What does it take to get a crowd to dance? In many Western societies, it seems as if concertgoers are becoming a bit of a socio-anthropological phenomenon. Glue seems to be stuck to the bottom of the feet of those who attend concerts. Growing up going to concerts and festivals in Texas, I learned from my sister that “if you like the music, you should dance.” In fact, in Texas, it can be considered a snub to a band to not dance. It is just something that comes along with the desire to see live music. So I set off to find out what it is about cultures like Norway, where all this glue is coming from.
Written by Leah Plotz
In my near-decade here, I have sought to understand this phenomenon thoroughly. I wanted to see if there was any way in breaking it, or seeing which exceptions apply (besides festivals. Festivals never count).
Always optimistic, I did a lot of first-hand research at various musical events. I found most of my inspiration in university gigs where most of the attendees are exchange students. Coming from all sorts of cultures, it could be that the fusion of cultures and ideas is what makes a gig a good one.
I traversed the country and interviewed every musician I met. Big stages, little stages, it did not seem to matter: it just is not that easy to get a Norwegian to move their feet before Beer #4. That is if they are even paying attention in the first place. Then, I came across an event: Eddy’s Kitchen celebrating five years in the music business.
No, Eddy’s Kitchen is not a restaurant.
Nor is it a café, or a bar. Eddy’s Kitchen is a sort of musical community, really. An event and artist management business, it attracts all sorts of different people, cultures, and motives. Since 2010, Gustav “Eddy” Larsen has watched his idea grow, working with some of Oslo’s hidden talent, and it was time to celebrate. Three bands, one DJ, and even an MC were on for entertainment. Surely this community will deliver some loose feet, I thought. Upon arrival at the venue (Månefisken in Sagene), I quickly met app developers, artists, friends, and mums. It was becoming more and more clear that this was like a gigantic birthday party.
The line-up for the evening looked promising. First a taste of bluegrass, some soul funk, and then some serious soul funk. The MC, although a veteran at his trade, seemed out of place simply because I do not think the crowd was used to having one. As my friend observed, the only people paying attention appeared to be non-Norwegian. After what seemed like ages, the lights dimmed, the bar filled up, and it was time for Jonas Aasen and The Wranglers to come on stage.
The bluegrass genre is one that seems to seep out of every crack in Norway, especially in the past few years. This band, made up entirely of Norwegians, has recently taken their obligatory pilgrimage to the heart of their dreams: Texas. They performed recently in Austin during SxSW and even in a country town known for its weirdness and miniscule population: Marfa. Marfa is where Texas sends its outlaws, and these Norwegians were taken in and given much praise there. Although tenderly Norwegian in their style and approach, this was appropriate for the audience and atmosphere for that point in the evening. Their passion for bluegrass was there. The musical skillset was there. The stand-up bass was there. I could almost see the smoke from the Texas bars of my teenage years as their set began to grow warmer, deeper, and full of that bluegrass sorrow. A good warm-up, as the crowd was not quite ready to dance–just yet.
Really though, what is it with Norwegians and their cemented feet? What could possibly get this crowd to start swaying back and forth, to get their feet tapping and on the dancefloor? Slowly but surely, the ache in the music of Hanif Kawousi & the Soul Street Gang’s music spoke to the crowd, and it was impossible to stand completely still. They got people to put down their beer and get their hips in motion—even though the hesitance was still lingering with Beer #3 in hand. The band is still young but the talent is there, and the hunger in Kawousi is evident. He led the room with a confident ease, the live sound mirroring their studio quality. I first heard his music when he was just starting out in soul, and although it has been a joy to see Kawousi’s talent mature, there is still much potential to harvest from him and this band. Definitely the band to watch.
By the time Baba Soul & The Professors of Funk came on stage, the crowd was more than hungry as the last act had gotten the crowd so eager to dance. The first three songs were explosive with energy. The crowd gravitated to the stage, and Beer #4 and #5 took their rightful place front and centre, wiping clean their shoes of the glue that held on for so long. And damn, these guys really pack the energy into their music, and it seeped through the room. They feel the music with everything they have, and the feeling was contagious. With authority over the crowd, they drove the rest of the night, despite a thinning crowd as the evening had started and was ending so late.
Eddy’s Kitchen managed to get even the stiffest of attendees to smile and laugh on the dancefloor. There were too many sound glitches to ignore to a trained ear, and the MC could have had a better relationship with the crowd, but neither party seemed to mind too much. None of the bands deserved these technical glitches, but the crowd did not seem to care. They wanted to have a good time, and so they did.
Eddy’s Kitchen’s celebration felt like a party that could connect all of Oslo, and that is exactly what Gustav is doing with the company. Since its inception five years ago, he has brought Osloites to come together and celebrate true talent found in our local musicians. It just doesn’t get much more Oslo than that.