioed singer who looks like a Mexican pimp, the band were discovered by the booker’s mum, who appears to have appreciation for Turbonegro and those part-growl/part shouty vocals which would give mere mortals laryngitis if they tried singing like that at home.
However, much like the night before, the highlight comes at the end at the night, at a venue across from the city’s main church. We walk in to see a man in a leather corset and dress harassing members of the audience. It transpires that he is one of the two frontmen in punk band Ratatosker, renowned for spraying audience members with pig blood. His counterpart, resembles a zombie clown undertaker, and before long is pinned into a chair to have pills forced down his throat.
Other band members include a woman playing a keyboard slung over her shoulder like a guitar, whose look might be described as dominatrix waitress, a topless bass player in a kilt, and a slightly more "normal" female guitarist. Frontman one, swaps his corset for a chef’s top and hat, and eventually decides that the raw fish he has been sucking on would be better off stuffed down his Bjorn Borg underpants. Clearly unwilling to let his bandmates hog all the attention, a male guitarist opts to have his nipple pierced live on stage, while dominatrix waitress repeatedly plays Harold Faltermeyer’s keyboard riff from the Beverly Hills Cop theme.
By the end of the show, the floor and stage are strewn with debris and everyone except for a girl who had a cake smeared in her face, is smiling at the insanity they have just witnessed.
After that kind of performance it seems fitting to congratulate the zombie clown undertaker, who proudly informs us that he and the chef are trainee teachers.
“Religious studies?” I jokingly ask.
“Yes, and maths,” comes the reply.
Thank God for Kristiansand.
Words by Olaf Furniss
Photos by Jannica Honey