The Trollofon was started by Nicholas H. Møllerhaug and Espen Sommer Eide in 2001, with the goal of conveying experimental music in a new way – through the active use of one of the veteran trolleybuses in Bergen as a concert venue and an internet radio (pilota.fm) on BEK’s server as a communication channel. It soon became clear that the goal also had to be focused on saving the last trolleybuses in the Nordic countries, since the local politicians in Bergen were threatening to close line 2, the only remaining trolleybus line. The very first Trollofon was a work of activism, inviting both press and local politicians to open their eyes to the uniqueness of the trolleybuses. It was a success and helped to turn the political tide and secure the trolleybus operation later that year. In 2002, Møllerhaug and Eide, in collaboration with Festpillene, developed the concept of the Trollofon into an annual music festival that ran until 2006.
The trolleybuses run on electricity, as is well known, and the musicians connected the music system and electronic instruments directly to the trolley’s powerline. Along the way, with concerts that also required power, there were interactions between the music and the speed of the trolley bus and the ability to accelerate climbs. And all the time with an imminent danger of shorting the entire network and all the buses in Bergen. It usually went wrong – something the audience really appreciated. Some rumours are still circulating of smoke-filled stops in Kalfarveien.
“(…) since this was an old-timer it used more power to get uphill, at which times there was less power for the music, so we had to play quieter.”
The Trollofon and pilota.fm weave together an interest in radio, literature, sound art and music with local history and ideas from Dadaism and Surrealism. It has been called a “geo-electro-relational” project. The evening programme for the festival took place at Bergen Kunsthall’s café Landmark. The programming was a surreal mix of poetry, jazz, electronic music, noise and folk. A concept that Møllerhaug would later further develop as head of Borealis and programme manager for the Bergen Festival, and Eide through Lokofonen on the railway between Kirkenes-Bjørnevatn, RAD and other projects. The Trollofon was visited by many of the greatest experimental artists from the 2000s from Norway and abroad, such as Pita, Oval, Alog, Kim Hiorthøy, Fennesz, Tujiko Noriko, Francisco Lopez, Goodiepal, Biosphere, Haco, Alexander Rishaug, Jaap Blonk, Maja Ratkje, Sagor & Swing, Fm3, Janek Schaefer, Sanso-xtro, Felix Kubin, Next Life, Nes, Lasse Marhaug, Dat Politics, Emi Maeda, Anton Nikkelâ, Oren Ambarchi, Alexei Borisov, and many more.