Season to be merry is beyond us and January blues in full swing I can understand. Cold winter and low temperature comes natural. However the now moment in the UK also means more nonsense in the news, life, politics that an average working homo sapiens hardly can, or want to swallow. Promises and betrayals galore causing more of the same so thank f..k I get to leave the “little Britain” shenanigans if at least for a few days.
Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia is hosting its fifth edition of MENT, music conference and showcase and that means 3 days of fabulous gigs, new friends and amazing talent on display. My third visit in as many years awakens a child like curiosity and I hungrily run thru the schedule and artist line up as if my life depends on it. Well, with reason because there are some familiar names on it. But let’s take it from the beginning.
There’s something magical about landing at this medium size city airport and getting in our taxi van in a little bit more then 20 minutes. Gosh amazing. My Airbnb hosts are Russian, and guess what, that is ok, and nobody mentiones the wall yet. Ljubljana is a city of beautiful architecture and stunning old bridges. City where a taxi to anywhere cost €5 or there about. Warm drinks, warm plates of food and warm friendships.
So I was ready, and not even a cock-up with my accreditation could spoil the inevitable. Come on then, let the games begin !
L’OPENING | Photo by Nejc Ketis
After the adequate refreshment and bite or two proceedings have started with a bang.
Downstairs local hopes KUKLA is drawing attention with her bald electro pop. KUKLA tackled my fancy, for the lack of a stronger word, after watching video for her “Ljubav je bolest” (Love is sickness). Intriguing lyrics and rather eroticized content. Free Love. MIA Slovenia ? Maybe.
Upstairs, the Katedrala have the big boys of tomorrow. ICEAGE Danish post punk darlings are having a right go. Started by a four 17-year olds back in 2008 deserves a special mention if just for enduring the turbulent teenage days. Four albums later and numerous appearances around the World have earned them thousand of new followers. Their unique music approach evokes Manchester scene of bygone era while the high priest himself, Mr. Cave influence is evident. A lot of band’s good work is tied to frontman Elias powerful charismatic performance. Band that promises a lot. We are bound to see a lot more.
ICE AGE | Photo by Nejc Ketis
Back from the Heavens to Terra firma, SEVDALIZA is wowing audience with her spectacular live performance. This avant-garde diva brilliantly combines trip hop and classical harmonies. Visually stunning, musically genre bending, Iran born queen has it all. And then some. Settled in Netherlands, destine for stardom.
Sevdaliza | Photo by Nejc Ketis
Downstairs Rome based MALIHINI sensual vocals and haunting electronic backdrop are pulling a packed venue even closer. “Love is coming back, hopefully again…” is what anyone wants to hear, and careless whispers of a young couple that are hitting the right spot. Indeed, love will come. It started already.
Over at Orto bar, NOAIR were sharing good vibrations with the crowd. Power pop, or altpop if you prefer more. Hints of Bowie and Verve in their creative opus. While at the same time warm sensual NURIA GRAHAM singing was so well received it and made the fans move along with songs. Like a warm rain they said…damn good description. Just as well as TENTS, the Austrian post punk reminiscent of 80’s pop bands were next. Sharp and quirky yet sometimes dark and gloomy, band is the latest in a line of Austrian new wave artists to emerge in a short period of time.
Warm rain inside, and a cold and rather wet one outside, I did my best to stay within a warm bit, and a local “firewater” did help. Only it made me want more of it…in terms of the bands of course. Specifically guitar based bands. Come on guys, where I you ? I wanna play too.
My wishes were fulfilled as things started hotting up. First with ACUTE DOSE, Czech indi garage popsters. Solid confident show, then Slovenia’s 7AM, who promised a lot with their post punk garage but stopped somewhere halfway. And then just what the doctor prescribed. TIMID KOOKEY are wonderfully wacky and not at all timid. If anything they caught everyone with our pants down if you catch my drift. Brilliant, confident, in your face psych prog rock. These funksters wont let you rest. Each new song kept leading you on a trip of discovery, each trip peppered with extra spices. Somewhere in the same wacky world as Croatian THEM MOOSE RUSH. Very good indeed. More more. I say more !
TIMID KOOKY | Photo by Ales Rosa
Well this is more likely. Bring it on ! And my prayers are answered. God is great !
Vilnius SHISHI surf rock is captivating, engrossing, beautiful and bald all at the same time. These three young ladies are projecting a veteran level of confidence on stage, and manage to have good time too. Just the way it should be. This is not J.O.B. Playing live should be fun.
And fun is AIMING FOR ENRIKE’s middle name. Norway’s noise duo are in perfect harmony with each other. Quirky, alternative, loud, pure, infinite, wild, controlled. All these emotions at the same time. And amazingly good live. A must see, because this is tone of fun. And talking about tones, next artist brings it in wagons.
IT IT ANITA continue in a rich vein of latest Belgian rock bands. And what a treat it is. Fat heavy Fugazi-riffs, Sonic Youth white noise and At the drive in madness. AWESOME ! Once they started crowd were drinking out of their hand. And moving entire drum kit into the centre of the mosh pit did nothing to soften the ferocity and direction. Impeccable, detailed, heavy, to the bone. IT IT ANITA came, conquered and left. Sweet Jesus what a band.
IT IT ANITA | Photo by Matjaz Rust
Stumbling out of the venue with buzzing sound still hanging around I try replaying the last few hours. This is it. Man I love it. Entering the club mid KALI FAT DUB show. Smiling ordering another slivovitsa. Fat bass line bouncing around. I am in nirvana.
Tomorrow is wet and cold. Sad almost. I feel it too. The melancholy is drowning. I decide to take a walk around city centre. Looking for a place I don’t go to. Sanctuary for some. I find it not far from my favorit restaurant. Not to big yet grand in a way. Stumbling inside, gorgeous frescos looking down on me from the walls of the Orthodox church as if judging the intruder. I light a candle, swallowing hard, mouth full. Get out. Another day is upon us.
A new addition to MENT are 4 new stages within a castle on top of the hill. Standing proudly above the city, this 11th century fortress has been extensively rebuilt and sympathetically refurbished into a fantastic multi media space. Various new spaces allowed you to get yourself lost in time, but also quickly hop off to see another act. That would have been great if there was more time between the shows. Albeit I manage the see two fantastic artists, others will forgive me I am sure.
ZABELOV GROUP are Roman, accordion player and Jan multi instrumentalist, mostly a drummer. Their music played at the Listening Station the previous day caused quite a stir. Playing traditional instruments in 21st Century is almost dying art but when used in a clever way it becomes something completely different. And what different it was. Drum and bass tunes par excellence tied together by Roman soprano voice was ingenious as it was surprising. There show was, I thought, something in dire needs of a huge projector screens showing visuals asking questions. Nevertheless I am sure we are going to hear a lot more about these guys. It is inevitable.
ZABELOV | Photo by Kaja Brezocnik
As it is with SIR CROISANT. Inevitability. Just a matter of time. 17-year old from Bosnia played a solo show in a Chapel of this amazing Castle. Innocent, fragile yet powerful voice gently strumming his guitar while everyone in the Chapel stared captivating, almost not breathing. The music is his take on Bosnian Sevdah music, traditional soul music from Balkans. For a silly moment I thought God has played a trick on us. Looking down on us somehow, I had feeling Jeff Buckley was pouring his heart out thru intoxicating songs of his. And The World stopped for a moment or two. And Chapel was filled with love and joy. Breathtakingly beautiful, mesmerising, astonishing, out of this world. Absolutely speechless. If you do anything do check this kid, because he’s going places, no doubt about that.
Can the evening get any better ? Oh boy….
Not wasting another minute, I raced towards the centre of happenings. At Orto bar heavyweights were sharpening their “knives”.
THE CANYON OBSERVER brought their black metal doom to the hordes of their fans. Slovenia experimental sludge artists have a big sound and a big stage presence. Fat riffs, low bass frequencies, dark matter, spooky yet engrossing. Questioning existence ? After you.
Belgrade’s madly lovable VIZELJ kicked off proceedings in the upstairs bar. Furious rock party, getting faster and faster. As if on the Big Wheel. Think Iggy and Stooges, Sex Pistols. Punk attitude, youth energy, playing their hearts out. Phenomenal. And a must see. Amazing raw energy live.
VIZELJ | Photo by Nejc Ketis
At the same time French CELESTE were already in full swing downstairs. Or shall we say Armageddon was unleashed by these black metal post hardcore soldiers of doom. Massive sound, big stage presence, eerie red laser lights probing the darkened room as if an aliens hunting for its prey. Visually impressive, will scare the living daylights out of you. And you will like it. You WILL like it.
CELESTE | Photo by Nejc Ketis
Slovenia’s KONTRADIKSHN are next. Their blend of drum and bass punk finds a few fans nodding agreeably. Live drums and guitars and some fat samples gives them a Prodigy/NIN edge. Band has toured and promoted last album extensively. New material is already cooking up. Time to spread the wings ? Possibly.
I spread mine too as I hurry out towards the SQUID show across the road and in into the packed venue catching the very last song. Brighton boys play quirky, unpretentious post punk, with some Talking Heads catchy lines. Enough to get me better place for a beast of a band coming up next.
CHARLIE AND THE LESBIANS strut their stuff like proper punk band from the 70′. Enough Pistols to defeat Mexican cartel, and attitude to spoil a London cabby afternoon. Charlie holds the fort tho, while the band do what the band does. Support the Chief. Big Man. Head Honcho. And Charlie is bloody good at it. In fact so good that one just may hug him. And some did. And you might too. Just give it a chance. Lesbians did.
CHARLIE AND THE LESBIANS | Photo by Matjaz Rust
Retreating a bit to catch a friendly face and his TURISTI band, Union beer in the left and the slivo chaser in my right. Technical challenges throws a wobble before the gig even started but that’s not enough to spoil the party for this Belgrade band. Frontman, who also plays bass in Straight Mickey and the Boys, collects his troops and show is on the way. Indie dance tracks and girls with torches. Nice touch. I like it. So does the crowd. Although I am a Mickey fan. But I guess support must be have. Or else. Or…
Another chaser ?
TURISTI | Photo by Urska Boljkovac
So I make my excuses and head out. We have come to an end. Another MENT has thrown some incredible artist out our way and showcased that things can be done and achieved if done properly. Some of these bands may not make it. But some definitely will. So much talent cannot just evaporate. and I for one hope we get to see these incredible artist as soon as possible. Spread the word my darlings, rock and roll is alive and well.