In Norway, A Small Music Festival Thrives On Community

Editorial Director, Music

At the southernmost tip, Norway becomes slightly more hospitable than its northern region. Though a curtain of rain swirled, always at bay, on a recent November weekend, the driving snow and oppressive temperatures of the northern region were tempered in the coastal city of Kristiansand. This is the site where the small but formidable music festival Sørveiv has taken root since 2010, and in less than a decade established its presence on the international stage for curating a lineup that features strictly upcoming Scandinavian and European acts.

While the term “festival” in the US has become equated with “food and drink carnival featuring Chance The Rapper, Lorde, and The Killers,” this one hews closer to the original conception of the event. For instance, there were just over forty bands on the docket for the two-day event, and none of them were likely to be acts that the average US music journalist has heard before.

As I scoured the lineup on the festival brochure on my lengthy plane ride across the world for the brief event, it occurred to me that the last time I attended a music festival based so strictly on discovery was last summer up in Canada, at Sled Island Music & Arts Festival.

Perhaps the considerable rise of festival culture in America has stopped us from creating experiences that seek to elevate unknown bands, and simply re-promote those who are already the most well-known. A possible exception to this rule is Justin Vernon’s own Eaux Claires Festival in the Wisconsin city of the same name — but even that one wouldn’t earn national attention without the driving force of Bon Iver.

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In contrast to all that, Sørveiv gathered between thirty and fifty music industry professionals and journalists for a jam-packed 48 hours of panels, talks, and, of course, shows, highlighting the best young talent that Scandinavia had to offer, and importing some of the wisest international minds to help unpack the ever-shifting peaks and valleys of this particularly puzzling field.

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