There’s joy to be found in attending showcasing festivals. You don’t arrive with any expectations, or predetermined favourites. It doesn’t matter about an artist’s level of fame, gender or genre – you turn up for the music, and you leave with new songs saved to your library.
The festival scene in Norway holds a high standard and can easily measure up against festivals in Europe. Trondheim holds a special place in Norwegian history and culture. It was the first capital of Norway, and has since become a mecca for forward thinking pop artists.
Trondheim Calling follows a format like The Great Escape (UK) and SXSW (US). At its heart, it’s a small, intimate showcase of Norway’s music scene, set against the rich backdrop of a sprawling, picturesque and wildly beautiful town. While many festivals fixate on hype, Trondheim Calling is about providing a platform for those with the dreams of breaking globally.
Byscenen quickly became my favourite music venue in Trondheim. Spread across three floors, its smaller 150 capacity room is the perfect setting for discovering the freshest artists.
First up is eerie, experimental electronica in the form of Hôy la. The Copenhagen-based Trondheim producer, while relatively unknown in her home country, has started making waves in Copenhagen as a name for the Scandinavian underground scene. Inspired by her surroundings, and in the same lane electronically as Lykke Li, Hoy plays experimentally with various backdrops while her lyrics are dark and broken.
The algorithm friendly left-field pop music emerging from Norway does a lot more than pair nonsensical lyrics with experimental production. Take iris, the latest protégé of Made Management – home to AURORA and Sigrid.
Live, she’s a fascinating pop artist and honest storyteller with a sound that recalls the novelistic song-writing approach of Lorde, the dreamy vocal range of Billie Eilish and the minimalist electronica of Banks, while still sounding strangely idiosyncratic and ethereal.
“I’ve only seen Paris from my point of view, / The story is a masterpiece when I think of it” iris delicately muses on her debut single “from inside a car.” Iris is ready for bigger stages. She plays The Great Escape Festival in May, don’t miss it.
Trondheim Calling isn’t the only festival in the town’s calendar. Held every August on the banks of the River Nidelva, Pstereo Festival brings a mix of international names and Norwegian talent to Trondheim’s shores. On Friday evening, Pstereo organisers invited industry delegates to attend a special acoustic performance from fast-rising Norwegian artist Fay Wildhagen, and Kristoffer Lo.
Fay’s genre is referred to as folk-pop, influenced by musicians such as Feist, Joni Mitchell and early Bon Iver. On her latest album Borders, Fay explores themes of love and letting go. Live, Fay is a confident artist with impressive vocals that give you goosebumps.
Amanda Tenfjord steals the show at Byscenen on Saturday night. Playing to a packed out crowd in the venue’s charming 600 capacity room, Amanda is another one to watch. Elsewhere across the weekend are impressive sets from Catnip Cloud, The Fjords, Spielbergs, Hey Gloria and Pom Poko.
Trondheim Calling is a quality, well-organised festival. It truly represents the raw authenticity and musical progression that it’s artists have. While there was a lack of anything rip-roaring on the guitar band front, it’s clear that when it comes to pop music, Norway can do no wrong. Scandi-pop continues to keep up a subtle and enduring influence on global pop, with new acts like iris at the forefront of the next wave.
For more information on the festival visit https://trondheimcalling.no/