Clubbing in Bergen

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Authored by Max Roods, Olav Eggestøl and Andrew Rhodes.

With a club night at Logehaven for Vibber this Thursday, We Are Borg and Blah Blah Woof Woof sat down and had a chat to one of the DJs playing; Henrik Svanevik. We met Svanevik, one-half of the Stocken & Svanen DJ-duo, last Saturday. As the first sunshine of the year reached its peak, we hung out in Robobutikken, home of Svanevik. Between the numerous records of local and international heroes, and artistic miscellanea, we asked for Svanevik’s wisdom about the local club scene and his view on the current generation.

Talking with Svanevik places you in his Bergen; a Bergen that consists of many DJs, covering every possible musical genre. A scene where everybody knows each other. “A typical club night starts with having to choose; where do I go, and where do I go to first. Cause there’s always two or three clubs happening at the same time.”

In a country with inflated prices, going to different clubs on one night seems costly, but Svanevik is clear; “If you account for the beer you don’t drink when you move from one club to another, it’s the same amount of money. The club culture is quite cheap, it’s the beer that is expensive.”  With this a clear problem of the Norwegian clubbing scene becomes evident, with people coming up really late, as they would rather spend the first few hours of the night at home, drinking. “You can walk into a club, like five minutes before one, no cue. A quarter past, and there’s a big line.”

It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but Svanevik tells us it’s been going on like this for a long time. Although various attempts have tried to change things, like changing the curfew, or charging less or no entrance fee before specific times, it just seems to be a bad habit of the people around here.

But, within these rather awkward routines, a lot of clubs have emerged. Clubs of different sizes, focusing on a wide variety of musical genres; “There are three types of clubs here in Bergen. You have the ‘club’-clubs, like Klubb Kok, Østre and Landmark, which are really meant for clubbing. And there you find good DJs, good sound systems, a bar: really a place for dancing. Next you would have the smaller bars, which also have a DJ. I kinda like that as well, it’s more intimate, and you get a different type of music. You don’t have to do the dancing part to listen to some good music. And than the third one, is sort of the more underground, semi-illegal kind of things. And that’s really fun when it happens, you never get the chance to do the clubbing until five or six in the morning, so than it feels like going on a holiday, although I think I’m too old for that now.”

Musically, Bergen seems to offer everything one can desire. The genres range from hip-hop to house, soul to afrobeat. In any given month, one can find something he or she likes. However, not everything is picture perfect, and the high amount of clubs and events takes its toll. If it were up to Svanevik, the communication would improve between the different clubs; “I think everybody likes and respects each other, but they don’t talk. Nobody knows when everybody is playing, and everyone plans at the same time.” Moreover, there appears to be a certain longing for the old vibes; “What we used to do, is that we decorated the venue differently every time. And if I miss something nowadays, it is that clubs really own a place, and change a venue for one night. I think that would be cool, people doing more risky stuff. Making the night special, and doing things people have never seen.

But, concerning the bookings at the different clubs, Svanevik truly appreciates the initiatives, where he mainly addresses the combination of the older generation DJs with the upcoming talent. He can therefore only give his praise to the respect with which DJs like Bjørn Torske or Skatebård, who have been around for a long time, are treated.

With his own club concepts ‘Novelty Sounds’ and ‘Club Crocodillo’, the multi-talented DJ sees a clear division within the audience coming to the parties. “Novelty Sounds is where we play all the sounds from the 50s and 60s, soul music basically. That attracts a specific crowd, people who want to dance, and are probably not too fond of house music. And than Club Crocodillo, is just strictly house music, which gives a completely different crowd. Some of the same people come, but they usually leave early when the dancing starts. So when there’s a youth oriented club, the older people won’t come, because they’ll feel old.”

With newer generations, new musical preferences, and apparently an older generation quitting the scene, the question arises whether the Bergen club scene is a good representative of the Norwegian clubbing scene. Here, the ancient discussion about Oslo and Bergen naturally arises. It is, however, not only bad words Svanevik has to offer Oslo; “In Oslo you really feel like an artist, with somebody arranging the lights, and bringing you drinks. I think that’s normal around the world, but in Bergen nobody’s really special, and you’re expected to assemble the equipment, test stuff and just do more work.”

However, this slight notice of critique towards the Bergen clubbing scene, also brings its advantages; “It keeps you grounded in a way, it’s not easy to be a star in Bergen. Everyone plays something here, either in a band, or doing something with club, it’s much more all over the place. To me it seems to be a bigger, broader musical scene. I might be wrong, it can also be my inbred Oslo feeling.

With such a wide variety, the definition of Bergen’s sound seems hard, and it’s something Svanevik can agree upon; “I’m not sure what the local sound is, for me there are a lot of DJs doing a lot of different things. But there’s not a specific sound.” However, the DJ, who himself also lacks a clear label, does recognise the emergence of a new musical generation. “In the club scene you see a lot of new artists coming, and from what I’ve gathered, it seems to be more international. They’re young, and their roots are all connected to the internet. Their sound is not coming from one scene. When you’re twenty I think you’ve heared so much music right now, you’re coming from all over the place.” And it’s exactly that aspect of nowadays scene, that determines the Bergen sound. “Maybe the Bergen sound is that there is absolutely no problem doing indie the one day, and techno the other. You’re not locked to one scene here.”

While a lack of a specific sound has its charm, and brings along a lot of good things, the source, namely a wide variety of music, venues and artists, does create some possible problems. “I’m really excited to see what happens now, because there have been a lot of clubs for a long time, and there are more and more places. So I’m excited to see whether there comes a vacuum, and it’s waiting for a revival of something else. I’m not sure if there are going to be as much clubs or DJs anymore, and if every Friday and Saturday is going to be packed for the next five years.

But, as we rather look at the now, instead of a distant future, the main question of course, is what we’re going to do this summer. Svanevik is clear, and the 10-year anniversary of his Novelty Sounds shouldn’t be missed. But, besides from his own jubilee, his desire is for some activity at Nygårdsparken; “The whole idea of getting rid of people to make the park accessible for anyone, but not doing any work there, doesn’t make sense. So somebody should do a festival there, for the people. But if I expect somebody to do it, probably not, it’s a risky business. But I hope people try it at least.

Of course his own Robotbutikken will continue to provide loads of entertainment as well, and with workshops, DJs, and record releases, it’s a place worth keeping an eye on. But, to repeat: rather look at the now, and especially the now that’s called Thursday evening, when Svanen unites with his Stocken, and will perform at Logehaven. The night that starts at six will open with the We Are Borg residents after which S & S will take over. Feel free to join after the Vibber day program, or jump in from the start.

Facebook event here.

Check out a mixtape from Club Crocodillo.

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