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The largest outdoor music festival in Oslo, Řyafestival operates as an extension of the capital city's communal atmosphere, with more than 1700 volunteers working behind the scenes to make the gears turn smoothly. When it is all said and done the festival is able to boast world-class entertainment without all of the hustle, bustle and bullshit of likeminded outdoor programs elsewhere. To that tune The Guardian hails the event as "a refreshing alternative to the summer's rash of mega-rock gatherings, the small festival with a big heart." Plus, they've got fjords.
At the center of the goings on, the festival's entertainment menu is developed as a means of "presenting new and exciting names in Norwegian music, supported by artists of an equal international character." On that front Řyafestival certainly delivers, mixing local and national acts with a hefty collection of in-the-moment names from all over; from Beirut to The Bronx, Andrew Bird to Jay Reatard, Datarock to Wilco, Crystal Antlers to Crystal Castles, Řyafestival is stacked with a roster of musicians to make a daily Pitchfork reader pee their pants. During the second week of August some 200 acts will descend on Oslo, with performances spread throughout nearly three-dozen stages, a combination of primarily clubs and a handful of outdoor performance spaces. There are nearly 100 acts on tap just for the Club Day on August 11th.
And then there is the Medieval Park itself, the tract of land at the literal and figurative heart of Norway, where the capital city was founded ten centuries ago. UK magazine The Fader calls the setting of the festival "insane," elaborating that "it is at the foot of some lush hills that rise out of the fjords (ok ocean)," complete with a "moat-like border." Basically, if GWAR were on the bill, it could pass for the film set on a 13th Warrior sequel.
For our money, however, the event takes the cake for its tiny footprint. Considered one of the greenest and cleanest festivals in the world, Řyafestival stakes a good deal of its reputation on leaving little to no trace of itself. That mentality is so pervasive as to be not so much a theme (though the Green mantra is everywhere) as simply a matter of fact. Yes, Řyafestival was "the first Scandinavian festival boasting 100% ecological food," but the outing has taken the low-impact, Earth-friendly outlook beyond post-consumer products and bottle deposits.
While all of the food and utensils are eventually composted for garden mulch, the big-picture mindset of Řyafestival extends beyond the material goods on the Medieval Park grounds. In fact, it extends all the way to event planning seminars in London at the annual SXSW conference in Texas, where Řyafestival organizers hold forth on the ins and outs of running a wasteless and tasteful summer blockbuster. The Norwegians are so green that they were tapped to help shape the criteria for Eco-Lighthouse certification, a designation given to ecologically sound festivals. Řyafestival of course went on to receive that certification, just one of a number of awards and recognitions it has garnered over the years.
Unfortunately for those without tickets, planning a trip to Oslo might be for naught at this point. While some single day tickets can still be scrounged, full five-day passes for the festival have long since sold out. In fact, Řyafestival has been sold out in advance since 2002.
Unlike neighboring Sweden, with its tween vampires running amok, Řyafestival also has the advantage of being in squeaky clean, low-crime Norway. According to event organizers, "with 70,000 people in 2008, we had no arrests! Three wasp bites was the worst that happened (same for the last 10 years actually)." So if you do head to Oslo and can't get a ticket, at least you know you are unlikely to be mugged while sleeping in the gutter. It sounds like you might want to bring a beekeeper's helmet though. SEE ALSO: www.oyafestivalen.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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