Held in Sweden’s live music capital of Gothenburg, the aim of Way Out West is, in the words of founder Joel Borg, “to create a festival that we want to attend”. Evidently, this is a labour of love for its organisers. But it’s a worthwhile cause: the musical choices, set against the main event’s Slottsskogen park and the city itself for the after-party Stay Out West events, are world-beating.
Of Thursday’s festival-opening acts, it’s Beach House that leave the deepest impression. The band’s sound, and Victoria Legrand’s ethereal vocals, complement the amber glow of the backdrop behind them, and the atmosphere reaches its peak during the performance of standout cut ‘Zebra’.
Stay Out West means that there are gigs to explore all night. Perhaps the best of Thursday’s late-night sets comes from These New Puritans, who appear at a church named Annedalskyrkan. The setting’s ideal, the venue’s acoustics perfect for this band’s spellbindingly avant-garde pop.
Later, the popular Pustervik plays host to MONEY, who set up at the venue’s intimate upstairs bar. The Bella Union-signed foursome come fronted by the melancholic balladry of Jamie Lee, who showcases just how gifted a vocalist he is on ‘Hold Me Forever’. He sings every word with the drama of it being his last.
Rodriguez is the main draw of Friday’s daytime bill. A sun-soaked audience takes in the now frail, Dylan-like singer-songwriter perform, expressing ample appreciation. Emotions climax when he’s helped off the stage, a collective realisation dawning that this might be one of the last opportunities to see this artist.
Soon after, Håkan Hellström – a sort of Swedish equivalent to a young Bruce Springsteen – has people sprinting from all directions to join a huge crowd, where teary teenage girls line the front row to get the closest glimpse of Gothenburg's biggest heartthrob.
Representing Stockholm is The Knife, who curiously appear as a warped samba band, the electronic duo joined by eight dancers, also providing occasional percussion. The brother-and-sister duo’s music alone is stimulating enough, with its hypnotic rhythms, but the elaborate costume changes and choreographed dancing make for a wholly unusual and memorable audio/visual experience.
Sustaining the good times, Mount Kimbie’s intoxicating synthesis of bass textures and stabbing, post-punk guitar attracts more than a few admirers at the Red Bull Music Academy event, in the Clarion Hotel.
Saturday sees James Blake justifying why he’s selling out multiple dates in his homeland, with the Londoner nailing a set that reaches its boiling point as the rumbling bass of ‘Limit To Your Love’ begins.
The closing party of the festival is Ingrid Disco at Gothenburg film studios. The venue is dressed in an apocalyptic theme, with twisted installations and crumbling light bulbs flickering in the rain.
The main room is a disorientating mix of lasers and strobe lights, with a tree in the middle of the dancefloor. Said space is soundtracked by sets from Lykke Li and Peter Björn And John, plus DJ support ‘til close.
Despite being only in its seventh year, Way Out West looks set to become a staple event on the festival circuit for years to come.
- - -
Words: Cai Trefor
Photography: Annika Berglund, Nils Linde, Adrian Pehrson, Ollie Kerchmeier, Mattias Petterrsson
Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here