Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This neck of the woods

I thought this time, instead of writing about a band or a show I will give you a quick review of the musical goodies, i.e. festivals, that are going to take place in this part of the world the coming summer. The reason why I am writing about it now is that out of the goodness of my heart I want to give you a fair warning, so that you may cancel your holiday plans and come to Eastern and Central Europe to enjoy the music and the culture for less. (I am pretty sure you can still get some discount plane tickets if you start looking now).
The list that follows is by no means complete or objective.
Heineken Open’er (June 30th - July 3rd, 2011), sponsored by the famous beer company, is a Polish summer classic, lastsing for 4 days due to the amazing number of performances. It takes place in Gdynia, which is a big sea-side Polish city, easy to access and great to visit (as it is part of what we in Poland call Trójmiasto, a combination of three wonderful cities: Gdynia, Gdańsk and Sopot – the last one features a pier way better than the one in Brighton). You can see the impressive line-up on their website. For me this festival is a sign that summer has started.
Next, just a wee week later you have Bazant Pohoda (July 7-9, 2011, Trecin Airport). Another beer-sponsored music event; this time held in Slovakia, where alcohol is always cheaper even though they use the Euro. If Opener is a classic than Pohoda is its quirky cousin. The two share some lineup, but the ambience is way different. Did I tell you that you can buy wine in pints there? And drink it while standing mere meters from the main stage?
If Slovakia is not Slavic enough for your taste, you can go to Serbian Novy Sad, for the EXIT Festival (July 7-10, 2011). In the beginning the event was a major political statement, a happy show in the mids of a post-war landscape, now it is just a huge celebration of music attracting tons of people from all over the world. Once you are there feel free to explore the rest of the Balkans.
For example, you can tour the land and get back to Serbia just in time for Guca festival (August 10-14, 2011, Guca) – the biggest trumpet festival in the world. A four day fest including loads of grilled meat, strong alcohol and trumpets. What’s not to like? The ultimate Balkan experience?
Not a fan of folk, yet dead set on something along the indie/alternative lines? Try OFF Festival in Katowice (August 5-7, 2011, yes, we are back in Poland, in Silesia, to be precise). Organized by the father of all indie music in Poland, the leader of the famous Myslovitz, Artur Rojek, this is the event for international and Polish indie fans. The atmosphere is any hipster's wet dream – a healthy combination of low-key with blaze and a big dollop of actual on-the-edge art. If you are looking for bands that noone knows yet, and want to be the first one to write them up on your bitchy music blog, OFF is the place for you.
And what if you are not so keen on just music? Well, may I suggest two more festivals that though sport quite a load of music events, focus on something slightly different. The Era Nowe Horyzonty film festival in Wrocław (July 21st- 31st, 2011) is any film lover’s feast. With screenings of films awarded at major international festivals, as well as retrospectives of famous or forgotten artists, this is the perverted and disturbing cinematic experience for you. But do not complain that I did not warn you – this is artistic cinema in its extreme. However, it is counterbalanced with some major cinematic venting opportunities in the form of the Midnight Madness series. Bear in mind that the ENH is not just films and their special events section includes gems such as a show by Grinderman, a Nick Cave baby.
If you are less keen on film, but still into arts, check out Maltafestival in Poznań (July 4th -9th, 2011). This event brings together theatres from all over the world, as well as music and dance performers whose art will blow your brains out. This year includes gigs by Portishead and Fleet Foxes.
So, cancel your Hawaii flight and come to Europe!

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