MENT Festival 2017, February 3rd, 2017
MENT Festival was shrouded in a bit of mystery for me. Embarrassing but true: upon agreeing to make the trip, I had to consult an atlas to figure out where exactly it was I was going. (Slovenia. Border countries: Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and the Adriatic Sea.) Likewise, the bands were a bit of a mystery. After Deerhoof dropped off the bill due to illness, I was only acquainted by name with a handful of others slated to perform.
Spoiler alert: Over the course of three days I was given a master class in European indie, a skill set I will now include on every resume going forward. Below is just a sampling of bands I saw/loved over the two and a half days of the fest. It’s by no means an exhaustive list—because the festival powers that be are just that good.
Pronounced with a “sh” sound at the beginning. (If you speak French try saying the word chien.) The Croatian four-piece call themselves a “visual band,” and certainly their Friday night set was awash with some of the coolest projections of the festival. But the real star was the guitars. They share DNA with both My Bloody Valentine (See: the aforementioned walls of guitars) and early Electrelane, insomuch as there’s some pop, spoken word, and kitchen-sink theatrics hidden in there as well.
Iceland’s sole representative Einarindra was also one of the few repping for the laptop artists. His moody set (thematically set in an old power plant turned performance space) was deliciously downtempo, punctuated only with languorous Nordic-accented lyrics. I was so excited about the slow build of material I missed festival buzz band His Clancyness. (My deepest apologies to the Italian contingency.) No regrets.
Despite having caught bits and pieces Coals’ set in both Iceland and Poland, their MENT set at Kino Šiška was the first time I managed to catch a full show. Like London Grammar, the Polish duo traffic in both downtempo tunes and haunting female vocals. But Coals mix in heavy helping of hip-hop beats, creating a hypnotic mix between the dirty club and darkened city streets.
There’s a longing in Birthh’s voice reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten’s cold comforts—even of the two musicians don’t share much in common beyond that. The Italian singer/songwriter’s most striking single may be called “Queen of Failure Land,” but it’s an exercise in rebirth, not emo. Loved her use of electronic layers, melodic piano lines, and crystalline soprano that made lines like, “I’m the queen of failure land/But I’m an animal/animals drop dead” feel relatable.
One of the most divisive acts at MENT was Tommy Cash. Love or hate the Estonian rapper’s gangster flow, it was fascinating to hear an originally American genre so heavily filtered and reinterpreted through a Baltic lens.
Real talk: I am not known as a punk. (Maybe in the pejorative sense, but that’s another story.) So it takes a lot for me to recommend one. Enter Hungary’s Gustave Tiger, who managed to be artful and loud in equal parts. A bit of shoegaze, a smattering of horns, and guitars that pretty much rendered my earplugs useless. Plus they were just fun to watch, which is something you want from bands on stage regardless of genre.
Things I love: weirdos, pop, and weirdos who make pop. Given that Stergin was kind of an easy sell. Blues, rock, Afropop—the Austrian’s tunes are the kitchen sink of cross-genre pollination. They’re also ridiculously fun.
Check out our festival gallery here.
Revisit the MENT mixtape series here.
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