Review: Sweden’s Way Out West delivers biggest line-up for 10 year anniversary

This year's Way Out West was set to be epic from the start, with the festival delivering its biggest line-up for their ten year anniversary, including performances by Sia, Morrissey, Massive Attack, Grace Jones and PJ Harvey.

10 months agoText by


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What draws thousands of people to a weekend festival in Sweden’s ‘second city’, in spite of the truly dreary August weather? It’s huge headliners, and Way Out West had names that could rival some of Glastonbury’s finest years, with Sia, Morrissey, Massive Attack, Grace Jones and PJ Harvey being some of the big acts gracing the quaint city of Gothenburg last weekend.
Thursday was our driest day weather-wise, and on arrival, the Way Out West site seemed particularly idyllic; a mix of grassy open air stages, tented setups and street food vendors bound by the festival’s lilac branded boards. It’s important to note that to reduce the festival’s carbon footprint the festival initiates a strict vegetarian policy for all its vendors and food partners – impressive if you consider its size, catering for more than 30,000 ticket holders which are growing year on year.

The VIP and media block conveniently sits along the park’s central lake and so too does a private bar area which the babes flocked to early on, adorned in Coachella-worthy outfits. In case you were wondering, the rumours are true; the Swedish have particularly gorgeous genes. Hearing M83 play in the background and witnessing all the good-looking, well-dressed Swedes, reminded us a little of a scene in Made in Chelsea (and not in a bad way).

Way Out WestPhoto Annika Berglund

Way Out WestPhoto Olle Kirchmeier

With two main stages, a tent, a smaller stage and a film tent, everything in the main park can be accessed in ten minutes or so, good news as the following two days was spent avoiding the rain in between sets. On one of the two main stages, Scottish band Chrvches gave the first big performance of the weekend; the somewhat understated frontwoman, Lauren Mayberry, delivering each song pitch perfect and without breaking a sweat. The next major act was Morrissey, maybe because of the festival’s meat-free policy, chose Way Out West as one of his only festival appearances of the year. Donning lace up shirt and not one but two lanyards on his jeans (tres chic, Mozz), he treated fans to a particularly touching tribute to the victims of the recent Nice attack. Using his accompanying visuals to highlight the much-documented problem of police brutality, clips of young men being beaten by officers of the law played behind him. These clips were later followed by animal slaughter videos, whether to enforce the temporary vegetarianism of the festival’s attendees or not, it seemed a little unnecessary.

Way Out West Photo Annika Berglund

Photo Annika Berglund

The rest of Friday’s highlights included a DJ set by Kaytranada and guzzling a large amount of rose cider (yep, new to us too), before a recce over to the Stay Out West venues to watch current Notion cover stars Section Boyz shut it down. The Stay Out West ‘after hours’ venue aims to pick up where the festival ends each night across five different locations in the city and multiple stages. If the main festival had impressive headliners, the Stay Out West names didn’t disappoint either with Lady Leshurr, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes and Thundercat billed, each of which could have held their own at one of the festival’s main stages. That said, the venues are very cool, and helps add to Gothenburg’s growing reputation as a hip young city. From the sites we visited, our favourites included Gothenburg Studios, a dual warehouse space, and Bananpiren, comprised of three adjacent warehouses, similar in structure to Oval Space, with glass sides and each spaces channelling their own vibe. Transport to the following sites can be reached by a free, regular shuttle from the festival and the city’s central station. Taxis offer a faster alternative, although can work out quite pricey. Our recommendation is not to attempt to see all the acts, stick to one after-hours site for the night unless you’re prepared to fight your way into a packed warehouse after a set has begun. After a full day of the festival, we headed back to our hotel.

Way Out WestPhoto Olle Kirchmeier

Unfortunately, the heavens opened for our second day, meaning a sea of ponchos replaced the idyllic park scenes seen 24 hours earlier. It didn’t put a dampener on Anderson .Paak’s performance, though, whose charm won over even those who’d begrudgingly swapped their Coachella outfit for a Rains coat. Kamasi Washington and his band took our jazz appreciation to a whole new level with his soulful set which included a guest appearance by his father. As the streams of rain fell down on the tent, you couldn’t help but be warmed by the sounds of Washington’s band. We weren’t alone in feeling that either – there were quite a few famous faces that came to see Washington work his magic on the sax.

Leaving one legend for another, we headed to Grace Jones to watch the most mesmerising series of costume changes of the festival. Beginning each song with a new look, Jones purred her way through decades of tracks, each with an outlandish and very Grace Jones costume, cackling through each change and treating the drenched audience members to her most feline moves. You gave up your right to complain about being cold or wet just being able to witness Jones hula hooping her way around the stage, dressed in little more than body paint and heels.

Way Out WestPhoto Annika Berglund

Photo Annika Berglund

Going one step further with stage outfits, Peaches’ performance later that evening was the highlight of the weekend. Arriving on stage dressed as a giant uterus, Peaches belted out her tracks, accompanied by two role playing dancers, dressed in parts in BDSM clobber. Climbing inside a giant penis shaped inflatable bouncing upon the crowd, Peaches worked them into an excited frenzy, stripping down to just pants and boots before opening bottles of fizz and spraying them onto the eager crowd. It was enjoyable to such a big audience hyped to be witnessing this wonderfully bizarre show, one of the latest on the line-ups.

Way Out West Photo: Hilda Arneback

Way Out West Photo: Hilda Arneback

Sia’s magical set on the third day was one worth staying up late for; with her incredible live performance was one of the most amazing live visuals we’ve seen at a festival. However, it was the sprinkling of UK talent that made the festival for us; NAO and Mura Masa brought with them the sunshine amidst a torrential downpour. Stormzy proved to be extremely humble and hugely popular, genuinely thankful to those that turned up to be part of the “biggest mosh pit Sweden has ever seen!” And plenty turned up to his set, bowing and waving along to all of his tracks, even his new tune, debuted at WOW.

Way Out WestPhoto Olle Kirchmeier

Overall, it felt like Way Out West’s organisers pulled out the stops when it came to bringing in the headline acts who flocked to Gothenburg in the dozens. While much of the main festival’s scheduling felt considered, the programming of a few of the Stay Out West acts was a little late, especially with such acts The Internet and AlunaGeorge playing till 4 am. However, the scheduling ensured that whichever time you made your way up to the festival you were guaranteed to wander past one stage playing host to an internationally recognised artist.

While it probably isn’t the festival you may visit if you’re looking to lose your mind in a field for three days due to its city location, Way Out West is one of the best city festivals around. It is also an excellent way to enjoy some major artist performances, within a festival environment that doesn’t feel like an endurance test (we all know what Glastonbury was like, and it’s not something we want to revisit anytime soon). With its stellar selection of artists for a very affordable fee, it provides an added reason for travellers or city-breakers to head to the pretty city of Gothenburg, to sample some of the world’s best artists alongside some homegrown talent. It’s a yes from us.

Find out more about Way Out West here.
Way Out West is on Twitter + Instagram.
Follow Phie McKenzie on Twitter.

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