Day one: Friday, 4th Ocotber, 2019
As told by our dutiful reporter, Frane Odak
We’re getting deeper into concert season and it is getting hot. It’s October already, so it is time for Močvara’s annual autumn metal festival, Oluja fest. This year it started way earlier, the end of October is usually reserved for Oluja. Nevertheless, the organizers still managed to provide heaps of interesting content and some great performances. I believe that this year’s Oluja fest will be another enjoyable experience. This time, instead of focusing only on Močvara, they also expanded the program into Pogon Jedinstvo, the even larger hall adjacent to the club.
On the first day, the venue was already filled with a plethora of cool things to see and hear. Many of the art exhibitions were also selling some of their pieces, so souvenirs were aplenty. Were it band merch, decorations or something else, you could easily find something to your liking. This evening, the performances were only held in Močvara. The bands booked for the night were Furia, Srd, Licho and Left to Starve. There was also a non-musical performance included, more details on that later on.
The first band to open was Licho, a Polish black metal machine that plays some sort of avant-garde/experimental kind of black metal. At the start of their set not many people were present, around 40 semi-interested individuals there, but as the show went on, the venue filled quickly enough. The band’s performance wasn’t the most entertaining one, everyone seemed pretty static and mostly standing in the back. The band’s vocals didn’t resonate quite well with me. Way too coarse for the type of music they were playing. Judging by the outfits, it seemed to me that the band was aiming for some sort of theatricality, but there was nothing too captivating about their performance.
Speaking of theatricality, for those who didn’t find this band interesting enough, happening outside was the aforementioned non-musical performance. It was a circus performance by Tricycle Trauma collective. We were shown tremendous aerial silks, stilt-walking and torch wielding. It appears that Tricycle Trauma drew a larger crowd than Licho’s musical piece, which is understandable. My friend said that this can be attributed to the fact that the audience was predominantly male and the performers were mostly female, but that is open for debate.
Next off were Srd. The perfect definition of this band’s sound was black’n’roll. They had many rock-ish riffs mixed with old-school black metal and it all sounded pretty solid live. Their performance gathered more people than Licho and the audience seemed to enjoy what this band had to offer. Still, things were mostly static during their performance, but the show just had such character. They sounded good, but nothing that could hold my attention for long, the tunes were getting a bit repetitive at times.
Now was time for the headliner of the evening, Furia. This band offered some experimental type of black metal for the audience to absorb. Their music creates a very dark atmosphere very suitable for this mini festival. As it was expected, the largest number of people attended their performance. Sadly, even then, Močvara still seemed half-empty, which is strange for such a big event. Nevertheless, the people that were present there were quite into the dark atmosphere and it made for a very enjoyable performance. The only thing that didn’t sit quite well with me were the band’s attempts at avant-garde entertainment. In one part of their performance, they had four vocalists on stage and each screamed one word while the band’s vocalist/guitarist was sitting on a bar stool. It was something that I really couldn’t understand and, judging by the reactions of others, I can safely say I wasn’t the only one. Other than that, there aren’t many objections to their performance. Definitely a solid set.
The last band of the evening was Left to Starve, Sludge/Crusters from Karlovac. During their gig, the venue was already back to the state in which it was at the start, a half empty hall. As their music is very sludgy/doomy, it was way too slow for a big number of people, unready for a low amount of BPMs at such late hours. It also seemed to be pretty monotonous at times with crushing riffs being repeated over and over again. The sound was a bit too loud, too. My feet hurt. So it wasn’t really the best closing performance one could hope for. It was okay.
The first evening was marked by modest attendance, which can be possibly attributed to the fact that people were saving the energy for the next day. It was also marked by mostly solid performances, but nothing I would talk about for days and days to come. Overall, a very decent evening.
Day two: Saturday, 5th October, 2019
As told by our co-editor, Helen Vučić
To start, I’d like to thank my colleague Frane for the more cheerful and specific part of this review, as mine will be a more general critique of the current metal scene in Zagreb. If you think Friday’s attendance was modest, you should’ve been there on Saturday. Maybe it just seemed that way because we were spread out across two floors, but the atmosphere wasn’t bursting on any of them. Pogon Jedinstvo, with it’s art exhibitions and the T-shirt making station, was fun (for about 10 minutes), then we decided to check what the hell was behind the long, black drape at the end of the hall. Low and behold, it was a performance area! A small stage with some instruments on it (Chains were there, enjoyably abusing those instruments) and a number of aerial apparatus hanging from the ceiling, waiting to be possessed by Tricycle Trauma’s daring contortionists.
To be perfectly honest, this right here was my favourite part of the entire event. Some time after Chains’ hypnotic doom set, The Karmakumulator took the stage to provide, quite literally, a quality background noise for the astonishing show that followed. What we witnessed was downright stunning. A hair suspension act performed by a lovely Brazilian man with his hair in a neat bun and a metal ring attached to it. You can imagine what happened next. Sergio Zollensky gloriously swung himself back and forth across the hall, dancing a reverse-ballet. If I had a dollar every time I’ve seen a fantastic suspension act in Močvara, I could get myself at least two beers.
This is, for me, a personification of counter-culture that only Močvara (and other, less known semi-legal alternative dumps) can offer. Anti-music? Check. People hanging from the ceiling? Check. No defined audience area, everyone is everywhere. No defined audience either, everyone is the audience!
Which brings me to my most negative remark about this whole otherwise magnificent affair. Seriously, where the hell is the audience? Like the case is with all of Croatia, it’s alternative scene is an end in itself. We always joke how this country has no citizens, everyone is a hand of the government. There’s massive state apparatus with nobody to govern, it just governs itself, which is why it’s always operating at a loss. Are we an end in itself? Is Zagreb underground just the same fifty people who are either in a band, in the event organisation, a journalist, photographer or working for the venue? Because that’s how it feels sometimes. That’s how Oluja felt. No audience, almost everyone present was contributing to the event in some way, a shockingly small number of people were there to just sit back and enjoy it. Some might not consider this a problem. I consider it our biggest problem!
Since this was the last edition of the Oluja fest, I humbly suggest we take this into consideration and make the next local festival really audience-focused. Print flyers with the program! Print stickers, more posters, more hype! It’s unbelievable that a random foreign band gathered more people there on a Thursday than an entire festival did over the weekend. The appreciation and respect for local acts is at an all time low. Zvijer and Muka, for example, were delightful to watch. Such a shame more people don’t feel comfortable putting their trust in our own forces. Scaffold was slotted incredibly late, well after midnight, when Močvara returned to it’s desolate state my friend mentioned earlier. The club was empty and any remaining ~party was moved to the backstage (most of the festival visitors had access to it anyway).
What’s to blame for this predicament? I’d say the problem is primarily of the economic and demographic kind, secondarily cultural. We’ve had an entire generation move to foreign lands in search of a better life and we did a poor job of grooming the next generation, filling them with habits of actually going out, seeing bands and supporting the scene. No, posting memes about metal isn’t the same. Just liking those memes is even worse.
This isn’t a criticism directed to anyone in specific, I feel equally responsible to contribute what I think the world needs. The world needs to feel important. Each and every one of you reading this right now are important, your presence at an event is important, just ten of you showing up next time can make a tremendous difference. Together, we can break this cursed circle-jerk between artist, organisers and the press.
Next time the atmosphere at a great show is shit, I won’t blame anyone who’s there. I’ll blame everyone who isn’t!