The best of Way Out West: Day One

Stuart Roberts travels to Gothenburg for the second annual Way Out West Festival. Franz Ferdinand, Sonic Youth and Nick Cave are among the top acts on a fast and furious day one.

The best of Way Out West: Day One

The first rule of a festival is to get yourself there, which this correspondent nearly did not. I do not recommend trying your luck on SJ’s last-minute Tradera lottery, when 24,000 music fans are descending on Gothenburg’s Slottskogen for what is fast becoming the signature event on the Swedish summer music calendar.

But arrive I did, on a last-minute ticket that landed me with a first class hole in the pocket, to the picturesque Slottsskogen, on the edge of the city centre – Gothenburg’s answer to New York’s Central Park.

It’s a unique festival setting, which delivers the feel of a rural festival in a cosmopolitan environment. Way Out West’s press manager, Joel Borg, explained: “The biggest difference between Way Out West and other festivals is that it’s an urban festival – it’s in a really nice park in the middle of the city. There’s a lot of environmental thinking in the concept.”

Organizers of Way Out West, Luger, increased the venue’s capacity from last year’s inaugural event, and following the festival’s successful debut, tickets sold out on the eve of opening night this year. “We sold over 24,000 tickets, so the there will be around 22,000 people each day, which is an extra 4,000 people a day on last year,” Borg told The Local.

Organizers have kept ticket prices competitive in the face of significant costs for a new festival. “A festival like this is really expensive to produce, not only the artists’ fees – which are the biggest contribution to costs – but also all the other infrastructure like stages and fencing,” Borg said.

The heavens opened up on Thursday night, as if on cue on the eve of an outdoor festival. But the clouds cleared by early Friday afternoon, and I joined the crowds pouring in through the Slottsskogen gates for the opening acts.

UK band Lightspeed Champion kicked off in the Linné tent with a frantic set, reminiscent of Pete Doherty’s defunct band The Libertines. From there it was a mad dash across to the Flamingo stage to catch the sublime Christian Kjellvander, playing his brand of moody folk-inspired blues.

First clash of the day was Kenya’s vibrant Kenge Kenge and talented US solo artist Iron & Wine. I went for Kenge Kenge at the Azalea stage, for a gyrating performance of “benga” folk music that I liked so much I bought the CD at the nearby merchandise tent.

It was around this point that I began noticing the messages that were scrolling continuously on the giant video screens set up all over the park. Some were benign and amusing: “If someone falls, help them up” … “Have fun, and be nice to each other”; and some civically responsible, given recent tragedies at other festivals: “Don’t push towards the front of the stage”… “Don’t forget to drink water”.

The musical contrast in the first three acts set the tone for the festival. The frenetic pace also increased, as a number of great performances became a kaleidoscopic blur. The boys from Borlänge, Mando Diao, set the crowd alight with their energetic rock ballads and tight black pants, in a high-energy set.

The UK’s Franz Ferdinand was a highlight of day one, and Thurston Moore’s enduring rock institution Sonic Youth, gave it everything on the Azalea stage. Nick Cave’s experimental project, Grinderman, delivered a typically raw set, with Mr Cave at his outrageous cavorting best.

I expect to be cursed by a generation of fans, but for me, Broder Daniel was a sad disappointment in the farewell gig for this iconic Swedish pop band. Headlining Friday’s line-up, Henrik Berggren struggled to nail even his signature anthem songs. Therese Brolin from Gothenburg agreed: “I knew he couldn’t sing, but that was really disappointing.”

Those who hadn’t escaped Broder Daniel earlier then dispersed into the urban jungle to find the club playing their bands of choice – another novelty of the Way Out West format, made possible by the venue’s central location. But problems were evident already on Thursday night, with widespread reports of opportunistic clubs filling up with paying customers, before allowing festival pass-holders in.

Johan and his wife had driven down from Stockholm, almost exclusively to see emerging Seattle band, Fleet Foxes, but had also wanted to take in some club acts. “We tried last night but we couldn’t get in because they sold tickets to the public before the festival crowd came down,” Johan said.

For those who couldn’t get in to a club it was high time to grab forty winks in preparation for day two of the festival.

Stuart Roberts

For members


Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s ‘Little London’?

With ties to Britain dating back more than 200 years, the city of Gothenburg has long been known as Sweden’s Little London.

Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s 'Little London'?

Grey skies, rainy days, a wide-mouthed river, and a love for English pubs. At first glance, it’s no wonder that Gothenburg has long held the nickname of Sweden’s own “Little London”, or Lilla London

But what are the origins of this British title?

“The nickname ‘Little London’ was first used in a newspaper in 1766,” explains Håkan Strömberg, educational officer at the Museum of Gothenburg.

“The Brits were the largest immigration group during the 1700s and early 1800s, mainly because Sweden was a country close by, it was economically underdeveloped compared to England and Scotland and had a lot of raw materials. To put it simply, could make some money here.”

The city’s reputation as a British enclave dates back to the 1700s when trade brought many foreign influences to the Västra Götaland region.

As merchants and shipbuilders like Charles Chapman, David Carnegie, and James Dickson moved to the area, local residents began to notice a growing list of similarities between the Swedish port city and the British capital.

Indeed, even one of Sweden’s most renowned scientists, Carl Von Linné, is said to have commented on the similarities between the two cities when he visited Gothenburg in the 1700s.

 “Being a group of upper-class immigrants, the British merchants made sure they had access to all the good things from their home country. But the feeling of Gothenburg as a Little London was most likely something the Swedish citizens had, rather than the Brits,” adds Strömberg. 

The historical roots that connect the UK and Gothenburg are still evident today, with many spots in the city still alluding to British names, like Chalmers University – founded by the son of a wealthy Scottish industrialist, or Chapmans Torgnamed after a family of sailors and shipbuilders once well-established in the area. 

Catriona Chaplin, a British expat turned Gothenburger, only began to see the similarities and know of the nickname after relocating to the region for work. Growing up in Leicestershire, central England, she’d never heard of London’s Swedish sibling city.

“We came to Gothenburg 17 years ago. We’d never heard about [the nickname] until we moved here, but there is a bar on Avenyn called Lilla London, so that’s when we started to know about it,” she says.

Today, as the membership secretary of the British Club of Gothenburg, she brings a taste of the British Isles to life in Gothenburg.

The Club, which organises social events like concerts, quiz nights, and theatre performances, has a membership base of nearly 200 families. And although less than 0.5 percent of Gothenburg’s population today was born in the UK, the club welcomes members from a range of nationalities.

In fact, the only membership requirement is having some kind of interest in the UK, be it from a cultural standpoint, a past tourist experience, or a love of the language. 

“People come to the British Club just to socialise in their native language. It’s also about the culture, like the banter, the jokes and playing on words,” she says. 

Although the city’s British roots run deep, questions remain about modern-day Gothenburg’s status as “Little London”.

To some, the west-coast maritime hub’s industrial legacy, strong working-class culture, and amiable nature are reminiscent of a different English city. “They ought to call it ‘Little Liverpool’!” says Chaplin, with a smile. 

Lasting Landmarks

Evidence of Gothenburg’s British connections can be found in many of its landmarks, shops, and of course, pubs. Some of the historical hotspots still apparent today include:

Haga – The British ‘hood 

The area of Haga, just outside the old city, was once considered a slum, but changed character thanks to British philanthropist Robert Dickson (1782-1858), who built public baths, a library, and other landmarks with the typical red bricks found in Britain at the time.

St Andrew’s Church 

A key part of the British community is the Anglican church of Saint Andrew’s, also in Haga. Dedicated to the patron saint of Scotland, it was built and to date funded by ‘The British Factory’, a British society founded in the 1700s to help expats in Gothenburg that remains active even today.

The Victorian gothic style of the church is in line with the architectural trend in Britain at the time. 

John Scott – a legend among Gothenburgers

One of Gothenburg’s most well-loved establishments is John Scott’s, a local pub chain named after Pastor John Henry Scott, an Englishman and prominent landowner in 18th century Gothenburg. 

The “English quarter”

The square of buildings delineated by Teatergatan, Storgatan, Kungsportsavenyn and Vasagatan was once known as the city’s English Quarter. The buildings in this neighbourhood are influenced by British design, and the original landowners were in fact English pastor John Henry Scott and his wife, Jacobina.

By Alexander Maxia, Lisa Ostrowski and Sanna Sailer