TALLINN - Indie rock in Estonia is defined by a few key names and places. There's Tallinn's Von Krahl bar, without which original alternative music would cease to exist. There's people like Vaiko Eplik and Siim Nestor, artists, DJs and writers who seem inextricably linked to the concept of "indie."
And then there's Plink Plonk, a festival that has become the epicenter of the indie world in its three short years of existence.
Plink Plonk is as whimsical, irreverent and enjoyable as its playful name. Held at Tartu's Song Festival Grounds each summer, it's a one-day celebration of underground independent music in Estonia. And as anyone who regularly visits Von Krahl, listens to Vaiko Eplik or attends Plink Plonk will tell you, Estonia's indie music scene is in the middle of a creative boom.
"The secret is that in the 90s, everyone was trying so hard to get a foreign record deal so they started to act like foreign bands," says Tristan Priimagi, one of Plink Plonk's eight organizers. "In the beginning of this century everyone let go and started writing their own stuff. Then it bloomed. As they say, when you let go, you get a grip."
Only several hundred people attend Plink Plonk each year, making it one of those rare spacious events that are a joy to attend.
The event is held in Tartu, the university town that is home to most of the Plink Plonk crew. It's also the home base of Forwards Records, a studio and label founded by several members of the Plink Plonk committee to promote Estonian music.
"There is nothing special about doing a festival in Tallinn, because there is so much going on there in summer. Tartu needed a summer centerpoint. Now the city is 100 percent behind it," Priimagi says.
"The idea, when we started in 2005, was that the only thing Estonia has is big beer festivals, big rock festivals or folk festivals. There was no outlet for young Estonian indie and alternative bands. We wanted to make a festival for the kind of music we like."
This year's line-up features a wealth of talent. Some of the bands on display deserve airplay on BBC 2 or Australia's Triple J 's both powerhouses of alternative music 's if only Western audiences could get over their phobia of foreign languages.
There's Eliit, a band with an ever-changing line-up of Estonia's best young rock musicians, led by the aforementioned Eplik. They sell out Von Krahl each time they play, and there's a good reason why. Having hit adolescence in the 90s, these musicians were exposed to a flood of music previously hard to find pre-independence. They absorbed the sounds of the preceding decades in equal proportions, and this balance is reflected in their sounds. There's the jangly guitar pop of the 60s, the experimental electric sounds of the 70s, cheesy disco and nu-wave punk from the 80s, and angst-ridden rock from the 90s 's all at the same time.
Estonian bands such as Mooses, Under Marie, Galaktan and Shelton San are all also worth a listen. Plink Plonk has managed to secure a few internationals, such as Sweden's The Concretes, with a pixie-voiced lead singer and lackadaisical rock style.
Head to the Web site below for more information or to listen to music from the featured bands.
Plink Plonk indie music festival
Tartu Song Festival Grounds
July 21, 2 p.m.