As we slide into the long hot days of summer, festival season is in full swing. But it’s not just fields in Britain that fill with the sound of music and revellery; mainland Europe now has a good number of events that rival anything that the UK produces, including (whisper it) Glastonbury. Lineups are just as star-studded and interesting, the weather is better, the food options are out of this world, and there are far less Lads On Tour boorishness and drunken buffoonery to put up with. Add in cheap flights and prices that represent far better value for money than anything you’re likely to find in a field in Hampshire, and it’s a wonder more people don’t jet off and leave the mud and warm, flat beer behind.
Pohoda Festival was one of our great 2016 discoveries; superbly organized with a diverse and eclectic range of bands, it was a joyous, fun-filled three days in the Slovakian sunshine. This year the lineup looks even better, an elegant mix of the acclaimed, the popular, and the forward thinking, but it’s not just the headliners who stand out. Part of the delight of Pohoda is the platform they give to lesser-known artists and some clever scheduling to ensure they’re not up against the stars. So while we’re beyond excited to see M.I.A, Solange, Slowdive, and The Jesus And Mary Chain, these are the acts from the rest of the bill that we’d recommend checking out.
This Slovenian four-piece charmed us at Poland’s Spring Break earlier this year with their take on jaunty indie and anthemic, slow-burn jams. Clearly not ones to take themselves too seriously – they called their debut album Kangeroo’s A Neighbour – it’s a fun, refreshing changed from some of indie’s more po-faced operators. Expect a mosh pit, dancing, and lots of smiles.
Electronic artist Katie Stelmanis has always made political art as Austra, and this year’s Future Politics was primarily a concept record about the dark side of “the personal is political”. But her ice-cold synthpop remains as alluring as ever, twitchy and danceable. As a reflection of the time we live in, her music is perfectly calibrated; as music to lose yourself to, it’s damn near vital.
Do you know dEUS? You should know dEUS. And you should also know Tom Barman, singer, songwriter, filmmaker, and all round jovial maestro. TaxiWars is his latest project, a jazz quartet that blurs the genre’s lines and brings an indie sensibility and a joie de vivre to what can be a stuffy pastime. And this ain’t no vanity project either; they’ve been acclaimed by the great jazz critic Ashley Khan and caused quite a stir across the pond. In his own words, it’s “jazz, written with punk rules.” Groovy.
What’s left to say about the Baltimore synthpop quartet? A band who’ve achieved success the hard way, gig after gig, city after city, ten years on the road finally giving them the acclaim and popularity hardcore fans always knew was theirs. Singles might have been their breakout record, but this year’s The Far Field has cemented their status as global stars. If you haven’t seen Samuel T. Herring prowl the stage, pouring his heart and soul into every song, it’s time to rectify that immediately.
This trio makes dark, deceptively unsettling pop that leaves you unsure whether to dance or curl up in a corner and hide. Not many would be brave enough to use an effect-laden bassoon in their songs, but then Joe Hege & co haven’t so much ripped up the rule book as obliterated it, set it on fire, and desecrated the ashes. Of course, it’s all brilliant, and precisely the kind of lunacy that should be celebrated.
This time last year, we were a few days removed from the Brexit referendum, the topic dominating debate backstage and on stage banter. Since then, things have somehow managed to get worse; politically, socially, economically. So it seems only right that IDLES, possibly the angriest, most politically engaged band in the UK right now, will be flying the flag for our tired, sad little island and injecting some much-needed venom into the discourse. If you need to vent, or to be given hope that there might be another way, come and have a mosh to these guys.
Blood. Nudity. Spit. Crossdressing. Red wine sloshed everywhere. Their set at last year’s festival was one of the most intense, thrilling, and downright dangerous things I’ve ever witnessed, and so far this year, they’ve shown no signs of slowing down or mellowing out. “One heroic, furious, and timely detonation,” said our review of their debut album, an apt description of their feverish raw power and musical maelstrom. As an adrenaline rush, an hour in their company is hard to beat, just make sure you buckle up tight first; it’s a very turbulent ride.
The Glaswegian composer, multi-instrumentalist, and graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has a singular way of working; alone, in his own studio, meticulously crafting his melancholic indie, gently polishing and tweaking until he’s satisfied. The soothing results have been rightly acclaimed – 2015’s Architect was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize – but they’re also achingly beautiful and spiritually euphoric. A 5pm slot, just as dusk starts to settle, will be the perfect way to sit back and let his atmospheric music wash over you.
At some continental events, it can often seem like rap and hip hop is somewhat overlooked, so it’s refreshing to see an artist as singular as Princess Nokia invited to preach to an entirely new audience. She’s adopted many different styles and tropes throughout her career, but she’s always been uncompromising, her power coming from an absolute refusal to “play the game” in any shape or form. Expect a thoroughly captivating performance from an artist at the peak of her powers.
Pohoda Festival takes place in Trenčin, Slovakia from the 6 to 8 July. For more information and tickets, please visit the festival’s official website.
Photo Credit: Ctibor Bachraty