For the fourth year in a row, the Loftas team brings music lovers together, while sparing them the hassle of tents, bug spray… and tinned food.
How, then, do you take a functioning industrial area in the south of the Lithuanian capital, and turn it into a thriving arts and music venue just for one weekend each year?
Music Export Fund met up with the main organiser, Victor Diawara, to find out.
As we walked through the site, still filled with scaffolding and workers in hi-vis vests, we asked Victor how he was feeling…
Music Export Fund: We have just about a week left until Loftas Fest ’15. Are you excited?
Victor Diawara: We’re excited, but also quite nervous. As the deadline gets closer, there’s this bottleneck where we need to make sure all the logistics and infrastructure are on-point.
There’s a bunch of flights we need to track so the artists don’t get lost, we need to make sure the municipality and the police are cool with everything.
We have to be certain that everything is safe for the audience, so it’s pretty demanding!
But I think if you’re nervous – it means you care.
MXF: Loftas fest is an urban festival – what are the challenges of making an event of this scale in the city?
Victor: As you know, this is a rather industrial part of town.
There are several companies operating in this area where the festival takes place, and even over the weekend you have lorries coming in and out, loading and unloading all day.
So every year we need to figure out how to get everything built up and then stripped down in the space of just a few days.
Saturday night you have a party going on in full swing – Monday morning it all has to be gone, so people can park their cars and get to work.
A lot of all-nighters are pulled to make this happen.
MXF: How far in advance do you start planning the festival?
Victor: I usually start looking for next year’s bands immediately after the previous festival.
I started booking this year’s bands as early as October 2014.
Again, this is a logistical headache, because many artists don’t want to travel all the way to Vilnius just for one show.
Believe it or not, getting to this city can be tricky.
MXF: So do you focus on bands that are on tour and happen to be passing by?
Victor: Well, actually most of the bands performing this year are coming directly to the festival.
The booking was quite challenging this year, but we did alright!
MXF: Tell us more about this year’s theme – discoveries
Victor: I’ve been going to festivals all across Europe ever since I was a teenager – I realise now, the best part was accidentally discovering an awesome band you hadn’t heard before.
Of course you have your big names, but you kinda already know what to expect from them, whereas discovering a new band you like is one of the best feelings ever.
Therefore this year in the festival, we want people to experience this, and offer them more exposure to lesser known, up-and-coming artists.
MXF: What names do you recommend discovering this year?
Victor: We have lots of cool names coming – for example, Long Arm is an amazing electronic artist from Orenburg in Russia.
If you like your chillwave blended with some jazz and broken beats – he’s definitely worth seeing.
We also have Lapalux –the Electronica/IDM producer from the UK. If you don’t know him yet, you must check him out.
He was supposed to play in Lithuania a few years ago, but it fell through, so many people are waiting for him.
You also need to check out JoyCut from Italy, they’re really interesting.
Not only do they have two drummers in the band, they will be sharing the stage with the French artist Commasaure, so the set is called JoyCut vs. Commasaure.
It’ll be a fusion of electronica, beats, rock, you name it. It’ll be really fun.
But of course, these are just a few of the names. There’s a long list of artists waiting to be discovered by you…
MXF: Conferences have always been a big part of Loftas Fest. What do you have in store for us this year?
Victor: This year it’s the What’s Next In Music? conference, which will feature promoters, managers and music export representatives from all across Europe.
Some of the acts on this year’s lineup I actually discovered during Tallinn Music Week, and Spring Break – a Polish music showcase festival.
I believe our local talent will also benefit from this networking opportunity, and use it to land some gigs abroad.
Anyone who is interested can check out this event for free.
MXF: Loftas Fest is not just a music festival. What other new activities are in store?
We will be showing a great selection of films, such as the documentary, Searching for Sugar Man.
MXF: Are all of the films music-based?
Victor: There will be a few, but they’re not not all music films, and we even have the first screening of a film that hasn’t yet been shown in Lithuania – an exclusive!
For all you cinema lovers, the movie part of Loftas Fest will be really strong.
Next up is the daytime design fair. There will be more then 50 designers from all across all three Baltic States showcasing their goods, so you’ll be able to buy unique, high-quality clothes, accessories and artworks straight from the creators.
However, the latest feature is our Arts Stage.
We’ve found a selection of artists who will be putting on various performances throughout the day.
On this stage, the artists will be putting on interactive performance art, which needs almost hourly audience participation.
The entire festival site will be turned into one massive exhibition space.
We’ll have artworks on top of rooftops, on the walls, and there will also be a giant painting, which will be completed throughout the course of the festival.
The audience will get to see the whole thing.
MXF: So, tell us – what are the perks of organising a festival in the city, rather than the countryside?
Victor: First of all, we have very long, drawn-out winters here in this country.
So, as soon as the weather gets nice everybody wants to go out to the seaside, to the forest, to the lake, or wherever. There are many festivals that cater for this outdoorsy craving.
We usually put Loftas Fest on at the end of August or the beginning of September as a way to say goodbye to summer, and welcome everyone back to the city.
This is a celebration of a new indoor clubbing and partying season.
Moreover, the festival is in the city – right on your doorstep. You can come to the festival by bike, by skateboard, or even by taxi.
You can come, listen to two bands, then go home and have a warm dinner.
You can come to the techno stage, have a dance, go home, have a shower, then come back.
You don’t to worry about things like: “where is my tent?”, “how am I getting home?”, or “who ate all my sandwiches?”
So Loftas Fest is one big “getting back to the city” party.
MXF: With all the hassle of organising the festival and making sure that it all runs smoothly, do you get a chance to enjoy it yourself or are you in work mode all the time?
Victor: The most stressful bit is opening the gates.
Every year when the hour comes to start letting people in, there is always someone still hammering, still building something, somebody’s left the hot-dog van in the middle of a walkway, and so on.
Of course I need to keep an eye on things throughout the festival, but we have a really great team in place, so I know that we can deal with any issues that arise.
Despite needing to keep tabs on everything, I still get to see the artists perform and hang out with them.
So yeah, I get to enjoy it…
After our chat, we thanked Victor and let him get back to his busy day, but before we had the chance to say goodbye, he was already immersed in QC’ing some new designs from the marketing department.
Loftas Fest ’15 – see you this weekend!