Heineken Open'er Festival 2011 review
Daniel Smallbone on last year's Best European Festival
On the outskirts of Gdynia, Prince is playing an extended
introduction of his hit ‘Purple Rain’, telling the crowd: “I want to take my time, I love this song.”
As the chorus reaches its peak there is a shower of confetti raining down and mixing with the voices of many.
This is Open’er, a festival that won the Best Major European Festival for 2010, spread over four-days it has all the trappings over a UK festival but at over half the price. The site is well organised and maintained although it’s somewhat lacking in food stalls in the campsite.
Once in the main arena this all changes with plenty of grub and beverage stands set up around the site with a beer costing roughly £1.50. The organisation is spot on and the staff are all very helpful despite the language barrier.
This year sees the debut of both Coldplay and Pulp as well a rare performance outside of the US for the legend that is Prince. Coldplay (9/10) are the big act for Thursday night with their exuberance and well-drilled performance; they wow the crowd with all their big hits. At times it’s hard to hear songs like ‘The Scientist’ and ‘Viva La Vida’ just purely over the crowd singing.
Over in the tent stage Paolo Nutini (7/10) is keeping everyone bouncing although at times it feels some are falling on deaf ears, when one song turns into the music from Benny Hill there is a look of confusion on many faces and the British fans are easy to spot as they start to chase each other.
Back at the Main stage Simian Mobile Disco (8/10) whip their crowd into a frenzy with all manner of electro dance goodness thumping through the speakers.
The weather Gods are not smiling sweetly on Friday as Pulp (7/10) take to the stage, Jarvis Cocker even remarks: “I can't see because the rain's on my glasses.” The set is good but many seem to be holding back waiting for ‘Common People’, which is met with rapture.
Cut Copy (5/10) despite their energy are not really moving the crowd at the Tent stage although a clap-a-long is sparked when ‘Take Me Over’ rings out.
Saturday is the big night with lots of talk about Prince but before he appears it’s the turn of American rock band Primus (4/10) who, although having been around for over 20 years, haven’t released an album in 1999 and it shows as the crowd don’t seem moved and float away to other tents.
However they’re flocking back prior to Prince (10/10) who arrives on stage to the apt lyrics of the funk-driven ‘Laydown’. They watch as he plays hit after hit especially from seminal albums like ‘1999’ and ‘Purple Rain’. VF are treated to a rousing performance of ‘When Doves Cry’ with everyone dancing and singing as well a few covers most notably Michael Jackson’s ‘Don't Stop`Til You Get Enough’. It’s emotional stuff and as he finishes the sky lights up with a fantastic firework display which could not be a more fitting end.
Sunday, the weather is back on form and people are still reeling from the night before but there are still some great acts to go. The Wombats (6/10) deliver a lively set that sets people in the mood for next band.
Turning the amps up to 11, The Strokes (8/10) show everyone how to rock. The guitar driven ‘Last Nite’ devastates anyone’s attempt to hold back with everyone dancing like a lunatic.
Next up after the rock rampage is M.I.A. (5/10) who doesn’t seem to be able to hold the people’s attention. There are no faults as such, it just feels forced and not very exciting. However once Deadmau5 (7/10) steps up, so does the atmosphere with his trademark electro trance waking everyone up. There is no chance of an early one on the last night.
After four days the festival has been a rollercoaster of weather; however the performances have been pretty consistent. It’s easy to see why Open’er has won awards: as well as the big stages, you get the chance to dance to a silent disco in a World War Two bunker and pop to the beach if the sun is smiling down.
That said, the fact that you could only drink in designated areas rather than at the stages is somewhat disappointing, but with the beer this cheap most don’t seem to mind.