The Magic of Trænafestivalen

Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but about the journey.  

True that, but for the world’s most remote music festival, held over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of July it is surely about both. The destination of Trænafestivalen is as epic as the journey, which is nothing short of a proper commitment.
Træna is a small island community in Northern Norway. Located 65 km out into the North Pacific, with less than 500 inhabitants, it is quite extraordinary that a festival that is in its 14th consecutive year has just taken place in such a secluded spot.
The easiest route to Træna is to fly into the city of Bodø, before embarking on a three-hour journey by express ferry. Some prefer the straightest line between A and B, others like to slow down the pace of their journey, and one can only admire the ocean lovers who sailed for more than 12 hours straight to get to the festival.
This year’s line-up reflected both the local and Scandinavian music scene, with a few international bands thrown into the mix. Local superstar Ida Maria had the audience shouting 'Oh my god!' in tune with her first big hit. First Aid Kit was another big winner, so was indie-darlings Mighty Oaks and Mali band Tamilkrest, who impressively come from a country where music is banned. With these artists playing in such a serene environment as Træna, it made for insightful musical reflection in the midst of beer drinking, camping and an all-over happy-go-lucky vibe.
A personal favourite was Erlend Øye who playfully entered the main stage with Icelandic band Hjalmar, and then surprised all by rounding off the festival with a two hour 3am DJ-set outside the Petter Dass chapel, which was a  a ten minute walk outside the festival area. Although the crowd had looked half-dead only a few hours earlier, they were now reawaken in the chilled, early hours of the morning.

Even though the festival had a fog-like ending, both the midday and midnight sun came out to play for Træna. The after midnight sunset was a sight to behold, and it had visiting musicians gasping in awe, and lovers, old and new, romantically holding hands under the clear sky. In fact, the weather was so good, regular patrons named it the best festival ever.
Still, the most poetic experience of all was Stein Torleif Bjella’s concert at Kirkehelleren, an open cave on the neighbouring island of Sanna. Kirkehelleren is Trænafestivalen's most iconic stage, and an experience not to be missed. In the afternoon on the third day, the audience gathered in the cave where the stage is located, or found a spot on the nearby cliffs, thrilled to hear the Norwegian wordsmith do this folky thing.
Many had awoken bright and early to take the morning boat to walk the “love trail” before the afternoon gig. The trail leads to a mountain peak, where a semi-paved road takes you a few hundred metres up a raw and freezing candle-lit tunnel, complete with a DJ playing half the way up the climb. The sound was something that the best of clubs could only dream of, but the walk is not for the fainthearted. Once up the climb organisers served a rewarding glass of prosecco, a much appreciated gesture, but the real reward was the spectacular views.  
What goes up, must come down, and the climb down the mountainside was a struggle for everyone, not only those naïve enough to be wearing their urban flats. It was all part of the experience though, and there were more laughs than sighs as walkers fought to hold on to the iron rope. 
Trænafestivalen is not all about music and beautiful landscapes, it is also about food too, and all the local delicacies of the sea. From the freshest salmon to controversial whale, the festival menu was all about seafood. From quick and cheap fish burgers to a gourmet meal in the pop-up restaurant Fishy Fishy Nam Nam – every budget and craving was catered for.
The real culinary highlight was an exclusive boat trip that took about 20 diners across to the beautiful islands of Holmen and Selvær, covering local history along the way, and serving up biodynamic wines and small dishes such as sugar fermented halibut and freshly grilled scallops. The head chef of Oslo’s acclaimed Kampen Bistro was in charge of the menu and rounded the food experience off by serving local strawberries on the way back to the festival grounds. 
Spectacular is a word that doesn’t even begin to explain the beautiful setting, the dramatic mountain peaks, the green landscape, the bluest water, the white beaches and the wooden houses of Træna. If it wasn’t for the climate, it would surely be called paradise on earth.
Despite sunny days, the evenings got pretty chilly, but as the Scandinavian saying goes: there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. So at 8pm, out came the traditional thick woollen jumpers, loved by hipsters and grannies alike.
With proper clothing there was no stopping the party, so when the boat departed for Bodø on Sunday morning there wasn’t a fresh face in sight. A testament to a successful festival.


Words & photography: Lene Haugerud