Vilniaus Gatvės is the biggest punk rock gathering in Lithuania, and is organised by the PASIDARYK PATS record label.
The show started 10 years ago, and still pulls in a vast and dedicated following, with the last event featuring numerous Lithuanian artists along with guests from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
In a time where subcultures are less prevalent in the virtual domain of public consciousness, it was refreshing to see a thriving scene, with folks singing along; their fists up in the air.
In the first of two ‘Punk in the former Soviet Union’ features that explore the underground punk movement in ex-Soviet countries, Music Export Fund approached Leprechaun, the frontman of the Vilnius-based Ska-Punk outfit, Lucky Strike.
MXF: It feels like the Internet has established a certain assimilation of musical tastes and aesthetics, which has removed the need to associate ones self to a specific genre or subculture. Do you feel the punk rock community would agree?
Lucky Strike: I don’t think so, because you still have new punk bands popping up every day, because people love this music. I know a lot of people who play in several bands, because they want this music to flourish.
MXF: So what about Lucky Strike, how long have you been going?
Lucky Strike: It’s been about five years now, and you might think that’s not a lot. But due to the nature of the genre, most bands are very short-lived. Some guys would get together and start playing, then the whole thing dies out in a few months. So, you might say that we’ve been around for a while.
MXF: And you seem to have a following. Do you play often in Vilnius?
Lucky Strike: Much less often than we would like to, because we have band members changing constantly. But we’re always up for playing for a good cause or just for a good party.
MXF: Are there many punk gigs in other towns in Lithuania where you would play?
Lucky Strike: We will happily go to any place, any town. Where there is a garage – we will play. It doesn’t matter how much money we get or how many people are there. It might just be the organisers there – we’ll still have a great time.
There’s a cool spot in Panėvežys where they have gigs, and there used to be one in Kaunas. There are pockets of active people who love punk rock all around Lithuania.
MXF: Going to punk gigs in a smaller town always had the element of danger and violence to it. Shows would get attacked, and people would get hurt. Is it still like this?
Lucky Strike: I remember those days. However, when we started playing, the violence against punk rock had declined. There wasn’t as much hostility and dissatisfaction. Of course there was one case where someone got attacked outside during our performance, but this is an exception. People are less narrow-minded than they used to be.
MXF: You’re holding a coin jar and rattling it. Could you tell us more about that?
Lucky Strike: Well *shakes jar violently*, since we don’t make that much money from our playing and we play for own pleasure, we thought that we would donate what little we get to a good cause, while asking the patrons to chip in as well.
Lucky Strike: We chose animals because the state doesn’t really care about them and they can’t defend themselves on their own. Officially, homeless animals are handled by Grinda, who are known for their cruelty. That’s why we donate everything we collect to Tautmilė’s Animal Shelter.
MXF: Do you get to play abroad?
Lucky Strike: We’ve played in Poland, and several times in Belarus. The Belarusians are always very happy to see us. Just for our friends over there we translated some of our songs into Russian and made a record as a surprise. They happily sing along in Lithuanian as well, even though they don’t know what they’re singing about *laughs*.
MXF: It seems that the underground connections to further Eastern European countries are really strong. I see that Toro Bravo have also played a bunch there.
Lucky Strike: Well Toro Bravo are on a completely different level. They’re probably the most influential punk band in Eastern Europe. Even when they go to Spain, you get Spaniards singing “Tavo Vertybės”, it’s incredible. And of course – they’ve been a huge influence on us.
MXF: This is the 10th anniversary of Vilniaus Gatvės, the whole thing has a notion of ‘passing over to the younger generation’. What piece of wisdom would you like to forward to younger music lovers?
Lucky Strike: I don’t like the notion of classifying ‘younger’ and ‘older’ generations. I know lots of punk rock lovers who are younger than I am. They’re the same guys and gals like we are.
Some of our current band members started going to shows, they grew up watching us, and now we’re playing music together. So I don’t see much of a difference.
But one piece of advice that I’d like to give is to listen to punk more closely – it teaches solidarity, tolerance and friendship. So I’d like to see the younger kids hear these things in punk rock – the same stuff we heard.
Photos by Rokas Milius.