KARMØYGEDDON 2017 – Day 1 – Kopervik
For several years in a row I heard stories and I’ve seen photos on how awesome and special the Karmøygeddon festival is. All those, combined with a personal favorite in the list of bands, made me book tickets and decide to check with my own eyes and ears and other senses what the fuss is all about. Now, after 3 days in Kopervik, I keep staring at a blank notepad page and I must admit I have a hard time finding the words, in any of the languages I can put together sentences in. It is surely difficult for me to describe how within the first few minutes after reaching the festival area on Thursday afternoon, all the stories started making sense. It was something like a very intimate affair where people had participated together for years and have built at atmosphere of such good mood and lack of worries. While I encounter something similar at many concerts or festivals, it is rare I felt it at this level.
One feels welcome within minutes and I immediately lost track of the hugs I got from known and unknown people. It’s true that Thursday only has concerts on the smaller stage called Scandic, hence the number of sold tickets/people present throughout the evening is not that big and makes it easy to run into familiar faces. Yet, the atmosphere didn’t change at all when the numbers in the audience incerased, it just made it harder to run into the familiar faces every minute. It maybe took you maybe an extra minute to find someone to chat with, as you had to sneak around more beer glasses and chatting parties. Seriously, even the walk through the crowd was joyful. I usually dread those and try to map the shortest way out once I am done photographing. Here I was treated with smiles when I was passing by people. What do they put in those beer tanks, I wonder…
A guess I’d take in why the coziness, hospitality and good mood of Karmøygeddon is so much praised and treasured is that not even for a second you’d feel like you’re a part of a business machine. There’s of course a lot of financial details behind the whole event, but whatever way the organizers found to deal with it, it never reaches you. You’re not treated as a source of income, but rather as what a paying crowd should be: the main focus of an event. The crowd’s comfort and joy and good mood should be the main standards to judge your work by. And well, some good concerts as bonus, but more about that later, since right now I can’t stop praising how special everything else feels. One might get an idea from reading all the thank you words (mainly in Norwegian) on the event’s Facebook page. The only complaint I read so far was the price for the burgers. Which were indeed, expensive. Yet, beer seemed almost normal priced compared to Oslo festivals for example. And meanwhile I noticed that the burger complaint has been read by organizers and promised to be handled for the future. Now how many festivals care enough to do so?
FEAR THEORIES live @ Karmøygeddon Metal Festival 2017
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)
There were not many merch stands nor extra activities nor anything (except maybe the MS Sandnes boat hotel where I booked a room myself). But it actually felt fine that they were not. There’s plenty of festivals who have them and where you never have time to check out everything that is being offered because of ‘being busy with concerts and friends’ related reasons. I am not against merch stands, I just sometimes find it impossible to even peek at 50% of the present ones unless I skip 2 concerts. I think this is one of the main pluses of Karmøygeddon. You only had to skip parts of 2 or 3 concerts in order to see them all. Two stages, almost no overlapping. Such bliss, since I think almost everything above 3 stages is becoming a rip off and 3 is just on the edge of that. The norm nowadays seem to be how to pack in as many bands as possible, instead of how to offer your audience the chance to see most of the bands on the bill, while having the time to take a piss and even fill their stomachs with more than barley flavored water.
Sound and light at the festival were pretty impressive, when you think of the size of the place. Of course, there were certain limitations on the small Scandic stage, but the big one, Gassco, had lots of goodies to offer. Maybe not always for photographers, but I surely saw some beautiful light shows there. The stage is not very highly lifted which doesn’t help if you’re under 1.50. But luckily, people are kind enough to make some space for you if you really want to be up close and see your favorites in flesh and bones. Or, you can opt for a ticket with gallery access, which allows your on an elevated area with benches and good unblocked view towards the scene. No such luxury at the small stage though, so after I was done photographing the shows there, I was no longer having any visual contact with the stage.
BÖLZER live @ Karmøygeddon Metal Festival 2017
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)
Thursday evening is when everything starts at 6PM, but this is not very convenient for those who can only fly in after work and have to miss the first two bands (both Fear Theories and October tide). I got in to finally see Bölzer live, which actually presented itself to be a great festival start for me. The Swiss duo certainly delivers a rather intriguing mix of mean and dark black and doom metal which is not at all ashamed to jump into progressive elements or post-modern and experimental sounds. They are confusing at first listen on their albums and they’re certainly not easy to digest on stage either. They’re surely captivating and even manage to make me wonder if they are a right winged band – due the tattoos of Fabian Wyrsch. A bit of research and it turned out I saw them through well educated modern PC eyes. Anyway, Bölzer should surely come into my playlists more often in order to get used to that sound.
FEJD live @ Karmøygeddon Metal Festival 2017
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)
The folk metallers from Fejd came up next and all of a sudden the stage felt too small for that many people. Good thing they didn’t plan a dance to go with the folkish parts of their songs. And bad thing that they placed the Moraharpa in the back. It should have been in the middle of the stage as it was way too cool watching that instrument being played live. The band is actually balancing metal and folk in a pleasant manner, for my ears at least and it actually makes it interesting to listen to the genre again.
Evening’s last act for me were the viking metallers from Thyrfing, named after the royal sword Tyrfing from Norse mythology. A rather awaited act apparently since the band is not known for performing live very often. But they do have an image to keep so they even managed to squeeze to huge images on the sides of the stage and all band members came up with painted faces or arms. Musically they do not convince me much as there is a certain indecision in the sound. There are great parts, but they don’t seem well connected together. And so I stepped out rather early and had to get to bed before I’d collapse after a very long day left behind and all the emotional charge that I encountered at the festival. It can get overwhelming.