15th July – Pohoda festival

by Tom Kerswill on July 15th, 2005
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After spending a night in Puchov itself, at Katke and Iwiss’s dad’s house (where I also got to see the wedding video from the first time I was in Slovakia – and watch my set in the castle captured in full technicolour 😉 ) the four of us left for the Pohoda festival.

The train to Trencin was jam-packed. We squeezed on, standing in the space between the carriages. At one point, the train door flew open and we had to hold onto each other to try and close it again.

Everyone on the train seemed to be going to Pohoda. We got off the train in Trencin, and spent quite a while just sitting on the grass in the park and relaxing a bit. Eventually, we got on one of the buses that was going to Pohoda… and after ages of queuing for tickets, we were finally inside.

The festival was good. While everyone was setting up the tents I went and bought beers for everyone.. and it still cost less than one beer in London.

Pretty much the only food you could buy there was meat – whether chicken or pork – drenched in mustard and mayonaise. Perhaps with a bit of cabbage, but – and this is the important bit – always washed down with a lot of beer.

The first night’s big acts were Asian Dub Foundation, Garbage and Roots Manuva. The latter – bless him – seemed to dedicate every song to the “beautiful ladies of Slovakia”. He really did seem to be enjoying himself.

Crowds here are different from your average UK gig too – nobody’s bothered about rushing to the front. There’s always space to dance. Everyone is happy and just up for having a good time.

I got to bed reasonably early, actually. I woke up at 10am to find that no-one else had really gone to bed. I was dragged back to the beer tent a couple of minutes later by three of the Slovakian lads – all of whom were called, rather confusingly, Yanick (=John). They didn’t speak much English but *did* buy me lots of beers and force me to admit that Slovakia was the best country in the world, Slovak beer was the best beer in the world, and Slovak women are the most beautiful in the world. Which to be honest I didn’t really have a problem agreeing with.

So by 11 I’d had quite a lot of beers. We also got talking to a couple who spoke really good English (he was from Italy, she was from Brno)… they acted as a bit of a translator for the Slovaks, and were also really nice.

On my way to get some more beers, I bumped into Nina, from Brno. It was really great to have bumped into her again (I’d had this horrible feeling I wouldn’t meet up with her at all, because my phone had run out of batteries and I think hers had broken too)… so she came back and drank even more beer with us and all was great – a good way to spend a morning.

Until eventually we all managed to loose each other in a crowd around one of the stages and went our separate ways.

I spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the atmosphere of the festival. Pohoda means – roughly – calm or peace. And it was certainly a laid-back atmosphere. The event is held on Trencin airfield – so it’s a large, flat, space – ideal for a festival really. There were about 8 stages, all with music on most of the time – and quite a varied range of music at that. Certainly a good chance to learn about the more traditional slovakian, gypsy, hungarian, and other folky musics.

The Prodigy were fantastic. Except I didn’t quite make it for the start of their gig. I got waylaid by a German band in one of the small tents. They were a fascinating mix of live dance music – a three piece with bass, drums and rhodes, who were just fantastic. Everyone was dancing to these crazy tunes – a mixture of Kraftwerk with Fischer Spooner and full-blown electronic pop. They finished with a massive medley of pop tunes. And rather than being cheesy it was, well, great.

Then I grabbed a big cup of coffee in one hand and beer in the other and charged towards the main stage – where Prodigy had just began their set.

As I got into the crowd, two things happened. First, the heavens opened and it began to pour. Second, Prodigy launched into “Breathe”. Everybody went mad and the rain added too it.

As the band launched into Minefields, it began to thunder. Forked lightening began to appear in the sky… with Keith Flint screaming “this is dangerous”… and I suppose it was, but it was also an amazing experience. It was big, warm drops of rain, and everybody was dancing like mad. A really fantastic gig.

After that I chilled out a bit by watching Roni Size before – as the sky began to clear – just wandering around and soaking up the last bits of festival atmosphere. And kind-of hoping that I might bump into Nina from Brno, though it wasn’t to be. Eventually I walked back to the tent, as the sun was beginning to come up again. It had been a great festival – really quite different from its English counterparts. Highly recommended… Go here for more info.

The next day, woken by an incredibly hot sun, I emerged from the tent, packed everything away, serenaded everyone a bit with some of my guitar tunes (they seemed to like them!) and then said goodbye to everyone. Before long I was on the bus back to Trencin.

And… after spending far too much time lying on the grass in Trencin Park… enjoying the last remaining atmosphere from the festival and using up the last of the Slovakian money, I got on the next train towards Prague.

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