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Guide to Polish Music Festivals


Marta Jazowska
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With the festival season behind us, Culture.pl points to Poland's biggest and best, and showcases out this year's highlights. Check the end of the list for events still to come...

Open'er

Opener Festival, photo: Paweł Tarasewicz / Alter Art
  Opener Festival, photo: Paweł Tarasewicz / Alter Art

If you ask any of the tens of thousands of people why they would choose Gdynia and its Heineken Open'er Festival, they all agree that the line-up of Polish and international bands is epic, it's the biggest festival - and for the concerts they offer, it's cheap! The event takes place on the grounds of the Gdynia-Kosakowo airport. The seaside location incites Swedes to take a Baltic ferry ride down to Poland. To top that off, Open'er is a feast of alternative music, film, theatre, fashion,and visual arts at the same time. The 2013 edition had artists Paweł Althamer, the Nowolipie group and the new Museum of Contemporary Art (which still doesn't have a permanent headquarter in Warsaw) showcase their own projects.

Staged every day over the course of the festival was the newest Nowy Teatr in Warsaw production directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, Warsaw Cabaret. Standing out among the Open'er musical performers are Blur (their first performance in Poland), Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Animal Collective and Johnny Greenwood, Radiohead's guitarist.

The festival took place between the 3rd and 7th of July. Check out Jacek Świąder's article for Culture.pl about the international stars of pop and alternative music and the Polish bands of the 2013 edition.

Audioriver

Why does it stand out? It's the biggest Polish beach festival, placing the classics of club music, electro, and techno side by side with ambient and French electro. In stats and names, Audioriver boils down to: Vistula River beach in the small city of Płock north of Warsaw, an expertly curated line-up and cheap tickets attracting up to 17,000 festivalgoers.  

Paul Kalkbrenner, Richie Hawtin, GusGus and Rudimental were among the international performers while the Poles were represented by almost 30 artists including  Kamp!, XXANAXX, Marcin Czubala, Dobrebity.pl Showcase, the Phantom, Chmara Winter, Angelo Mike, Technosoul (Dtekk b2b Essence) and Glasse. The 2013 edition took place on the weekend of the 26th to 28th of July. Read more on Culture.pl.  

Coke Live

Coke Live Festival, photo: Grzegorz Adamski / Alter Art
Coke Live Festival, photo: Grzegorz Adamski / Alter Art

Fitting into the more commercial genre, the Coke Festival takes place in lovely Kraków, on the grounds of the Polish Aviation Museum, and hosts the likes of Wu Tang Clan and  Florence and the Machine, Franz Ferdinand, Biffy Clyro and the Cribs. The Polish line-up included Mela Koteluk, tres.b, Marika, the rock group Magnificent Muttley and a rapper called Bisz. The Coke stage is one of the biggest this summer: 46 meters wide, 25 meters deep and 16 meters high. There was a camping area for 4,000 people right next to the Main Stage.

On top of the concerts the festival offers street art workshops, VJ-ing workshops, upcycling workshops, cinema screenings and afterparties. To put the cherry on the Coke, it is the only event to have co-featured Rihanna and Lily Allen, Missy Elliot and Kaiser Chiefs, the Killers with 50 Cent and Muse sharing the stage with the Chemical Brothers, Interpol and Kanye West, Editors performing along Q-Tip and White Lies and Kid Cudi. The festival is two-day event and took place on the 9th and 10th of August.

Katowice OFF

Katowice OFF Festival, photo: press release
  Katowice OFF Festival, photo: press release

In the beautiful Three Ponds Valley, in an enchanted forest, lies an alternative music festival that presents new trends in music and is willfully attended by Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister of Poland and former President of the European Parliament. In the southwest of Poland, the festival runs an alternate current with respect to the other summer music festivals and events. First, it presents an array of names that are milestones in the history of alternative, popular music and hip-hop: My Bloody Valentine, Godspeed You!, Black EmperorSmashing Pumpkins, Japandroids, the KTL, Fatima Al-Qadiri and John Talabot for fans of electronic sounds. Secondly it has Zbigniew Wodecki, Poland’s senior renowned instrumentalist, musician, composer and actor, playing material from his debut album of decades ago alongside the mad virtuosos of Mitch and Mitch. Thirdly, it invites the up-and-coming pearls of the Polish music scene: UL/KR, Stara Rzeka, Gówno, and Semantik Punk.

Finally it sets up film screenings, a small art gallery and a literary cafe. The artwork is provided by MOCAK, Kraków’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and showcases works by Rafał Bujnowski, Edward Dwurnik, Marcin Maciejowski and Wilhelm Sasnal. Sasnal created a series of T-shirts, mugs and bags especially for the occasion. The extent of the festivals greatness could not be better summed up than with the fact that last year it was presented with an award for the best medium-sized festival by the European Festival Association. The festival took place between the 2nd and the 4th of August. There is loads more to say, so check out Filip Lech's article for Cultre.pl

Tauron Nowa Muzyka

Deadboy at Tauron New Music Festival, photo: press release
 Deadboy at Tauron New Music Festival, photo: press release

Small in terms of capacity, big when it comes to its line-up and the sound generated by the stage. The line-up is predominantly dance and electronic, but it features some rock, pop, hip-hop, R&B and world/ folk music. Through the years, Tauron has hosted Autechre, DJ Krush, Prefuse 73, Jamie Lidell, Amon Tobin, Flying Lotus, Battles, Bonobo and Fever Ray, just to name few. For most of them it was the first time they performed in Poland.

The event's particular appeal is its location. It is staged in a former coal mine with its entire infrastructure pretty much intact and available for all visitors - from old production halls, warehouses, carpentries to a pressure tower. In 2012 the festival was got the European Festivals Award for Best Small European Festival. The 2013 Tauron Festival took place between the 22nd and 25th of August. 

Tzadik Festival

Artist at Tzadik Poznań Festival 2012, photo: press release
Artist at Tzadik Poznań Festival 2012, photo: press release

Neo-Klezmer music, meetings with artists and film screenings,  the Poznań-based festival hosts artists from Israel, the U.S., Chile, Argentina, Holland, Belgium and the U.K. who presents contemporary Jewish music. Divided into two thematic blocks, music and film, the programme includes 8 concerts and 20 film screenings. After Raphael Rogiński, Mikołaj Trzaska, Koby Israelite - the famous accordion player played for the first time with the Polish band Samech - Meadow Quartet, Me la Amargates Tu, and Daktari took to the stage, the musicians Patryk Lichota, Adam Gołębiewski and Piotr Mełech interpreted music of Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews and various enclaves worldwide, such as Jews living in Transylvania, in their project Disgrained.

The 2013 edition was inaugurated Uri Caine, the U.S. pianist and composer, who played a piece commissioned by the festival that deals with the life and creative achievements of Władysław Szpilman. Tzadik takes its name after the New York City label managed by John Zorn, the musician and composer who is the figurehead behind the contemporary klemzer-music revival. The festival took place between the 25th and 28th of July.

Warsaw Summer Jazz Days

Warsaw Jazz Summer Days, photo: press release
 Warsaw Jazz Summer Days, photo: press release

Paco de Lucia, John Zorn, Sun Ra's Arkestra, Wayne Shorter Quartet - these names that speak for themselves. Uniting creative artists of contrasting backgrounds, the world-class festival takes place in the capital and has its dedicated fans. Since 1992, it has set out to promote contemporary jazz by hosting the newest, most innovative performances. Two days of jazz followed by one day with a free-entry concert - then the final day hosts a performance of top jazz artists. The main venue of the festival is the circular Congress Hall in the skyscraping Palace of Culture and Science, where the audience can reach up to 2,500 people. The festival took place between the 15th and 20th of July.

Bialystok Up To Date

Bialystok Origianl Source Up to Date festival
Bialystok Origianl Source Up to Date festival

As promised, this last festival is still to take place - on the 20th and 21st of September. Original Source Up To Date is an event of electronic music, hip-hop and visual arts in Białystok, the largest city in northeastern Poland. The festival takes place in a post-industrial setting, on the grounds of old red-brick military barracks. The event is a unique confrontation between hip-hop and electronic music by artists from U Know Me Records. The five stages host a review of world rap, experimental electronic music and ambient. Distinguishing the event from other festivals, the organisers attend to the visual side and have make sure that the decoration of the stage is different every day.

The festival will take place between the 20th and 21st of September. For more information visit the Original Source Up to Date website.

Editor: MJ 23.08.2013. Sources: culture.pl, Open'er, Coke Live, Tauron, sztetel.org, Adamik Jazz

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Music