Open-er Festival 2011

With Pulp, Prince, Coldplay...
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While the likes of Glastonbury and Benicassim seem to be the focus of most people in Europe’s festival attention, Heineken Open’er has been building up an enviable reputation across Eastern Europe and beyond by simply going about its business year after year, and doing that very, very well.

Celebrating its 10th birthday in 2011, Heineken Open’er is situated on an abandoned airfield in Gdynia, Poland. The site is a wide and expansive adventure to explore, with hidden stages and DJ’s providing an alternative to the main stages. Similar, in a sense, to T in the Park except it’s cheaper for drink, food, and probably transport, seeing as the cheap flights direct from the UK to Gdansk make it easily accessible for UK audiences.

It’s incredibly well organised, with no long walks from car to campsite, or campsite to main arena, and if you decide that you would rather sleep in a bed rather than a sweaty tent, then you can stay in a nearby beach front hotel for the price of a round of drinks at any festival in the UK. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Well, it is.

But how do you summarise the myriad of adventures from four days in Poland? How could we possibly sum up, in around 650 words, just how amazing, memorable and exciting Heineken Open’er in 2011 was? Ok, let’s be succinct…here’s the biggest reasons why we loved it so much…

Pulp: They may have played a ‘secret’ set to 30,000 people at Glastonbury the week before, but to finally see what is, in our humble opinion, one of the UK’s finest ever pop bands, back in action on a big stage was both thrilling and one of the festival’s highlights. Not even the torrential rain could dampen the spirits of Jarvis and Co, and as he strutted and swayed in typically wild abandon, the assembled crowds cheered in response to his cheeky banter, with classic lines such as “Gdansk…would you like to G-dance?” bringing a genuine warmth to proceedings when the weather provided nothing but wild, driving rain.

Prince: What other man in his 50s could walk out in front of 86,000 people dressed head to toe in tight gold sequins and instead of laughter and ridicule, be faced with adoration and hysteria? The funkiest man in the world (now that James Brown has gone to the great gig in the sky), was the biggest name at the festival, a true global superstar, and the anticipation and pre-gig excitement all across the site was brought to a crescendo when Prince walked on and launched into a set that ticked every musical box you could possibly want. Raspberry Berry? 1999? Alphabet Street? Sign O’the Times? You name it, he played it, and all the while proving that he is much, much more than a personality, a symbol, a talking point. He also proves that he is also a fine, free and funky as fuck musician and guitarist, at times echoing the likes of Jimi Hendrix in originality and scope on the fretboard. Utterly amazing.

Poland: The country itself, the people, the hospitality, and the music that made up the rest of the bill from the more familiar names. Thank you for everything!

Other great things worth mentioning that don’t begin with the letter P include:

James Blake: A stunning set that felt like the spiritual experience of Anthony and The Johnson’s shot through with electronics and a beat so deep it shakes your heart in your chest.

Coldplay: Love them, hate them or simply be bored by them, Coldplay certainly know how to put on a show, albeit identical to their Glastonbury headline slot.

The Strokes: Pretty much played ‘This Is It’ in its entirety, and with it proving why they were, at one point, one of the coolest, most exciting bands in the world.

…and now, we have run out of space. But there is so much more to tell and experience. With Glastonbury off next year, make Poland’s premier party your festival of choice.

Words by Mark Millar

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