Insomnia Festival – Northern Exposure (live report)
Insomnia Festival 2018, Tromsø. Reportage by Ivna Franic, 135 mm analogues by Lea Anic.
It’s near impossible to talk about the world’s northernmost festival of electronic music without highlighting its distinct geographical position and landscape, so let’s just get that out of the way. Taking place in Tromsø, Norway, a city located some 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, Insomnia is bound to immediately delight any foreign visitors simply by its backdrop: a small city packed with old wooden houses and surrounded by the sea, the mountains covered in snow, the possibility of Aurora Borealis sighting looming in the air… It’s perfect, it’s beautiful, it looks like Linda Evangelista.
Despite its impressive tourist predisposition, however, Insomnia very much feels like first and foremost a local affair. With most of the program going down at the student-run venue Driv and the audience being largely made up of the city’s booming student population, the festival naturally has a refreshingly lively vibe to it as opposed to many cutting-edge club music gatherings that end up too restrained for their own good. (Even the infamous Norwegian alcohol restrictions don’t seem to tighten up the atmosphere, except for the occasional awkward scene of drunk people being taken away by authorities.) Now in its 17th (!) year, Insomnia really is an integral part of city’s cultural life and the organizers seem to be dedicated to maintaining this two-way relationship by offering many regional acts an opportunity to take the stage and keeping a balanced, international lineup that offers a little bit of something for everyone without ever seeming unfocused or all-over-the-place.
Things were off to a strong start the first evening, and due to a concise but extremely tight lineup some acts that would later turn out to be festival highlights were featured very early in the game. Caterina Barbieri (Important Records, Cassauna) captivated the audience with her hypnotic synth compositions. Altough her records might sound somewhat meditative when listened to at home, the live show slowly developed into a proper albeit beatless party warm-up, showing an often overlooked side to Barbieri’s music. The prospect of things further heating up unfortunately faded by the time Berlin-based Argentinian artist Catnapp took the small bar stage. Her playful blend of r&b, rap, pop and whatnot sounded way less exciting in practice than it perhaps does in theory, making her seem a bit out of place among the evening’s verified heavyweights. That her performance was followed up by the frenetic FAKA show did little to help.
If you didn’t know FAKA (Non Worldwide) had two frontmen, you would be forgiven to think that it usually ran as a one-man show, with support from behind the decks. Fela Gucci being unable to perform that night, Desire Marea sucessfully took on the task of lighting up the Insomnia crowd on his own. With very little clothes on and an inspired display of uninhibited dance moves, he spread the radiant energy of gqom stretching the performance area deep into the audience. To say that everyone completely lost their shit would be an understatement. Læs resten