I had Oslo on my list of cities to explore for a while now anyway, but when I saw that one of my favourite artists, Tom McRae, announced some Norway dates, it made the decision a bit easier. Briefly looked at the map “Porsgrunn, ah, that’s somewhat close to Oslo” – booked tickets. As planning got a bit more concrete I realised that it’s not actually that close and required either a complicated train ride or a roadtrip. Roadtrip it was.
I rented a car from the very reassuring sounding company Rent-a-wreck, which was the most inexpensive offer I found and also reachable easily. Communication was straight forward (“Hi. Ok. Bye.”), so that was good. I got a cute Nissan Micra, which I’m still familiar with from my first days of driving. For navigation I used the free trial version of the Copilot app that you didn’t need internet for. I was quite happy with it, I’d even consider purchasing it if needed another time.
What I like about roadtrips, is that you’re so independent when you travel, you can take random turns, stop wherever, take a break, sleep, whatever. On my way to Porsgrunn, which would be about 2hours driving from Oslo, I took it easy and stopped at little harbours, bays, fields and mountainsides.
So. Porsgrunn. It’s probably not the most idyllic place in Norway, to be honest. Over my chocolate cake, the nice lady at the restaurant told me a bit about the town.
“It’s quiet here. June is okay, when there’s the theatre festival, but July is dead. You only sit around and wait for people that don’t come, it’s especially bad when we have the artificial beach around here for a few weeks. It’s gotten a bit better after a TV programme last year, but without that kind of advertisement, there’s not much. Although it is quite nice around here, the promenade along the river hasn’t been here long and also the new culture house only opened last August. Back in the days, there were more of the small boats coming here, but nowadays they rather to to the seaside, Brevik for example, but not to the river anymore.”
She seemed a bit sad when she talked, but still in a good mood when I kept asking.
Taking her advice, I drove to Brevik, not far from Porsgrunn, as I still had a couple of hours to kill before the show. The Telemark area of Norway is beautiful and surprisingly mountainous and fjordy (technology failed me, so no pictures of the amazing things…). Brevik itself was a good deal nice than Porsgrunn, the little harbour and the narrow streets, aah, it would’ve been nice to have had some more time there.
The concert took place in that aforementioned culture House Ælvespeilet, very new and fancy. The concert hall was beautifully arranged with tables and candles, the deep red curtain in the stage background and the lighting set a perfect mood for the concert.
Tom McRae is one of the few artists whose music has been with me for many many years. His exceptional voice and his song-writing touch me so deeply, every time. Along with Anathema’s music, his is the only music that makes any heartache worse. And you’ll feel better after. And free. When your chest hurts and you can’t breathe, Tom McRae will intensify pain in the sweetest way and makes you live through it with even more passion and agony. The way you should to get over it (or not).
I had seen him once before at a solo show in Metz in October 2012, which was one of the best concert experiences I can remember. This time, he didn’t play the two songs that result in a crying-breakdown every single time, which was kind of good, I guess. My personal favourites were almost all missing during this show, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
One time, oooone time, I would like to see him with an audience who respects his art though. When there’s one single sad person on the stage, the music is soft and fragile you don’t talk, chat, eat crisps (wtf, really?!) and also, you don’t sing along (unless you’re asked to) because you most likely suck at it. Excuse my French.
Unable to speak, as usual after listening to him, I drove back through nightly Norway. It was dark and the streets were empty, it was peaceful and quiet. The two hours felt very long, I was dead tired and the lack of music (bad radio reception, no CDs and no cable for my phone available…) made it only a bit worse. But it also cleared my head and gave me time and space to think about issues that I had floating around in my head for a while. Like this whole birthday thing and people that congratulate you. But more about that some other time.