Pohoda 2012 festival review

'It's hard not to fall head over heels for it'

Photographer:Rosie Shaw

09 July 2012

Last year, Slovakia’s finest music festival grew up, joining a select band of must attend European events and wringing astounding performances from the likes of MIA, Pulp, Portishead and Moby. This year, the inate sense of the organisers to consolidate, not push, is clear in the line-up, but this is a festival that does so many things right, it’s hard not to fall head over heels for it from the word go.

Capped at 30,000 again and at capacity, again, Pohoda enjoys a reverence in its native land that puts it on a par with Glastonbury, to many of the mostly Slovakian attendees, this is not just representative of their country, for three days a year – it is their country. There is a saying across the site that we quickly pick up on, it translates as ‚'I wish it could be Pohoda every day'.

Lou Reed (7/10) kicks off Pohoda 2012 on the Thursday night, gnarled old thing that he is, and recognisable versions of 'Heroin' and 'Walk on the Wild Side' bolster a schizophrenic set that forms the end of his recent world tour. When you’ve been round the block as much as Reed, you can do what you like, he does and it’s not the festival defining performance many would have hoped for.

Spread out like a vast picnic blanket between a range of rolling, Carpathian peaks, Pohoda nestles in a breathtaking spot, easy to navigate because of the runways and so impressively organised it puts most UK festivals to shame. Friday begins in earnest with blistering performance from Femi Kuti and his Positive Force (8/10) and continues with a Nirvana-fuelled set from Jamaican legend Little Roy (8/10), the latters inspired Nirvana covers going down a storm with the sun-kissed Pohoda crowd.

Friday night sees another kind of storm, this time electric, really scary stuff. It shuts down the festival for two hours amid absolutely no panic whatsoever. Women and children are shuttled into nearby aircraft hangars, all stages close down and the site is virtually cleared. When the power comes back, we learn of the shambles back in Blighty that caused Bloc to be shut down – hard not to compare and contrast, because the team here deserve medals for management of a crisis.

On the smaller stages, Bat For Lashes (6/10) look good but fail to connect - where's the weirdness gone Natasha? Later Guy from Elbow (7/10) comes out and shouts 'Survivors!' which draws a nervous ripple from the crowd, many of whom may remember the tragedy here in 2009, when a storm ripped up the Dance Dome, resulting in two deaths. Pohoda learned its lesson and they should be extremely proud of the way they handle a potentially disastrous
situation tonight.

From the way they perform, it's clear that Orbital (9/10) drained the storm directly into their stage show and fired it at the audience. Pohoda reciprocates with a wall of noise after every track. We know we are witnessing something special here, Phil Hartnoll does too, and takes pictures of the crowd for his Orbital reunion scrapbook.

Giving a chance to local talent Panacek (8/10) – a risky thing top do by all accounts - pays off. If groups of drama students dribbling milk onto the stage whilst a white-shirted Robert Smith wannabe howls into a mic is your idea of festival fun...Panacek’s yer man.

Saturday sees a quite, quite brilliant set from our own Anna Calvi (9/10), Pohoda has a very decent track record of female performances and Anna, who seems well-known here, draws people from all over the site. Later that evening, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (7/10) get art-school weird in the Dance Dome, again, to a crowd bigger than their home standing would suggest. On the same stage afterwards, Public Enemy, minus a mixer for the first 30 mins, utterly tear the place apart and many make the sensible decision to miss the posturing Chase and Status (6/10) on the main stage to see them complete a two hour performance.

Pohoda, relax in Slovak, has become, through effort, trial and error and pain, one of Europe's great festivals - learning directly from Glastonbury, Burning Man and most recently Bestival the organisers have fashioned an event so well-orchestrated, it puts many of our events to shame. The range of food, the displays of politeness and civility (people moving aside when we try to get to the front at Orbital) and the unbelievable weather make Pohoda a wonderful thing to be part of.

Last year VF reported that Pohoda 2012 was worthy of serious consideration. This year we are saying Pohoda 2013 is an absolute must. We leave wishing it really could be Pohoda everyday.

-- Jon Wright

 


 

 

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