Tallinn Music Week 2015: Can I have some more, please?
A Tallinn Music Week delegate wakes up on a gloomy Saturday morning only to find a bouquet of violet and yellow flowers next to his bed. A few minutes laters he realizes these are from his bumpy way back home through Viru street and are meant for the most important person in Estonia right now, Helen Sildna. He didn’t deliver the flowers, though, as the embarassment outgrew the gentle idea.
So here we are in the seventh Tallin Music Week that also covers most of the Nordic region. More than 200 bands in 40+ venues of the charming Estonian capital, 850 delegates from all over the world, 20 050 concert-goers and much more between the lines and numbers – the TMW went on for four very intense days and nights. It was my first time and I had been willing to bring home as much as possible. I surprised myself. Here are my memories – themed rather than chronological, as it was all too hectic to keep a daily diary.
I did do some homework before boarding the Lux Express bus that took me all the way North. The Baltic Scene website asked me to send in my TOP10 bands I’d like to see in TMW, and for that I of course had to have some contex. Around fifty acts ran through my years... Naturally, I managed to skip half of my wishlist but, on the other hand, discovered many more. Isn’t that festivals are basically about?
Jazzpospolita Jazzpospolita were very high in the abovementioned TOP10 so I bravely purchased their newest album before the show. It’s now covered in signatures and I love the band even more. Their gig, as most of the showcase concerts, only lasted for half an hour so I was left hungry for more, but it was enough to fall in love with the jazzy atmosphere and plenty of free space for post-rock soundwalls. I totally see the Polish quartet in a Lithuanian jazz festival.
Night Marks Electric Trio are also from Poland and I was very warmly encouraged not to miss them by their manager whom I met earlier in TMW. They were worth running through train tracks and the electronic-hop-trappish tempo build up by the barefoot trio didn’t help to recover from that, for sure. The full performance is embedded below.
Alo Wala were marked as Danish in the programme but that’s a completely international project that might have started off in the same idea pool as M.I.A. or Buraka Som Sistema, but are now in their own boiling hot ghetto bass rap bubble. Definitely hotter than record summer temperatures of Scandinavia! And I heard they’re already booked for a show in Lithuania… Yes, please.
Alo Wala
Tallinn Music Week
Alo Wala
Repetito“ in the meantime managed to smash Vilnius before and after their gig in TMW. The trio (two girls and one guy, that’s one killer formula) have managed to release two studio albums while on the rock’n’roll highway fuelled by punk and postpunk, and they still sound as if their first rehearsal was a week ago. That’s a huge compliment.
Leikki. Someone actually told me TMW was the first official live show of Leikki, but I’m not sure if this is the truth as the duo seemed very into each other and what they’re doing – and they’ve been rehearsing for two years. Their music seems to be coming from a vintage record, but there’s an electronic music party going on in the background. Sadly there’s no way I can understand any of the Estonian lyrics, but it’s the kind of music one simply must own just in case he needs some comfort and sunshine. Leikki’s debut EP was pressed right before TMW so I am now a proud owner of a cozy 7“.
Profile. Henrik, one of the editors of The Baltic Scene, had strongly recommended not to miss this producer and he became the first act I saw after arriving in Tallinn. It was a DJ set, yes, but only from Profile’s own records and that’s definitely a cool concept. You wouldn’t expect anything ordinary from a guy that only makes music in his life and does that in a town 180 km away from the capital city, right? And that’s precisely why I very much imagine him playing in the woods of our electronic music’s finest, Supynes festival.
The Classical Music Rave in the recently opened Kultuurikatel (more on that below) is a concept that has been travelling around the world with the help of a flamboyant cello player and producer Brendan Jan Walsh. It has been already witnessed by ravers of Havana, New York and Sao Paulo, and was of course tweaked to suit the mood of TMW. The DJs mostly played music written by Estonian composers and that was basically it – despite a short incluse of a women choir and an electronic improv band. It was very interesting to witness, of course, but I hoped a bit more integrity from the crowd that was mostly chatting and walking around.
Classical Music Rave
Tallinn Music Week
Classical Music Rave
I also managed to visit a local church where classical music medley was performed by Glasperlenspiel Sinfonietta – what a delightful way to relax after a busy Friday and set the mood for late night shenanigans. Gotta try this more often in Vilnius. There were also bits and pieces of Finno-Ugric folk songs, Estonian rap and Scandinavian indie pop, a handful of everything each night. Once again, getting lost is one of must-dos in a music festival, and I am very happy to have taken some advices from my newly met acquaintainces. We’re all music experts, after all!
My, my, Tallinn surprised me big time! If you’re heading that way be sure to check these venues out:
The first and the only venue I visited two times is the Erinevate Tubade Klubi. located in the hipster district of Telliskivi, right next to the older gem F-Hoone and loaded with urban romance created by the passing trains. It’s on the upper floor of some factory and you absolutely can’t wear your shoes there. White socks will be saved by comfy slippers and if you have a hole in yours don’t worry as you can buy a colourful new pair at the entrance. Other than that, the space is decorated with all sorts of sofas and cushions, and many screens to augment the experience. Theatre, concerts and occasional parties are usually happening there.
Do also check NO99 (a retro-ish theater with a jazzy bar downstairs), Sinilind (used to be a cinema, now is, let's say, everything) and Ulme. The latter wasn’t included in the TMW program and is well off the beaten path, but is worth the trip if you need some underground techno in your life. Very DIY and therefore welcoming.
Tallinn Music Week
Kultuurikatel (it hosted the abovementioned Classical Music Rave) used to be a power plant that operated for 66 years. It has recently been converted to a culture industry hub that’s a venue, artist residencies and some studios for various projects. The ceiling is as high as in Berghain so there’s more than enough space for your ideas.
The “serious” part of TMW is as important as the concerts and parties. The conference was opened by the naturally rock’n’roll president of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and the short speech proved himself and personalities like Helen Sildna can move any mountan. Or inspire others to do that.
There could have been more specific presentations about specific projects, such as the story about Mannheim, the city of music, in Vilnius Music Week last year. TMW, however, was more about debating and open discussions on rather broad subjects. It was of course very interesting to listen to a wild debate about the current affairs of music in and from Russia – a phrase that somehow sums everything up is “Everyone uses Spotify in Russia but it is not yet available in Russia”.
Vilties yra, idėjų - irgi!
Tallinn Music Week
Vilties yra, idėjų - irgi!
It was also repeated in a debate about indie labels and their conglomerates, and once again remembered in an early Saturday morning session about freemium. Let’s leave our eyes and ears wide open as there are no success formulae anymore.
A music veteran John Robb took the position of a journalist this time and sat down with Viv Albertine, the former member of the first all-girl punk band The Slits. Having recently published a memoir Viv was happy to remember how she and her girlfriends managed to achieve the impossible in music, as before that the only reasonable position in the business for a female was a groupie. Probably that’s why it was kind of unexpected to find out she later hung her guitar on the wall and accepted the life of a, unhappy housewife – but I’ll probably understand why after reading her book.
Viv Albertine ir John Robb
Tallinn Music Week
Viv Albertine ir John Robb
I’ve already read 'Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay', an enchanting history of the nasty world of music business by Simon Napier-Bell, so of course an interview with him was one of the highlights of TMW for me. Kieron Tyler from Mojo had definitely done his homework so we were indulged with numerous insider stories from the previous – and somehow wilder – decades. He was, for example, ready to drop Japan as the band was draining all the possible finance but… didn’t find the courage and continued to work together for another 3 years. Then there was Marc Bolan who didn’t want to raise his fee (it was 50 pounds at the time) so Simon and him mutually agreed there was no need for a manager there…
Right now Simon is managing Sinead O’Connor and he got the job simply by reading her very open Facebook post. ‘Management at first sight’ is yet another great and very broad phrase I memorized ad TMW.
If one managed to find any free time between networking, conferences and concerts, TMW took care of that, too. It’s probably not a coincidence that Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend took place at the same time, presenting beers from all over the world. Some of the finest restaurants of the Estonian capital presented special menus under the umbrella of TMW Tastes – of course you had to book a table in advance, which I didn’t...
I also didn’t manage to squeeze myself into the bus trip to the new centre for Arvo Pärt, the legendary Estonian holy minimal composer. Funnily enough my sadness went away when I found out the center is only going to be built in 2018 and its visualisation rather than a real picture was used to present the tour in the TMW catalogue. Those who went still said the trip and the tour in the existing office was interesting and I hope to be back in 3 years time.
Instead, I went to Viru hotel that is just across the street from TMW headquarters in Nordic Hotel Forum. For a few decades its 23th floor was closed to the public and was only frequented by KGB agents who had their secret service cabinet there. Right now it’s a museum presenting the harsh Soviet reality in quite a funky perspective. Definitely less gloomy than the Vilnius museum that is located in the KGB building itself. The ‘western’ people were laughing hard!
TMW is a great event created by truly devoted people. Estonia is ahead of Lithuania in many ways, and this is a good example. The weekend is worth visiting not only if you make music, write about music or want to make money out of it, but it can be a truly colourful getaway full of adventures for anyone who simply likes a good show in a nice venue. And some nice food, and beer… It's also a good chance to witness some of the future European music stars – I sincerely believe at least a few of the artists I saw playing in TMW will be filling up arenas in few years time.
Once again – thanks for the very intense time of inspiration and encouragement. There’s lots to be done in the Baltic and Lithuanian scene, and times like this simply make you do it.
TMW will be back on March 28th - April 3rd next year. If you want to perform there (and maybe meet your future agent or promoter, or receive some professional insights about your music) then check the official space in autumn as the contest will probably be happening around that time.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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