Way Out West
For the 10th anniversary, I headed to the somewhat unknown Way Out West festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, to find out why it should be on your list of festivals to hit up and party with the cool kids.
1. It's vegetarian and dairy-free
Who needs greasy, ambiguous meat when you can have vegan tacos, wraps and pizzas? Having been veggie since 2012, they've stepped it up by becoming milk free too, using oat milk brand Oatly in replacement. You'll hardly miss it what with churros, pad thai and falafel wraps.
2. Be 'appy
If they weren’t already doing their bit for the world by being vegetarian, they are now paper-free with their dedicated Way Out West app. With everything from an interactive map (perfect for finding the toilets desperately) the line-up, key information, and it's even linked to Spotify so you can listen to the line-up beforehand, it’s leading the way for other big festivals to follow in its footsteps.
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3. The beautiful people
You know how they say that all Swedish men are beautiful? Well it's true; well dressed, tall, bearded - it's a wonder I didn't get whiplash from ogling them all (as well as being on Alexander Skarsgard patrol. Sadly I failed to catch a glimpse, sob). The women were also on fine form: forget the usual festival attire of bum-skimming playsuits and floral headbands, jean-clad, oversized tees and Stan Smith-wearing peeps will instantly make you rethink your wardrobe.
4. Fika you
If the festival gets a bit too much and you want out of the crazy for a few hours, luckily the park is barely a ten minute walk from Gothenburg city. You can head to old town Haga for the Swedish fika (their 4pm coffee break), choosing from a coffee in Kale'i or a cake in Cafe Kringlan. You’ll need all the coffee you can get to survive the after party…
5. Stay Out West
Forget everyone piling back to their tents, Way Out West is barely getting started when it hits midnight. Adequately named Stay Out West, venues all over the city keep the vibe going with the best performers in quirky venues such as retro bars and old warehouses. And with trains and boats taking you back at all hours, you really have no excuse to skip.
6. Cheap flights
Don't you hate it when you shell out the money for a festival, and have to pay the same again just to get to the damn place? But Sweden can actually be a pretty cheap place to fly to if booked in advance, with a return being as little as £20. That's the same as a single to Birmingham and I know where I'd rather be…
7. Girls, we run this
It's hard to ignore the lack of female representation at UK festivals, and we've all seen the poster where men's names are blocked out and only a few women actually remain. Way Out West goes the other way. Two of the three headliners are female with the amazing PJ Harvey and Sia, and the rest of the festival boasted Grace Jones, Chvrches, Laura Mvula, Beth Orton, Dua Lipa, and AlunaGeorge, to name a few. Sweden knows that female talent is just as good at pulling in the crowds as male talent is (obv) so snaps for Way Out West.
8. Free shit
Let's face it, festival food is bloody expensive, and that mini bottle of wine you've slipped into your wellies won't last long. What surprised me was the amount of freebies you could blag throughout the festival. Oatly were giving free coffees throughout, a 'Doritos cannon' fired out crisps, ASOS were doing braids, Maybelline on the make overs, and even a free charging hotspot. Oh, and free tattoos; the only catch? It had to be of a vegetable or the phrase 'meat is murder'. Each to their own. They even have free water bottles and taps because who likes shelling out £2 for a bottle of Evian? You can easily survive on them and save your money or, in my case, buy a few more rounds of beer.
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9. No camping
While some love the camping experience, I'd much rather have a shower and a bed to go back to rather than a wet, muddy and sometimes-on-fire tent (it’s happened). So while you get the beauty of the countryside with Way Out West in Slottsskogen Park, (think the size of Hyde Park but more tree-ey like Victoria Park), you can skip home afterwards with the choice of authentic Airbnbs, cheap and cheerful hostels or splash out on some of the boutique hotels in the area. Or, after speaking to a Swedish couple from Stockholm, a site called Blocket which is essentially a Gumtree for rooms in Gothenburg. Just some sure you do it in advance. I ended up with a last resort Airbnb with no WiFi, a sofa half the length of my body, sharing a box room with two random guys and my host 'soliciting' men next door.
10. It hasn’t hit the big leagues yet
Despite it receiving its highest level of festival goers this year (33,000), it still isn’t anything compared to Glastonbury’s turnout of 175,000. The crowd are getting bigger every year, so visit whilst it’s still intimate stage-wise. You can hear pretty much any music from any area, thanks to its size and well-planned lack of clashes.
11. And finally? The loos
With a flush and hand sanitizer galore, no cesspit for you.