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wRacku Festival 2010

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The first edition of wRacku festiwal took place in Racibórz on the 25th and 26th of June. Bands from different countries, representing different genres of music, arrived in that small Silesian city, located nearby the border with Czech Republic. The price of tickets was not exorbitant and included a place on the campsite; the legendary Slovenian Laibach was headlining. Although such an event could have attracted quite an audience, the attendance was below expected level.

On the first day within the confines of the festival four small concerts occurred, each one in a different place. I did not have too inordinate requirements of music, I just attended them out of sheer curiosity. You could reach every club on foot, it was much worse getting to know who was playing when and where. Nobody knew anything within the festival area. Obviously, everything could be found on the Internet, however, if you did not print a complete schedule or a gig program along with a screen from GoogleMaps, you had quite a problem. I managed to get to my destinations by simply asking the locals for some tips to reach them and following unofficial festival posters. It was not that much of a heroic feast, yet an ordinary piece of paper and a map with the clubs marked on it hanged somewhere within the festival area could have saved my time spent running around aimlessly.
Thanks to my naiveness and hope that a gig program was fully approachable, I missed the first concert. The next was a performace of electro-punk MassKotki in "Dybcówka" pub. That was the first thing which surprised me positively. I regarded the band as a punkish cabaret: two girls yelling out satirical lyrics to the plastic, purposely kitschy sound of their music. Now, with brand new, harder songs of more elaborated musical arrangements and a new live guitarist, they are mopping the floor with everybody. I came to see brainless fooling-around and in fact saw an up-to-the-level, decent and energetic punk gig. Although there was no room to swing a cat in the club, leaving aside to give a show, and the girls were playing literally squeezed in the corner among the cable entanglement, they managed to animate the audience, which enthusiastically demanded encores afterwards.

After the successful show of MasssKotki and a short walk toward the other side of Odra to a pub named "Atmosfear", came the time for a thorough change of musical atmosphere. The next performer was Compulsive Shopping Disorder. The place, which they were to play at, was not adapted to concerts and this time I did not wind up in the first row, hence I cannot give a full account of everything, which was happening on "stage". The musicians were given some room on the floor – very few people, extraordinarily tall guys and the first row among them, could really see them play. I managed to sight an old TV-set and a doll, which were making props; I also saw a vocalist throwing himself around on "stage", his face wrapped in bandage, but for the best part of the gig I had to content myself with the sounds only. Another positive surprise – it was a great pleasure to listen to them. The music of Compulsive Shopping Disorder is rather difficult in perception, gloomy and hard; however rhythmic and based on loops, it is more of a "listen-to" than "have-fun-to" music; full of aggressive, industrial rhythms and overwhelming, dark-ambient atmosphere. Perhaps everything, which band creates is not that revelatory but it is by all means worth a listen.

The last band playing on Friday was Windy from Czech Republic. There occurred another change of musical atmosphere, as well as a change of a place, and in the end the audience found itself in a less cramped space at Ozon club, where, at the same time, a disco was taking place. The band itself played light, unpretentious, eclectic music: a hint of rock, country, folk, jazz and even disco at times could be made out in it. The music itself was not too interesting but everything was so well-rounded, professional and amazingly performed that, even though I do not fancy that kind of music, it was a pleasure to listen to them. The sound of the band was enriched by a two-person choir and a four-person brass band; a vocalist seemed truly agreeable and the audience – the same that was listening to dark electro a bit earlier – had a great time. Windy proved that light and entertaining music can be performed in a classy way.
To sum up the first day of the fest: although the locum conditions were more than worse, it was worth putting up with all the tight-squeeze. The invited bands were representing surprisingly high level of performance and all of them gave good, yet entirely different, shows.

On the second day the festival change its location: from small clubs to a wide, open space. The audience finally got a gig program and maps of Racibórz. Two stages were set up at the OSiR stadium and in the middle, right between them, some tables with umbrellas, where one could quench their thirst by drinking beer, sold right beside them, or eat some fast food bought at a nearby kiosk. The concerts on a small stage begun in the early afternoon but hardly anyone attended them. Firstly, Perpetum Homo played for just a handful of people gathered In front of the stage. Then a way heavier, hardcore Flapjack. A majority was listening to them from afar, sitting at the tables and sipping their beers idly. Those bands could not shoulder the blame for the poor interest because they gave quite good shows. Not everyone is keen on standing In front of the stage at noon, in the heating Sun, listening to the music that is not entirely to their liking. Eventually, the problem of drinking instead of having fun was partially solved by a vocalist of heavy-metal band Frontside. At the beginning of their gig he said through a microphone that he "invites the beer garden to the front of the stage" and in the simple, yet effective manner, he accumulated slightly bigger audience, which later seemed very pleased about having accepted the invitation. Yet, there was still few people.

The first band which appeared on the main stage was coldwave 1984. The show was quite fine, however, it lacked something. At present, 1984 performs as a duo, consisting of Piotr Liszcz, responsible for vocals and guitars, and Robert Tuta, who plays the bass guitar. The rest of the instruments is provided by means of playback. The duo, frying in the afternoon sun, managed to create an adequately ‘cold’ atmosphere with its sound, native to the 80’s; Robert Liszcz was successfully connecting with the audience in between songs, a few people in the first rows were singing along with him, knowing the lyrics by heart. I cannot say it was a bad concert but, all in all, rock without live drums does not sound the same.

After the show of 1984, Paprika Korps could be heard and seen on the smaller stage. Reggae does not appeal to me whatsoever hence I did not approach the speakers, but the sounds which were flowing through my ears were enough to certify that, given the genre itself, Paprika Korps were doing quite well. The audience gathered in front of the small stage enlarged at last.

After Paprika Korps had finished their show, A German electro-industrial band DAS ICH appeared on the main stage. This time they were armed-to-teeth, musically of course, with a new member on drums: a nice surprise. The band rapidly kickstarted the hearts, feet and minds of every person of the crowd. Stefan Ackermann, painted red, was, as always, embellishing his vocals with overexpressive mimics and a peculiar dance, Bruno Kramm, behind his keyboards, in a priest gown, his hair in the shape of devil’s horns. An additional keyboardist, Marty Söffker, wearing a butcher’s apron spotted with fake blond, which, in the amalgamation with his figure, made an extraordinary impression. The drummer had performed with Das Ich, as Stefan explained at the end of their show, for the first time and he did not participate in the band’s theatrical excesses. Nonetheless, the drummer did show his skills after the electricity had gone out – he started drumming a capella, without any additional support of plug-ins. The feedback of the band to their technical problems and hurdles was superb: instead of standing still in the middle of the stage, not knowing what to do, Stefan briefly explained what was happening and then, as if the electricity was of no necessity during the concert, he set about entertaining the audience, fooling around with his bandmates, dancing to the rhythm of drums, encouraging the crowd to clap their hands or even jump over the railings to get closer to the band (no one decided to follow his advice, after all). Despite that short break, one could not get annoyed in the slightest during Das Ich performance. The musicians had a great time on stage, their enthusiasm was truly contagious for the audience. The good impression they made was not even spoiled by a binder with lyrics, which Stefan was peeking on, every now and then. Perhaps the overall larkiness is not on a par with the music of Das Ich. We can give in to a disturbing and reflective atmosphere of their music at home – a good fun should be reserved solely for the concerts.

Meanwhile, after the dusk had finally fallen, a Hungarian band Yellow Spots begun its performance. From the far away I could clearly discern hard, rhythmic play along with husky vocal and a brass section of great importance. That wild blend of psychobilly, ska and swing sounded pretty inviting and if I had not been so dead-keen on being in the first row during the show of Laibach, I would surely have gone to the other side of the festival area to admire Yellow Spots at a close-up. Nearby the main stage I was stopped by Marty Söffker, who, still In his butcher-outfit and full make-up, had descended among ordinary human beings and was more than eager to get along with the audience.

After long preparations Laibach came on stage, along with the sound of a march. In contrast to the brisk performance of Das Ich, the members of Slovenian band kept their calm, serenity, decorum and their distinctive, drawn to an absurd, seriousness. Milan Fras in his scenic suit and world-famous headgear was overlooking the audience, dominating it aloofly as though he was an orator at a national, totalitarian celebration, reciting the lyrics with low, guttural voice. He was accompanied by Janez Gabrič on drums, Primož Hladnik and Luka Jamnik on synthesizers and Mina Špiler, who was also playing the synthesizer, but, first and foremost, was singing with her subtle voice and shouting every so often through a bullhorn. The setting of the show was constituted by lightings and various projections: all kept in a solemn, "laibach" convention. The concert belonged to a Volk cycle so its better part was based on national anthems. At the begging the band also played their older songs such as full of tension, avangarde "Država" or simple, rhythmic "Tanz mit Laibach". Although during more danceable songs the band members were not standing motionlessly at all (which would not even break the convention), all their motions and the manner in which they presented them were full of composure, majesty and something which made you think of an ideological fanatism – the things, which the aesthetics of both Laibach and Neue Slowenische Kunst are known from, causing misunderstandings and having been the substance of an artistic provocation for almost thirty years now. Indeed: someone not-in-the-know could have got hold of the wrong end of the stick regarding the band’s behavior on stage. Fortunately, Laibach is not either a political organization of extremists or a dangerous sect, their scenic pomposity should be taken with a pinch of salt, hence one could, for yet another time during the festival, simply had a great time at their concert and enjoy the music. The show ended with credits, displayed on huge screens behind the band, with names of artists and their crew and a set-list with the authors of the songs. Later, British Zion Train played on the small stage but after Laibach had made my day, I was not in the mood for convincing myself to reggae and I did not endure till the very end of the festival.
To sum up the whole event: it was worth coming.
The thing which was the most disturbing to me was the attendance: while a handful of people is standing in front of a stage, it spoils the atmosphere and does look a bit miserable. Maybe the event was not well-advertised? It appears to be more complicated issue.

Inviting artists who represent such remote genres was not probably a good idea. Each and every one of them during their show was looking at the other half of the audience: sitting at the table and drinking beer – not so pleasant for the artist, is it? That mixture of genres certainly influenced the attendance: lovers of particular kinds of music most probably prefer other events, where most of the music is just up their street. The variety is usually interesting but the organizers of wRacku must have exaggerated a bit.
The sound system was rather bearable: I have heard better ones but luckily there were not any most common mistakes or errors: it was not too loud, the basses were not too overdriven and no frequencies were drowned by the others hence all instrumental parts (or samples) were audible. With regard to the club concerts – only Windy had a proper sound system – others shall remain uncommented. I would like to mention just one thing: at the concert of Compulsive Shopping Disorder I was wondering if they were playing a never-heard-of element of their musical arrangement or if it was just a microphone conjugation replicated by delay. The locums, where the small shows took place on the first day were decent, but only as places to drink beer at and I cannot imagine how one could come up with an idea of organizing concert there (Ozon club excluded). I suppose there is no such a suitable club in Racibórz.
The thing which was truly worth coming was the music itself. And it was not about the headliners or those old concert stagers: even though the bands were sometimes entirely different, they all were up to scratch and met the requirements of the audience. How many uninteresting, lousy "young bands", playing secondary tracks based on a three-accord path, thinking that having everything sound good altogether is enough to play, have performed at many festivals, to the horror of the audience? Lots of and therefore I expected to listen to such mediocrities at wRacku, especially that I had not heard of the better part of the bands which were to play there. To my great surprise I encountered none of them! However, there were some bands, which did not provoke any interest in me because they were simply not included in my musical taste but, apart from this, no matter how hard I tried to pick on something, I could not – there was nothing to grumble about. Due to the fact that music is the most important factor at every festival, I regard wRacku as a great and daring series of concerts, despite its organizational shortcomings.

Translator: murd
Add date: 2010-09-13 / Live reports

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