The Strokes, Stormzy, Kylie, Lana Del Rey, and er, the cast of Stranger Things could all be found at the annual Polish knees-up. Here's what went down over the stunning four days.
Held in the disused Gdynia-Kosakowo military airport in Poland from Wednesday July 3 to Saturday July 6, Open’er is the country’s premier music bonanza, with one of the best line-ups of the summer. Five stages bombarded you with big names. Just look how rightly excited this dancing chap is by it all.
On Wednesday, Stranger Things actors Finn Wolfhard Caleb McLaughlin took part in a Q&A session at the Alter Stage, less than 24 hours before third season dropped on Netflix. “I never thought I’d be at a music festival in Poland talking about a TV Show,” boggled Finn, reasonably. “That’s very cool”.
The festival brought ‘80s Hawkins, Indiana to Poland with a recreation of the Palace Arcade from the series, filled with retro coin-ops such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Dig Dug and Dragon’s Lair, where high scores could be exchanged for Stranger Things-related prizes.
This girl rocked up dressed as Eleven. Earlier in the day, Finn Wolfhard and Caleb McLaughlin had been pictured hanging out with Bristol band Idles. Speaking of which…
Talk of the devils! On Wednesday on the Alter Stage, Idles’ frontman Joe Talbot eulogised: “There’s a lot of Polish people where we come from. They’ve made it a much a better place!”, as the Bristol quintet tore through an incendiary set that included the bovver-booted likes of ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’ , ‘Divide and Conquer’ and ‘Danny Nedelko’, along with party-starting karaoke covers of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin' on a Prayer’.
In a predictably raucous performance, Lee Keirnan crowd-surfs playing guitar on his back, while boxer-shorts-clad guitarist Mark Bowen clambers over the eager throng as they hold him by his feet.
“Thanks for waiting. We had some problems getting our equipment here,” apologises Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig as the band take to the Orange Main Stage an hour late, before blazing through a performance that mixes tracks from 2019’s‘Father of the Bride’ (their first album in six years) with preppy-pop classics like ‘Cousins’, ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Oxford Comma’.
Topping the bill on Wednesday, the rap firebrand brought tracks from his seminal third album ‘Astroworld’ to Poland, with eye-popping neon visuals of theme park attractions like Ferris wheels and popcorn stands. Opening with a ‘Stargazing’, he peaks with a pulverising ‘’Sicko Mode’. “It’s time to get rowdy tonight!” he commanded.
Dependable NYC gloom-mongers Interpol stunned the Tent Stage with an impressive late-evening Wednesday airing of the likes of ‘Evil’ ‘Slow Hands’ and ‘Obstacle 1’.
It was a clash of the titans at Open’er on Thursday as three headliner-level bands graced the festival. First up, Matty Healy and co are greeted by banners (one is emblazoned with ‘HEY MATTY, DO YOU WANT A CIGARETTE?; another reads ‘ZLA SUKA’ – which translates as ‘BAD BITCH), rainbow flags, and fans that cry during ‘Somebody Else’, as they slayed with their meta live show and bangers like ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ and ‘The Sound’.
“Happy Fourth of July everyone!” says The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, wearing stars’n’stripes braces to celebrate the occasion, as they power through a solid-gold set of the likes of ‘Heart In A Cage’, ‘The Modern Age’, ‘New York City Cops’ and ‘Someday’ with dynamic intensity. As the rain lashes down, Julian dons a parka: “I brought a raincoat all this way. I thought: ‘Perfect! I get to use it!”.
Shredding through the amphetamine riffs of ‘Reptilia’ and ’12: 51’, Albert Hammond Jr revelled in every minute of the set and got up close and personal with the crowd during the imperious closing triptych of ‘Is This It’, ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Last Nite’.
From the hysterical chants of ‘STORMZY! STORMZY!’, you’d have never guessed he wasn’t the original headliner on Thursday evening, as the man-of-the-moment replaced A$AP Rocky (who was detained in Sweden on suspicion of assault) with only 24 hours notice. “We’re going to make this a very legendary evening”, promised the ‘Big For Your Boots’ rapper, and he delivered, as ‘Know Me From’ and ‘Shut Up’ open up the circle. “I knew Poland was turnt but this is crazy man. You lot are giving me goosebumps!”, he beams at their reaction.
“This is my first time in this country and it’s magic!” eulogised the festival season's breakout star Rosalía as she brought her rewiring of traditional Spanish flamenco with future-facing R&B beats to a heaving Tent Stage, with an exhilarating choreography-heavy performance that peaks with ‘Malamente’.
A packed crowd for G-Eazy couldn’t have been crammed any closer together without being a Human Centipede, as Gerald Earl Gillum incites bedlam by dropping the likes of ‘Pray For Me’, ‘The Plan’, ‘I Mean It’, and ‘Girls Have Fun’.
“This might be the biggest show I’ve ever played in my life”, declared G-Eazy. “This is fucking beautiful. Can we make this a tradition, like every time I keep coming back here, it just gets bigger and bigger? ‘Cos I promise you I will keep coming back here as long as there’s air in my lungs.” Taking a photo, he said: “I gotta get this on camera just so when I’m 80 years old, I can look back and go: ‘God damn, this was the most lit day of my life’”. He spots a fan in a replica ‘When It’s Dark Out’ jacket and hauls her onstage to serenade her with ‘Me Myself & I’. As Bebe Rexha’s vocal hook kicks in, the mosh pits get even bigger.
Dressed in a black cassock, Billy Corgan led the revived classic line up of The Smashing Pumpkins (with the exception of D’arcy Wretzky) through a set that mixed tracks from their latest album, last years ‘Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.’ with perennials like ‘1979’, ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ and ‘Tonight, Tonight’.
The band performed in front of a visually arresting set of giant dolls that changed colour.
Day three headliner Kylie brought glitter-strewn pure pop thrills to Open’er with a poppers’o’clock back catalogue that included ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, ‘The Loco-Motion (mashed up with Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls’) and ‘Especially For You’ – which was accompanied by her dancers recreating a Neighbours-referencing wedding onstage. With her latest greatest hits, ‘Step Back In Time: The Definitive Collection’ becoming her seventh UK number one album, she’s clearly in a partying mood, donning a ‘POLAND LOVES KYLIE’ T-shirt she spots in the crowd. Before ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, she announces “I really could do with a hug from one of you, it’s so cold”, and hauls a fan onstage for an embrace.
Although now: “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!”. Let's face it, to dislike Kylie is to hate joy itself.
Warsaw jazz/funk/rap fusionists P Unity took to the Alter Stage for an early afternoon set on Saturday, the closing day of Open’er.
On Saturday in the Tent Stage, Jan-Rapowanie was one of a host of native Polish hip-hop artists appearing at Open’er. Celebrating releasing his debut album ‘Plansze’ this year, he had the crowd screaming every word of his most popular track ‘Wybory’.
On Saturday evening, Colombian reggaeton superstar J Balvin underlines how English is no longer the lingua franca of pop music, as he brings an arena spectacle to the Orange Main Stage, and the mosh-pits swirl to his global smash Cardi B-collab ‘I Like It’.
“I want to see all the girls on the shoulders right now!”, he urged, during a set that began with Reggaeton and climaxed with ‘Mi Gente’, his 2017 single which was at the vanguard of the Latin boom.
On the Alter Stage, Polish electro-merchants Kamp! offered Cut Copy/Holy Ghost!-shaped ‘80s revivalist synthpop and nocturnal blissed out grooves.
Lana Del Rey was the perfect headliner for Saturday night, as she slinked through her cinematic sadness-in-the-summertime bangers, flanked by two dancers, on a set that looked like a tropical idyll. During opener ‘Born To Die’, she gushes: “How lucky am I to be with you guys? Back in Poland, I’m so fucking grateful!"
Chanting “We love you!” (“Not as much as I love you – I can tell you that,” she replies), the crowd go batshit for her. “You have a book for me?” she asks one, after the fourth number ‘Pretty When You Cry’, She the ventures into the pit to receive gifts and sign autographs, emerging with the haul of a sunflower, said book, and myriad fan art.
As she prepares to release her much-anticipated sixth album, the brilliantly-titled, Jack Antonoff-produced ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ later this year, scatters a few previously-heard cuts from it in her set: ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ (which she hails as “one of my favourite songs from it”), her Sublime cover ‘Doin Time’, and ‘Venice Bitch’, which she uses as the closer, accompanied by an mushroom cloud of ticker tape.
The big-hitters – ‘Born To Die’, ‘Summertime Sadness’ and ‘Video Games’ (which she performs on a swing) - incite delirium. “Oh my gosh, time has gone by so freaking quickly! Every time I come to Poland it has such a special place in my heart. I can’t even see the end of this crowd.” Until next time Open’er, it’s been a blast….