Love is the message: lessons in unity from the Lithuanian electronic music scene
Later, one of Lizdas’ core DJs, Alex Krell, gears up for a stream of techno DJs notorious for nosebleeds, keeping things on the edge with some heavy-hitting mechanical music – choppy half-steps , industrial elements, clever arrangements and the perfect mixes abound. Also living in Kablys, a techno mecca in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, he tells us that the country has been enjoying a moment of glory for years.
“If you can find parties in Tbilisi, Georgia, you can find just as good here,” he says. “We have some really amazing locals who are just fucking good diggers,” Krell says. He doesn’t think the rest of Europe, and countries beyond, are giving Lithuania the recognition it deserves as a bastion of electronic music. “I had an outing with [fellow Lithuanian producer] Gardens of God, it was broadcast on BBC Radio 1, sold out on vinyl, and I really didn’t get any bookings. My main goal is not to be famous, but when you play 12 years in Kaunas and Vilnius, you know your clubs, what dancers need, and you want to go further, share your music with other people . It’s not about money, it’s about inner joy. I guess most local DJs would say the same.
“Lizdas has grown her own generation. So what you see here at the festival was built from the ground up. I remember when they opened… At first it was pretty much empty. Then after about a year, it exploded, ”he continues. “I just don’t know why more people aren’t coming. If you want to book a class A performer, they often don’t take the booking. There’s a huge difference when they can take the date here at Lizdas for €1,000 or one for €5,000 at a big venue in Berlin. They don’t take Lithuania too seriously, but most people who play here leave saying it’s the best crowd.
It’s easy to see what he means. There’s an overwhelming feeling that, despite this being the first year of a brand new festival in a country overlooked by techno artists, agents and tourists, the Lithuanian scene is mature and its punters experienced; it is a country that has been doing things on its own terms for decades. Talking to people outside or queuing at the bar for a drink, their passion is tangible and their knowledge of the tunes often daunting. More importantly, their outbound inclusiveness is immediate.
AUDRA’s day and evening program reflects this attitude. Away from Pergalė, the full festival spans a week from late June to early July. During these dates, more than 40 free installations, dance performances, concerts, exhibitions, panels and more are spread over a very walkable distance. A QR code system offers rewards the more sites you visit, encouraging exploration. Despite the specialized nature of the main course, these side dishes invite the whole town to play.
Among the most impressive activities is an audiovisual show based on the aptly named Taxi Park – a decrepit multi-decker that once housed out-of-service taxis. It now hosts a 15-minute immersive sensory experience based on light beams and ambient industrial sounds. It is nothing less than world class. Unfortunately, flight times mean we miss a one-off performance by electronic music composer and visionary Caterina Barbieri at this address – AUDRA’s grand opening – but countless attendees eagerly explain how she made the most of this unique space, its lasers and its incredible acoustics.