Hartera Festival 2009: Rated!

Hartera Paper Factory, Rijeka, HR - 12-13 June

Hartera Festival 2009: Rated!

Photographer: Joel KnightTom Bentley on 18 June 2009

Overall  - 8/10

Hartera Festival, held in the Croatian town of Rijeka, is a quaint five year old affair that has grown in stature with its years. A heavy-hitting mix of electro, rock and the odd bout of ska were on the menu once again this year for what can only be described as one of Europe's friendliest and most distinctive festivals. There aren't many summer events that sees action unfold in a couple of indoor venues whilst still retaining the atmosphere of open-air affairs.

The festival had a winning line-up formula from the word go as the eager and expectant crowds gradually made their way up the winding road to the front gates from 8pm each day. It was the sets from homegrown favourites which really got things off the ground, Elvis Jackson, Let3 and Pips Chips And Videoclips all fulfilling their mission to whip the audience into a pre-headliner frenzy.

Alex Metric and Adam Freeland delivered energetic sets but it was the formidable trio of Royksopp, Simian Mobile Disco and Boys Noize who took things to the highest of levels. Electro-wizards Royksopp who were obviously delighted to be part of the festivities, thrashed out an epic hour of singles, favourites and new material on the Sunday whilst the other two hit the ones and two's with a force that shook the factory walls to their core. The Klaxons' cancellation aside, only Sasha was a disappointment with a slightly panicky, off-colour performance to bring Friday to a close.

Getting There and Back – 7/10

Located on the Adriatic coast Rijeka is accessible from no less than four different airports. Driving from Trieste in Italy takes around an hour and a half through beautiful coastal countryside, a treat for any motorist. On the public transport front, buses seem to be the way to go with connections to Zagreb, Split and the island of Krk which all provide flights throughout Europe too. The event itself is a short walk up a single winding road from the town centre, with a couple of small car parks at hand just outside the gates.

The Site – 8/10

The disused Hartera paper factory lies nestled in the depths of a gorge which lies upstream from the town centre of Rijeka. The entrance is a couple of minutes walk from the first festival area which houses the Hartera Hotel venue and indoor-campsite, a weird and wonderful combination of UV art, comfy couches, electro-sets, a cocktail bar and pre-installed accommodation. The Peek And Poke old computer museum allowed punters to fiddle with Atari's, Commodores and other technological wonders of our times could be found down in the basement alongside the Electro Sanctuary – a remote tunnel resembling monastery walls with visualizations of the world religions.

The main room is a long, high-roofed warehouse, perfect for enhancing the beats erupting from the main stage at one of its extremities. A bar lines the entire length of it's far side, whilst out the doors on the other another viewing room, complete with big screen, can be found to indulge punters who spill out from all corners. The second room, up some stairs from the courtyard is much smaller but still packs a punch soundwise. Carry on up the stairs and you'll come to a rooftop viewing terrace, again with action unfolding on the big stream but with the might of the gorge acting as a backdrop.
Atmosphere – 9/10

Cracking. No fights, no blatant over-indulgence, just plain old respect for the location, the opportunity to party and the fellow punters. It was a tale of two halves with the very chilled-out and relaxed nature of the outdoor areas and the full on hedonistic buzz of the rooms. It was clear that these sort of events aren't present in abundance throughout Croatia, leading each and every reveller to go out and make the most of the weekend.

Music – 8/10

Despite the loss of Klaxons the music at hand was ideal for the venue and tastes of the locals. The line-up displayed a progression and coherence on both nights, beginning with the domestic favourites, running through the worthy headliners and capping off with the big beat conjurers. Ska-punk, industrial metal and electro may not seem like the easiest genres to gel but for this event, it worked. The musical mix between the main venue and its smaller counterparts also allowed for a good flow and the chance to catch some musical surprises that one wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

The Uppers

Royksopp – 9/10
It isn't often that the Norwegians top festival bills and they lapped this chance up with relish, head-banging their way through a barnstorming set that included such hits as 'Remind Me', 'So Easy' and definite crowd favourite 'Happy Up There'. With female vocalist in tow for live renditions of 'What Else Is There' and 'The Girl And The Robot', the duo humbly pumped out a mix of the old and new as punters ran from all sides of the site to catch a glimpse of their heroes. On the back of the sound-check one organiser said “watch out for Royksopp, they are going to sound fantastic,” - she was spot on.

Boys Noize – 8/10
The German producer had the somewhat unenviable task of seeing out the very last hours of the festival. Instead of punters heading home after a heavy night on the town though, they stayed to indulge in one of the best sets of the weekend. Tracks like '& Down' were thrashed out with energetic vigour, rooting revellers to their dance space for an extra two hours. By the time he was done, the sunrise was missed and a bewildered few were emerging from the main room looking like they'd spent a hefty few days in solitary confinement.

Simian Mobile Disco – 8/10
SMD were bumped up to headliners on the Saturday to fill the gap left by Klaxons. They performed a remarkable set, eclipsing perhaps what could have been delivered by the British electro-pop trio. Crowd favourite 'I Believe' was received with raptures of shape throwing as was the remainder of their heavy electro-tech set which ensured that the Friday far exceeded the slightly dampened expectations.

Let3 – 8/10
The craziest set of the weekend. “Definitely go and see Let3”, said one local punter, “they love to get naked”. So, ignoring better judgement we popped into the main room to take a look. Sure enough, with epic Croatian sing-along choruses about “slapping cocks on your forehead” (rough translation provided by an inebriated reveller) and the like, they set the whole weekend alight from the off on Friday. They also threw in some revealing costumes, a robotic head that blurted out what can only be penned down as local banter and even went as far as releasing doves from gigantic strap on penises. More bands should take a leaf from their x-rated book.

Kawasaki 3P – 7/10
Another tip by my new Croatian friends, Kawasaki 'Trriip' put on a blinding ska show – blaring brass, skanking crowds and all. Whilst enjoying the free-flowing brewskis and Jaeger test tubes later on in the evening, trumpeting vocalist Demirel told VF that they had to do without two members because they couldn't fit them on stage. He didn't tell me their weight.

Special mentions also go to Laibach, Ramirez, Adam Freeland and Alex Metric.

The Downers

Sasha – 4/10
Whilst lucky enough to be backstage for Sasha's set the exclusive viewing spot also highlighted the shakiness of his show. Obviously having trouble getting his sound right he had a little helper running round to try and fix things. The bass, and meaty beats that pounded the Hartera walls throughout the weekend just weren't there for his closing set on Friday with punters choosing to go home to recover for the following day's antics instead.

Klaxons – No rating
Due to a contentious throat infection, which afflicted frontman Jamie Reynolds, the Klaxons don't get a rating, because they weren't there.

Random Events:

Hartera was full of little random bits and bobs. The location of the Hartera Hotel showers right on the riverbed and the fact that we may even have been showering under water from the natural spring just downstream – luxury freshness under the Mediterranean sun. The SWAT style ambulance team who came to tend to a passed out punter on the Hotel couches 2 hours after the festival had started [find photographic evidence here]. The lady in the red window surveying the main courtyard - a nod to the Amsterdam night-life perhaps? [find photographic evidence here]. Being interviewed by Croatian TV as one of the only Brits about and again, I have to mention the doves coming out of Let3's massive, artificial bell-ends [find photographic evidence here].

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