Fever Ray

Tauron Nowa Muzyka

Tauron Nowa Muzyka 2018, June 30th, 2018

Jul 08, 2018 Photography by Laura Studarus
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I’ll admit that, as a journalist, I end up at a lot of music festivals—probably more than my fair share. Yes, it’s one of those perks of the job that make us totally unrelatable (Spend time with more than one of us in the same room, and sooner or later you’ll hear someone moan about “having to go to SXSW.”) But the effect is also similar to binge eating ice cream. You have regrets when you hit the bottom of the pint? Try, back-to-back music festivals, and tell me if that doesn’t feel eerily similar. (Like I said, totally unrelatable.)

Which is why, after getting muddy beyond recognition at Roskilde, blistered in the sun of Coachella, and suffering from dehydration at FYF thanks to a water shortage, I can say with some small level of authority that Tauron Nowa Muzyka, now in its 12rh year, deserves accolades for straight up creating one of the most enjoyable music situations I have ever experienced. Even the venue, Katwoice, Poland’s Silesian Museum, seem to speak to the desire to create a different atmosphere for fans. I have seen the musicians indoors. I have seen them outdoors. I have seen them in the round. I have not seen these three situations while in the presence of ancient mining equipment.

Over the two days the festival was held at the grounds (a warm-up convert featuring Carl Craig and a cool down show with Sampha were both held at the nearby Narodowa Orkiestra Symfoniczna concert hall) the crowds truly seem to respond to the special nature of the venue. Fact: it’s one thing to take a mid-festival falafel break. It’s another to eat sitting on the grass and not worry about what you might be sitting in. If there was any doubt how inclusive the atmosphere really was, one need look no further than the kid tent, where parents could drop off their children for special activities between sets. Programing reflected the event’s hidden-gem mandate. Given that its most commercial artist was Fever Ray (whose 2017 album Plunge mined sex and politics in a decidedly un-mainstream way), Tauron Nowa Muzyka seemingly prides itself on being a safe place for musicians who don’t necessarily fit into populist culture. Among those highlights were the aforementioned Swedish musician (who took the stage in white ghoul makeup and performed perfect lock-step choreography with her equally dressed-up band), Son Lux, who perfectly walked the line between folk and electronic, and joyfully declared that some of their heroes were also performing at the fest, and producer James Holden, who with the help of dancer Lucy Suggate, created mesmerizing visuals featuring real-time videos of her fluid modern dance moves.

But let’s be honest, if you’re hitting up a festival overseas, you’re there for the artists you can’t get at home. For a nation of 38 million, Poland has a shockingly vibrant and successful alternative music scene—most of which, save for Kamp! who released an EP on Cascine, and Brodka, who became one of PIAS’ darlings—hasn’t seen much action stateside. Tauron Nowa Muzyka went hard on local acts, inviting a slate of Polish performers from across the genre spectrum. While it might have felt like a given that fans would turn out “early” and in droves to see acts that don’t play Poland often, like the Japanese jazz band, Soil & "Pimp" Sessions, their home team enjoyed the same enthusiastic support. When The Dumplings took the amphitheater stage (literally built into the sidewalk outside the main concert hall), fans were layered in so tightly it was difficult to see frontwoman Justyna Święs’ stage-owning strut, even if the moody electronic duo’s dark pop compositions were made for after-sunset. Offering a brighter take on electro was JANKA. The pair of producers took over the Red Bull-branded tent (shockingly one of the few visible sponsors of the event) during sunset, opting to play their sun-dappled house in the middle of the floor rather than the stage, allowing fans to gather around them for a more interactive performance. But Bokka won in terms of pure escapism. The masked trio performed a set that would appeal to fans of M83 or the Scandinavian pop scene. (They’ve been compared to Niki and the Dove and I Break Horses.) While their most recent release Life on Planet B, moves away from the band’s sample-heavy roots, its cinematic choruses and heavy use of crescendos should make it easy for the anonymous trio to broaden their appeal abroad, should they ever choose to do so.

So, what can we take away from a weekend at one of Poland’s coolest music festivals?

1. Suffering to see live music is totally unnecessary.

2. If you present concert attendees with a unique experience, they will respect the venue as much as the performers.

3. Your local music journalist may or may not be lying to you about how much pain she’s in.

4. Niche festivals can and should succeed—put your money where your heart is.

…and finally

5. Y’all really need to stop sleeping on Poland’s music scene—particularly its electronic and experimental offerings.

Dziękuję Tauron Nowa Muzyka for the unexpected weekend! Let’s do it again sometime, okay?

Check out a gallery of festival images here.

Revisit Booka’s Tauron Nowa Muzyka mixtape here.




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