Heineken Open'er Festival 2008

Poland Poland | by Gosia Jasinska | 19 August 2008

Wellies are the ultimate festival fashion statement, but with glorious sunshine greeting us at this year’s Open'er Festival they simply took up valuable space in my bag. Though, with the site doubling in size to accommodate the seven stages this year, one is always glad they’ve packed sensible footwear.

With the expansion, organisers now more space to showcase art and alternative entertainment away from the music. It also gives the festival's sponsor – Heineken - much more space to plaster their garish advertising everywhere you look, though the event still isn’t in a position to support itself.

This year fans are able to take their beer out of the merchandising area, but this leads to revellers taking their drink into the crowd, just to spill the it onto the backs of those stood in front. The festival also introduced additional, and more varied, food stalls with the innovative prepay card system to beat the queues.

Opening act Muchy do the honours on the main stage but their sound, which is drastically similar to The Cribs (who are performing after in a nearby tent), lacks originality and their performance is instantly forgettable. It takes Erykah Badu to liven things up as she marches onstage adorning a gigantic beret and holding a pompom. Political as ever, Badu tells the crowd how she has to fight for her music before treating the crowd to her 'good morning' dance.

Massive Attack take to the stage for their second appearance at Open'er for an epic performance leaves many thinking they've died and gone to musical heaven. Sticking to their later work, the Bristolians spend their set getting people to read quotes from the screens behind them. Interpol remain as tight and brilliant as usual but The Chemical Brothers, as spectacular as their show is, lack any originality to anybody that’s seen them on their current tour – but they still show they've got the magic.

With several costume changes and endless energy Rosin Murphy rocks the main stage and get the crowd dancing, but it's the cool sounds of German-Jamaican outfit Gentleman that win the audience's hearts with their reggae show and constant chants of "Polska, Polska". Local ska act Vavamuffin follow suit with some chilled out vibes that brings a little bit of Jamaica to Europe.

Elsewhere the organisers make a mistake by putting Sex Pistols in a tent. In true punk venom the quartet go for it, rousing the crowd to repay the favour, but the with so many people trying to catch a glimpse of the band those who ventured inside get stick in sweltering heat and are unable to leave until the band finish.

With stolen sounds from Amy Winehouse, Jackson 5, The Prodigy and AC/DC the headline set from Jay-Z is made more accessible for the European crowd. It's a welcome set, performed well, but it feels lacklustre compared to his Glastonbury appearance.

The Raconteurs stylish 70's throwback performance is utterly unearthly, and possibly better than the Jack White's last jaunt to Gdynia with his other outfit The White Stripes. Big guitar riffs and blues twiddlings, the American band are fresh and original, which is merited by the indistinguishable atmosphere.

Polish act Mitch and Mitch and the Big Band manage to achieve what every performer wants to at a festival - connect with the audience. The teach the receptive crowd secret signs and cover some old and some more modern tracks to get the hoards moving.

Fischerspooner and CocoRosie both treat Open'er to performances, which are out of this world. Literally. Avant-garde space hop from CocoRosie is as surreal as anything Bjork has ever produced and the deep dubbed groans of Fischerspooner simply hypnotised the crowds.

The people of local town Gdynia put a film on the Alter Stage which depicted the last four years of 'Poland's National Festival', but it's only the 2008 edition that can truly be compared to anything the UK have to offer.

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wrote on Thursday 28 August :
Heres a review of Open'er I wrote for CLUAS: http://www.cluas.com/indie-music/Gig_Reviews/tabid/96/EntryId/731/Opener-Festival-Gdansk-Poland.aspx

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