Recently one of the most common topics for me is migration of cultural capitals. As far as one of the theories go, most important components for becoming the capital for culture is cheap rent, inspiring environment and thriving community. Cheap rent is essential for all the young artists and hoard of wannabes, hipsters and party goers, who search for fun and alternative lifestyle. It goes something like this: in a random town, usually in the abandoned parts of it, forms a community.
The place becomes a hot spot due to all alternative events, art and good vibes overall and becomes a magnet for more and more people. After some time, the community is evicted by government, because usually people squat, and the price of the property rises since the neighborhood becomes “better” because of the mentioned cultural events. Oh, the irony.:) It is also possible that the leaders the community leaves, ODs, or something other happens inside, and the community weakens, so the place is not so attractive anymore.
Anyway, if the prices of the rent gets higher, or if the property is taken back by the government or the owners, all of those young artists go to the other town, where forms other community. I think, at first it was Paris and New York, then/now – London and Berlin. But this summer we were visiting Berlin, and people were starting to talk that the rent is getting higher, and even though Neukoln is still very happening, the flow of newcomers makes it harder to find a place to live. We were hanging out with some locals, who were interviewing like 20 people, because if you have a spare room in Berlin, apparently you make a contest out of it. And it wasn’t even a neighborhood close to the downtown.
So where will be the next capital of culture, I hear? Glad you asked. It will be here, in the East. Not necessarily in Vilnius – it also may be Prague, Tallinn or Budapest. One friend even argued that everybody moves to Istambul right now. But in Lithuania we have cheap rent, smart people, fastest internet in Europe and reasonable nature – not to mention, that many people migrated to the Western Europe from here, so here you can find so many niches to fulfill – a dream for entrepreneur, organized creator and smart start-up owner.
Does it apply only for the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius? Mostly, yes. Lithuania is a small agrarian country with strongly opinionated and conservative people, especially those who live in small villages and still solve their quarrels old fashioned way: by putting an axe in opponent’s head. The politics is one big freak show, economics most of the time hangs on a thread, and we cannot start any big projects, because the government is corrupt. This country is quite fucked up, and this is why I love it. It’s like you have a little retarded sister, who is adorable, but not very bright.
The same chaos goes through all areas of governing – there is a new educational reform each year, but no firm plan, there are many cultural initiatives, but most of them – shitty executed and sooo 1992. Nevertheless, I see more and more great examples, how small communities in periphery try and achieve very good quality cultural events with small or no governmental support. And the best part of it – people start to “get” the alternatives, more and more visitors come to experimental events.
On one hand, why in smaller towns people are more interested in such kind of events, is because there is not much events to start with. Vilnius not very big, but, like in any capital, you can go out any evening and find a good movie to watch, nice exhibition to visit, at least a few listenable concerts and a bunch of fun bars. You start to be bored and bitchy and want something new. And this is the moment when you migrate to small towns, to get their vibe, to meet their people, and to visit their events. All the process is way more sincere than one more evening out in Vilnius.
So where am I getting with all of this? To be fair – to Jonava, small industrial town in the center of Lithuania, where yesterday we visited Homo Ludens festival. First of all, I have to admit, that I love this town. People are awesome, parties are hardcore, trains are saying CHOO CHOO MOFO and overall, it is a great place to chill. And from there we go to one of the festival’s events, a concert by UMIKO, FLESH FLASH and NATTEN.
UMIKO is a Lithuanian lady, which is a rare bird on stage. Even though I am not a big fan of talking between the songs, she was so sincere, that even I, with my stone cold heart, could not bitch much about it. “It will be a sad song”, she says, and puts on some triphop, and then she claims that she’ll play a bit more lively piece, and goes with jazzy dub, all connected by strong vocals. Wouldn’t say her music is my cup of tea, but I can get why more and more people like what she does.
It is a pity that I had:) to be outside for most of FLESH FLASH (Lithuania) performance, since we had to drink brandy and wine and talk about all kinds of stuff. But I came back just in time to listen for their title song (video above) and some new tracks. What I can say about these guys from the previous gigs – they are one of the most promising (unfortunately, not that productive) duo’s in the scene. It’s gentle and a bit nostalgic electronics, with a hidden power in guitar loops.
NATTEN came from Sweden and took the roof of the place. Four guys with unusual set of instruments – trumpet goes instead of lead vocals, some electronics, a keyboard and a bass line, truly puting everything together. Somehow sad, somehow asking to dance till you die, and overall – tops any live performance I listened to in a couple of months. Even though after some time it seemed that they started to repeat themselves, it didn’t matter, since I just wanted to get more. They played mostly the same stuff you can find online – the best was to hear Hatet and Framtiden, because well, these songs (and videos) hooked me on this band in the first place. Slow, deep and very passionate.
The proccess of spreading alternative culture is somehow similar to diffusion – at first there are the right people in right conditions, and when the place is on the peak, the culture starts to go through the town walls and people’s minds. And after that peak, everything slows down, but the seeds are planted and the previously “outsider” culture is accepted.
Something like that is happening now in Lithuania – Vilnius is full of all kinds of initiatives, and that culture starts to go to smaller towns, like Jonava, and you can hear and see some weird mixture of “high”, “low” and “alternative” cultures, all in one place. Which is weird, inspiring and complicated – just how I like it.
Picture from Natten FB.