I should have known better. Back in November when I started planning my annual pilgrimage to Ljubljana’s MENT it all seemed farfetched. Suspiciously no direct flights from London to Ljubljana on my chosen date, even though a day early or after it was fine.
Determined not to be swayed by a cosmic conspiracy I detoured to Zagreb Croatia. Which turned to have been a massive mistake. I would rather not go into details of our plane landing, for what was waiting ahead of us could not compete. What is usually a two hours road trip turned into total nightmare. Incapable and strong willed coach drivers, traffic accidents, bad weather, silly girl without proper travelling documents and a rather special ding dong between Slovenia and Croatia border crossing authorities egging each other with their puny and unimpressive manhood, added extra spice to my 5 hour travelling nightmare never to be repeated.
Photo: KAMAAL WILLIAMS – Photo: Ales Rosa
Cut the long story short, if it is possible, I missed most of the opening evening. Yet I’ve managed to catch a glimpse of KAMAAL WILLIAMS, and his band getting the crowd worked out in an array of jazzed up tunes and funky melodies. Music paints a rich kaleidoscope of urban London showing complexed myriad of strands that make London what it is today: World metropolis, United States of the World. Strength in unity, multi layered as it should be, loving and magical as the heart tells you.
Wu funk? You betcha !
My doomed life seems to have taken a turn. And I’ll admit a certain Balkans firewater had something to do with it, for therapeutic purposes of course.
Several prescribed sessions later, after midnight and I was looking to a new day promising so much more.
Morning at Kino Šiška started with the usual greetings, meeting music industry professionals from all over the Europe.
Coffee and then some.
Daily program of conference and workshops was well attended as usual.
I found it fun while getting involved with Speed networking with some of the European festivals and showcases.
It was well thought out and organised and the whole event proceeded smoothly.
Another workshop and a well-deserved lunch break later and everyone was waiting in anticipation for a start of live shows.
And it couldn’t have started better. INTURIST led by Glintshake supremo was a perfect start and probably one of the highlights of this year’s MENT.
Post punk and new wave was a name of the game and Talking Heads and B52 flashed through my mind. Incredible leading bass lines, out of this World sax screaming “Feed me more” and vocal controlling it all from a safe distance.
Beautiful, bald, confident and above all very very entertaining. And that’s what the doctor prescribed.
INTURIST – Photo: Urska Boljkovac
Acts were following thick and fast. AMORANTE dark moody interpretation of a Basque traditional music laced with electronica, while 52 HERTZ WHALE and their post-rock melancholy stood up to the challenge yet again. They performed at Liverpool Sound City last year and caught the eye with live performance.
52 HERZ WHALE – Photo: Katja Goljat
But I was running towards ORTO bar, two Sound City representatives in tow, where BUČ KESIDI were about to start.
Belgrade’s young ambitious duo have caused some serious debate amongst the punters and industry professionals alike. Club was packed with excited fans hungry for a glimpse of these future stars. And boy did they delivered.
Out of the blood red cloud of smoke they have emerged as if on the sacrificing altar. And the sermon began.
BUC KESIDI – Photo: Kaja Brezocnik
Their electro pop is aided by indie beats and whether you like that genre or not, ballsy confident delivery cannot be doubted. A band that needs to be seen live. We looked at each other and nodded in unison.
Over at Gromka NEIGHBORS BURNING NEIGHBORS were calling for a revolution. Dutch post-punk noisenicks had an overcrowded club in the palm of their hand. One moment moody, another one a bewildered raging monster spewing riff after riff. A proud representative of a white noise albeit a one that does it perfectly and with ease. One to watch!
Earlier that day my dear friend Mak Murtić, whose various projects and absence from this particular festival is a real tragedy, suggested I meet Luka and his band NEMANJA. It wouldn’t have been strange yet on my persistent probing what genre they belong to, I was met with a wall, or for those who know, Swindon’s famous roundabout riddle. In other words, very secretive, and it worked a trick. Thai psychedelia and Afro funk, Anatolian rock…well I didn’t know what hit me, but it was pleasant, warm, sensual and far reaching. Their album was voted a number one by many in Croatia, and while instrumentals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and for the record there’s always shisha, these guys do it so well it is impossible not to be affected and taken by the rhythmic powers they exude. Splendid.
NEMANJA – Photo: Matjaz Rust
I felt strangely liberated after this experience and was tiptoeing towards Menza pri koritu. Just as well as French garage rockers SLIFT were ready to unleash their angry fuzz garage rock with an immediate and ferocious directness.
Crunching drum beat and loud and wild melodies, intertwined gyrating bodies. In one word SLIFT.
SLIFT – Photo: Sebastijan Iskra
God I was in heaven. I so did not want to leave but another ace was starting up at Gala Hala. MOLCHAT DOMA has been winning rave reviews all over. But it wasn’t to be. Massive cue of punters waiting to get in has diminished any chance of seeing Belarusians so regrettably our date will have to wait.
And with that, my helping hands from Liverpool and I stopped for a refreshing beverage just in time.
Friday started busy with workshops of every possible kind, though it’s worth mentioning meeting EX-YU venues and promoters, international festivals and interesting project from Belgrade, namely HALI GALI about gathering of a sort of like-minded people in Serbia with common goals and objectives. I witnessed one of their events and was well impressed with organisational and logistics challenges and subsequent solutions.
Evening live shows started in the beautiful castle overlooking the city.
TRUPA TRUPA are band from Gdansk, Poland who have been getting positive responses for the past few years.
Post-hardcore and elements of shoegaze are dominant. And while that old chestnut that implies that great music needs bad times, and vice versa, Polish rockers effortlessly spread their unique blend of optimism. Gdansk played a pivotal role in not so distant history, and that proves my earlier point.
SLIFT – Photo: Sebastijan Iskra
Over at Metelkova local hero DAMIR AVDIC, singer songwriter who knows no fear, the last true punk bard, the one that still rages against the machines, and thank God for it.
His naked yet loud and punchy lyrics hit you like a canon. There’s no fancy overcoats here, Damir gives it the way he sees it. Like we all do only he chooses to discuss it and throw it in the public arena. Supported by his ever trusted Gibson and an avalanche of brutal hard hitting riffs, DAMIR truly is one of the last Mohicans. Outstanding.
Lack of true loud rock band coming out of Belgium, as seen in the last few years has not been noticed. Simply because French ones have stepped up and rightfully claimed the throne of Rock Gods.
Or goddesses in this case. France DECIBELLES sharp hard punk rock was overwhelming, surprising breath of fresh air. Music was fast and loud, and the drummer who can play like that and sing at same time deserved every bit of accolade given. Band delivers on many levels, and after 2 albums confidence burst with every riff. And since they have Steve Albini on their side, there’s only one way to go. Onwards and upwards.
DECIBELLES – Photo: Matjaz Rust
Surprise of the evening came in the form of SCURU FITCHADU. Or pitch darkness to you and me. And if that hasn’t re-arranged your intestines, music this Portuguese artist originally from Cape Verde makes is every bit as incredible and thought provoking as is his live performance. It has been described as electro funana punk. To me it sounded pure, electrifying, wild, tribal, mysterious. Sepultura on acid on their way to meet The Maker. Above all its 300 mph wild ride thru the centuries. Stunning and mesmerising.
SCURU FITCHADU- Photo: Katja Goljat
In the end, after all the dust has settled, what have we learned, found out about artists, or even about ourselves?
Music soothes even the savage beast.
But memory remains.