Way Out West is one of the leading music festivals in Scandinavia. This August, having returned after a two-year absence, the event gathered more than 50.000 people in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden. We attended and are ready to tell you how it all went down, what the performers were like, and whether you should be quick in booking your ticket for WoW 2023.
What is Way Out West
Way Out West is one of the premiere festivals in Northern Europe and an impressive public get-together occasion for a Swedish nation not famous for its enjoyment of communal activities. Nonetheless, this year as in others, tens of thousands packed the Slottsskogen park in the center of Gothenburg.
It’s an event that goes back a long way. Its first edition was held in 2007, pitching itself as an alternative to Denmark’s Roskilde festival and looking to supply a more broad appeal in terms of musical guests. Back then it was headlined by the likes of Kanye West, Lily Allen, as well as local heroes The Hives, and The Hellacopters. Each edition has been built on the same formula: a mix of very well-established performers, promising up-and-comers, and local performers. Besides this, the organizers put a lot of effort into non-music events.
The location and key principles of WoW are integral to its triumph. First of all, Gothenburg is Sweden’s third-largest city and thus a hotbed of cultural activity. It’s also a lovely location for a music festival. Visitors will likely be thrilled to visit the tidy cobblestone streets in between concerts, or even check out the city’s amusement park. Trust us, Scandinavians love amusement parks!
Way Out West also promotes a philosophy of sustainability. It was one of the very first festivals to make it mandatory that vendors serve only vegan and vegetarian cuisine, and the event holds an ISO certification that proves the commitment to economic, social, and environmental sustainability. While some in the Swedish press mocked WoW’s activism in the past, history has redeemed it, even making it a pioneer whose example other events have followed.
What public does WoW cater to?
Way Out West 2022’s musical selection was similar in its diversity to previous line-ups. After all, this is not a specialized event focusing on one single genre or even a few tightly connected ones. Artists are chosen, most likely, based on their ability to command the attention of a large audience. This helps drive ticket sales. Judging by the record 50.000 present this year, it is a recipe that still works.
Besides the four festival stages, Way Out West is also a film festival, and one of the largest in Sweden at that. While not as heavily advertised as the concerts, the movie festival proved to be a tremendously satisfying surprise. Films, the majority of which focused on stories of musicians, were shown in the elegant Hagabion theatre. My personal highlight was the screening of Meet me in the bathroom, a movie about the 2000s NYC scene that was adapted after the book of the same name.
If all of this is not enough to test the audience’s energy reserves, other events occur in the Slottsskogen park. Many of these were corporate-sponsored. Like other festivals of its kind, Way Out West seems to have designed its three-day party with the goal of keeping those in attendance in a constant state of motion. It lends to a dynamic atmosphere, and it no doubt helps drive up revenue.
Speaking of money, what does the city of Gothenburg get for hosting such a lavish, highly-attended party? Arguably quite a lot! Recent estimates suggest that top-tier festivals are responsible for millions of euros worth of business for the entire surrounding area. I can attest to the fact that finding accommodation in Gothenburg during the 12th and 14th of August was no easy feat.
Way Out West is highly attended. Most of its visitors are Swedish. Ticket prices are affordable for most Scandinavians. One full festival pass costs in the region of 300 euros, while a single day ticket might cost around 150 euros.
Yes, ticket prices are not terribly expensive, especially in this part of the world. Festival goers should be expected, however, to spend more on food, accommodation, and transport. However, this will not something that will take regular festival-goers by surprise. One should know, however, that Sweden is a more expensive country than most, although less than the United States, and should prepare to budget their stay accordingly.
Of course, the previous two editions of WoW were canceled, as were most other concerts throughout the world. Those who had bought Way Out West 2021 tickets were free to use it for this year’s event.
Tickets for Way Out West 2023 are already available. If you don’t mind not yet knowing the headliner details, you can secure your ticket for a neat 200 euros as a standard purchase, of around 110 euros if you’ve not yet celebrated your 17th birthday.
Way Out West uses all of Slottsskogen park’s surface for the four stages and its events. It means that there is no official festival camping ground. The remaining alternatives are to find accommodation in Gothenburg or to camp near the city, which should be possible due to the famous Allemansrätten law.
However, if you plan to stay in the city, make sure that you book your accommodation well ahead of time. My belated booking was one of the last available ones in the whole of the city and cost around $140. Gothenburg, perhaps, includes cheaper options, but unlikely less than $80 for one no-frills room.
It’s not just the festival that causes rooms to be booked out. Gothenburg is a popular destination for visitors and in fact, the other guests at the Bed & Breakfast we stayed at were merely there for the sights and, presumably, to indulge in Swedish Fika.
Way Out West’s 2022 Film Festival was one of the highlights of the entire event. It is billed as one of the largest movie fests in the whole of Sweden. The majority of the selected pictures were, generally, either music documentaries highly represented or films made by local Swedish directors. I was particularly thrilled with the Dinosaur Jr documentary Freakscene and sad to miss Heaven adores you, a movie about the late Elliott Smith.
Way Out West is also organized with a highly progressive agenda in mind. WoW has championed a number of social causes over the years, and the Swedish public seems generally on board with this. Also, it was one of the first events of its kind to allow only vegetarian and vegan products to be sold on-site. Whether you are vegan, or not, you’re likely to find something to your liking.
Note, that alcohol, however, is served only in restricted areas, and, as we quickly learned in Sweden, it’s pretty expensive. So, you should be highly committed if your mission for the weekend is to get and stay pissed. And, if you plan on popping over to the Sytembolaget stores for a quick beer on the sidewalk, I wouldn’t take the chance. Supposedly, the fine for drinking in public spaces isn’t worth the buzz. Although, make sure to try some of the Swedish craft beer if the chance allows it.
Way Out West’s Musical guests
Way Out West delivers a number of events that take place simultaneously. Its focus, however, remains to provide quality live acts. In 2022, the mission of booking these performers must’ve been a difficult one, with almost all well-known bands and artists deciding to tour Europe.
What kind of music does Way Out West promote? Like the majority of modern musical festivals, curation focuses on a wide array of musical genres. The common denominator seems to be the artist or band’s ability to appeal to a large group of people.
It’s likely a practical decision more than anything else. The headliners for this year’s festival helped sell tickets. These included Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Tame Impala, Chase The Rapper, First Aid Kit, or Burna Boy. None disappointed! However, it raises an interesting query regarding, perhaps, an overwhelming diversity on a festival stage.
There are pros and cons to this strategy which most festivals have employed. On the one hand, this setup allows attendees to learn about new artists. If you’re lucky, you’ll be leaving the festival with a number of new additions to your playlist. We did!
On the other hand, the shift transition from rock to rap to electro can feel overly commercial at times. After all, the person who can appreciate every type of music isn’t really devoid of any actual taste?
WoW 2022 musical highlights
The good vibes floating around the festival area extended to the musical guests. There were hardly any artists packing it in. It seems that 2022, and a new season of touring, have helped breed a fresh perspective in the minds of the majority of musicians.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds brought their particular blend of apocalyptic poetry-rock to the main stage. It was a dark, and serious note for a festival crowd, otherwise, treated to colorful and light musical moments. Nick Cave, a performer beloved in Scandinavia, sang with particular gusto and despair on the night, confidently switching from familiar classics to songs from his recent albums in a set of nearly three hours.
Impressive was also beabadoobee’s live set. This took place in the middle of the day on the tinier, Spotify-sponsored stage. The mix of intimate, and ferocious grunge sounds went down well with the crowd with which the young singer was able to connect despite engaging rarely between songs. It was a set that makes one eager to follow this songwriter’s development.
Jamie xx’s DJ set turned out to be one of the most well-attended events of the whole festival with concert-goers of all ages finding relief in their dance moves.
The truly bizarre and often highly inspired artists found themselves performing on another of the festival’s smaller stages. I was happy to witness Molchat Doma’s Soviet-inspired post-punk.
The theatrical Morrysseyean hymns courtesy of Perfume Genius also got the crowd going.
Pros and Cons
Way Out West is one of the largest and best-organized musical events in Scandinavia. However, there are numerous musical festivals hoping to secure your visit. What are the upsides and downsides of attending WoW?
- Highly progressive organizers and like-minded attendees
- You’re likely to find the music you’ll like regardless of your regular listening preferences
- The beautiful city of Gothenberg is its home
- You’ll watch good movies, and score tasty food in between the music acts
- Everything in Sweden is quite expensive
- The high music diversity can make the festival selection seem unfocused at times
- You can only drink in special areas
Should you go to Way Out West 2023?
Yes, if you have the opportunity, you should certainly consider visiting Way Out West in 2023.
Regardless of your musical preferences, it is highly unlikely that you won’t find acts that will thrill you. And, yes, most people visit festivals because of the atmosphere as a whole. What WoW offers shouldn’t disappoint.
What about making a trip to Sweden specifically for Way Out West? Sweden is one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you can enhance your festival experience with a visit through the lovely Scandinavian scenery, and if you have the bread to go, don’t hesitate and do it!