Foto: Stefanie Singh

Stars around the rocket: The RakettNatt Festival 2015

In the previous print issue, you could read a detailed report about the history and the background of the RakettNatt Festival. And, of course, Utropia has not left it at that but walked on 28th and 29th August 2015 closer to the «Raketten» for you, in order to examine the stars around the «Raketten».

«Raketten» («The Rocket») is a tiny little bar and hot dog stand on the Stortorget, the big square located in the city centre of Tromsø, and the festival was named after «Raketten». So no real rocket is going to take off at the end of the festival days, yet you can see the solar system throughout the entire festival as it hovers above the audience in the form of decoration. The ticket sales were also quite galactic; the second festival day is even completely sold out. This huge success is probably not only based on top-class acts such as Röyksopp but also on the marketing skills of the organisers of RakettNatt. Not least thanks to all the posters in town, one might get the impression that RakettNatt is a festival which is established since many years already while it actually receives its premier in 2015. The assumption that it’s one of the biggest open air events in Tromsø is true though.

Weatherwise, RakettNatt starts anything but promising: Dark clouds in the sky and chilly temperatures. Nevertheless, the one or other is heading to the ticket booth located at the entrance of the festival area on this Friday afternoon, just to ask in person if tomorrow’s festival day really is completely sold out. The indisputable headliner of the whole festival is Röyksopp, Tromsø’s most successful music export which will finalise the second festival day and thus the debut edition of the 2-day happening. But before that, nine other acts are playing, some more and some less entertaining…

RakettNatt 2015 is kicked off by the folk pop quartet Robaat whose ladies Kine Yvonne Kjær (Vocals & Guitar) and Julie Alapnes Normann (Vocals & Violin) were interviewed for you in the last print issue of Utropia. Along with Tore Bruvoll (Guitar) and Kjetil Dalland (Bass), the sisters-in-law are supposed to spread a summerly festival atmosphere while grey clouds are passing by. Not an easy undertaking, but the former band members of The BonBons seem to implement this task effortlessly: In no time, the Stortorget is filling with people, even though the majority of the festival visitors is storming to the bar counter first. Nevertheless, the smile on the faces of the attendees might be based on amongst others the first single «Poor Old Billy» which has been released just recently. No wonder in consideration of the positive sound of Robaat, and not least because of that positive sound, the band proves to be a more than worthy opener.

Kristian Kristensen, who is performing both solo and with an accompanying band, describes his musical genre as «Alternative singer / songwriter». Especially television viewers might remember him as a contestant on «The Voice – Norges beste stemme» in 2013, but despite an impressive voice and good songs, no sparks are ignited today. Maybe it is due to the cloudiness which makes one feel depressed even more in combination with the melancholic compositions of Kristian Kristensen. If those songs were performed in the bright sunshine at the Bukta Festival, things might look quite differently. Then, you could lie in the green grass and just listen. But here on the Stortorget, you only have grey asphalt.

Real movement in the audience is caused only after Jaga Jazzist, the winners of the Spellemannprisen 2010 for the album «One-Armed Bandit», enter the stage: It cheers, it applauds and it moves along to songs like «Starfire», «Big City Music» and «One-Armed Bandit». Jaga Jazzist is consisting of eight band members who serve instruments such as guitars, bass guitars, drums, percussions, keyboards, synthesizers, pianos, vibraphones, clarinets, saxophones, tubas, flutes, glockenspiel and trombones. A mix of electronica, jazz, rock and prog is played on a stage with a lot of colourful lights and a psychedelic zebra backdrop while it’s getting dark in Tromsø.

The real «Wow!» factor, however, comes just with the fourth act, and one is tempted to say that the hope for such a factor today has almost been given up. After all, some attendees stated that they were here just for the happening itself and not at all because of the line-up. But then, the Dane Karen Marie Ørsted alias enters the stage – and knocks everyone’s socks off! And this enthusiasm is not limited to her mega-hit «Lean On», a cooperation with Major Lazer & DJ Snake whose music video hit over 560 million views, six months after its upload on YouTube. The setlist also covers the singles «Walk This Way», «Waste Of Time», «Pilgrim», «Don’t Wanna Dance» and «Glass» from her debut album «No Mythologies To Follow», and when the bundle of energy is not sweeping across the stage, she moves closer to the fans one more time… What a fabulous performance!

After all that intoxicating electronic soul and street-vibe indie pop, one is perfectly happy and ready to go home before remembering that MØ wasn’t the headliner tonight. The headliner tonight is another lady, namely the multiple winner of the Spellemannprisen, Susanne Sundfør. The pop singer-songwriter is welcomed by the audience as loud as MØ, if not even louder. Three number 1 albums in Norway («The Brothel», «The Silicone Veil» and the current opus «Ten Love Songs»), a number 1 hit with Röyksopp («Running To The Sea»), involvement in the soundtrack for the Tom Cruise movie «Oblivion»: These are just some of the previous successes of Susanne Sundfør. But I cannot help it: While compositions such as «Kamikaze» and «Fade Away» are performed, I cannot get the catchy songs from MØ out of my head. And so the show of the actual headliner passes me by.

The second day of the festival starts overall more friendly, namely with warm sunshine while Anneli Drecker performs songs such as «Ocean’s Organ» and «You Don’t Have To Change». On the day before, some festival visitors said that one should not miss the gig of the singer from Bel Canto. With Bel Canto, Anneli Drecker could bag the Spellemannprisen already three times. Alongside, she has worked with bands like a-ha, Röyksopp and Motorpsycho. Once again an opener who is able to spread a summerly festival atmosphere on the Stortorget.

No sooner the set of Anneli Drecker is completed, the programme continues off the stage with a short live performance by the Norwegian Sami rapper SlinCraze which is like a fitting introduction to the upcoming show of Lars Vaular.

Whatever your general opinion about Hip Hop and Rap is: As a matter of fact, Lars Vaular causes movement in the audience with tracks like «Rett Opp Og Ned» and «Det Ordnar Seg For Pappa». And since Lars Vaular already has three Spellemannprisen on his shelf, it is probably safe to say that the organisers of the RakettNatt Festival 2015 truly did not skimp on awarded artists. The rapper and songwriter from Bergen does not skimp on anything either: I may be wrong, but is Lars Vaular the first act who is responsive to the audience’s demand for an encore and returns to the stage, in this case with «Tyrannosaurus Sex»?

From the musical point of view, the mix of folk, indie and electro created by the Icelandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir should be much more appealing to a rock music listener like me than the Hip Hop performed by Lars Vaular. Well, it should be – but it isn’t. The thing is that Lars Vaular has build up an arc of tension which Ásgeir simply cannot hold. His melancholic reinterpretation of Nirvana’s «Heart-Shaped Box» causes goosebumps, it’s absolutely beautiful, but apart from that, the quiet sound of Ásgeir’s set is somehow quite out of place here, as it was the case the day before with Kristian Kristensen. It’s a pity, actually.

Also the Spellemannprisen winners Highasakite, who start their show with «Keep That Letter Safe», cannot convince completely. The shouting and cheering of the crowd is loud when the indiepop band around frontwoman Ingrid Helene Håvik enters the stage, but during the performances for songs like «Since Last Wednesday» and «Leaving No Traces», you see as much bored faces in the audience. One cannot please everyone, of course not, but the wait for Röyksopp starts to become a little bit exhausting, although the second day of the festival has passed by faster than the first.

And then, it’s finally time for THE headliner of RakettNatt 2015: Röyksopp! Now, the picture at Stortorget is absolutely perfect: The night which had fallen over Tromsø already during the gig of Highasakite, the shining solar system over the crowd in front of the stage and the laser lights which begin to illuminate with the show of the Electronic pioneers. Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland, the duo behind Röyksopp, enter the stage, to the frenetic cheers of the crowd and to the sounds of the opener «Skulls». Later on, people will talk about the «homecoming of the heroes», and this is anything but exaggerated. With Jonna Lee, who takes over the female vocals tonight (amongst others in «What Else is There?» and «Monument») and reminds of an elf with her graceful dance moves, there is even more for the eyes, next to all the lights, lasers and video installations. An absolutely spectacular and stunning show, and overall probably one of the best things one could ever experience in Tromsø.

Conclusion: The first edition of RakettNatt was not only a financial success; also for the cultural life of Tromsø, the «Music and Arts Festival» is an absolute enrichment. Next to the most eagerly anticipated headliner Röyksopp, there was also the one or other positive surprise, most notably MØ, but also less exciting phases did not fail to appear. Well, perhaps this is the tactic with which one gets sold almost 10,000 tickets for two festival days: Diversity in the line-up.

Text: Stefanie Singh