Text and Photos: Andrea Chirulescu

2023 A.D. edition of Tons Of Rock festival had a tad of a different start compared to its predecessors. It begun on Wednesday and it was opened by a speech held by the Norwegian prime minister. The mighty power of social media led to an extra event where people were invited to circle pit during his speech. And people met and and did so. Actually they did a wall of death and I ended up getting carried by the moving crowd towards the other ‘side’ of the wall, WITH my camera. It went fine, but this made the start of this year’s festival even more special for myself as neither me nor my camera have ever participated in a wall of death.

Before talking about concerts, the usual feedback about the initial experience with this year’s logistics. And most remarkable: shuttle buses!!!! Yes, the festival collaborated with the local transport company, Ruter and did add shuttle-buses, after the chaos the previous years. So you could take BOTH the public transport and shuttle buses, which stop some few meters closer to the main entrance – while the public transport involves some extra walking. Anyway, kudos for the initiative and the fact that it only costed the regular bus ticket. It really made a positive difference compared to the previous years.

One thing that was different (or I haven’t noticed it until now), was the presence of mr Kim Holm – Den Unge Herr Holm – in th photopit at certain concerts. For those of you who have attended concerts and festivals in Norway before, espeically in the Bergen area, you might know his headbanging and drawing combo. He’s usually ‘parked’ together with his pile of colored crayons on one side of the stage, he headbangs and draws that he sees or hears. And then he comes up with super interesting live drawings than end up for sale on his page or at various events. Check him out

The festival offered the chance for you to pick the wristband from various locations in the city (and few adjacent ones) few days ahead, so that also led to smaller queues at exchanging tickets for wristbands. Another nice. Entry went quite smooth after a few minutes of slow moving queue and well, I guess Wednesday also has fewer attendees than the other days mainly because it was added later and not included in the full ticket price and it was also a day with a very rainy forecast. And it was very rainy so probably people didn’t bother. Because of the rain, I can write very little at this stage about the food or drinks tents as I had only few chances of getting something and I experienced 0 queues on the first day. It was all kinda instant. It all felt super expensive at the first glance, compared to the portion size. Then again, Norway’s financial situation is not ideal so you can’t expect the various actors to go bankrupt just to sell you food and sweets at a festival. Sad situation.

A short note, the review is a mix of reviewing the concerts that I have attended, the overall experience at the area, but it is by no means covering everything. As a photographer, you sometime only get to photograph 3 songs from a show and since you are tired, hungry, gotta do things, wanna say hi to a friend, you move on after those 3 songs and don’t get to stay til the end. During the hot days, as there is not much shade on the festival area, I simply left towards our covered press-tent because I wanted to avoid a heatstroke. I am aware I have missed cool moments from a lot of concerts because of that, I have missed cool concerts altogether and interesting happenings on the area. I never got to the stand up tent nor inside the games and craft beer tent. There is a steak restaurant which I always say I’d like to try but it never happened, I don’t have the luxury of waiting. Art tent, well, stopped by to watch few minutes of the speed drawing event held every day at 5. Then I didn’t get to set foot inside anymore.

Personally, I was super excited to hear the announcement of an alcohol-free beer tent. When going around with expensive photo equipment, I don’t feel like going wild on any sort of booze, but a coooold fizzy frink is ideal when it’s super warm outside. And the alcohol free beers usually come with refreshing fruity flavors. Sadly, nobody knew where it was, the map was useless to find it and I only located it on the last day. Still, next year I’ll be around that tent way more often. Such yummee refreshments for the sunny days!

DAY 1 – Photo galleries:

Musicwise, Wednesday was a fun day. BLACK DEBBATH, the band that has opened Tons of Rock since its first edition, the band that wrote a song about the festival, about the area where the festival is held, are already crowned local heroes. They’re punny and silly and talented musicians who play heavy heavy rock. Always with a smile and a neverending supply of jokes and ironies, inventive clothing and stage props, the always entertaining quiz…I am happy I actually took the time to watch the full show. And noticed the ‘pyro’ manually driven by some extra people on stage who occasionally lifted some ‘flames’ painted on tall cartons. All the other years, it’s been photographing them for 3 songs and then running around to figure out stuff. But now we arrived early at the area so I had the time to figure out stuff BEFORE Black Debbath.

Clouds gathered, drops started falling down and then it was almost pouring when the Aussie rock’n’rollers from AIRBOURNE went up next on the main stage. That was challenging and fun to photograph, as the vocalist Joel is always filled with tons of energy to run around the stage, headbang and entertain the crowd. And even if everyone was already kinda soaked, he still did his signature move and climbed on the shoulders of one of his crew members and ran into the crowd to smash open a beer can on his head and play some guitar. Always a crowd pleaser that.

Sadly, that’s when the day started going a bit bad for me as the rain from the plastic poncho ended up in my shoes so my socks were well, soaked. This led to me skipping some bands and trying to vent things a bit, but it kinda failed. So I eventually put my feet into the wet socks and shoes and walked over to watch the French act CARPENTER BRUT and their industrial/electronic metal. Which had an amazing light show, but the crowd had to be explained that they’re too sleepy and need to gather some energy for more action. I guess lots of other people had various wet clothes issues and different levels of discomfort at this stage. I’d surely love to see the band again when standing up is not something unpleasant. Walking back to our press tent and try to get more air to my feet, I also stopped by the main stage where GENERATION SEX was performing – Billy Idol on vocals and members of Sex Pistol and Generation X. It all felt like a slowed down punk which was cool back in the days but a bit lazy today. Of course they are ‘older’ now than when we grew up with them, but dunno, I didn’t feel the same nostalgia as with Deep Purple last year for example. It was good fun to listen to them from a distance but no more than that.

SKID ROW was next on the second outdoors stage, the Vampire one, and I ha dno idea that Sebastian Bach is not singing with them now so I was taken by surprised by the younger vocalist. They worked ok together but I didn’t have time to figure out whether I like it or not as I ran back to the tent stage to photograph and watch MUNICIPAL WASTE. Goddamn how cool it is to get some of the oldschool thrash and to feel and watch the vibe of the crowd who didn’t stop moshpitting nor crowdsurfing. Certainly the coolest thing for me that day. I left the tent with a big smile on my face and wnet to pack the camera equipment and get an ok spot for the day’s headliners, GUNS’N’ROSES

We were not allowed to photograph them and not even have the cameras visible on the festival area, so all we could do was enjoy some of the show and as the rain had stopped by then, it seemed like a good idea. It was announced they’d play for 3 hours and my feet were like ‘no, that is not happening’. I only made it to about 45 mins of the show – but that’s one hour of standing, given they were a bit over 10 mins late. I’ve heard or read that they had impressed reviewers at other festivals and while it is again, cool and lovely to watch some of your childhood idols live, I couldn’t get rid of the sensation that my ears are scratched rather than nicely treated to good old hits. It felt synthetic and even if I am aware that due age the voice is not the same and it’s not able to pull off the same tricks as when one is 20, but well, it didn’t hit home for me. Well done to the band for managing to perform for 3 hours and for putting aside whatever kept them sepparated for so long and doing these shows. A lot of people are so happy to get the chance to see them. But I’ll not try to look for live recordings from this show myself. Well done for wittingly pointing to the currnet war situation in Ukraine when performing Civil War. I’ll trasure the memory of Slash and his guitar solos and the groovy bass lines from Duff McKagan, I enjoyed the vocal parts from keyboardist Melissa Reese but yeah, I was glad when we got into the bus and didn’t hear anything else from the concert. Sadly, the first evening had an issue with shuttle buses, and their capacity being reduced all of a sudden. Nice that people were informed via the app but still, not nice that it happened. Glad we left rather early as I cannot imagine how it is to wait for a bus with everyone who wants to leave the area and has to wait in long queues after a bad weather day.

DAY 2 – Photo galleries:

Second day also started with long bus queues for some as the shuttle bus was quite in demand when we tried to get it around noon. So we opted for the local bus instead, number 34, leaving just across the street from the shuttle bus stop and dropping you off some extra walking distance, but not too bad. It was emptier, but without aircon so we go to the area veeery sweaty already. The day was warm, but luckily the sun was often covered by clouds so you could enjoy a breeze and pray you’d avoid sunburn. A nice thing is that you have a pharmacy tent and volunteers who walk around the area offering you a dose of sunscreen to prevent your day from going very bad, should you have forgotten to pack sunscreen. Not everyone took advantage of it, but all in all I saw very few extremely pink people.

First band on Vampire stage was FEVER 333, an American hardcore band with a highly paced stage show, full of energy. It was nicely combined with lascivious dancing by their ‘big haired’ lovely bass player. The band had long speeches about the open mindness of people that they meet at concerts and festivals all over the world, about the rights of minorities and how to treat women with respect, although it’s a bit ironic to talk about not objectifying women and have your woman bass player performing a super sexy dance at times. I mean, lovely to watch but very stereotypical. The show ended with the singer going all the way to the sound board tent, climbing on it and then jumping in the crowd and crowdsurfing all the way to the stage.

Main stage was opened by HALESTORM, a lovely to watch show led by vocalist/guitaris Lzzie Hale and often stolen by her insane brother behind the drums, who was acting like he had 8 hands and kept throwing his drumsticks in all directions, catching them, drumming like mad and so on. His drum solo brought up some super sized drum sticks for the occasion. So much good mood in that show and understandable how Lzzie steals so many hearts and smiles. I don’t think she became a favorite of the security team when she asked to see a lot of those lovely ladies in the audience being lifted up on shoulders. It is a frown upon thing at the concerts here and if you do it without encouragement form the performing artist, you are promptly asked to end it. It is another one of those mixed feelings tirggering kind of behavior – nice for the artist, nice for ladies who get to see the stage better, annoying a.f. for those behind the persons doing the lifting and actually very dangerous. Can’t be perfect…

Next up, I really wanted to go catch Voivod in the tent stage afterwards, but they clashed with AVATAR, a fantastic Swedish band with a very theatrical show and where you can’ go wrong with photos, so this won for me. And it surely is worth for the camera to follow the crazy Swedes in their circus like outfits and the ever changing facial expressions, actions and overall fun had on sage. And they even got joined by Halestorm’s singer for one of the songs. More good mood for charging batteries and forgetting that the sun was getting stronger.

Up next on main stage was the holy metal offered by POWERWOLF, not something I understand nor enjoy but they did have the coolest 3D effect on the backdrop which I stopped to watch for a bit. But I disappeared after one song and went to see SOULFLY on the Moonlight stage. OH YES, that was intense and sweaty and DUSTY. The crowd was so eager that the dust from the tent’s floor was raising in the air even before Cavalera&co entered the stage. And when they kicked off with ‘Back to the Primitive’, the ground was probably shaking and the crowd surfers started pouring and the moshers started probably one of the wildest ones at this year’s festival. Insane. On stage and in the crowd. I got so exhausted simply by trying to photograph the band, pay attention to the security guards who had to move us out of their way when trying to fetch crowd surfers. So I thought it’s worth trying to see if I can get some cool shots of the crowd. I even made my way close to the moshpit for some extra cool photos, but the dust was so insane I started coughing quickly and left. Most people in there had their mouths covered with own tshirts. And mixing in some Sepultura songs really helped with the intensity going up each song. I ended up buying some food – a way too salty/garlicky burger from nearby – and went to enjoy the rest of the show from far back. I think it was the highlight of the day for me. So much nostalgia there.

CLUTCH and their charismatic singer, Neil Fallon, were the perfect groove and cool off after Soulfly. Always pure joy and eargasm to listen to the ‘lazy’ dancy beats combined with the faster song parts, a mix of rock and stoner beats. Maybe not the most visually entertaining band, but with such a cool voice that leads the show, you can just close your eyes and let it all be dreamy.

Main stage should have hosted Nightwish next but sadly, the very pregnant Floor had some health issues and the day before it was announced they would be replaced by the Norwegian recently re-united act, MADRUGADA. It fit quite well after Clutch, another amazing and groovy voice from Sivert Høyem and all in all a powerful performance with songs loved by many in the audience. They played at the same time as Mayhem on the tent stage but my feet were not eager to try to make it to both shows so I just continued with the more ‘dreamy’ and romantic musical landscape. Discussing with some friends about why Madrugada were chosen, well, we had to realize that you can’t just pick up any famous band living in Oslo or the surroundings and have them start rehearsing for a setlist on a festival’s main stage few days before the event. Even if, let’s say, the organizers had made this plan with Madrugada some weeks before, as a backup. But Madrugada has performed recently and was about to have some more concerts coming up, so they were probably the natural choice given they were warmed up. I doubt a band that has been inactive for months or years at this point could have pulled it off just to be ‘more metal’.

Behemoth closed the Vampire stage, but, even if they’re always delivering a top notch show, as I saw them way too many times, I went back to the tent to watch the Norwegian punkers THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE ZUGLY. Another wild show on the little stage, but it was even more fun/impressive to watch the security people handling the insane flow of crowdsurfers. I think the crew was a bit overwhelmed as they had to catch 2-3 in the same spot at once. I felt bad for the very tall guy in the front row, he was getting a lot of boots in his head I believe. But everyone was smiling and having a good time, hopefully no accidents happened. The band’s singer complained that the stage was weird and sticky beacuse of the ‘previous opening act’ – I saw in some pics from my friends that Mayhem had at least 4 pig heads on stage. Probably still dripping blood. And it made me realize that I don’t think I ever saw a festival where Mayhem is NOT the last act on a stage so yeah, I feel for the poor punkers who had to play on the ‘aftermath’.

The day was closed by the Danes in VOLBEAT, a band that I loved a lot when they started a while back – 10 years? 12? I don’t recall. But it got duller for me after a short while. Even if I fully understand why they headline a festival and I was happy to see they have so many fans and still so much fun on stage, I barely knew any of the songs. The ones I recognised brought back good memories and I tried to dance a bit (very slowly though) while heading for the bus. No more shuttle bus shortage today, HOWEVER, we got the least knowledgeable driver and he took quite a scenic route in the end, with a detour of many kilometers. Luckily, a more daring guy in the bus asked him where is he really going and if he plans to drive through Sweden. And then I think a couple of people even started telling him when to turn right. It was nice to sit down for so long, but standing up for the walk home was quite a disappointment for the feet. 2 days left. 2 feet left. So far.

DAY 3 – Photo galleries:

Leaving early for the festival – aka taking the bus around noon time – makes for a comfortable bus ride. Apparently the rush hour is somewhere between 13 and 14 and then it slows down again. But it really felt like Friday’s crowd has doubled compared to the previous days. It’s always nice to see a full festival area. The day also offered a marriage officiated on the main stage. This is one of the things that could have been announced better via the app, which only gave very short notice and a very vague notice that something will happen on the main stage at some point. It just got forgotten due its vagueness. I am glad for the parties involved, it is probably one of the most memorable type of wedding one can have. May they be happy and go to many concerts together!

We started the day by the tent stage, watching WITCH CUB SATAN…and quoting from the Lost And Found Productions webpage “a feminist, occult black metal performance in four acts – a musical dramatic ritual with unknown consequences.” It is quite hard to find the right words to describe their ritual. Which starts with the nice good witches, dressed in white, reciting stories – those story telling skills man, so lovely – playing black metal, screaming…and then they vanish from the stage and come back naked, with long black hair, dripping blood on their bodies and unleashing the black metal demons over the confused audience. It was truly magic to watch them. The experience was ruined by some eager teens who decided the show needs a moshpit, even if it certainly didn’t. It’s a show to watch and be inspired by and not just another one where you go berserk. Anyway. I am so glad I watched them live and I know for sure I’ll do it again and again.

Main stage was opened by VV, short for Ville Valo, a childhood idol for many people my age as he’s the front figure of the Finnish gothic act HIM and even if his solo project suits him perfectly for what he’s doing nowadays, the audience was super excited to hear songs like Poison Girl or Gone with the Sin. I also had to fangirl a bit and smile, remembering the sadness brought by such songs in my youth. Ville is a very charismatic front man and I am glad I had the chance to watch his performance live and enjoy his beautiful voice.

The sun was quite scorching at this point and as I ran into some friends, I stopped by for a chat and instead of going to photograph VREID, I decided to actually watch some of their show instead. And that was well worth it. I have had the chance to see them live many times, but today was the “bestest” of their performances in my opinion. The bigger stage, the pyros, smoke, the eager crowd, it all built up to a very atmospheric and intense experience. Sadly, the sun got even more intense and the lack of shade by the Vampire stage made me feel very compassionate for all the vampires out there and decided it’s a good idea to go hide in the shade by the Moonlight stage (the one located in the tent) and checked out NAPALM DEATH. The least bombastic stage show at the festival probably, as the band is one of the most humble I’ve ever got to watch live, yet they deliver with intensity and honesty and Barney is putting up his usual mad-man stage walking and stopping at times to express some more special song parts. He told us that bassist Shane Embury had to be away for this show and they had a talented replacement but I didn’t catch his name. While waiting for the show to begin I noticed that some of the nice security people in the photopit had their arms bruised, which was probably the aftermath of yesterday’s concerts and just the ‘warm up’ for what today was gonna bring.

As I left the tent stage, the heat got to me so my body simply demanded a break. I hid back inside the tent and having some food – I tried the momos, the Nepalese specialty, but as I cannot have spicy sauce next to them, they were so blunt and tasteless like that. Which is sad, cause it’s such a lovely dish in general. And so I ended missing the performance by The Architects on Vampire stage and I went straight to the main stage to photograph and watch a bit of the legendary PANTERA. The stage had been quite altered today, having been added an extra portion which left us, photographer, with really bad angles and less space inside the photopit. Pantera is not something I am a fan of and as a photographer, the fact that the vocalist didn’t bother to move closer to the front of the stage to give us a fair chance was rather annoying (to me, I am certain nobody in the crowd gave many f*s about this aspect). So all my bonus points go to Zack Wylde and Rex Brown who were helping us. We usually get to photograph 3 songs, but the lovely security people warned us that if situation gets dangerous, we will be asked to leave the photopit. And they did so after 2 songs only because of too many crowdsurfers. A behavior which brings very mixed feelings on my side. Certainly fun to watch from afar and to be the one that crowdsurfs, surely painful for those in the front rows who have spent hours trying to get a good spot and who want to watch their favorite artists, yet all they get is boots hitting their head and security people climbing over them to grab the ‘flying’ surfers. As someone was pointing, maybe the security guards should just spin the crowdsurfers around and have them go back.

GOJIRA was another crowdsurfing fiesta, on Vampire stage and this, again, made things very difficult for us photographers, as we barely had any space to move given the fact that the amount of security people in the photopit was doubled, if not tripled. I even noticed a photo of a wheelchair crowdsurfing and that really is dis-considerate towards other festival goers. Gojira really deserved the bigger stage and I am sure the organizers struggled badly with logistics for the day’s lineup. We never know what made them decide to give them the smaller stage, but I am sure there were good enough reasons. It might have been flight times, amount of sun when a band performs…who knows. Either way, the show was incendiary and the Frenchmen deliver to perfection. It is nice to see their involvement in various programs to help those less fortunate, be them humans or other living creatures. Not that I’m saint eco myself, but pyros and confetti and the likes don’t go well with the overall “save our planet” speech.

Sadly, it looks like we missed the best band on the tent stage, Bronx, but hopefully they’ll be back and I’ll get a chance to check them out. Instead we headed for the headliner of the day, the dancy rock metallers GHOST. Papa Emeritus is really quite the showman and the drama he’s building from the very first moment is done with such incredible skills. The Nameless Ghouls have leveled up on outfits and I noticed while going through the photos that their equipment is filled with amazing details. Kudos to the person or the team putting together all their stage clothing. And making sure they can breathe in those intricate costumes. It’s a bit otherworldly to have them perform for so long wearing those masks. As the show progressed, papa actually changed outfits to make them match the song group that was being performed, going from the initial black suit with laces by the wrist, to a red jacket or a pope robe. And you also realize the joint efforts to combine lights, moves, all sort of details so it’s all close to perfection. Fantastic teamwork. Fun show to watch but I never got much into their music. However, walking towards the exit presented us with a lot of happy dancy people, which was a pleasure to walk among. But in the end we made a point of leaving before the show ended to avoid the pack of people that would be waiting for the bus. At the moment we left, the bus queue moved incredibly quick and can’t help but praising once more the idea of shuttle buses.

DAY 4 – Photo galleries:

Last day had an extra challenge for me as a wisdom tooth that started saying ‘hi’ this week has increased its level of discomfort. But, not much else to do about it, so you just go ahead with that shower, pack the cameras, charge batteries, eat, hydrate, put sunscreen on and take the bus to the festival area. Buses seemed more filled today than previous days and there were quite a big number of kids in the buses. Which is nice for the future of metal music.

The future was what performed on the Moonlight stage, under the name RED STEEL – the band that won the competition for the last place on this year’s lineup. I didn’t get to go there in time, sadly, but I heard good things about the young kids and would certainly keep an eye on this name in the future. However, next band in the tent, AURA NOIR, is something always worth watching live. It’s ugly, fast, crazy, good and well, actually perfect. It’s lovely to see a simple genuine show of black/thrash metal, no super star attitude, just…extremely talented musicians doing what they love.

Trying to see if a certain band had any merch to sell this day – for those who don’t know, most bands only have mech up for sale on the day they perform – I had entered the Carlings store and I was nicely surprised ot see how many Ton Of Rock related merch they have actually printed or the fact that you could print stuff on your battle vest inside the tent. Very cool offer!

Vampire stage was opened by HONNINGBARNA. I think I might have watched them live before, but I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. The band arrived from the crowd – not sure if they even crowdsurfed at that point. They went up on the stage and it all went wilder and wilder from here. Some of the band members went back into the crowd to start a cricle pit and a moshpit. Then the crowd went nuts (aka countless crowdsurfers ending up among the pile of guards and photographers). Then a guitarist went crowdsurfing with his guitar. Then the vocalist did the same, or performed while standing on the fence. It was intense, crazy, mad, wild, or any other synonyms you can think of. It was exhausting to photograph and I actually started to feel bad for the security people who already had their arms blue and purple from the previous days of catching crowd surfers. And they didn’t get much rest as the next band, THE DOGS, followed the example and didn’t stay still for one second, thus pushing the crowd to an extra session of moshing and crowd surfing. The Dogs had a ton of pyros and interesting smoke in addition, plus a catwalk placed along the barricade fence and this made the photographer’s life impossible. I didn’t bother taking a single photo, even if we were allowed to photograph the whole show and somehow could end up on stage. .But the show was good and main man Kristopher Schau doesn’t spare any of his energy trying to deliver insanity.

Speaking of crowdsurfing, one of the next bands in the tent, BURY TOMORROW, said ‘we want to see a thousand crowdsurfers’ and the head of the security by the stage sighed and sank his shoulders when he heard that. Hope they received enough staffing to handle the thousands (this is a story heard by a photographer colleague). IN FLAMES went next on the main stage and it was a very uninspiring show in my opinion. I have seen them before, many times and it lately feels like they’re looking forward to be done with the gig, pack their things and go home. I mean, they have fun, the music is intense, people crowdsurf, do mospits or even rowpits, but it’s just…dull. Or I was just tired.

One act which I regret not having the energy to go and watch was CANDLEMASS, who is now performing with their original member, Johan Langquist, after 32 years hiatus. I heard mixed feelings about the overall experience, some enjoying the nostalgic feeling, some saying it was a waste of time.

What was not a waste of time was to watch the weirdest performance at the festival, that of PUSCIFER, one of Maynard James Keenan’s projects in which he shares the vocal parts with talented Carina Roung. Everyone was wearing a black suit and Maynard and Karina had either silly wigs or face makeup, but both were wearing some microphones with stands fixed around their waists. And insisted they are just another metal band and not agents sent to detect aliens among us. And then the show went into weird dimensions, including some where a group of aliens carried what seemed to be light sabers and started fighting Maynard off the stage. Didn’t work though, so the aliens kinda joined the show. It was funny, cringy, but it was probably one of the best sounds of the event altogether. That bass…how beautiful it was. And so nice to be able to watch a show and not have people falling on your head from behind.

I ran into some friends and, as we were not allowed in the photopit to take photos of IGGY POP and as I am a rather short person with no will to fight eager crowds, I decided to sit down with the friends and watch Iggy live. OMG whatta lesson in stage performance and showmanship he and his band (almost orchestra) gave everyone else. Despite his…good number of years and back deformity, his literal lust for life and love for performing and for being punny and ironic is simply….sexy. Lovely! I couldn’t help but dance for a couple of his songs despite my feet protesting against this bad decision. Heck, it was worth it. Everyone around was actually dancing. Good times which I will certainly remember. And how can you forget when he asks the audience if we wanna see his ass? Not everyday you’re offered that!

Back to Vampire stage to watch WARDRUNA, whom I never witnessed on such a festival stage, but only on either intimate concerts or smaller sized stages, and usually in the dark. The music doesn’t really care where it is performed, it’s still magic and the sound person, after fidgeting a bit during the first song, found the perfect combo to keep that intense buzzing bass-like deep sound in the speakers, but make each of the bells and wooden pieces on stage sound clear and powerful, in order to accompany the fantastic vocals of Einar and Lindy Fay. But all in all it is a show to close your eyes and let the musical elements take you places. Not so easy to do at festivals though, as the constantly chatting crowd tends to interrupt the dreamy experience.

The last tiny line of my body’s own festival battery was balanced between catching the old time favorites Hammerfall or going to photograph KVELERTAK. I opted for the latter and I am quite impressed to see how this band has grown so much and manages to actually close a festival this size and how they control such a big stage. Kudos for all the effort they made throughout their career to get there. Well deserved spot for what still feels like a young band and certainly a moment of pride for the Norwegian rock’n’roll scene. We even got to watch a bit of the fireworks marking the end of the festival, but only from inside the bus that took us to the city center, as, once again, extra tired feet demand that we don’t wait in long queues so we have to leave during the headliner.

I don’t really know how to summarize the whole experience. It’s a festival that grows, learns, seems to respond to feedback, is still making some not-so-perfect choices (app messages could have been in English if you bother to say you have participants from so many countries, map could be interactive in the app, app notifications could be found again after you press on them) but in the end offers an unforgettable time, both as crowd, press, volunteers or crew. I’m grateful I had a chance to walk around with a camera and shoot the bands that performed, as always I regret not having the energy to shoot more and this year I was sloppier than usual with going around the area and photographing crowd doing stuff crowd does. Because at the end of the day, even if everyone is gathered there to watch stage performances, the main ingredient of a festival are the participants and the cool, weird, funny, odd things they are doing. And their smiles.

Thanks Tons Of Rock for the smiles, is probably the best summary. Until 2024, which has already been announced and at the moment I am typing this, one can get early bird tickets.

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