HAPPENINGText: Victor Moreno

Experimental and contemporary music is not for everyone. Due to budget constrictions, music and art spaces need to find a successful formula for a wider audience. Directors of Skanu Mezs Festival 2019 in Riga, Latvia – Rihards T. Endriksons and Viestarts Gailitis – are very aware of it. Surprisingly enough, on its 17th edition this year, they decided to push the boundaries a bit further by programming a more difficult selection of contemporary music, and it makes them very happy to see that their audience is ready to go along with them. To increase the brand recognition has been the only way to go for music festivals during these last years. A solid identity provides strong credibility and lesser known acts acquire the opportunity to perform for larger audiences.

About 2,000 people enjoyed the 2-nights event. Over the years, they have built a reputation for both the audience but also a word-of-mouth between artists – thus, many contemporary acts and avant-garde composers want to perform at this festival. People like Michael Gira from Swans, Aaron Dilloway ex member of Wolf Eyes, Manonmars feat. O$VMV$M, Alvin Lucier, Lucy Railton, patten, and Terrence Dixon among others made a special set for Skanu Mezs (which can be translated as Sound Forest) this year.

© Arturs Pavlovs

This is the first time the festival takes place in the beautiful, newly renovated old train station at Hanzas Perons. “Since the music is already confrontational enough, we said, let’s at least make the environment comfortable”, the directors explained. The one-stage concert hall hosted nineteen artist with performances about 45 minutes long. “Indeed, we’ve sold more tickets than last year or any other year in the past decade. Perhaps it was kind of organic to move to a bigger venue. Also, the people who wanted to socialize outside of the concert hall… In that venue, they didn’t have a lot of space; they were elbow to elbow. And here, you have – I would say – even too much room to breathe. But that’s better anyway,” explained Endriksons, and Gailitis concluded, “We were always trying to switch venues. We first found these old factories, but since there were some sort of sound or safety issues – like a venue freezing in October –, we decided to go for venues which are more comfortable. Since the music is already confrontational enough, we said, let’s at least make the environment comfortable. You don’t find these kind of factories anymore. We moved from the other principal place to do the festival on the other side of the river, closer to everybody.”

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