Arctic Psytrance Survival Fishing in Norway: Midnight Sun festival 2014

The following review and video has been made by the irrepressible Abe Cambridge.

Midnight Sun Festival

Harald Dahl, 2014

Two months ago I moved to South Africa and started to adjust to the Cape Townian winter and its regular beatings of rain and a driving wind pumping up from the frozen depths of the Antarctic and our Southern Ocean. This is despite having just experienced the wettest and stormiest winter in living memory back in Ol’Blighty. Going from a winter into another winter may sound like it sucks. In reality, it totally does. Even if Cape Town winters are warmer than we endure in the UK, with an occasional glimmer of winter solstice t-shirt and shorts sunshine, the days are short and the nights long. The soul needs solar nourishment. I need an occasional photon feast.

It is most satisfying that as fate had it, last summer, whilst sat in the Freqs of Nature campsite recovering from a 1500km bike ride, a flyer doing what flyers does, blew onto my lap advertising the Midnight Sun Festival in the Arctic Circle; a seven day long psytrance party in which the sun will never completely set. And lo, the dates 16th July to 22nd July 2014 were booked into my brain calendar. A chance to catch up on some rays. The remedy for 6 months of winter is 168 hours of non-stop daylight. The Arctic summer astronomer does not see a single star for three months, and only a pastel ghost of a moon gives a hint that the night sky even exists.

After a failed attempt of gathering a group to join me on the Arctic Psy Trance Expedition, I ended up setting off on my lonesome to the Island of Vaeroy. I don’t mind travelling on my own. Particularly now I am married, having some ‘me’ time is most welcome and I totally agree that absence makes the heart grow fonder, giving a time to reflect, review and appreciate. I can act with realistic caution, whilst maintaining the image of myself as the undaunted adventurer.

Alone or with a partner, I often choose to run a video project whilst travelling to help pass the hours on buses and to gift to myself a lasting impression, an animated and somewhat ludicrous and totally fictitious account of my experiences. With the taste of fresh Arctic Cod in my mind and a refresher session of Ray Mears Extreme Survival In The Arctic, the title of the trip’s video project became: Arctic Psytrance Survival Fishing In Norway.

My first new friend was another festival goer, another sole traveller called Kell, who I met while watching the Norwegian Fjords go by out of the Panoramic window of the Buffet Car of a really modern Oslo to Todentheim train, drinking a ridiculously expensive beer.

As the journey continued northward, our mode of transport now taking the form of a ferry, the ratio of festival goers to regular folk swayed much in the favour of the deadlocked fraternity. Things were getting totally swinging. Drum circles on the deck and stern, food being shared, and an impromptu jam band formed with ukuleles, banjos, drums, and singers: Hippy or not, like it or not, the whole boat was fully in the music festival spirit.

For some reason, I did not completely appreciate that the Arctic circle is both very far away and so amazingly beautiful. A barren sterile ice land it is not. 67 degrees north is a pristine and thriving environment, who’s remote landscape is freshly revealed following an age of being entombed in kilometres of ice sheet now raw and rising out of the ocean. This is a geological phenomena called isostatic rebound, if my GCSE geography serves me correctly. Speaking of physical geography, the mountain range which the Island of Vaeroy is part of is older than the Himalayas. Seeing it rise up back out of the ocean, peaks like features in a pop up book, each a different shade of purple against a pink and blue sky, it is fairly easy to imagine this range is our planets Emergency Dam that will eventually sever the gulf stream current that brings warmth and life to the whole of Northern Europe, UK and Vaeroy alike. The mountain range acts as a gate keeper of the North. Beyond it is another world. A land of light, ice and wilderness, as yet not totally fucked up by the hand of man. But with the likes of Shell, the Russians and the Norwegians all now pursuing arctic fossil fuels like a group of tramps that has broken into a branch of Threshers, it is great to have a chance to bask in the sheer majesty of unadulterated Nature. The Nature. Before Man.


Harald Dahl, 2014

As I learnt from Blooming Hestingtile in his cooking travel programme set in Norway that I watched on the plane on the way up planet, the Scandinavians have a much more respectful and rich outlook on the outdoors than most ‘civilized’ countries. They call it ‘The Nature’, a recognition of a single interconnected being, of which we are part of and our lucky enough to respectfully witness. Free Camping is allowed anywhere in Norway. Even on privately owned land, allemannsrett (lit. all men’s right) says you can pitch up wherever you wish, just not within 10m of a house.

Once we arrived on the festival site, at 23:30 in broad daylight, our small gang of French, Swiss, Cornish and Geordie chose to pitch up our temporary home on a bank of grass as thick and comfy as a duvet. The bank overlooked a beach strewn with giant, perfectly smooth, round boulders that are SURELY remnants of an extinct or dormant rock people. Do trolls eat rocks or were they made out of rock? My GCSE biology escapes me.

Beyond the dinosaur skeletons and crystal white sand was an endless shimmering sea, reflecting and reimpressioning the ever changing shades of colour from the sun in its loop the loop of the visible expanse sky. Blues, to gold to pink and back again. Day After day, our camp will not get a moment of darkness, nor any view ever the same.

To our left was The Beach Bar, in itself an impressive enough rig, pumping out groovy psychedelic-influenced tunes to Frisbee players, nudest swimmers enjoying the crystal clear refreshing ocean and the silhouettes of hulahoopers against the setting sun. Behind our camp, the Sun Observatory, the chill out stage nestled in a valley between the bank and colossal 400m cliffs – mind blowingly high – containing myriad faces and gods and kings of old, all fossilised in time. They act as a wind break and as an amplifier of the relentless pounding and driving bass line rhythms of the main stage, the Sun Temple, and also provided yet another medium through which to watch an interpretation of the colours of the Arctic Summer. Dark greens, yellows and orange, criss-crossed with fissures and gravity defying grass pathways.

I watched an awful film recently, the title escapes me, where the main character dreamt of their heaven, a beach facing a never ending sunset. Vaeroy manifests that dreamscape. Sit and contemplate the celestial visual spectacular, our position on the tilted sphere orbiting the sun is made so apparent. Being on top of the world really feels like being on top of the world. Vaeroy with a back drop of the sun and moon playing ring-a-ring-a-roses is a most other worldly experience, the closest I can envisage of a heaven.

Things got overtly cosmic when I started to pitch my tent. A hissing sound in the grass belonging to a snake came from right where I needed to install an outer guy-rope peg. I gave this some thought and discussed it with Kell and it was agreed that if we don’t fuck with The Nature it won’t fuck with us. So I spent the week with my head a mere two ft from a sleeping snake. We did not bug each other throughout the festival and remain friends to this day.

I took the presence of the snake as a reminder that nature is everywhere and is watching!

This realisation was fully hammered home later on in the week when I came back from an unsuccessful spot of fishing. I had lost a codhook on a float that I hadn’t tied on properly and it floated out to sea. Silly human. I got back to my tent and cut the fishing line off my rod. I cut the line with a knife. Fishing line is tough and I gave it a good twang. I saw both ends of the line fly apart. I then heard a cry, or a squeal, maybe even a flock of birds. I blinked. Looking down at my fishing line, the two ends had reconnected themselves. There are two possibilities for this:

  1. I imagined cutting the line in the first place and imagined a bird cry;
  2. Some divine force sent me a message that reckless irresponsible fishing, accidently discarding a deadly trap into the sea, is causing the needless suffering and avoidable deaths of marine life.

In either case, I learnt an important lesson.

The population of the island trebled during the festival, and many of the 750 residents of this arctic paradise came over to Midnight Sun Festival to check out those rabble of freaks who were dancing to, in some instances, 208bpm dark psy. Psykofsky did a 5 hour set of mentalness that felt like a mind bomb had gone off in my head. I had to run away from the dance floor, which was filled with blooms of DMT, in terror. Cute hobbit pixie pirate gypsy people listening to the most brutal relentlessly intense and mentally intoxicating noise production in Psy Realm, it must be such a spectacle to behold, particularly for the uninitiated. There was an Oriental looking guy dressed in a smart suit with a bow tie who looked confused and slightly uncomfortable. I am convinced that he went to this ‘Psy’ party with the expectation of listening to Gangnam Style for several days. I hope he was not disappointed.

The locals were most impressed by the respect and attitude the festival goers had towards The Nature. Recycling bins were everywhere as well as redundant litter pickers as the masses sorted their own shit out. Mediators nestled into tufts of tall grass. And most symbiotically, The Nature put on a show for us.

Despite the island of Vaeroy being famous for frequent storms, severely high winds and rain coming out of nowhere (the word Vaeroy itself means weather in Norwegian), The Nature offered us from festival start to festival finish a constantly clear sky, an occasional cooling sea breeze when needed and showed us part of her pretty light portfolio. So timely and seemingly co-ordinated was this light show that as soon as the festival programme came to an end, a curtain of fog came in from the sea and immersed the festival site in a thick misty haze. For those inside this white out, you could be excused from dismissing it as a spell of fog tarnishing otherwise flawless weather. But I saw that mist come in from the sea whilst perched on top of the 400+ meter peak that overlooked the site. The cloud that drew the festival to a close, was ONLY over the festival site. Over the next 24 hours, the site sat drenched in a hanging curtain of grey. Everywhere else on the 18 sq. km island was still sat in glorious sunshine. If that wasn’t Nature’s way of saying “The Show is Over”, then I might as well just pack all this hippy bullshit in and start going to V-Festival.

Seaweed Ying-Yang

Harald Dahl, 2014

When the festival started I did wonder what the hell never-ending daylight would do to a man’s psychology. Surely the brain produces melatonin when darkness comes and one can rest? Has anyone ever put over a thousand psychedeliced-up hippys in one place in amongst constant daylight for a week? Could things end with some slight disorientation and a smattering of psychosis? My experience was that sleeping is hard but the sunlight pumps you so full of energy and vitality that sleep is only required after a solid 24 hours shift of dancing, trekking, swimming and meditation. The sun props you up and you don’t want to miss a thing. I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards, even when exposed to darkness back in the UK, my sleep cycle was so disrupted. Kind of like the ultimate jet lag.

One observation of note, for lovers of night time psy, this aint the place for it, for the obvious reason. No UV psychedelic mushroom wall hangings. There was not a single laser, projector or strobe on the speaker towers. There was plenty of rustic seaweed decorations illuminated by the brilliant irradiance of sol, so no electric lights are needed. This is a day time to evening straight to morning gig, though there was a blacked-out chill out tent with some UV psy-art. It was quite smokey in there and the smoke smelled funny and made things go all pixelated.

I hope to return to Vaeroy for another party one day. The site is very sensitive, ecologically speaking. I hope that they follow Boom’s lead and do a one-on one-off pattern. Next year the Arctic circle will bare witness to a total solar eclipse. The sun will rise above the horizon for the first time in 2015 on March 20th. As March 20th is the Northward equinox, the eclipse occurs as the sun rises above the north pole for the first time in six months. No sooner has the sun become visible for the first time in months, the moon then goes and gets itself in the way, putting the Arctic back into darkness for another 2 minutes and 47 seconds. To see this ridiculously rare and co-incidental event in totality, you need to get yourself to no less than 64.4 degrees north: the Faroe Islands.

I am left wondering what is even further north, up to the pole. How would it feel to trip so close to the dense converging magnetic vortices that provides charge and stimulates all life on earth? It is, after all, the part of us we are most distant from.

Via the House

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