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Positivus Festival 2017

Positivus Festival 2017, June 16th, 2017

Jul 20, 2017 Photography by Laura Studarus Positivus Festival 2017
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I’m tired. After years of hitting the festival scene, both as a fan and journalist, I’ve stood in every mud puddle, expanse of baked asphalt, and seedy nightclub on God’s green earth—all in the name of seeing my favorite band(s) play my favorite song(s). It’s the price of admission: all the aches and pains and waiting, and—for better or worse—I’ve resigned myself to this life. Which is probably why I spent the majority of Positivus Festival giggling with delight. It wasn’t the Black Balsam shots, I swear.

Located on the Latvian coastal city of Salacgriva, some two hours outside of Riga, Positivus has become big enough to spawn a locally run counter programing (that would be Negativius). And yet the grounds, where forest lines each of the three stages, is small enough to stroll in a few minutes—during which I discovered a path that led to an expanse of white sand beach. (“YOU’RE KIDDING ME, RIGHT?” she yelped to no one in particular.)

Because the Baltics are still considered to be somewhat of a secondary market (This is one of the biggest mysteries. Bookers, send your bands there. They will be celebrated.), the lineup skirted being a carbon copy of, well, anywhere else in the world. Sure, there were the likely suspects—it is mandated that former Under the Radar cover artists alt-j must headline every festival everywhere at least once. And even though logic would dictate I should have seen Pixies on any of their numerous American gigs, I enjoyed my first ever set to the point I teared up while shouting along to “Debaser.” And Ellie Goulding. Yes, she is indeed a pop star.

But for the most part the lineup was comprised of smaller emerging artists. (And Maximo Park? Welcome back boys.) I was thrilled to finally see Rhye in the flesh (who are rumored to be completing their second album). Many people I’ve talked to have mistaken frontman Mike Milosh’s androgynous voice for female—which I’ve always found kinda funny. That is, until I did the same thing with Cigarettes After Sex. (Close your eyes and tell me Greg Gonzalez and Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo couldn’t be vocal twins.) Austra, who never quite get the respect they deserve, proved to be the festival MVPs when they performed after having their luggage lost and still made their set sound like Austra. And while José González’s classical guitar pop ballads might not be the most festival-ready soundtrack, I’ll never not have an emotional response to anything off Veneer.

The special “Why The Hell Haven’t They Exported Her” award goes to Britain’s’ ESKA. Born Eska Mtungwazi the British singer/songwriter has been around for a while, at one point even singing for Grace Jones and Bobby McFerrin. But it was until two years ago when she officially became a solo artist. She performed tracks from her self-titled debut album like she was aiming to make up for lost time in a single day, her gospel-tinged pop hitting so hard I put on my sunglasses to avoid crying in public. (Non-sequitur: She also named her daughter Wonder—which might be my new favorite baby name.)

Special mention here to Mew. Remember all that stuff about forgoing hardships for the magical moment of seeing your favorite band? Yeah, again there were no hardships, and I also got to see one of my favorite bands make their Latvian debut. (Definition: win/win) The Danish band (a trio now after the departure of Bo Madsen) largely skipped material from their newest album Visuals in favor classic cuts like “Special” (segueing into “Zookeeper’s Boy,” just as they do on And The Glasshanded Kites. The song choices, despite being festival-ready prog-pop, were curious—especially since they were hot on the promotional trail for a new album. But then again, despite being two-decades deep into their career it was the first time the band had visited Latvia. “It’s beautiful here,” frontman Jonas Bjerre said, address the crowd. “I don’t know what took us so long to come here.” “Hopefully it won’t take us another 20 years,” added bassist Johan Wohlert.

Ditto guys.

Ditto indeed.

Check out Photos from Positivus here.




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