Tame Impala Seize the Night at Norway’s Øya Festival

51

OSLO — “I didn’t realize Norwegians got so wild,” said Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker towards the end of his headlining set on day two (Aug. 8) of this year’s edition of Øya Festival.

And with good reason. During the most dance-friendly parts of the group's Thursday night slot — which included fan favorite “Let It Happen,” the infectious 2019 single “Patience,” and the foot-thumping 2013 hit “Elephant” — it seemed as if the Australian psychedelic rockers had brought the club to the festival grounds. 

It wasn’t too long before Parker had acquired a bra courtesy of a member of the audience. At one point he forgot what day of the week it was, mistaking the Thursday for a Friday. No one seemed to care.

Tame Impala drew the most tightly packed crowd of the festival so far (with The Cure on Wednesday a close second), and ably demonstrated why they’re considered a sure bet at festivals. Øya attendees were also treated to something of a two-for-one deal on Australian psychedelic bands, as fellow Aussie rockers Pond had played earlier in the day.

While the final hours of Thursday belonged to the Australians, much of the day was owned by a trio of women, who showed that festivals around the world stand only to benefit from redressing the gender imbalance in their line-ups.

Female-identifying acts make up 49 percent of the roster at Øya this year, and on Thursday, Øya witnessed a  consecutive run of indie hero Mitski, soul legend Erykah Badu and ascendant local pop star Sigrid. Mitski used a wooden table and chair as stage props to present a set that was part performance art. Badu — who shocked the audience by entering the stage dressed in a brightly painted bed comforter and headdress made of bottle caps — brought her brand of groovy R&B to a program otherwise dominated by pop and rock.

Homegrown heroine Sigrid, unsurprisingly, evoked the day’s most euphoric response. The 22-year-old Norwegian pop singer-songwriter, and winner of BBC Music’s Sound of 2018, is enjoying another landmark year, following the March release of her debut album Sucker Punch. Much of her energetic set felt like both a celebration of her success and a signifier that her stardom is only set to rise higher. That’s thanks to a winning combination of approachability, stage presence and impressive vocal chops — as heard on songs such as “In Vain” and “Level Up.”

There’s also the fact that her arsenal boasts an already-formidable collection of irresistible pop tunes, which felt just perfect for a particularly warm and sunshine-filled Oslo day. Reams of young girls, crying and dancing with happiness, sung along to uplifting crowd-pleasers like “Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

As the sun began to set on Tøyen Park, which is so close to the center of town that most Osloites walk or bike to the festival, Tame Impala took control of the evening, on a stage that lit up in geometric shapes and later projected a giant visage of Parker in various distorted views, evoking Jesus Christ.

Over half of the band’s 90-minute performance comprised tracks from their third and most recent studio album, 2015’s Currents. The relative lack of newer material was not an issue for fans, who were equally enthusiastic in their appreciation of the more laid back, chilled-out moments offered by the likes of the poignant and pensive “Eventually,” which had the front row taking their phone torches out, and couples canoodling up the hillside.

Alexei Barrionuevo contributed reporting from Oslo.