Thursday At Open'er Festival 2012

Ominous weather for dramatic music
Thursday At Open'er Festival 2012
With the festival’s sponsor practically monopolising the bars at Open’er, you’re hard pressed to find a variation of alcoholic drink within the arena, the only other booze on offer being a different brand of lager. But such is life, and we persevere through this first world problem sipping an ice cold brew in the glorious sunshine. That’s right, we get sunshine (for a couple of hours) and it kicks Thursday at Open’er off in the most serene way.

This serenity is soon masked as the looming clouds on the horizon turn into a gloomy fog that casts a literal shadow over the rest of the day. It’s a surreal sensation but Jonny Greenwood and Krzysztof Penderecki couldn’t have wished for a more apt setting for their avant-garde performance simply named: Penderecki // Greenwood. It’s only the third outing of the collaboration and is an intriguing highlight of the day.

Sadly the Radiohead guitarist isn’t in attendance, but polish composer Penderecki holds the fort sharing the responsibility of conducting the AUKSO Chamber Orchestra with Marek Mos. Penderecki’s pieces, ‘Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima’ and ‘Polymorphia’, are played alternately with Greenwood’s compositions ‘Popcorn Superhet Receiver’ and ’48 Responses to Polymorphia’. It feels liberating to witness a chamber orchestra entertaining a festival crowd, especially as the music is relatively obscure, and we begin to wonder how this would go down in the UK. Here in Poland, the crowd embrace the unconventional and this is shown not with woops and cheers, but with a deathly silent respect. Shrouded in fog, we can only assume that the desired effect is accomplished.

Bon Iver is another fine example of a good foggy performance. Dulling the stage lights, which are set up to look like church candles, the tranquillity is banished for a few seconds as the band take to the stage. Justin Vernon is met with a wall of sound as the audience lets out an overwhelmingly female scream. The sensitive frontman grins bashfully before launching into a dreamy set. There’s very little interaction between Vernon and the crowd, but it’s clear he’s humbled to be performing. “Thank you very, very much,” he offers to the crowd at one point, to which the crowd responds with adoring cheers and googly eyes.

Finally, an ominous crucifix stands tall above the crowd as Justice start their headline slot. The duo begin their set with Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fuge in D Minor’ (you know, that Dracula song) and the crowd are rapt. As soon as the bass kicks in, that’s it. The audience is lost in the beat, pulsating as one, reaching up to the lights. The dramatic performance is made all the more so by the light show bursting through the fog; people pour into the arena flocking towards the lasers like moths to a flame.

And now it’s Mother Nature’s time to shine as the second day of Open’er draws to a close. As if in response to Justice’s thunderous performance, she hammers out a storm of epic proportions, rumbling long into the night.

Words by Emily Anderton
Photo by Elinor Jones

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