Heineken Open'er 2007
Julian Savitch-Lee - 30 June 2007
When you've been to work the day after Glastonbury, busy trying to get your head back into the
real world, it suddenly seems a little frightening to be off to Poland's premier festival. Heineken Open'er
is situated in the northern port and Baltic coast city of Gdynia and an early morning flight combined with the repacking
and saving of the items you took to muddy Somerset makes you want to rethink the trip. But after visiting the year before,
I knew this was a party not to be missed.
Lets start with flying to see British bands. If it's easy enough for them to get out there and entertain then why shouldn't we support them? Gdansk airport is reached from all corners of the UK and it seems that others have noticed this, as the numbers of Brits have increased from a handful to the largest proportion of the 25% sold internationally (although UK based Poles returning to join friends at the festival are huge in number too). The excitement in the Polish is evident, with huge queues to get in.
So the first night is all about making friends with our European neighbours and the young Polish are very keen to impress with their English as a whole over a drink or six. No need to get up early here, unless the bright sunshine gets you out of your tent. The local city council runs a free bus into town where there is an excellent array of food, drink, a beach and crazy attractions like the ships moored at the pier or the Aquarium you can visit for shelter when it rains at the next door beach. The music starts in late afternoon with local Polish bands who can be entertaining to listen to even if you don't understand the words. Headliners like Friday's Sonic Youth start at 9pm, before The Roots dazzle throughout their set an hour later. The last band comes on at 1am, meaning that bedtime is daylight, even if you don't find much party in the fairly quiet campsite which lacks the all night vibe of UK festivals. The first night for me is all about catching that Rascal, the Dizzee one. He enjoys himself and so did we, so thats part of the trip justified already!
On day two, Saturday, it rains, turning the place into Glastonbury mark 2. It is only the second year the festival has been staged on a new site and the ground just doesn't take to it very well. Some came prepared and organisers try their best to cope, but do remember that going abroad is like being at home for a festie; it can be hot but it can be muddy too. The festival site, separated from the campsite by a 5 minute walk, also suffers. But spirits don't seem too dampened for some huge acts such as Groove Armada, who get a steaming pit dancing in the rain, and Beastie Boys who disappoint greatly. Leaving the big hits at home and dressed like the Rat Pack, they play bizarre instrumental jazz funk, which no record label would sign if the band were unknown and likewise thousands of people wouldn't watch if they knew. The Poles and I were expecting a rap-punk show with costume changes galore and lots of funny repertiore. Going aboard can make sure that you don't waste time watching this kind of stuff at later in the summer at Bestival when there is loads of other stuff on to do and see.
By the time Muse take the stage everyone around me is tired, wet, crippled with sore feet and backs but the show is unreal and it revives the flagging masses with undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend. It's worth noting that this entire festival cost around the same as a ticket to see the prog rockers at Wembley.
By 10am on Sunday it's too hot to sleep in the campsite and the sun looks like winning its battle with the rain, so it's back down the beach before the final night's bands. Polish band Indios Bravos play regaee with lyrics in English and Polish and prove perfect in the late sunshine. Bloc Party follow contently and coincide with a beatuiful sunset that even has the band stopping to ask the crowd to turn around and have a look at. Kele's references to "red and green pills" is ironic considering that no drugs have been seen at Open'er. Everyone here seems happy to drink beer till they drop! The singer tells the crowd that guitarist Russel is half Polish before closing his set by running down the centre crowd partition and getting mobbed in the process!
Bjork is amazing to listen to but a 'quick trip' to a stall goes very wrong and I miss the majority of an amazing laser show queuing for half an hour. She proves the highlight for many young Poles who leave before LCD Soundsystem get on stage and only the most hardcore sees final act Smolik, a producer who has about 15 guests on stage and plays some fine jazzy dance to bring us back to sunrise again.
Heineken Open'er really is an eye opener that gives a good insight into the easiness of festival holidaying abroad. It can all be wrapped up cheaper than a festival back home - and, hey, for the same standard of weather!