Webcuts brings you the lowdown from this year’s Way Out West Festival held in Gothenburg, Sweden, including reviews, photos, and setlists from the first two days, Thursday 7 and Friday 8 August 2008. Bands reviewed: Buzzcocks, The Sonics, Okkervil River, The National, Sonic Youth, Grinderman and Broder Daniel.

Way Out West Day One and Two — Thu 7 Aug-Fri 8 Aug 2008    


Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish): beautiful, steeped in history, windswept and rainy. It’s Sweden’s second largest city, home to the biggest theme park, shopping centre, book fair and film festival in Scandinavia. Add to that list Way Out West, which if not the biggest, is certainly the most successful musical festival in an urban area. Slottskogen, the epicentre of the festival, is an expansive 130-plus hectare park only a few kilometres from the middle of Gothenburg, teaming with ponds, sports fields and even a zoo. In short, a perfect place for some twenty thousand fans of alternative rock, hip-hop and electronic music. Two main stages, Flamingo and Azalea, on opposite ends of a giant field alternated between the major players while a ten minute walk brought you to the Linné circus tent where smaller acts aired their wares.

The Buzzcocks – Still Going Steady at Henriksberg

Fast Cars
I Don’t Mind
Get On Our Own
What Ever Happened
Oh Shit
You Say You Don’t
Sound of a Gun
Noise Annoys
Love You More
What Do I Get
Harmony In My Head
Orgasm Addict
Ever Fallen In Love

Officially beginning on Thursday night in a round of first-come, first-served club gigs where it was by sheer determination and savage elbowing that Webcuts gained admission to watch punk veterans The Buzzcocks sweatily stumble through the hits of yesteryear inside the uncomfortably rammed Henriksberg in downtown Gothenburg. The Gutter Twins, No Age and Four Tet were also playing in scattered clubs across town but there was no way of seeing one band and heading across town to catch another. You had to pick your band and pray you got in. Given a heroes reception, Pete Shelley and Co. had something of an easy ride and were as shambolic and noisy as they probably were in the ’70s, not that the majority of the audience had any notion of what the ’70s were like anyway. A set which leaned heavily on Another Music in a Different Kitchen material was hardly going to disappoint. “What Do I Get?”, “Orgasm Addict”, “Ever Fallen in Love” etc. were delivered to raucous applause and Scandinavian mayhem. Standing on the stairs surveying the heaving bodies seemed like the only safe spot in the house.

Sonic(s) Un-Youth – The Sonics at the Linne tent

Compiled of a bill that seemed to have no rhyme or reason, and perhaps because of it’s eclectic nature, rather than following current trends with current acts and unnecessarily overfilling bills as do the majority of European festivals, Way Out West seemed intent on placating the locals with some home talent, while opening the gates for all genres of music within the bounds of the two days/three stage set-up. The appearance of staunch festival veterans like Nick Cave, Sonic Youth and Neil Young gave the festival a professional touch while allowing lesser-known bands to stretch their legs with 45 minute to an hour sets all round. The first show of the festival proper Webcuts caught (prodigious late sleepers and all…) was Seattle’s The Sonics, a veritable garage rock blast from the past. Now well into their 50s and 60s, they were consummate showmen, playing out a tight set of ’60s garage rock staples, like “Have Love, Will Travel” and “Walkin’ The Dog” as well as the songs we were all hanging out to hear, “Strychnine” and “The Witch” from their now classic debut album Here are The Sonics. Was this band loved or what? It seemed like the entire tent was full of garage rock freaks losing their shit en masse.

For Real! Okkervil River at the Linné stage    


Okkervil River
Plus Ones
A Hand To Take Hold of The Scene
All The Latest Toughs
A Girl in Port
Lost Coastlines
John Allyn Smith Sails
Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
For Real

Franz Ferdinand apparently played a killer set on the main stage however the Webcuts team have long held a soft spot for Will Sheff and his band of merry men and (now) woman from Austin so instead bounded off to hear Okkervil River’s literate folk rock. Truth be told we’ve seen better performances by the band; Will lacked some of his usual passion and new guitarist Lauren, while technically competent, was a little stiff, but the main problem was the paltry 45 minutes allocated made the nine songs breeze by far too quickly. Still, portions from The Stage Names bristled with verve and veracity including “Plus Ones”, a nod to other numerical themed songs, the bar room stomp of “Hand to Take Hold of the Scene” and the rasping “Life is Not a Movie or Maybe”. The airing of new tune “Lost Coastlines”, a gentle duet and highlight from forthcoming LP The Stand Ins, proved a welcome surprise, but it was the older, more strident selections such as “Black”, “The Latest Toughs” and set closer “For Real” that were the real crowd pleasers. A breathless, sweat soaked Sheff apologised for their swift exit but promised the band will return to Sweden in October. Going by the number of punters baying for more, they’d better.

Sonic Youth
Burning Spear
World Looks Red
Bull in the Heather
Hey Joni
The Sprawl
‘Cross the Breeze
The Wonder
Drunken Butterfly
Jams Run Free
Pink Steam

Sonic Youth provided a disparate soundtrack while standing disgruntled in the food queue. Still feeling the after-effects of touring Daydream Nation in full, their current set featured many of those songs, unfortunately not the good ones. At first thought, Webcuts was thrilled Sonic Youth were on the bill, but they aren’t your typical festival band anymore (our last Sonic Youth festival experience being over a decade ago when they encored with Iggy Pop and Nick Cave for a rousing “I Wanna Be Your Dog” but we digress…). They don’t have a solid gold festival set, nor do they seem a band who would throw the audience a few bones to keep people from straying. Lee Ranaldo took us on a trip through “Mote” from 1990’s Goo and Kim Gordon, relieved of bass guitar duties by Pavement’s Mark Ibold, took centre stage to sing “Drunken Butterfly” from 1992’s Dirty but all together it wasn’t enough to separate us from our quest for a hamburgare .

The National
Star a War
Secret Meeting
Baby We’ll Be Fine
Slow Show
Mistaken for Strangers
Squalor Victoria
Racing Like a Pro
Apartment Story
Fake Empire
Mr November

The last eighteen months have seen Brooklyn five piece The National go from “band to watch” to “watch that band!”, their rapid rise to the top of the indie pile evidenced by the multitudes trying to shoehorn into the Linné tent. We lost count of the amount of times we uttered “Ursäkta mig” (“Excuse me”) when making a beeline for the stage, but suffice to say it was probably similar to the number of swaying fans in attendance — more than five thousand. Our judicious jostling proved worthwhile though, as a year of solid touring has shaped a tight live act into something extraordinary. Vocalist Matt Berninger switched from autistic aloofness to manic intensity in the beat of a snare drum, both the Dessner and Devendorf sets of brothers played with consummate skill, while Padma Newsome on keys and violin fleshed out the aural soundscape. The addition of two horn players enhanced the already lavish tracks especially on the relaxed ballads “Slow Show”, “Racing Like a Pro” and the towering “Fake Empire”. Expect to see them on the main stage this time next year.

Cave and his bad men getting it on at the Flamingo Stage   


Depth Charge Ethel
Get It On
Electric Alice
(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free
When My Love Comes Down
Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)
Man In The Moon
No Pussy Blues
Love Bomb

Providing a similar audience reaction to Sonic Youth were Nick Cave’s band of Grindermen who must’ve taken some perverse delight in frustrating the locals who would’ve been far more content with the full Bad Seeds line-up than his current garage rock experiment. The continued touring of an album released eighteen months ago offers proof that Grinderman isn’t just a one-off project. Despite Cave’s authorship, the music itself is more unrestrained and primal, hacking back to his Birthday Party days, and not what we’ve come to expect. Unable as they are to be selective with the material, the patchy Grinderman album is played in near entirety. Cave is still a force to be reckoned with and when not hammering out the atonal squal that is “Get It On”, he’s playing the joker card on “No Pussy Blues”, howling with pent-up sexual frustration, which we all know is lies, lies, lies. On the other hand, if violinist Warren Ellis were to sing this, we’d be firm believers. Being an unfamiliar sight, we quickly realised that Nick Cave wielding a blonde Stratocaster is far more appealing than watching him tinkle the ivories and reach into the bible. Perhaps Grinderman album two will bring about more of the same, only better. A belated encore became their saving grace, Cave walking back out onto the stage, brusquely announcing “We’ve been told we’ve got three minutes left” and with a low bass rumble, the Bad Seeds classic “Tupelo” was given a thorough Grinderman re-working and those sour frowns were turned upside down.

Dreams are now all we have of Broder Daniel (pictured at the Flamingo Stage)   


Broder Daniel
The Middleclass
Old In Just One Day
Dream My Days Away
Hold On to Your Dreams
What’s Good
Cruel Town
Happy People Never Fantasize
I’ll Be Gone
Only Life I Know
When We Were Winning
Hardened Heart
You Bury Me
No Time for Us (Acoustic)

As darkness enveloped Slottskogen it was only fitting that Gothenburg’s own purveyors of brooding, angst rock, Broder Daniel, took to the stage for one last time. Black clad “panda” indie girls and boys (who singer Henrik Berggren later refers to as “his children”) pour out of the shadows to stake a good view, while older Swedes, whose teenage years in the ’90s were spent listening to Forever, also crowded the Flamingo arena out of curiosity and nostalgia. Broder Daniel were always a band to divide opinion and their swansong is no different. They either played a classic set of dark, carthatic rock whose lyrics, at one time or another, provided a soundtrack to your troubled life, or they were an decidely average indie band whose singer was partially tone-deaf, wore a dracula cape, and too much makeup. But all but the hardest of hearts were moved when Berggren dedicated the Mamas and Papas sounding new song “Hold On to Your Dreams” to former guitarist Andrews Göthberg who died earlier this year. After a brief pause to allow hands and hankies the opportunity to wipe away tears it was back to ragged guitar lines and tales of heartbreak and loneliness with “What’s Good”, “I’ll Be Gone” (one of the songs from the film Fucking Amål that helped Broder Daniel breakthrough into the Swedish mainstream) and “Shoreline”. The finale which saw Henrik play the bittersweet “No Time for Us” armed only with an acoustic guitar and simple melody was deeply affecting and as the camera panned to show numerous young fans muddying up their mascara it dawned upon us that there could be no better way to bring closure to both the first day of Way Out West and the career of such an idiosyncratic band.

Way Out West 2008 Part 2 (Saturday)

Craig Smith and Caleb Rudd. Assisted by Lisa Hallquist.