Festival at the fortress

The fortress festival in Oslo this weekend is not just the first edition of what is hopefully a series of annual music festivals, but it is also a unique festival, with few or no events like it, at least in Norway. jarre.no spoke to organizer Ole Thorvik about the festival that needed Jean Michel Jarre.

The last couple of years Jean Michel Jarre has been touring extensively in Europe, with concerts in Oslo in both 2008 and 2009. When Jarre embarked on his first world tour this year, it was therefore not a given that he would visit Norway again. But the concert gods wanted it differently. In 2008 Jarre played an intimate concert in Oslo’s Concert House, and in 2009 he playede to a sold out Spektrum arena. This year creative people invited Jarre to headline a brand new festival, to be held outdoors at the medieval fortress and castle, Akershus, right in the middle of Oslo. This would be Jarre’s third concert format in as many years, but not only would it be an outdoor concert at a special location (a speciality of Jarre) but it would also be Jarre’s first festival appearance ever. With the fortress as a venue, it was kind of obvious to bring in Jean Michel Jarre, Ole Thorvik points out, and fortunately, Jarre was available this summer, as he had developed a tour concept that could be adapted to fit various outdoor venues.

Ole Thorvik represents the festival’s organizer, simply called Festningen 2010 (Fortress 2010) and he says; «The idea was to create a festival different from all the others. With Akershus Fortress this was possible. We had to create a concept which suited the venue, and earned its respect. The idea rose from spectacular concerts at Slane Castle in Dublin and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. Our first choice was Jean Michel Jarre, to give this festival the birth it deserves.» It was decided that the festival should feature symphonick rock, electronica and other artists working on a big scale. The audience will also be treated to electro-indie-pop acts The Very Best, The New Vine and The Irrepressibles. While the earlier bands will play shortened festival sets, both Röyksopp and Jarre will play full-lenght concerts. Professional musicians from the Norwegian Army Staff Orchestra was also brought in to make a connection to the military part of the fortress.

With two days to go, the stage has been set up but lots of equipment is to be added.

The festival also features Norway’s #1 electronica act, Röyksopp, a young duo consisting of Torbjorn Brundtland and Svein Berge. Having released acclaimed albums and videos for a few years, they could easily have been the headline act themselves. Ole Thorvik thinks that getting Röyksopp and Jarre on the same stage is a good idea; «I think most of Jarre’s fans already approve Röyksopp, and the Röyksopp fans will get a new, unique experience [from Jarre, as they] discover a big artist they haven’t noticed, because they are too young. Jarre and Röyksopp are like father and sons in [the electronica scene].»

Jean Michel Jarre practically never participates in multi-artist events, usually due to his tailor-made concerts in unusual locations. Were there any problems in adapting Jarre’s current concept to the festival, being mainly an indoor and single-artist concept? «We had some production challenges, but these were solved together with Jarre’s production staff,» Thorvik says. The challenges arose due to the fact that Jarre brings his own production to the venue, which will be supported by extra lights, lasers and fireworks, added by the festival’s production company. Jarre’s concert will therefore not be his usual arena concert with the roof off, but a proper outdoor production. The debut edition of the festival is such a big event that equipment and crew from Sweden had to be brought in to execute the plans.

The festival has been heavily promoted, with print ads in major newspapers, editorial coverage, radio and TV spots, and online viral marketing. Has it been a tough sell, considering it’s a new festival with relatively niched music? «We have done the necessary promotion, and the combination of headliners and venue made it more than a traditional concert. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime-experience, and the concert will be sold out,» Thorvik foresees. He’s probably right; three days before the festival kicks off, only 4-5% of all tickets remained.

As the festival already seems to be a success, before a single note has been played, there might be future editions to enjoy. «Personally I would like to [get] Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd, but we are already working with other big electronica artists, and others» Ole Thorvik says. But first he has to experience the spectacular concerts at Akershus on August 28th, along with thousands of fans from all over Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, UK, Spain, France and Italy.

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