Off:Larm, The Crossroad Club, Oslo, March 2016.
After a pro-longed series of delays courtesy of SAS and the weather, I finally arrived in Oslo on a cold and snowy Thursday night, and, with little time to spare, flung bags and Duty Free onto the bed, grabbed my phone and hot footed it down to the hotel lobby, grabbed a map and got directions to The CrossRoad Club, where I was due within a matter of minutes for a night of ‘off:Larm’ musical mania.
Arriving at the end of a very brief but incredibly expensive taxi journey (even more expensive than the TC gin og tonic), I went through the hand stamping routine (really?), pulled up a high stool, ordered an exorbitantly priced drink, (with complimentary straw), and settled down for my evenings entertainment.
Starters on the musical bill of fare was Mats Wawa, a young 60s-70s pysch influenced band from Oslo. Having heard their debut EP, ‘Classics’, I was looking forward immensely to hearing them play live, and you know what folks, I wasn’t disappointed. The band was joined on stage by Gold Celeste‘s Petter Haugen Andersen in his newest capacity as flautist, and, when he wasn’t generally fluting around, he could be found vigorously shaking a pineapple (and probably developing very strong biceps in the process).
Mats Wawa played a 7-song set that kicked off with non-EP track, ‘Hola’, and, from the get-go the crowd were ‘on it’, cheering, whistling and being generally, good humouredly interactive. If the opener warmed up the crowd, second track in, ‘Worries’ got them nicely toasted. This country ‘fluenced tune-for-cruisin is heavy on Americana guitar juice and sing-along chorus lines, and, was the perfect track to get the partee started and the mood imbued with lurve.
Retro-psych with it’s many layers and textures is not the easiest of sounds to translate into a live performance, but Mats Wawa managed to pull the musical rabbit outta the hat with relative ease. For a band so young, their instrumental competence is not to be underestimated and the quality of their musicianship on the night, especially on the synth/keys, slide guitar and drums, was quite astonishing.
The best example of the tightness of this unit came on Lego inspired, ‘Lord Bisnis’ which saw all elements – vocal and instrumental – come together effortlessly, easily producing one of the highlights of the set. Full credit must be given to PHA who gave a pretty high class performance of what is quite a complicated flute sequence, an instrumental accompaniment that gives this track its full bells and whistles Jethro Tull vibe.
Kudos too to Jonas Rohde-Moe for producing some pretty darned tricky, finger twisting guitar sequences on ‘Planet of the Grapes’. And indeed to Metallica wannabe, Emil Kjærnli for giving it sox, when he had the full Status Quo rip-roaring guitar in the air at full throttle thang going on.
These are not easy songs to sing, and all due credit to Wang and Torkellsen whose vocals held up well on the night. The only downer came as a result of faulty or damaged cabling, which gave some intermittent gyp, particularly on the leads mic. All a bit unfortunate, but being consummate pros, Wang & Co kept going, adjusting their positions accordingly, to mitigate against the interference.
Their short but rockin’ 30min stint closed with the song ‘Dead’ of which, if anything, the band were the antithesis. Electrifying, energetic and full on, this brought their set to a dramatic and clangorous close.
Mats Wawa are as happy a unit as ever I’ve seen on a stage. Undoubtedly good friends, there is a magic to their synergy, while their effervescent enthusiasm spills over into the crowd, creating an energy that flows back and forth between band and audience. As a unit, they are in their infancy, and it will be interesting to watch their progress especially if, and most probably when, this band produce a full long player and take it out on the long and winding promotional road.
More JaJa than Wawa, this is a band with a bright future ahead of them. Giving one of the most entertaining live performances I saw during my time in Oslo, Mats Wawa is a band I would strongly recommend you check out next time you see them on a gig listing near you!
Setlist: Hola, Worries, Bed of Love, Walking with You, Lord Busines, Planet of the Grapes, Dead
Mats Wawa are Mats Wang (vocal/guitar), Terje Vea Torkellsen (vocal/keys), Mathias Sagedal (Drums) and Emil Kjærnli (bass guitar), with the addition of Jonas Rohde-Moe (guitar) and Petter HA (flute/percussion) for live performances. You can find them on Facebook, here.
The EP ‘Classics’ is out now, links here,