About This Festival
Since its inception in 2006, Way Out West—named for the city of Göteborg's location on the southwest coast of Sweden—has earned accolades from around the world, including MTV's O Award for Most Innovative Festival. A partnership between Sony, Spotify and Stockholm-based music promoter Luger, Way Out West (WOW) has used a mix of social media and artistic expression to raise the profile of music festivals in general.
During the day, as many as 30,000 music fans gather in Slottskogen, Göteborg's largest park, to hear a dizzying array of genres and catch some creative art installations. At night, the festival morphs into Stay Out West, featuring more concerts and performances, a thoughtful line-up of films, and moderated talks with cultural influencers, all staged at a wide variety of local venues.
Camping and crowd surfing aren't permitted in Slottskogen and dancing is a greater focus than alcohol and drugs, and this is one of the most eco-friendly festivals in the world. All food served within the park (and many nighttime venues, as well) is vegetarian; all plates, cutlery and serving implements are biodegradable; and all festival merchandise must be made with organic materials.
All Day . . .
The 338-acre green space of Slottskogen, which means "castle forest" in Swedish, used to be a woodland surrounding the medieval-era Old Älvsborg Fortress. These days it's the largest park in Göteborg, encompassing a zoo, a few lakes, and both playing and picnic fields. For the few days of Way Out West, from the late morning through the evening, it's outfitted with food stalls, a merchandise market, tented installations of street art, and three different stages (Flamingo, Azalea and Linné) hosting upwards of 50 different musical acts.
Past WOW rosters have been some of the most diverse in the realm of popular music, featuring artists as disparate as Prince, Florence & the Machine, Public Enemy, Sigur Rós, Manu Chao, and Sonic Youth. Also a showcase for emerging indie acts, WOW provides a great opportunity to catch the next big thing while they're still a small or medium-sized thing.
Sweden's music scene is on full display here, with everyone from hometown hero Jose Gonzalez to national icon Håkan Hellstrom getting a stage—and a huge audience—to themselves. More international spectacles from recent WOWs have included Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips walking across his audience in a Zorb, and Kanye West magically appearing at the top of a 50-foot flight of mobile stairs in a cloud of lilac smoke.
While most attendees arrive early and claim standing-only spots close to the stages, many others bring blankets and lawn chairs (though not picnics, as outside food and drink are not allowed), and stake out spots that allow them to both hear and have some elbow room. Rain is common during August in Göteborg, but as view-blocking umbrellas are verboten at WOW, be sure to pack a rain jacket and some shoes you won't mind getting muddy, just in case.
. . . And All of the Night
At nightfall, festival-goers leave the park, and Way Out West transitions to Stay Out West. All around the city, venues like pubs, dance clubs, museums and churches open their doors and stages to events both large and small, some of which will last until dawn the next day.
Some of the most lauded musical acts of the WOW lineup will make their appearances here—like Blur, Kraftwerk and Bob Mould, to name just a few—but you'll also find acts that locals will scream over (but you've never heard of) and wildly dressed club DJs spinning custom mash-ups.
Films in a variety of genres, from art house flicks you missed back home to inventive music videos, shorts and international documentaries, are screened at theaters all over the city, while small auditoriums host talks with compelling individuals (mostly Swedes) who've had a distinct influence on art, advertising, journalism and more. These talks made their debut at the 2013 festival, and featured a rare interview with interviewer Kristoffer Triumf, who hosts a Stockholm-based, Fresh Air-style podcast called VÄRVET.
For most of these relatively intimate events, the key to gaining entrance is generally leaving Slottskogen early and staking a spot in line outside your chosen venue. As at any music and culture festival, you're never going to be able to catch everything you want to see, hear and experience, but you can still give it your best shot.