Despite its unique nature of being an inner-city music festival, not even Loftas Fest was immune to the weather – on the evening of August 28, the first night of the event, Vilnius was subject a summery shower.
Irrespective of the weather, there was no way I was going to miss one of the most important, if not the most important, music events on the Lithuanian capital’s music calendar.
So, I did what any true festival goer would do – grabbed my umbrella, put on my wellies, and went discover what Loftas Fest was all about.
Loftas Fest Day 1
When I turned up at the Loftas venue, I noticed the weather had affected attendance with festival goers either turning up late, or hanging around the indoor stage where Makchu Pikchu were opening proceedings with some Middle Of The Road guitar tracks.
As luck would have it, the rain stopped not long after my arrival, and it gave me the perfect opportunity to step back outside and see what’s going on.
One thing worth mentioning were the staggered slots for artists. Even though there were several stages, most of the time there was only one musician performing at a time. In a previous review I wrote about Liverpool Sound City, I mentioned that five stages in close proximity, while simultaneously hosting bands can lead to complete disaster.
Thumbs up, then, to the Loftas Fest organisers for ensuring the performers got maximum exposure, and ensuring a healthy amount of natural crowd control.
It was also evident the organisers had put a lot of thought into creating a unique atmosphere.
There were art pieces scattered all around the site, and my favourite piece of “mood infrastructure” was the ambient soundtrack playing through the PA of the main stage. It made a huge difference, and the spacious, reverb-laced percussions filling the courtyard, gave the event a large handful of chill-factor points.
Before I knew it, I noticed the whole area was filling up with thick grey smoke. Wow, I thought, they’re really going to town on this ambience thing. Then, however, I saw a giant rabbit riding a bicycle with a bucket of smoke attached to it.
I followed the bike-bound-bunny back to the arts stage, and witnessed one of the many great performance pieces taking place. It was the Kiškučio Pa Pa Pa collective, who put on a marvellous show, featuring various wind instruments, beats, rabbit jumpsuits, choreography and even more smoke.
After the final displays from the grotesque rabbits, the Loftas Fest goers drifted through the smoke filled grounds towards the main stage, and one of Lithuania’s biggest electronic bands, Golden Parazyth, were up next.
Now, before we go on, Golden Parazyth is a band your parents probably wouldn’t understand, I mean, they play laptops! However, people who say a computer is not an instrument are people not worth listening to. These boys have their arpeggiators, filter envelopes and side-chain compression all on-point, and play them better than many traditional musicians play a guitar, for example.
Even though I’ve been following them on Facebook for a while, Loftas Fest Day 1 was the first time I actually saw Golden Parazyth perform live. The electronica duo also play at least once a week, so I wondered whether they may be wearing themselves out. I very quickly came to the conclusion I was wrong.
The band started their set and cattle prodded some life into the swelling crowd; their lung-rattling bass kick making it nigh-on impossible to stand still.
As they boys finished their set, everyone piled into the indoor stage, where Italian industrial rockers, JoyCut, were kicking things off. I’d seen the group perform before, so they weren’t really much of a new find. Either way, I stopped by to take in some of their songs.
During the JoyCut performance, one thing that surprised me was the bunch of rock-thirsty the Loftas Festers who were really getting into the dark, swelling, post-rock’esque sounds the band was creating.
As the night increased in momentum and volume, the name on everyone’s lips at Loftas Fest was Young Fathers, and people gathered around the main stage way in advance to see the promising young Brits.
Then The Incident happened.
Despite the Loftas Fest organisers obtaining the necessary signatures and licenses needed in order to hold a music festival in middle of a residential area, an anonymous complaint was made to the police, who promptly arrived.
The Boys In Blue then threatened to shut the whole thing down. While this gave Vilnius’ headline writers something to write about for the following day, it didn’t affect the overall atmosphere too much – in fact, the only setback was that Young Fathers were re-located to the indoor stage, and had their slot pushed back by an hour.
When the band opened, the patiently waiting crowd exploded. Let me give you some perspective – there was a big hall full of people watching the band perform, and not a single mobile phone in sight.
The vocal trios and the insane moves were unlike anything I had seen before. The band’s drummer sported a horizontal bass drum and hit it like his life depended on it, while “G” Hastings shook the walls with his modular synth.
Before I knew it, the set was over, and everyone poured outside for some air. It was a good feeling to be part of this crowd as everyone was in a state of euphoria after the Young Fathers’ performance.
The hype was worth it, and this was definitely the highlight of the evening.
Loftas Fest Day 2
On the second day of the festival, I arrived slightly later, just in time to see ba. – one of the most exciting contemporary Lithuanian rock bands.
Fronted by Benas Aleksandravičius, the young rockers have one of the most ardent fan-bases in Lithuania, something evident from the starry-eyed girls leaning on the stage fence way before the show had started.
The boys delivered a solid, pounding rock set, which the crowd clearly loved. In addition to the singers in the crowd, I even witnessed several, rarely-seen-nowadays shoulder bashes taking place. Stylistically, you wouldn’t call ba. revolutionary, but they have something that appeals to rock music lovers.
What is it? I don’t know, but perhaps it’s the simple rock formula of two guitars and a set of drums?
Perhaps it’s the bold honesty of the frontman? Or perhaps it’s the fact they are one of the few popular rock bands who sing exclusively in Lithuanian?
Anyway, these things show there is still demand for an honest rock band, which is carried by a ballsy frontman. Rock, it seems, is back on the menu.
The big name on everyone’s radar tonight was New York rap sensation Le1f. Like with Young Fathers, his set had to be moved indoors. As I joined the crowd crammed into the warehouse, a DJ was keeping everyone busy with some beats. Immediately, I thought, it was another previous performer winding down their set.
But suddenly, out of nowhere, there he was! Khalif “le1f” Diouf himself in the flesh – the crowd was going bonkers from the start. Sporting a majestic neo-tribal head piece with jewels dangling from it, he immediately started spitting some serious rhymes.
“It’s really hot here in Europe, guys” he said after a few songs and took of his top. The crowd welcomed this with a unanimous shriek of glee. The fire from the rhymes and the movement of the crowd made the room hotter and hotter. In turn, more and more clothes fell from le1f’s body…
But before I knew it, the fieriest entity in the city said a casual “alright cool, bye” and made his exit through an opening under a table on the stage…
Loftas Fest Day 3
The last evening of Loftas Fest started off with an exploration of world-music, courtesy of Saulius Petreikis’ Orchestra.
Petreikis was doing his bit to create a good vibe, by inviting the slowly arriving guests in with various unfamiliar instruments and percussions.
On the final day, the Arts stage transformed into the Hip-Hop stage. I made my way there to sample some local rapping talent – Tie Geresni, a five-piece featuring MC’s Karpiz, Lt and Boostas, who are backed up by DJ Swix, and ReWritable.
The collective has quite a sizeable following in the the Lithuanian hip-hop scene, and many dedicated fans were mouthing the lyrics while the boys spat their rhymes. They even had live scratching, which is something I haven’t seen for years!
It must, however, be said that it takes an acquired taste to understand Lithuanian rap. It’s intellectual and very witty, but the delivery differs slightly from more conventional styles. You should come and check it out for yourself, if you’re reading this and are interested…
The band covered the crowd with a misty fabric of heartfelt melodies, whilst still delivering some punch from the drums. Imagine a slightly harder version of Bon Iver.
As beautiful as the melodies might have been, I could tell everyone was already gearing up to see BIX.
Now, we need to talk about BIX. They are one of the longest running Lithuanian rock bands to date, and are one of those bands that have been around for so long, they have become a musical staple. They’re a given – you’ve seen them on TV many many times, and everyone knows that one song.
So, that was my relationship with BIX – I knew they existed, and I probably even had a cassette tape of theirs, but I never really listened to them.
I was curious to see them live for the first time ever, and to be honest, was expecting to a performance for the seasoned rock listener. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Straight away the got the entire room jumping with a fast-paced, ska-like groove, that sounded much more pumping then I recall from the ancient tapes. BIX were kicking ass!
The in-between-song banter was also top quality. Samas, the frontman, still maintained the mannerisms of a bloke you could hang out with on any day of the week.
As well as the crowd pleasers with their sing along sections and that signature 90’s Fender Stratocaster tone, the band also gave a sneak-peek at their upcoming album, and presented the audience with four never before heard BIX songs.
The new material might be a tad heavier, but it’s just as pumping. The whole room kept jumping until the final song, when the band cranked up the tempo even more and ended the set under a glorious stroboscopic mosh-pit.
I just had time to catch my breath for a few minutes, until another undiscovered gem took the stage, electro duo Beissoul & Einius.
I liked the theme, discovery, which meant the festival didn’t rely on household names to get attention. Seeing great acts I didn’t know gave me that fantastic feeling of finding something new.
With things to do during the day, and drinks at city prices I had a good time. You could tell the organisers really had the festival-goer in mind.
But as I walked out from the hall where Beissoul and Einius continued lay down some serious bass, I saw the crews were already packing up – stages were being de-rigged and cables were frantically coiled.
To no surprise – in a few hours this place will come back to it’s original industrial state, and people will go to work as if no discoveries had happened the previous night.
All the work made me feel as if I overstayed my welcome at a friend’s house, so I called it a night.
See you next year, Loftas Fest…