After a pandemic-induced break of 2 years it was great to get back to Oslo for Tons of Rock festival. This was my sixth year photographing the festival and it was lovely to see all my photographer friends again. Tons of Rock is an 80,000-capacity festival that has a very similar feel to Bloodstock – friendly, good mixture of performers, and stages not too far away from each-other. It is located in Ekebergsletta which is a short bus or taxi ride from the centre of Oslo.
Prior to the festival I had been very organised and added all the artists I wanted to see to my Google Calendar, but what I hadn’t considered was that I had entered these in British Summer Time rather than Central European Summer Time, so the first band ended up being on-stage an hour earlier than I had in my calendar. Due to the large queue at the accreditation station this meant an actual RUN from there, through security and to the main stage in 26-degree heat with a backpack full of camera gear and a laptop. I made it seconds before the band took to the stage. A very hot and sweaty start, but it was so good to be back that I forgot my pain and sweatiness very quickly.
Opening the festival, as is traditional, were Black Debbath. A lot of their “heavy politically-incorrect humour-rock” is lost on me as they sing in Norwegian, but they always go down well with the crowd and are a fun band to photograph. When they played their song “Tons of Rock” it really felt like the festival was getting going.
Next I headed to the Scream Stage (a second outdoor stage, slightly smaller than Main Stage) for Death To All, who I learned are a tribute to Death – considered to be among the most influential bands in heavy metal. They sounded great and had a pretty big crowd watching them and going crazy.
After a brief rest from the blazing sun in the press tent it was back to the Main Stage for Bullet For My Valentine. I was looking forward to seeing them live and was very pleased that they played one of my guilty favourites – “Tears Don’t Fall”. I managed to get to the sound-desk and grab some wider crowd shots, which I was really pleased about.
It was my goal of the festival to photograph all bands that featured women and people of colour, as these festivals are still so full of white men. With this in mind, I headed to the Scream Stage for Hedvig Mollestad Trio (who replaced Spiritbox, who were unable to attend at the last minute). I photographed the jazz / rock trio back in 2016 when they played the tiny Huth Stage perched upon the top of the fortress with stunning views down to the town of Halden below (back when Tons of Rock was held at Fredriksten Fortress). The sparkly dresses that the ladies were wearing made a lovely change from the usual attire of the bands at a metal festival, and their set was fantastic.
Finally it was time for me to check out the Vampire Stage (a large tent) which was a welcome break from the outdoor stages. Fire From The Gods are an American rap metal band and vocalist Jameson in particular was incredibly energetic. Unfortunately I had the wrong lens pointed at the stage when he did some jumps, but I think the shots still work despite the cropped view.
The last time Europe played Tons of Rock festival was in 2016 when we were awaiting the result of the Brexit vote. I was the subject of lots of jokes in the press tent along the lines of “the British hate Europe” as I declined to shoot them in favour of another band. To be perfectly clear, I was very much against Brexit, and made sure to photograph Europe this time round. They were hugely popular with the crowd, and vocalist Joey Tempest in particular was full of energy on stage – posing with his mic stand and walking to the sides of the stage to get a better view of the crowd. The opening riff to “The Final Countdown” will always be incredibly pleasing.
Baroness were one of the bands on the original 2020 line-up for Tons of Rock, and I was so pleased that they made it this year as they are one of my favourites and a band I was really looking forward to seeing again. Their set on the Scream Stage was the only one that I watched all the way through, and it was triumphant. The screen at the back of the stage scrolled through the gorgeous artwork of John Baizley that features on the album covers. This made for a beautiful backdrop to the photos. Baroness were as excellent as I had hoped and expected, and Gina in particular was very energetic and engaging.
Another band I had been keen to photograph were Mastodon as I have never seen them live before. I wasn’t disappointed. They played a great set of songs from their most recent album Hushed and Grim, plus some crowd favourites from their back-catalogue including “Megalodon” from Leviathan.
Sum 41 seemed a slightly left-field choice for a festival that is predominantly metal and rock, but I had to check them out for nostalgia value. They opened with “Motivation” which is now 17 years old but still sounds great. The crowd were having a lovely time re-living the pop-punk classics from a simpler time, and the band looked like they were enjoying themselves as well.
A few days ahead of the festival photographers received an email with contracts to sign for Iron Maiden (Thursday’s headliner) and Five Finger Death Punch (Saturday’s headliner). Like a good girl I signed them both (as they weren’t rights-grabbing), but in Norway they don’t sign contracts, which I believe led to a bit of a hoo-hah in the Maiden camp, resulting in them only permitting ten of the biggest publications to photograph their set. I didn’t make the cut. To be honest I was gutted as I have been wanting to photograph them for years, but what can you do. We were also not permitted to shoot their set from the crowd, so myself and my lovely friend Andrea who I was staying with took the opportunity to slink off home for a relatively early night after a long, hot day.
Photos by Katie Frost Photography