Last year Przystanek Woodstock attracted a stunning 750 thousand people who peacefully enjoyed the music together. The event’s increasing popularity results has much to do with the event’s friendly atmosphere, not to mention the top-notch artists featured.
From Jalopy to Jaguar
Since its first edition in 1995 the festival has undergone a lot of changes. It moved from Czymanowo (through a few other localizations) to Kostrzyn on Odra and grew from an event for 30 thousand people to one of the largest music festivals in the world with an audience reaching up to 750 thousand - this attendance record was set last year. The 1995 edition was organized in makeshift conditions one of which was that the organizers didn’t even have a fax machine, whereas the latest editions were fully professional endeavours. Jurek Owsiak, who was the festival’s organizer since the beginning, says that the numerous changes can be exemplified by a comparison between a Syrena (a Polish two-door car for the masses from the 50s) and a luxury racing car. Nevertheless two key things about the festival haven’t changed since its beginning: it’s free of charge and has an especially welcoming atmosphere.
The idea for Przystanek Woodstock (the name translates into Woodstock Station) came from Jurek Owsiak, who is a living institution in Poland. Since 1993 he has been running Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy / The Grand Orchestra of Christmas Charity, a charity foundation which is best known for annually raising money for medical causes during a one-day event in January called the Finale of the Grand Orchestra of Christmas Charity. This massive event takes place all over Poland and also in a number of foreign countries. It includes, amongst others, concerts, money collections and auctions. Each year tens of thousands of people engage in the Finale as voluntaries, musicians, collectors, etc. The foundation is very popular and in total it has raised the equivalent of approximately 160 million U.S. dollars. Przystanek Woodstock was thought up as an event that would be a way to thank the volunteers and supporters of the Finale – that’s why it’s free of charge. The festival is funded by sponsors and money raised by the organizers. It isn’t financed with funds from the Finale.
Flower Power Vibe
Owsiak is a great admirer of the original Woodstock Festival, a hippie milestone that took place in 1969 in America. In 1994 he travelled to the U.S. to make a film about Woodstock ’94, a festival that was organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the legendary flower power event. He was impressed with the peaceful atmosphere of the anniversary festival and on his way back to Poland he decided to organize an event with a similar vibe in Poland, which would be a way to thank those supporting the Finale. At that time the series Northern Exposure was being aired on Polish television under the Polish title Przystanek Alaska which translates into Alaska Station. The show, which focuses on a peaceful Alaskan community, was very popular in Poland and Owsiak decided to refer to its Polish title in the name of his festival to signalize that his event will be as much about music as harmonious co-existence. The word Woodstock in the Polish festival’s name constitutes of course a reference to the aforementioned American festivals. Owsiak succeeded at realizing his vision - Przystanek Woodstock is renowned for its friendly atmosphere. Last year, when attendance hit the aforementioned record high of 750 thousand, the police securing the event didn’t have to resolve any serious criminal issues at the festival. Everybody was simply having fun and enjoying the music.
This year’s festival will run from the 30th of July through the 1st of August. It will feature concerts by over 70 bands and solo artists, including such international stars as Shaggy and Black Label Society. A special flower power concert will be given by the Polish neo-big beat singer Anna Rusowicz and her guests on the opening day. The vocalist is the daughter of a famous Polish singer popular in the 60s and 70s, Ada Rusowicz. Anna, who is said to have her mother’s voice, has become a very recognizable musician herself. Her album Mój Big-Bit won a Fryderyk, the Polish Grammy, for best pop album of 2012. Anna’s flower power concert will feature appearances by, amongst others, Dawid Podsiadło, one of the most talented Polish pop singers, whose 2013 album Comfort and Happiness contains chiefly songs in English, and the new sensation Organek, a blues and rock band who recently became the first Polish act to have its music video promoted on the main American page of the music site Vevo, where the clip for their song in English Stay (designed by Jolie Su) was posted. Anna and her guests’ special concert will be, as the name suggests, a tribute to the flower power musical era, a real treat for all those who enjoy songs like the Beatles’ Hey Jude. Organek will also give a separate performance of their own at the festival, which will take place on the opening day as well. Apart from concerts the festival will feature several non-musical events such as meetings with notable guests and… a tomato fight. For a full list of the festival’s attractions visit its English website at http://woodstockfestival.pl/en/.
Author: Marek Kępa, July 2015