Open’er Festival – Poland’s biggest and most anticipated music event of the year, that takes place in the Polish seaside city of Gdynia – is famous for its location; an old airport space converted into a festival field some years ago, that easily provides enough room for each of the five music stages, boutiques, the bars, food trucks and campsite.
Since its launch in 2003, the festival has collaborated with artists of worldwide recognition. Growing up in Poland I know first-hand that getting a ticket for Open’er is the dream of many of the country’s teenagers, who save money year-round to afford a ticket. After years of success, Open’er has become as popular with foreigners as it is with the Polish, and so each year the end of June sees thousands of different nationalities swarming to inhabit the little town of Gdynia.
This year saw Red Hot Chili Peppers, The 1975, Tame Impala, Wiz Khalifa, M85, Bastille, Kygo, Sigur Ros and Pharell Williams all take to the main stage. The festival kicked off with an amazing performance by Florence + The Machine, who made an unusual start by slipping over on stage (it had rained a lot that day). But in true Florence style she laughed it off and sang, whilst lying on her back. Florence is not only known for her amazing voice, but also for being humble and very natural while performing.
I then drifted between stages, listening to Polish bands, such as Malpa and Flirtini. Nothing really caught my attention, so I returned to the main stage for Tame Impala, whose unique, psychedelic sound was truly beautiful.
Day two of the festival was probably the most exciting for me. The queue for festival buses from the centre of Gdynia – buses were available all day and all night for free use by festival attendees – was twice as long as the day before, as many more people arrived to see Red Hot Chilli Peppers play on the second day.
Their performance was scheduled for 10pm, coincidentally during the second half of the European quarter final (Poland vs Portugal). The festival field was full of Polish football fans, screaming Polish football songs, and hardcore Chili Peppers fans converging at the main stage. I have to admit I was torn as I wanted to experience both events, but of course the love for the music was much stronger so I headed to the concert. The band knew what was going on and they arrived to the stage screaming Polish football slogans! They definitely appreciated that we had chosen them over watching our national football team.
I do not remember the last time I saw a band with so much positive energy on stage. The members of the band – who are mostly in their fifties (apart from John Frusciante replacement, Josh Kinghoffer, 36 – did not stop delivering their high energy performance even for a moment. The member of the band who made the biggest impression on me was Flea, the bass guitarist. He even walked on his hands!
They played hits such as ‘Otherside’, ‘Californication’, ‘Dani California’, ‘By The Way’ and their latest biggest hit, ‘Dark Necessities’. I heard people complaining that the band did not play ‘Under The Bridge’. I assume this may be due to the absence of Frusciante, nevertheless I was more than satisfied with the repertoire they performed.
The surprise of the evening was the performance of M83, the electronic band from France, perhaps most known for their hit ‘Midnight City’ that features on many TV Shows and adverts. Their music was quite electronic, but also a bit rocky – perfect for partying and dancing with friends. I have to say; they were my music discovery of Open’er 2016!
The following day, Wiz Khalifa performed a disappointing set. Aside from his hits, I’ve never been a massive fan of Wiz Khalifa, so instead of jumping around to his music, I decided to observe his performance. His stage set up was just him and a DJ, most of the music and vocals were played as part of a backing track, and his message of “smoking weed wherever he goes” was highly ironic, failing to do so on stage in Poland where Marijuana is very illegal. Another disappointment was Sigur Ros. I was really looking forward to seeing this band live, but I barely enjoyed their performance. I felt that their live sound is not as good as their recordings. What’s more, they did’nt even play their biggest hit, ‘Hoppipolla’!
The last day of the festival saw a huge downpour of rain. Completely soaked, I arrived to the main stage for The 1975’s concert. When a few months ago this band announced they will perform on the Open’er festival, I got really excited and was counting down the days until their performance. Finally, this day arrived and the rain could not take away my excitement. And I was not the only one, people were dancing and swaying to the band’s great songs. Their performance of ‘If I Believe You’ was especially touching. The band also appeared to have fun performing; they were on the stage for more than two hours!
Exhausted, after dancing to the 1975, I headed to find a place where I could drink some hot tea and… Buy socks. Mine had been completely soaked after crazy dancing in the rain! But after this festival indulgence I headed back to the Main Stage to watch Pharrell Williams!
What a way to finish Open’er festival, certainly the best was saved until last. Pharrell gave an amazing performance, during which he played a song, accompanied by ten polish girls (who had been chosen before the concert), he gave an amazing speech about freedom and asked the crowd, “Why is Poland different than other EU countries?! Because Poland does it better!” He played all of his classic NERD numbers as well as songs he’s written for other artists, classics like ‘Beautiful’ by Snoop Dog and ‘Hot In Here’ by Nelly, which was a great surprise. Most of all, Pharrell Williams thanked everyone involved in his show, from the band to the production team, and even those who organised the festival, reminding us of his down to earth and humble nature.
The Pharrell Williams performance filled me with so much positive energy. As the festival came to a close, beautiful fireworks illuminated the night sky and filled me with happiness. I left still damp from the rain… But with exceptionally dry feet.
Words & Main Image: Dobrawa Zowislo