Leif Skov Returns

Leif Skov is ending his long absence from the live music business to help launch Norway’s new Hove Festival.

Four-and-a-half years after he left Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, he’s helping former Quart Festival director Toffen Gunnufsen and booker Peer Osmundsvaag set up a rival event only one and a half hours to the north.

Gunnufsen – one of the 15-year-old Norwegian festival’s founders – and what Osmundsvaag called “countless of the other Quart people” will be staging Hove on a peninsula on the southeast coast at Arendal.

Gunnufsen didn’t comment on the moves that led him to quit Quart festival as he’s under contract until November 1st, but Skov and former Roskilde chief exec Jes Vagnby are both on the team to advise on how to get the new event up and running.

Skov, whose departure from the Danish festival became public a day after ILMC 2002, has since nursed his wife until her tragic death a year ago and is a consultant to several charitable and humanitarian organizations.

He told Pollstar that he sees his Hove role as guiding the event toward individuality in the sense that it will bring something new to the festival world and not just become a copy of what already exists.

“I want to help it build its own identity and values. There’s no point in just adding another festival because there’s already enough, or trying to recreate a Glastonbury or a Roskilde because those people are already doing it very well, but we can create a new festival that’s unique in its own ways,” he explained.

Skov, whose last two years at Roskilde were spent trying to deal with the aftermath of the tragic accident that saw nine members of the crowd crushed to death during Pearl Jam‘s set at the 2000 festival, said he doesn’t see the new job as a long-term, hands-on involvement.

“I want to try to help them along but it’s for them to build the festival themselves,” he added, making it clear that he wouldn’t have any title and that he’d be involved in an advisory capacity and not in charge of any part of the day-to-day running of the event.

“There are so many other things that occupy my calendar and I have to combine it with my other positions,” he said.

Apart from the news of someone as well-known as Skov returning to the live music business, albeit in only an advisory capacity, Gunnufsen’s departure to set up a rival event could send something of a shockwave through the Norwegian outdoor market.

It’s certainly got a muted reaction from Quart, where Helge Josdal – who’s stepping up to replace Gunnufsen as festival director – said, “He’s chosen to quit and compete. He’s starting a festival that will come a week before Quart and it’s barely an hour away.

“What I think of that isn’t important. What I’m telling you are the facts,” he added. “Quart’s business model is a non-profit organization with the money going to a foundation, very similar to Roskilde, whereas Hove will be a commercial event. It seems Toffen will be happier with that.”

He said the festival expects a handful of people to leave with Gunnufsen but that others who are going don’t hold positions with nearly as much seniority.

Both sides seem to be flexing their muscles for what could turn out to be the start of some serious bidding wars. Joergen Skauge – who’s taking over Gunnufsen’s booking role at Quart – couldn’t be contacted because he was in meetings with EMA Telstar regarding next year’s festival, and Hove has already put the feelers out for a list of acts that includes Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead.

Josdal said it’s also Quart’s priority to maintain what he called an excellent relationship with Rune Lem at Live Nation’s Gunnar Eide, although the Oslo-based company isn’t likely to prefer one festival to the other, as Lem’s colleague Robin Goodier is a consultant for Hove.

Ironically, Goodier looked after the artists’ production at Quart for eight years, only quitting when he was fed up with the annual pressure and hassle of it landing in the calendar alongside Oslo’s Norwegian Wood Festival, which Gunnar Eide books and helps produce.

The rivalry between the two 15,000-capacity events could be intensified by Quart’s plan to build an outdoor arena on the Kristiansand site, which could be used to stage other events throughout the year.

Hove’s bid for individuality is off to a bright start as the beautiful 1,200-acre site has space for 10,000 campers, which, as Skov pointed out, already makes it unique among Norwegian festivals.

It also has 600 meters of moorings for those who come by sea in their own floating accommodations.

It will be run by a limited company set up by Morten Sandberg, chief exec of Concept Communications, which is the country’s leading sponsorship agency; former Playground Records head Svein Bjørge; Gunnufsen; Osmundsvaag, whose Atomic Agency reps Kaizers Orchestra, Grand Island and some of Norway’s most successful local talent; and Gaute Drevdal, who was editor of Natt & Dag music mag for 12 years.

Presumably via Concept’s involvement, Hove is talking to a couple of major papers – believed to be VG and Dagbladet – to head up a list of other TV, radio and print media partners to generate the equivalent of 6 million Norwegian kroners (US$900,000) worth of coverage.

Some of the money needed to stage what’s expected to be a five-day festival (June 25-29) should come from sponsorship deals, again likely to have been set up by Concept, with the likes of the Telenor telecom company, Pepsi Cola, Lee jeans, Sony Ericsson, Playstation and Ringnes brewery, which makes one of the country’s most popular beers.

The festival setup is expected to include three full-time stage areas, with capacities of 15,000, 5,000 and 3,000, with a couple more tented stages to begin early evening.

The site is 10 minutes by bus and ferry from the main town of Arendal, a 45-minute drive from Kristiansand Kjevik Airport for international and domestic flights and a two-hour drive from Oslo Torp Airport for international flights.

– John Gammon