Rock ‘N’ Jørgen Roll

Although it still hasn’t managed to sell out all five days, downtown Oslo’s Norwegian Wood Music Festival did manage to break one record when the weather stayed dry from start to finish.

Robin Goodier from Live Nation‘s Gunnar Eide Concerts , which has booked the festival’s international acts for the last 12 years, can’t remember a year when it didn’t pour with rain on at least one of the days.

This year it was bright sunshine from start to finish as close to 7,500 a day turned up to Vigeland Park, which is about a 20-minute walk from the city center, to see a parade of talent that included Roger Waters, Lou Reed, Deftones, David Gray, Soulfly, Gnarls Barkley, Martha Wainwright, Ron Sexsmith and Turbonegro, which stepped in to headline the Friday night after Korn pulled its European tour.

Many of the fans bring groundsheets and picnics and sit on a slope facing the stage, creating a unique outdoor intimacy that has easily wooed Reed, Bob Dylan and Adam Duritz from Counting Crows.

The park’s known as “Frognerpark” or “Frognerbadet,” after the name of the district and the fact that one side of the site is bordered by a swimming pool where the audience can take a dip.

On his previous visit, Reed said he’d love a pass to stay for a few days. Dylan, who played it in ‘98, told the audience it reminded him of outdoors he saw growing up in Minnesota and then encored by telling the fans to stay “Forever Young.”

The event was actually inspired by the shows festival chief Jørgen Roll and his two partners saw on U.S. ski slopes in the summer when they were studying various business qualifications in the States.

Roll received an economics degree at Utah University and took a post-graduate course at Thunderbird Graduate School in Phoenix, Ariz. While studying and doubling as a middle-distance runner, he and Sten Randers Fredriksen, who mastered in finance at Arizona State University in Phoenix, and Haakon Hartvedt – who has a business degree from Wyoming State in Laramie – planned to do something similar on an Oslo slope when they got back home.

They tried it outside the city for a couple of years, but moved to central Oslo and got Rune Lem from Gunnar Eide to book the acts when it became obvious that they would struggle to find talent that pulled and that the capital’s fans were reluctant to travel beyond the suburbs.

Ironically, when Counting Crows played in 2003, Duritz said the U.S. has lost its way in producing this sort of event the way it did in the ’70s.

Roll has only just given up a full-time career that included being a financial analyst for IBM Norway, financial director of McCann Erickson’s Norwegian operations and financial and managing director of Dinamo Norway, the country’s largest mass communication and public relations company.

He said it’s reached the point where he’s having to look at Norwegian Wood as a full-time job.

Among the top Scandinavian acts appearing at Oslo’s Vigeland Park June 14-18 were Bigbang, Maria Mena, Elvira Nikolaisen, Corazón, Kent, Mew, Minor Majority, and Vidar Vang.

– John Gammon