Hove: The festival challenge

A new kid has joined the class of Norwegian summer pop-music festivals, and he’s a big lad; determined to shift the geographical locus of sun-soaked musical celebrations to the coastal town of Arendal.

Hovefestivalen (luftfoto)

All along the southern coast of Norway bands run in a relay of festivals throughout the summer, but only a few events have the magnitude to attract the big names; the international stars that define a festival and decide which gets the festivalgoers’ money.

In its inaugural year –three months before kick-off- the Hove festival is looking very promising in this respect. Already the roster gleams like the fur of a well fed wolf, or, since it is a summer thing, one should perhaps compare the list of artists with a brilliant summer day instead. Some of the biggest names in the circuit of rock have confirmed their arrival -and it must be said, Hove is definitely a rock festival, perhaps more so than the contenders: The Killers, QOTSA, and Slayer are some of the headliners. However, the line up certainly does not lack big and exciting artists from other genres: Amy Winehouse and Damien Rice are two prominent ones. In addition the festival sports what seems like a majority of the currently hottest Norwegian acts. In fact the list gives one the general impression is that Hove has taken its competitors by a degree of surprise, perhaps most of all the main rival, Norway’s hitherto biggest festival; Quart in nearby Kristiansand. The rivalry between the two has been exaggerated perhaps -as a thing of the media- and anyway it is of course only on paper since Hove has yet to pull of a success in practice. Yet there are plenty of signs that the newcomer is an entity to be reckoned with, and let us remember that competition is always a good thing. Not least in Norway, where one of the downsides of festivals is the outrageous price level. This is something Hove seems to be consciously addressing; cutting prices and trying to cater to greater audiences than the typically affluent classes of young that loiter along Norway’s southern coastline for most of the summer.

Hove’s official lingo is that a festival is never better than its crowd, and a happy crowd is one that, in addition to getting great music, also does not feel subjected to greed: Happy Campers –this was once a Norwegian band- is the key to a great festival, thus reads the Hove web-site. And the camping/staying looks promising indeed, for the actual site -carefully chosen by the organizers- is a pastoral, lightly forested peninsula stretching out into the clean sea, circumscribed by beaches. Idyllic, pristine and small, only weather can foil the success of Hove it seems. -If the organizers are up to the substantial logistical task at hand, that is. And one would think they should be, since the main personae are all people formerly associated with Quart, which they left to set up the challenger. Thus there should be no lack of experience and shrewdness.

Summing up, Hove seems to have a lot of promise; musical and recreational and also in terms of being a lot closer to Oslo than its big brother Quart. Yet the latter has long since established itself with artists and audiences, so it is open which of the two will be the more memorable when we look back in the fall. But, any which way we look at it the competition will surely benefit the festivalgoers and the landscape has grown bigger.

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