By Dalton Spangler
The fifth consecutive Piknik i Parken, or PiPfest, was held June 15 to 17 in Oslo, Norway, and once again attracted high-profile acts such as Jason Isbell, Phoenix, Travis, and Mew.
Music fans entering Frogner Park for PiPfest were greeted by warm lights and ribbons in shades of green, red and blue hanging from the trees. Statues of the human figure, created by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, were scattered along the park’s walkways and rolling lawns. Cut-out letters decorated with sunflowers spelled out “PiP,” welcoming visitors to one of Oslo’s most unique summer musical events.
Despite its commercial success, PiPfest has maintained its reputation as a hassle-free, laid-back, soft festival according to the booking agent and promoter, Peer Osmundsvaag.
Osmundsvaag has been a concert promoter for 20 years. He got into promoting because he loved the music, but over time, it began to feel too much like a business to him. He felt he had lost touch with the music and wanted to organize a festival that was less about making money and more about providing a unique experience. And — most importantly— he wanted to impress a woman.
“I was trying to win over a lady I was very in love with,” Osmundsvaag said. “She was being quite resilient and not adhering to my normal strategy of trying to win over a woman. And I’m quite a focused guy, so when I go for something, I never give up.”
One might think there is a simpler way to win a woman’s favor, but Osmundsvaag followed his gut instinct and chose her to be his muse for the new project he was working on. “I’d rather make a festival than write a book, let’s just put it that way,” he explained.
The opportunity arose when he began work on a new festival to be held at Frogner Park. “I was desperately trying to be interesting…an intellectual, romantic, soft, smart cool guy towards her,” Osmundsvaag said. “At the time I was so in love I was listening to Matt Corby and all these other artists on a playlist I’d made at the time. These artists had very soft approach, so I wanted to book a festival which was just beautiful. So this was founded on love, basically.”
That woman was Anne Kristien, nicknamed “AK.” They met at a Disclosure concert in November of 2013 and, according to AK, she let him know she was single and he responded, “Oh! Let’s have a meeting next week.”
It was an immediate attraction but Osmundsvaag felt he was losing her and needed something big like a music festival to “put him back on the radar.” They were married in January 2018 and many of their wedding guests were at PiP fest to continue the celebration. To top it all off, AK is now the daily manager of the festival she inspired.
Osmundsvaag compares booking acts for PiPfest to being a DJ. “It’s like making a playlist,” he explained. “Except instead of playing records you’re playing bands.”
But there’s more to creating a festival like this than booking the right artists, he explained. A festival’s vibe plays a huge role in how the audience perceives the music and Osmundsvaag books the festival to fit his target aesthetic. “Say you go into a room with no noise. After a while, you start hearing things where there wasn’t anything,” said Osmundsvaag. “So, normally in a festival, you have such an eclectic mix that you go from something quite heavy into something quite light, into something quite urban, into something electronic.
“Again it was all made for love and it was all made on the basis of showing the softer, more beautiful things because if you do that then they get noticed,” he continued. “You get into a hypnotic kind of appreciation of the music and I feel we do that here.”
Similar to the playlist he made to remind him of his love, Osmundsvaag wanted PiPfest’s sound to be soft and the experience similar to spending a day in the park – warm, relaxing and intimate. To achieve this effect, he felt the festival should be hassle-free with as many luxuries as possible.
“We overproduce the bars,” said Ovmundsvaag. “I have twice as big a bar as I need because I hate to queue in bars and toilets. We double as many as we need because I hate toilet queue. It doesn’t make much financial sense but it builds up under the quality. It’s the sum of all parts which gives you the result of how people feel.”
Osmundsvaag even goes so far as removing the sound on the cash register to maintain the atmosphere he wants.“There’s enough stress in our daily lives, all of us, for us to make an environment where you lose yourself in to a universe of beautiful serenity, he said. “I think it’s something people enjoy. It’s a good escape.”
PiPfest’s unique origin is an example of how de-commercializing a festival can create something different. Osmundsvaag observed, “It’s quite rare for things, nowadays, to be initiated based on feelings more than commercial gain. Hopefully, it inspires others to do the same. A) Never give up. B) Follow your gut instinct, your inner reaction because it’s always the right one.”
He said they plan to move the festival to a new, undisclosed location next year to maintain the festival’s unique atmosphere and accommodate the growth in ticket sales.