We’ve had some of the hottest summer days ever in Oslo. For more than two weeks we saw temperatures around 30 degrees, and people were no longer sitting at home. They were in the parks or at the beaches during daytime and at private parties or outside the downtown clubs at night. Outside, since all the clubs that were eventually allowed to reopen after the lockdown, had done so with heavy restrictions on the number of people allowed in. Others turned to the nearby forests and private parties, that have popped up there over the last weeks.
In these unprecedented and confusing times, clubs and artists have been fighting for their survival. The reopening helps, but the restrictions are still severe. On this backdrop, the 4th of July 2020 marked the day, Monument could finally host an event again. It was an all-day party at Blå in Oslo, the venue where Monument has hosted a series of club events over the last years. For full 12 hours, techno lovers were invited to get their ticket to a seated, outdoor event with DJ and live sets performed by a range of Monument’s closest friends. Could that possibly work? Daytime clubbing, outdoors, on a seat? We claim yes, and invite you to share and reflect upon the experience with us.
The sun was out, the weather forecast was promising and nearly all the tickets had been pre-sold. Tables and chairs were set in order to accommodate the social distancing rules and Blå was ready to receive the first batch of guests. The Monument crew was excited – the place was beautiful, sitting next to the city river, surrounded by trees.
The first guests arrived early and as Monument’s Lara Palmer’s ambient set started, the place filled up, little by little. Her selections really set the tone for the day; relaxed and rich on soundscapes that supplemented the birds, already singing from the trees. This was music that brought smiles on people’s faces, and it perfectly set the mood the the much anticipated unfolding of the party. Some in-sync finger-tapping and head-movements were indicators of what was yet to come.
Next up was Jerome Winters, who transitioned his set into Lara’s with the smooth perfection, you would have come to expect, if you’ve seen him play before. Jerome is an audio connoisseur, and this time his set was built around the lighter Detroit sounds. The place, now full, responded well, and broad smiles were everywhere. Some were even standing up and dancing hesitantly by their chairs. And then, a bunch of party-rafters, slowly floated by on the river. Each one sitting in their own small inflatable boat with a six-pack of beers, a speaker or both. As they floated on, our party stayed on. But you could tell: They would rather have stayed with us than kept floating downstream.
Then came Bendik Baksaas, and with him came the dance. Bendik is a smooth operator, and he builds his sets up very deliberately handing out teasers, building up people’s expectations. With this dynamic, most people couldn’t sit still once he let the kick hit. People jumped up from their chairs and started dancing. Some even rushed up to the front and turned it into a regular dancefloor. The club staff, relaxed up until this point, now had to do some crowd-control, but this was done in such a positive manner that those who’d been overtaken by Bendik’s music returned to their seats still with smiles on their faces.
Monodogue did the honors of closing the daytime part of the event. Before his set, he had been a bit uneasy, not knowing what to expect. “Unless you’re doing an ambient or noise session, techno isn’t really meant to be played to a seated audience. So you might not get the normal cues from the crowd, that you’re doing things right.” Maybe to make sure he really got the audience’s attention, he set out on a more experimental set than usual. Towards the end of his slot, people were escorted out, table by table, emptying the place slowly but securely, preparing for the Monument by night session. The last ones leaving, were dancing their way out, clearly happy.
Zepter Lion opened the second half of the party. Although he may be a new acquaintance to most of the Monument regulars, he is by no means a newcomer on the Oslo scene. He has been spinning his vinyl on numerous events, both over and underground, for a while and increasingly he is being recognized for the talent he is. Tonight he delivered a much more toned-down set than usual, and through that he showed that he’d read the place, the event and the people well.
When asked about how he experienced the day he shares: “First of all I think it was a very good initiative from Monument, trying to create a party, even with difficult preconditions. For obvious reasons, a party with limiting restrictions will never be quite the same as an ‘ordinary’ one. Neither for the guests, nor the dj’s. The word ‘restrictions’ says it all really. Most people would probably agree that a proper party has (almost) no restrictions at all! So factors like fixed seating, two separate parties, no mingling, limited connection between crowd and DJ etc. was, of course, not optimal, but compromises had to be made. The alternative was no party at all. What would you choose?”
After Zepter Lion, Roland Lifjell took over the booth. Everyone, at least in Norway, knows of Roland. He has been around longer than most, who are active in the techno scene in Norway, and consistently delivers varied, challenging and high quality sets of vinyl techno. When asked if he wanted to come and play at the event, he got quite emotional. “I thought there weren’t going to be any more parties for a very long time. Frankly, I had given up that thought”, he said. “But of course I’ll play!”. And did he ever! During his set he even pulled out Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia, which still seemed to work absolutely fine in a contemporary DJ set.
For the closing set, Bazalt offered their live set from modular synthesizers. And as closing sets go, Bazalt upped the ante and poured their industrialized pounding techno over the crowd, who were now more than ready for some of the heavier stuff. At this point, the area closest to the stage turned into a busy dance floor with people jumping up and down, resulting in the club staff starting to cut the sound levels and put a tighter time limit on the set, as a means of crowd control. Nevertheless, after an early end to their set, Bazalt was offered an encore, and delivered a dubby piece to round it all off.
Looking back on the day, one of Monument’s long time guests, Ingrid, shares that she experienced the party as liberating, despite the impossibility to freely dance and mingle with others, at tables further away from one’s own. “It felt good to share a day of music together and see each other again, even though it mostly remained on the level of eye-contact.” “It was so much better than nothing!”, table companion Faysael agrees. “More relaxed daytime events like these, where you don’t necessarily have to dance all the time, are missing in Oslo. There is definitely more room for ambient or downtempo here.”
Monument co-founder Henning reflects: “Despite all the restrictions, I definitely had the impression that everybody felt it was worthwhile coming to the party. People have really been missing being outside, meeting people and listening to techno, so it was simply needed.” Marit, Monument’s Head of Art, elaborates: “With our aim to connect people through music and create a loving collective, it was a strange feeling typing into the event description that there could be no hugs and that everybody had to keep distance to other people, although we’re all starting to adjust somehow. Our events have always been full of hugs, new friendships and love. This time there was no getting lost in the crowd. People had to stand by their tables, in the nakedness of it all, and dance where and as they were. It was beautifully honest.”
Photos: Niklas Johnsen