The weekend’s two best Lithuanian acts appear on the least rock ‘n’ roll of those stages, in fact, the Dramos Teatro Nisa. Situated in front of the glass doors of the city theatre, it’s an oddly staid, slightly school-like setting (although the three freaky angel/witches looming overhead are pretty funky).
This isn’t a gig that the hotly-tipped Markas Palubenka will look back on with much fondness, as he clearly struggles with his own sound and the hubbub of oblivious people wandering along this bustling street. It’s a shame as he’s clearly a talented chap, flitting between instruments and electronics and making a noise somewhere between James Blake and the folkie acoustic fraternity, a sort of Baltic Bicycle Club. In a more intimate setting, and indeed on the album ‘No Fun in 101,’ he thrives.
Coping better with the awkward location are The Perfect Pill, the ideal antidote to any post-dinner lethargy one might be suffering. Consisting of a punky drummer who shrugs off the ignominy of a rain-flattened Mohican and a charismatic singer/guitarist eerily reminiscent of an indie John Barrowman, they make a tremendously watchable racket.
It’s a bit QOTSA in places, a bit Muse, a bit Placebo, with some fine effects and great wads of energy. Although disappointingly, despite entreaties from the audience (us, mostly), the Pill refrain from finishing off by throwing their equipment through the theatre windows. Well, guitars don’t grow on trees.
As for the other bands and stages, Bamda Dzeta are tremendous fun, utilising a ukulele, a beefy drummer incongruously wielding a triangle and a five-piece brass section to make what could be the theme to a rural Baltic James Bond film. From Belorussia with Love?
(Ok so Banda Dzeta aren’t Belorussian and Belarus isn’t actually Baltic, but it does share a border with Lithuania and Latvia and enjoys observer status at the Council of Border Sea States, which was formed in 1992 as a response to the geopolitical changes in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but, hey, I digress…)
On the main cathedral stage, Instrumenti are one of the more talked-about outfits, although sadly no longer wearing the big animal heads with which they originally went incognito, like an organic Daft Punk. Musically this Latvian duo are a mixed bag, veering between Muse – again – and Mika during the couple of songs we witness, which might be slightly off-putting. Their onstage theatrics are diverting enough though, as are their attempts at call-and-response slogans. “There must be peace!” “YEAH!” “Let’s make love to all the enemies!” “EH?”
Still, Lennon might well have approved, and as the evening progresses we make a pilgrimage to that sand sculpture, which looks rather marvellous with some mighty castle or other looming in the background. The soundtrack is decent too, from the adjacent stage, a Georgian band called Svan Sikh making likeable disco-pop in a Crazy Penis kinda way.
(Speaking of which, while acquiring a latte from a kiosk nearby I discover that the local word for milk is ‘pienas’. So if you’re ever in a Lithuanian coffee shop, don’t be offended if the dude offers you some).
Back to the main stage for a quick burst of the unpromisingly-named but also buzzed-about Leon Somov and Jazzu, a dance duo who are getting a decent global following after much DJ support. Not Clash’s cup of tea, in truth, but clearly big-hitters in this neck of the woods: we then do a runner before the arrival of another UK headliner – the hoary old dance act Chicane – as indeed does everyone else.
Instead, it’s off to a fine little bar/venue called Soulbox, and an afterparty named after a Tyler the Creator tune – ‘Meet Me By the Lake’ – where local b-girls dance fabulously to bass-heavy DJs while images of half-naked lovelies and Oreo cookies whizz past on the screens behind. Which is a cunning way of getting your guests to leave on a high.
Lithuanian music, then: aimed straight for your cerebral pleasure zones.
Words by Si Hawkins
Photo by Hazel Gumble
Click HERE to read part one of our Vilnius Music Week review.