Way Out West
It’s vegetarian, has a low carbon footprint and the beer is locally sourced, but don’t let its green credentials fool you, Way Out West is far more hipster than hippy. Eight years in, and WOW has fast become Sweden’s most reputable festival, attracting the likes of Kanye West, N.E.R.D, Florence and the Machine, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons, Prince, Haim and Alicia Keys to its grounds in Gothenburg.
2014 however, did not present such a high calibre line up. This year, the international head liners were OUTKAST, Queens of the Stone Age and Robyn & Royksopp, whilst the rest of the schedule consisted primarily of Swedish artists. As a Swedish resident, singing along to the likes of Veronica Maggio and the medley of female Swedish rappers hosted by Linda Pira was awesome, but I did question whether an international audience would be as entertained.
OUTKAST received stella reviews in London and Oslo, but the general sentiment at WOW was one of disappointment. Sweden’s political topic of the moment is feminism and the tireless footage of gyrating naked women had the 30,000 strong audience depart well before the set was finished. In fact, the star of the three day festival was lesser known Janelle Monae, who’s soulful vocals and high energy performance had the punters dancing and singing along throughout. I’m a die hard Jamie XX fan but his 3pm slot hardly ignited the sober crown, in fact Seasick Steve was more accomplished at getting an audience going in spite of the downpour.
Way Out West has the ingredients to be a great festival – an awesome location, wonderful people, a strong cultural and environmental message, but to compete on the international festival circuit it needs to attract the international names that it has previously.
Stay Out West
Stay Out West is without a doubt the unique selling point of WOW. The after hours schedule is equally as important as the daytime line up, and your festival pass will grant you entrance to any of the parties hosted by the WOW team. The city’s resident Film Studios had the air of an illicit rave site and was suitably decked out for the occasion, whilst the Opera House and Jazzhuset provided beautiful historic settings for live music into the wee hours, and Tradgar’n provided the idyllic setting for cocktail sipping in the gardens way into the summer evenings. Rather than DJ’s, the evening entertainment was provided by hip hop artists and live bands, offering a rather different mood than one would expect for 2am revelling.
What They Wore
Without the hassle of camping, the Way Out West audience is some of the most preened festival goers I’ve seen to date. Forget wellies and floral head bands, this audience are donned in floaty fabrics and on trend trainers. The most seen brands on site were without a doubt Rodebjer, Monki and WEEKDAY.
Stockholmers will tell you that Gothenburg is the lowly little brother of the capital, with an industrial setting and more gritty vibe than the northern realms of the country. So I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful Sweden’s second largest city is. Yes it’s a port town so it’s on the water and there are big freight vessels docked, but this adds to the creative undercurrent of the city. Wide avenues are peppered with grandiose brick buildings and tucked away courtyards house trendy cafes and interior stores.
I highly recommend wondering the streets of Haga, a beautiful pedestrianised area which is dotted with shops and inviting cafes. I enjoyed the most delicious buffet brunch at Le Petit Cafe, which offered outside seating for great people watching. Forssen & Oberg is a cosy little champagne bar that was opened by two female friends looking to demyth the idea that champagne is only sipped by rich older men – they’ve democratised pricing and have an impressive menu of bubbles, which you can enjoy in a picturesque square. For shopping, you don’t get much better than the back of Vallgatan where my favourite Swedish store Grandpa sells its beautifully curated interior and fashion pieces, Norrgavel hosts wonderful home accessories, ACNE and Velour peddle their Scandi wares and you can enjoy a pizza or a coffee at Da Matteo cafe.