Way Out West 2015
Avenir was at Way Out West this August for the third consecutive year, and ahead of the weekend, the word was going round that it was going to be a very special edition. The weather – an important factor – was exceptional, which was a welcome addition to some very special moments and discoveries.
Way Out West takes place every year around mid-August in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the daytime in Slottskogen Park and in the evening at city-centre venues and industrial warehouses a bit further out. On top of the music, a film programme runs alongside as well as a music conference.
This year, headliners included Patti Smith, Pet Shop Boys, Florence And The Machine and Beck. All of these shows were enthralling, and not just because bigger shows are better at moving audiences both physically and emotionally. Each one of these gigs felt special for different reasons, Patti Smith for the legendary swagger and the wise words, Pet Shop Boys for the indulgent entertainment, Florence And The Machine for the sheer levels of energy she radiates, and Beck for the joyful schizophrenia and beauty of the songwriting.
We were particularly excited to see the newer acts who played the festival such as LA Priest, Courtney Barnett, LE1F – but looking at the line-up our highlights were Future Brown and FKA Twigs, artists who have been on our radar for a while.
Future Brown played one of the very first sets of the festival. The group of producers, consisting of Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, released a self-titled grime/electronic debut album back in February, which has been a hot topic of conversation in the alternative music press – the term “controversy” was even used. They do seem to embody the Zeitgeist a bit too perfectly, complete with CGI visuals, edgy collaborations (Tink, Kelela) and Nasir Mazhar outfits. Because their sound is so dance-floor-oriented, it seemed quite surprising they were programmed so early on in the day. Predictably, the fashionable, clean-cut Swedish crowd looked slightly bewildered as three MCs marched up and down the stage bellowing at them, “This is grime music… Straight out of the UK!” This was a good reminder that grime is a mostly UK-centric phenomenon, and is still almost niche elsewhere.
As far as the music was concerned, it was essentially quite repetitive with a few awesome beats and samples. The four DJs looked like they were having a lot of fun but almost never looked at the audience, leaving the MCs to do all the arms-in-the-air interaction and selfie-with-crowd-taking. The lack of human connection between artist and public would have gone unnoticed in a club context with everyone being too focused on trying to dance without spilling beer, but on a sunny Thursday afternoon in Sweden, Future Brown didn’t have enough to stand on to act aloof.
This impression was confirmed that very evening when FKA Twigs showed that poise doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with arrogance. Her performance was visually striking, with a strong light show enhanced by heavy flows of smoke and most importantly some breath-taking dance moves. As a professionally trained dancer Twigs takes stage choreography very seriously and has been working with rising vogue star Benjamin Milan, who joined her on stage for a now-YouTube-famous fast-paced duet.
Overall, the magnitude of the visual experience matched the powerful, raw musical performance, and the result left audiences transfixed. It also helped that Tahliah Barnett didn’t miss an occasion to express her gratitude to her feverish audience. Thank you Twigs, it means a lot to us too.
Text Luna Cohen-Solal
Photography Olle Kirchmeier and Annika Berglund