Afisha Picnic Festival
Many Muscovites are still recovering from Saturday’s music festival which is an event that draws thousands of people every year. It’s called the Afisha Picnic Festival and it features local and international acts and this year was one of their best.
The Afisha Picnic event takes place every year during the summer. It’s a one-day music and lifestyle outdoor festival. When you think of a music festival you tend to think of a lot of people dancing and drinking. Well, in this case it’s only dancing. No alcohol is allowed on the premises. They don’t sell it and they don’t allow you to bring it with you either. They re very strict with that and that’s because they want to avoid any violence and make sure that everyone can come with their family. To be honest with you, I’m not sure what I think about that. When it comes to kids, it’s great but when you don’t have kids and you sit somewhere outside enjoying great music, don’t you want to have a sip of wine or a bottle of beer? I know I do. I’m sure there are people who manage to sneak in some alcohol but I’m not a fan of that. I’m not saying break the rules, just change them.
Anyway, so this festival began back in 2004 and it’s been getting bigger and more popular every year. It’s changed the location a couple of times but for the past couple of years it’s been held in the scenic area of Kolomenskoye. It used be a royal estate but now it’s a historical, architectural and nature reserve museum. It's located about 10km or 6 miles south-east of the Kremlin and it overlooks the Moscow river. It’s a gorgeous area and it’s great just to get out of Moscow.
The reason it’s called Kolomenskoye is because it’s on a road leading to the town of Kolomna. It has a great history and a lot of nice buildings. The first record of the Kolomenskoye village was in 1339. The first grandiose building there was the Ascension church built in honor of the birth of an heir to the throne, who went on to become Ivan the Terrible. The church is often referred to as the White Column of Kolomenskoye and it was the first stone church of the tent-like type. This amazing and historic construction was put on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. So you get an added bonus and a little bit of a history lesson when you go to this festival which is really cool I think.
Other than the church, the village had a lot of wooden houses but it was all transformed by Tsar Alexis I who replaced them with a wooden palace. It had fairytale roods, 250 rooms and a lot of intricate corridors infamous for getting people lost. But the real beauty is that it was built without using saws, nails, or hooks which led to many calling it “the eighth wonder of the world”. But as with all things beautiful it didn't last very long. Catherine II refused to make it her residence in Moscow and she had it demolished in 1768. Only a wooden model of the palace survived. But the government has managed to reconstruct it, the only thing is, it’s actually 1 km south of its original location. But I think we can live with that. As long as they stuck by the original designs so we can at least try to imagine what it looked like. And let me tell you it’s absolutely gorgeous. The whole area is really serene and it’s a great place to unwind. Oh and it’s not just the church and the palace that you can see. Apparently in the Soviet era old wooden buildings and various artifacts were transported to Kolomenskoye from different parts of the country. So when you go there you can find a lot of different constructions and historical objects. That’s definitely an added bonus.
So now we have music and history all in one, but the festival has more to offer. Every year the organizers make sure that there are a lot of stands and entertainment. They have a designers market and gastronomic area, special lectures and workshops, cinema and crafts and a whole range of sports activities and amusements. It’s a great event for teenagers, adults and families because it really gives you everything, minus the alcohol and the violence.
You’re probably wondering why it’s called Afisha Picnic. Picnic you get but what on earth is Afisha? Well, afisha means poster in Russia and it’s also the name of a magazine which comes out every two weeks and it details all the entertainment events in the capital. There are also other editions covering different regions. It really tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in the arts and culture scene of whatever town you live in. The company has branched out into other sectors like Afisha-Mir or Afisha-World which is a travel magazine. There’s Afisha-Eda which means Afisha-Food and as the name suggests it’s all about gastronomy. afisha.ru is a super popular website based on the original magazine and there’s also nightparty.ru which tells you everything you need to know about the club scene in Russia.
This year there were a lot of singers and bands performing. Let me just give you a quick taste of who was there.
There was Courtney Love with her band Hole performing. A lot of people were excited to see her. She sang some of her rock classics from the 90s as well as from her latest album Nobody’s Daughter. We also heard from Kaiser Chiefs who are British indie rockers. There were actually a lot of singers from the UK. There were the Wombats which is a pop trio with catchy dance-rock melodies. We also had Anita Blay otherwise known as Cocknbullkid. She’s inspired by singers like Bjork and Celine Dion so you can just imagine that fusion there. Just recently she was on tour with Duran Duran in the UK. Another band from the UK was New Young Pony Club. That was all about a dance-oriented new-wave, with a lot vocals and fuzzed up guitars, electronica and some percussion. There was also Coockoo which is a rock quintet led by a girl. Their songs are very energizing and make you want to rock out.
I’m telling you the line-up was as diverse as they come. Canadian electronic musician and performance artist best known for songs which disregarding traditional gender norms and their use of sexually explicit lyrics, yeap I’m talking about Peaches she wowed the crowd as well. We heard some tribal rhythms, exotic jingles and synthetic clatters all in one from electronic duo Rainbow Arabia who came all the way from Los Angeles. There was also Tennis from Canada who played some very relaxing tunes. This is actually a husband-and-wife duo who met while studying philosophy in college. They decided to form a band after a 7 month sailing expedition. And if you’re wondering why Tennis well the husband played tennis in college and there was a running joke about it so they decided to name their band after it. I have to say that their songs were some of my favorite at the festival. They are very mellow and soothing but still upbeat.
A lot of people were really looking forward to Marina & the Diamonds. She’s a Welsh singer who’s been extremely successful. She does keyboard-based ballads as well as more up-tempo New Wave-style songs. Also in the festival we heard from Tamaryn a vocalist from New Zealand. She now lives in San Francisco by the way. This act has two collaborators, one is Tamaryn herself and the other is Rex John Shelverton. That was more on the pop side too. From Poland we were introduced to KAMP! which are all about cheerful, funky and spacey dance/synth pop.
So, those were some of the international acts but there were also a lot of local bands and singers. We had Mujuice who is an internationally renowned front-runner of Russian electronica. There was Bravo who are super famous here. They were one of the most popular acts in the 80s and still are even though the line-up has changed. They are considered underground rock. They have been described as a mix of “Soviet romanticism and western dandyism”. Narkotiki also made an appearance. They come all the way from Russia’s Far East and they are really popular for combining hip-hop and rock making some really insane beats and lyrics.
KDIMB were insane. There were over a dozen people on stage. Their songs are really out there. They just look like they’re going crazy on stage. Their songs have a very teenage vibe to them. They really make you want to party like there’s no tomorrow. And their moves on stage are really funny. I have to say they know how to get the crowd going.
When it comes to local talent I have to say that most Russians were looking forward to hear Zemfira sing. She’s a rock artist and she’s been performing since the late 90s. Her songs appear to be simple but they really get inside your head. They are very catch but not always necessarily because of the bet. It’s hard to explain. Her songs became sop popular that the media used to say that “Zemfiromania” swept the country. A lot of her songs became instant hits and she’s been loved by the country ever since. She’s a very private person and a lot has been talked about when it comes to her sexuality. We still don’t know and since in Russia it’s such a taboo topic I’m sure that if she is gay we won’t until for years to come.
Normally outdoor music festivals tend to get quite messy with a lot of people having fun and a lot of people causing trouble as well. What’s special about Afisha picnic is that no alcohol is allowed. Actually what you can bring with you is quite limited.
Well, folks that’s what the Afisha Picnic festival is all about. If you happen to be in town during the summer next year be sure to check out if it’s taking place because it’s really an amazing event and lots of fun for everyone.