Norway’s world of music festivals
From rock and pop to classical and black metal, Norwegian festivals embrace all genres
The Norwegian American
If you’re a Norway enthusiast with a passion for music, it may be a dream of yours to attend a music festival on your next Norwegian vacation. But where to begin? Norway is home to hundreds of music festivals each year, spanning almost every genre imaginable with venues scattered throughout the country.
While it would be impossible to list even a fraction of these, below you will find a selection of a few of the top festivals as well as several unique festivals that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the world. Not seeing what you’re looking for? Do some quick research and we think you might just find the perfect Norwegian festival for you.
Sharing its name with the well-known Beatles song, Norwegian Wood is a rock festival held each year at Frognerbadet, Oslo’s outdoor swimming pool complex. Over the last 25 years, the impressive festival has hosted many of rock’s biggest names: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Sting, and the Eagles, among many others. The mid-June festival also provides up-and-coming local artists the opportunity to play for large crowds. Because of the classic artists, range of genres, and no age limit, the crowds tend to be varied and diverse. Learn more about the festival at norwegianwood.no.
Held on the historic grounds of the medieval Bergenhus Fortress right in Bergen’s city center, Bergenfest is undoubtedly an experience to remember. The open-air festival has grown over the years to become the largest music festival in western Norway. Each year, there are around 50 acts presenting a vast array of genres—from pop and rock to EDM and world music. In addition to local Norwegian artists, prominent international stars including John Mayer, Imagine Dragons, and Lana Del Ray have taken the stage at Bergenfest. The four-day festival takes place in mid June each year. Visit www.bergenfest.no for more information.
Ice Music Festival
At this chilly festival you won’t find any traditional instruments; all instruments and even the venues are made up of ice and snow. And with changing temperatures affecting the sound of the instruments, no two concerts are ever the same. Set in the picturesque mountain town of Geilo, located about halfway between Oslo and Bergen, this is the only ice music festival in the world. You’ll want to bring your warmest layers for this festival as the icy event takes place during the middle of winter on the first full moon of the year. For more information, visit www.icemusicfestival.no.
One of Norway’s biggest festivals, Øyafestivalen is held in Tøyen Park on Oslo’s eastside. Featuring famous headliners while also promoting Norwegian talent, the festival has been praised for its ability to seamlessly weave the two together. The 2017 festival showcased Lana Del Ray as the headliner, as well as other famous artists including the The xx, Pixies, and The Shins, but also managed to highlight Norwegian pop artists like Gabrielle, Sigrid, and Nils Bech. Over the four days in mid August, more than 90 concerts are held on several stages throughout the park. For more details, check out oyafestivalen.no.
Dark Season Blues Festival
In late October each year, Longyearbyen hosts the Dark Season Blues Festival just as the sun is about to leave the Svalbard archipelago for the long, dark winter. Blues musicians, both local and international, make their way up to Svalbard for this intimate festival with concerts held over four days at pubs, schools, and a church. Due to the casual atmosphere in Longyearbyen, close connections are made between the musicians, locals, and audience. The audience is even invited to play with the artists at the blues jam on the final night. Visit www.svalbardblues.com to learn more.
Inferno Metal Festival
If you’d rather spend your Easter rocking out to heavy medal than painting eggs or going to church, the Inferno Metal Festival is the place to be. Norway has played an important role in the extreme medal scene, especially black metal, and each year metal fans from all around the globe flock to Oslo for this festival. With around 40 bands, Inferno is the largest metal festival in the country. After the club day with concerts at various rock clubs around the city, the concerts are held at Rockefeller Music Hall and John Dee. Head over to www.infernofestival.net to learn more.
Since its beginnings in 1989, MaiJazz has become not only one of the leading jazz festivals in Norway but also one of the top cultural events in Stavanger. Over the years, the festival has grown rapidly and attracted artists from around the world. In addition to promoting the best of the local and national jazz scene, MaiJazz has presented many well-known artists to its audiences, including the Pat Metheny Group, Herbie Hancock, and Youssou N’dour. The concerts are held in early May at a variety of venues throughout the city. For more information, visit maijazz.no.
As the home to several of the country’s successful electronic music artists when the genre first became popular, Tromsø earned the title of Norway’s capital of the techno scene. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the arctic city is home to Insomnia Festival, which aims to showcase and develop new innovative electronic music and techno culture. In addition to seminars, exhibitions, and debates, there are a series of concerts, DJ events, and performances. The festival lasts three days and is considered to be Norway’s most important electronic music festival. Visit www.insomniafestival.no for the details.
Grieg in Bergen
You can’t talk about Norwegian music without mentioning Edvard Grieg. This concert series spans 10 weeks from mid June to late August each year. There are four evening concerts each week for a grand total of 40 concerts. If you’re visiting Bergen in the summer, there’s a good change you’ll be able to attend one of these concerts at Korskirken, the Church of the Cross, conveniently located in the city center right next to the fish market. While some of Grieg’s pieces will be included in each concert, music from other well-known composers will also be performed. Find more information at www.grieginbergen.com.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 8, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.