Knarrholmen Festival, 25th – 26th May 2011, Knarrholmen Island
You get the feeling that if Knarrholmen grows any larger, it will lose the warmth, character and beauty that makes it one of the biggest gems of the Swedish summer. Only in its second year, the festival that takes place on a beautiful little island in the Gothenburg archipelago is an experience completely unique amongst Scandinavian music festivals, and it is perhaps the size of the island that will ensure the festival retains its charm, as it will only ever allow for so much growth. No music festival can remain the same forever, but it would be nice to think that the experience can be preserved for a few more years yet.
Any future festivals will do well to top the weather seen during the last weekend, scorching hot and cloudless throughout, allowing for long nights in only a T-shirt, but leaving very little scope for a late morning sleep-in inside sauna like tents. The location of the festival came into its own, the bracing waters providing a ready-made cure for warm bodies and hung-over heads alike. How I could have done with the chilly waters of the North Sea during weekend- long festivals of the past, nothing brings you around quite like jumping into water in such northern climes, providing the kind of instant refreshment that money just can’t buy.
The experience of such a hazy weekend, only a tram ride and 12 minute boat trip from the centre of Gothenburg, left me realising quite how lucky Gothenburg natives are, the winter may be long and arduous, but not many do summer better than the Swedes, weather permitting of course.
Arriving on the first packed boat on Friday afternoon we were soon into the swing of things, watching the talented and amazingly voiced Noonie Bao open the festival on the small stage, it was soon apparent that this is a festival experience that is all about atmosphere, with friendly being the byword. Despite the blazing sun and copious amounts of alcohol consumed, the whole weekend felt devoid of bad feeling, as people soaked up the music, basked on rocks and generally enjoyed the kind of experience they were yearning for back in January.
The music, which is focused on quality Swedish acts, rarely dissapointed, and particular highlights included the predictably excellent JJ, a perfect soundtrack to the hot afternoon sun from Idiot Wind and a weekend stealing set of thumping dance music from Icona Pop, which left the underwhelming Friday headliner Embassy with a very tough act to follow, they never got close incidentally. Alongside the peachy musical line-up there are enough fun inducing events to keep up your enjoyment levels between bands. Boulier de Lotto and Quizadillas offer a great musical alternative getting the crowd whipped up with there alternative versions of classic ‘party games’. After the final bands had left the main stage, it was back to the small stage to hear DJ sets until the first sign of daylight took wary revelers back for a short stint in their sleeping bags, unless you were lucky enough to be lapping up the luxury in one the islands many Stugor.
Swedish acts should jump at the chance to play in such a setting in the future, rarely will they get a chance to play amongst such a backdrop, the blend of light and water behind the main stage adding to the power of the music and general atmosphere so key to such an event.
Gripes were minor, the rather unnecessary token system, the lack of smaller- more reasonably priced food options, and a bit of a logistical nightmare in getting day ticketholders off the island in the early hours of Sunday morning, all of these things easily remedied and not serious enough to spoil the experience, particularly for those of us who had a casual exit from the island on the very last boat of Sunday afternoon.
Here is hoping that the island is left relatively untouched and the festival will return next year, for it is an experience that I for one would like to replicate, for if you cannot enjoy great music, amongst good people, on such an island, then perhaps the festival experience was never for you in the first place.