16 August 2009

Gone Country... The wild west of Norway is a freak show!

I am not a very big country and western fan. I have spent enough time in the western USA to appreciate what it is about and understand it has a place. I find the music and it's general inherent misery rather comical

ma woman just ran off with my padner
toke ma brand new pick-up truck
ran over my dwg an hit my trayler
Im so miserable n lonesome, yeah yeah

etc etc

Anyway yesterday was Åsmund's stag party and in Norway they do things a bit differently. Generally the guy getting married has no say on the day and no idea when it will be. He's best man organises it and his buddies kidnap him and then spend a day making him do fun and sometimes stupid stuff.

Åsmund is a big country fan, ever since his days in Utah when he took to all things western, like a bull in a rodeo. So Espen et al organised his stag day to coincide with a concert by Alan Jackson who apparantly is very famous and has sold 50 million records! It's the first time Jackson has been outside of America.

So they kidnapped Åsmund and took him paintballing. The weather was horrible! Mark and I joined at lunch time and we took a bus to Radøy and had a barbq in Espen's girlfriends families, boat house - it was very pleasant and much beer and banter ensued. Then we took the bus, stopping every 15 mins for a piss break, to the concert. The weather was getting worse than horrible.

The concert was way out in the sticks, about 30 km outside of Bergen at a race track. It was pouring with rain and there was mud everywhere, fortunately the main event was in the car park so at least we didn't drown. The race track is not a regular gig location (thank god!) and the organisation was the definition of "really piss poor", but more on that later.

The highlight was the people - I have never seen such an out and out freak show in Norway, in fact anywhere in the World! Gone were the pretty girls and uber trendy boys of a normal night out, replaced by a collection of seriously inbred oddballs with big foreheads, under shot jaws and wild staring eyes. Cowboys hats were in abundance, which is a bit naff but kinda funny, what was far more disturbing was 50 year old men dressed from head to toe in cowboy gear, complete with bootlace tie and, I kid you not, a sheriffs star! These are adults, who presumably hold down some sort of job! It was like being in some sort of fetish club, but more disturbing.

However, what has to be said was that despite the totally awful weather everyone was in good spirits, they stood, covered in crap, getting totally soaked by the rain and as you looked around all your saw were smiles (most of the lopsided!). These people truly are water proof.

The organisation at the event was a shambles, the beer queues were a mile long and nobody seemed to have a clue what was going on. The que was so long and not moving that we just gave up and stood in the rain, sobering up.

I am not a big C&W fan but the crowd seemed to love him and know all the songs. He tried hard to get things going and the serious fans seemed happy, right down to the tediously inevtiable swing dancing, which is only mildly more appropriate here than at an AC/DC concert.

Mark and I lost the other guys and after about an hour and half decided to try and get back to Bergen. We were not alone in that sentiment. It was chaos, no-one had any idea of what was going on, the stewards were the most clueless. We wandered about for ages trying to find one of the free shuttle buses, being given one set of bogus directions after another. Eventually we found the loading point and it was an utter zoo. Fortunately we were close to the front as the rest of the concert finished. There was a lot of very pissed, piss wet through and rapidly getting pissed off people behind us. We waited an hour for the buses to arrive. Apparently there was 100, which may sound a lot but given the crowd of 20+ thousand and an hour round trip to Bergen, we reckoned the people at the back wouldn't be getting home until about 3 am. When the buses did return there was a bit if a mad surge while the hapless security guards tried in vain to control the crowd. We were lucky enough to get a bus and were back in town by midnight.

A quick trip to the pub to catch up with the beer we had missed and the end of a rather interesting cultural evening. Some lessons
1. Norwegians really are water proof
2. Don't go to a concert at the Bergen Travparc
3. The people who organised that event should not be allowed to organise a child's birthday party, let alone a major concert
4. Beneath it's cool trendy exterior there is a lot of very very strange people in western Norway
5. The music was fine, if that is what you are in to. I would have loved to hear him call home and tell his wife about his day....

Anyway this is what the local press said and there are a few pics here and an article about a guy who drove for 34 hours here and even some idiots who charted a plane here. Which given the hassle we and 20,000 other people had getting home, may not have been a bad idea. Even if you don't speak Norwegian it's worth checking out the pictures - then you'll see what I mean!

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