A place among the Baltic pines

  • 2013-07-10
  • By Antra Feldmane

POSITIVELY THRILLING: The festival this year has some of the best indie bands on stage.

RIGA - Hurry up, music lovers! This will be a significant year for the Positivus Festival, with headliners such as “The XX,” “Sigur Ros,” “Imagine Dragon” and many, many others appearing. For the first time in its seven-year history the event will be three days long, from Friday to Sunday late evening. So it means you don’t have to pack your tents too soon, but can relax on the beach and catch some (hopefully) sunny moments instead, while the work day has not yet arrived.

As always, the Positivus Festival stands out on the European summer events map with a very reasonable price for the three-day-ticket. It will cost 37 lats this year (56 euros), with it being a bit pricier for a camping place - this will cost 5 lats.
The main strategy of Positivus 2013 is to offer the new artists, those who are really in demand in the real music business. This no longer includes Depeche Mode or Placebo, for the seventh time in Latvia. “The XX,” one of the headliners, come from London. They play minimalistic indie music and reached their absolute popularity peak in 2009, with their debut record “xx” also winning the Mercury Prize in 2010. Back then they were really significant, with their ascetic attitude, by using simple harmonies and guitar chords. It stood out from a background where hardly anything in indie music seemed original or unique. From that time, they have played in the biggest European festivals, released their second record “Coexist” in 2012 and, what’s more, one of their songs was included in a soundtrack of the current American blockbuster movie “The Great Gatsby” together with Lana Del Ray, Beyonce and Florence and the Machine.

“Sigur Ros” is a name Latvian fans might know even better, considering the fact that this Icelandic “elf choir with fantastic voices and guitars” have performed in Latvia already a few years ago. Moreover, their concert film called “Heima,” released in 2007, gained superb attention bringing together loads of music lovers at the entrance of the cinema where a free movie showing was presented. For those who are not familiar with the band’s music, it’s an atmospheric, wide and very unique sound where Icelandic nature walks in their music, with lots of emptiness, the sea and geysers. Lead singer Jonsi Birgisson usually uses a self-created language called ‘hopelandic,’ which often might get confused with the Icelandic or Norwegian languages. While performing, he often plays his guitar with a violin bow, making a howling sound, as if it was some sort of a whale song.

“Imagine Dragons,” the third headliner at Positivus, is an alternative rock band from Las Vegas, Nevada, gaining their popularity with the debut record “Night Visions.” They might be called a solid rock band appearing on the Billboard and UK charts. Therefore, they take quite a commercial turn in the rock scene, but in a good way. No doubt, their show might be great for those who are fond of The Killers, Coldplay or Snow Patrol.

“!!! /Chk Chk Chk/” is quite a surprise act in the context of the Baltic States. No less surprising is the fact that they come from Sacramento, California. It’s almost too tempting not to compare “!!! /Chk Chk Chk/” with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the legends of punk-funk-crazy-rock from Los Angeles. Though “!!! /Chk Chk Chk/” represents more electronic and punkish beats in their performances, while RHCP still stand for classic American rock traditions. Nevertheless, “!!! /Chk Chk Chk/” is going to give a mind-blowing party with loads of uncensored lyrics (most likely) and beats that tear out all the energy you have.

This year’s Positivus is significant with its line-up of Latvian musicians as well. Sometimes we tend to forget about all those great Latvian rock bands that were literally adored during the times from 1980 - 1990. Yes, we know about the new generation of bands including “Bernibas Milicija,” “Astro’n’Out,” “The Sound Poets” and many more. But still, Latvians have deep and unique rock music roots going 20 years back from now, presenting such bands as “Jauns Meness” and “Zodiaks.” The first has already played shows last year at the Palladium Concert Hall. Its leader Ainars Mielavs explores many shades of the Latvian sense of rock and folk music genres. Hopefully, they will let the audience enjoy such eternal pieces as “Parcelajs,” “Nemanot” and, of course, “Piekuns skrien debesis,” a very vibrant and intense version of a Latvian folk song.

“Zodiaks” was known as one of the main ambassadors of Latvia’s independence years back in the 1980s, performing mainly songs by composer Janis Lusens. The band joined together Zigfrids Muktupavels, a well-known Latvian singer who took one of the leading roles at the rock opera “Lacplesis” during the mid-1980s, and Maija Lusena, who was a lead singer next to Muktupavels.

Muktupavels will play electric violin, and Lusens himself will come on stage. Together, the newly-united band will present disco pieces from their first two records exploring new sounds by the “Zodiaks.”
“I Love You” Stage and Palladium will be two “miracle islands” of Latvian indie tunes for those who’d rather discover some new acts from the Baltics. “Bernibas Milicija,” one of the strongest indie acts in Latvia so far, will play their powerful show with Juris Simanovics as leading singer. They are really ‘something,’ and not only because of Simanovics’ gloomy voice timbre and straight-to-the-heart poetic song lyrics. Moreover, they prove that Latvia has at least one band truly at the world scene level. They do not have to show up at European festivals, though they surely would be able to support Interpol or Arcade Fire while touring.

“Laika Suns,” will also be playing at Positivus. Once it was “Mofo,” a very popular melodic rock band in Latvia with its leader Arnis Racinskis during the 2000s. As it sometimes happens, the band split up, but Racinskis created “Laika Suns,” a new project where melodies stay pretty much similar and light, as in the days of “Mofo.” But it has some heavy guitar licks and the even heavier drum sets unite in an energy rock flow. They have released their debut record “Nakts Karalis,” reminding us of a harsh and sparkling cocktail of “Age of Stones” or “Cold War Kids” aesthetics.

If your mind levitates around the synth-pop scene, welcome to the Zebra Island show. What’s interesting here is, they have established a solid cooperation with “I Love You Records” in Riga, therefore telling the audience that cooperation between Baltic indie groups is not only possible, but also goes on and on, gaining attention from Europe and the USA (one more Estonian band, Ewert, and the Two Dragons, also working with “I Love You Record,” has just released their record in the USA. Good luck, Ewerts!).

Many more acts are playing at Positivus Festival 2013, so you should check out the line-up yourself, not forgetting about the electronic acts at the Red Bull Academy Stage or watching the newest Latvian cinema at Adazu Cipsu Kinoteatris, or maybe just lying somewhere among the Baltic pines eating the finest ice cream you can possibly find.

Positivus Festival July 19-21
Tickets: from 30 euros