There’s no fire without a spark. There’s no spark without a busybody. And there’s no summer without – Lent. Even when there’s no promenade. But we were there. For the thirty-first time. All out. And sold out. Very much so. This was Festival Lent 2023. A hefty spark for a blazing fire that, and we firmly believe this, will be even mightier next year.
Including where we have been before.
And believe we will be again.
We have to. We owe it to you. Thank you!
You the main man! No, you the main man! No, Main Stage!
We got used to it. Perhaps it even got used to us more. We managed. The Main Stage on Trg Leona Štuklja is not as much a backup location per se, but more like a new, temporary solution. Ok, maybe not that temporary, but judging from feedback, it can be kind of timeless in its own right. It’s never going to live up to the great myth and legend of the floating stage. But what it can do is get people to bounce. Oh yeah. The first Saturday was something we have been waiting for ever since Omar Naber was onback in 2005. That Eurovision fire. That recent fire. And Joker Out. You cannot imagine all the items that landed on stage during Umazane misli. Before that, someone asked them to sign – his passport. Best believe it was crazy. We’re gonna dance the night away as they say in Carpe Diem? Forget the night; we’re not stopping throughout the festival!
And if there’s something you truly can’t imagine, look no further than Tekochee Kru in their Piše se leto 2023 gig. Oooooh! “We’re just like Joker Out, minus the bras onstage. But there might be a slip or two here,” cackled the rhyme-layers. But one man’s joke is another man’s … panties. With a pack of that stick icky nestled within. Because … You the main man! No, you are! No, youuu! A concert that, with Leopold I as the opener and alyana alyana as the closer, has shown that Piše se leto still has some potential tucked away. Plenty of potential.
Slakonja optional, “Pinkos” almost mandatory
In any case, the Main Stage has shown us on the very first day, when many of us braved the rain, that Klemen Slakonja is a star in his own right when he’s live on stage and surrounded by such an all-star band. Any kind of star you want him to be, really. Alive, dead, accessible, unattainable. He borrowed an altered Zoran Predin (“lemme see those hands, lemme see those candles”), morphed into Prince in Kiss, translated Bed of Roses by perm kings Bon Jovi (“cause the bottle of cviček still lies …”), and turned into Joker Out a whole day before the original dudes actually made it on the same stage. Not knowing how to play the guitar, he played on the looper, which made even the bartenders come from behind their bars just to see whether everything that was happening on stage was real. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Not knowing whether it’s real or not? Something that makes you peep out? When the line between real and surreal is blurred? He was Måneskin, he was missing Melania, he brought to life his inner Robbie Williams, and turned into everyone from Zala and Gašper to Magnifico and from Kingston to Rok'n'Band in Bela snežinka, then rattled straight into a solo duet of Shallow, in which he was both Gaga and Bradley at once. Of course he was.
With the “Pinkos”, which is what we lovingly call the Trieste Pinko Tomažič Partisan Choir, the decision to have their Sunday concert start already at 19.30 proved to be right on the green, err, on the red, actually. And then, right off the bat – Hej, brigade. But the “Pinkos” are also more contemporary, broader, more inclusive. No wonder they earned thunderous applause. As did the plethora of artists at Indexi and Friends. The heritage of Davorin Popović – Pimpek is more than alive and well and upkept. Zoran Predin, acting as the host for the night, overcame his nerves and made a commendable and not-too-slow job, despite being worried that he might (“If I were a movie actor, they could put subtitles on while I still spoke”), of curating the journey through the repertoire that was pumped full of life and love and emotions and pain by everyone from Halid Bešlić (amazing sevdah!) to Boris Novković and Branko Đurić to Dado Topić, Vlado Kalember, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t about old or young. It wasn’t about big or small. It was a homage to the fact that the true story were the ones who kept Indexi alive until 2001.
Vlado Kreslin with Beltinška banda and Mali bogovi conjured up a near carbon copy of last year’s gig, including by taking the stage on a Wednesday again, while we got to see another Rock opera, this time on a different Friday, the only difference being that they brought the pearls of the legendary Queen this time around. It was pure thunder, earth shattering thunder; what an orchestra, what soloists, what a big band … A recipe for the people to leave more than happy.
Folkart! 35! Leg go(t) drum!
We closed at the Main Stage on the same note that we began on; with Folkart. Oh, those 70-kilo drums from Burundi. And the barefoot Indonesians. Soft-moving Chinese. Booming Bulgarians. Charming Czechs. Hearty Serbs. And our very own, the hosts, the Academic Folklore Group Študent from Maribor. True, the rain that turned into a monsoon on Tuesday cost us the parade, goddamit! But everything seemed to even out in the end, especially with the late afternoon gatherings on Glavni trg that brought summer’s most inquisitive huddles. Where we saw one of the highest ever leg kicks. Landing on the drum. Overhead.
Jurček and Večer? A perfect couple at a new location
Both stages have been with us since forever, but even them, the classic and the legend, once bore different names. And stood, where else, at a primal, un(for)gettable location. By now, they’ve both learned to kind of co-exist. And that Jurček sometimes, for heritage’s sake, goes rogue and solo when the day’s schedule features only a single artist (four out of nine days). But they both sort of made peace and agreed to find a middle way.
The only difference this year was the central, nearly elite location. Glavni trg is no joke now that it’s been renovated. It has cache and potential. Just like the Jurček – Večer Stage that was moved from the pier at the Water Tower. We did get used to it, although, to be frank, it doesn’t really feel like it’s going to last. But what was felt was the stage lineup and the fact that our and your Šegec has been around long enough to brag that he didn’t forget to announce them this time – Avtomobili. Oh, let’s not forget how hard King Foo were trying after Friday’s downpour and how those that made it on stage during Wiysala & The Yagayaga's on Saturday will never forget it. Because you could easily make it from the pit to the stage. To dance. To wild out. There were very few occasions when the heritage of both stages came to the forefront, but if there ever was such a moment, it was on the festival Tuesday, when Tomaž Domicelj first held a masterclass on how to do it at 75 years of age, followed by Janez Bončina Benč dropping to his knees because he ran out of words to pay tribute and rave about his supporting band. What an evening, what a spirit!
And there comes a time when even the most experienced ones go all out, just like Ana Pupedan. Singer Simon Avsec didn’t bother waiting for the jingle. No, no. He just broke out. And didn’t stop. “Ana Pupedan are about to drink to your health all evening long – your spritzer!” Čedahuči, touched by being offered a second Lent chance, matched that drive pound for pound, but no one, not on this stage or any other, was able to match Flirrt’s drive. Rok Lunaček applauded each and every single person and thing. From the tiny couple in the first rows. All the way up to – interest rates. No shame in admitting it; the Jurček – Večer Stage found its way, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it wishes to be (and belongs) back where it once was. Down the road. Down. By the river side. In the street, on the square.
Minoriti – Nova KBM Stage: highlights of highlights
We may have already found our solution. We just might not see it as such. Until the wind picks up. All the way from the river. The wind of quality. Oof, did Minoriti get down! From the very first day, the very first night. Božo Vrećo grabbed each and every one and did what(ever) he pleased. And for as long as he pleased. Songs grew more and more epic; the concert was becoming a journey. And all those rhetorical, mighty, unsolvable questions. “Tell me, is this truly a lie?” he kept asking. Searching for an answer, turning the light of trial the assembled souls. And gathered so, so many content souls. With a concert that was yet more proof of the audience that Festival Lent gathered, kept, and spoke to. And this was only the first day! Then came a series of three straight comedies, and let me tell you, that “police” striptease scene in Ljubezen gre skozi želodec will live rent free in our heads for quite a while, as will the fact that only in Slovenia does a man “eat a chicken’s ass and tops it off with three pints of vinegar from the salad” as we learned from Tadej Toš.
And then came the time for our precious trademark. JazzLent. Kicking it off was Kristijan Krajnčan on Monday, who proved his mettle already on Sunday with Tomaž Gajšt in Zabučale gore at the Judgement Tower! Then came the premiere league of international artists. Wednesday through Saturday. Manu Katche and his The Scope were a total vibe, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 brought an unforgettable afrobeat party, Fred Wesley made us question ourselves whether we can be as fit and fresh as he is just a few days short of turning 80, while Dobet Gnahore, a fill-in on the last night, served as just another piece of proof of how good Lent-goers are in all things afrobeat by now. Oh yeah. Was Rok Vilčnik the spinner or the spinnee? Huh!
All of this before the after parties even began! We sold out two. The one before last and the last. And the first Saturday, Monday, and Thursday weren’t far from being sold out. The first Saturday especially will make it into history books due to the simple fact that good old disco hits are sometimes just what you need for a fire night. And then came the final after party, the party of all parties, when the DJ surprised all of us by thumping out that legendary crasher Chop Suey.
Judgement Tower? Downstairs – no, really!
We almost played ourselves. It’s only fitting that we should admit to a thing or two after such a Festival Lent, right? We thought that this year again, for the third year in a row, the music in the Judgement Tower will emanate from the upper, gallery floor. And there was good reason for that; the setting was breath-taking both in the first and second iteration. Literally breath-taking, because it was either too much draft or, later, too little. This is why the team had a different idea this year by returning, for the first time after 2019 – downstairs. To a different “down there”, yet and still. Down there.
It wasn’t hard to see why. We went all the way down low. From the perfect thirds, harmonies, melodies of 3:rma,when we saw what a “stand-by third” can do. And that was on the first day. Then came the second day. The first “sold out” sign. Jure Ivanušič began alone. Well, he wasn’t alone on stage; he was flanked by Nordunk, the battle-tested quartet of Gregor Antauer (keyboards), Bojan Logar (saxophone/clarinet), Andrej Antauer (bass), and Martin Roser (drums). But he set out alone. Reciting. The first verse he carved? “I take your name in silent words, my love of old.” Yes, that’s how it began. Out loud into an omnibus of experiences. A project that was meant to be a rock chanson only but couldn’t manage to stay just that. “The universe be in my heart; the universe be in my heart!” were the last opening words he recited. Then Roser crashed the drum. The small one. The snare is what the drummer legions call it. He struck, cut, and shook his convictions.
After the very first song, Ivanušič picked up his accordion and announced in neo-chanson manner that they have a few new songs and an excess(ive) idea of diverse genres and stories. “I do need to apologize that not everything is up to par; we were working on this until the very last moment.” No wonder he jumped right into the song entitled I’d rather croak. He did sneak a peek or two into the sheetsof paper in front of him. “Are you gonna let me read the lyrics? Someone did say once that a new song becomes a good song when it becomes old.”
Pink patent leather? Robert Petan for the win
We mentioned briefly the things Kranjčan and Gajšt did for jazz connoisseurs. All we can say is: the mountains truly did roar, while Kranjčan had one of the cutest sign-offs of all time when he asked whether we’re about to take this someplace else or not. Hard to know sometimes with the Judgement Tower. Especially if you’re running a bit late. And don’t even dare to knock. Just like it happened at Severa Gjurin and band. “Entrance only during applause!” was just as appropriate as it was considerate. Severa showed no signs on Wednesday that she and her brother Gal worked through a three-hour gig at Jurček – Večer Stage on Sunday.
And then we caught the third sold-out concert, despite the fact that Robert Petan had another gig on Sunday as well, this time at StandUp Lent with Perica Jerković, which was again – sold out. It’s easy to see why. Petan came up with a poem especially for – Lent. And took the shiniest (pink patent leather) shoes ever through a set that was so much fun it made us wonder when he’s about to appear on a larger stage.
StandUpLent: shape, shape, shape!
There was only one other stage/programme cycle that could boast of having three sold-out events. Who was it? D’uh! StandUpLent at Vetrinj Mansion. And judging from what we saw, at least another two of them (Autsajderji repete, Vse najboljše) came awfully, awfully close. StandUpLent is another stage that built up so much trust that it can calmly offer a very eclectic programme from one iteration to another. Yes, there were Autsajderji – the Outsiders, whose for-charity gig again made another little girl happy. And created such a whirlwind that the mic ended up flying when all those dollar bills were tossed in the direction of the bankster, John Denhof.
Banda Ferdamana assembled their original lineup on Monday for this very occasion and made sure that we were all wondering whether it wasn’t all arranged in advance, a classic setup perhaps, because Vid guessed what the crime was (grated carrot on the toilet bowl) and who it was committed against (Madonna). And the evening with Two English Ladies revealed what happens in those bars in Maribor that don’t have a logo on their toilet door, just a sign. An English lady wanders into the men’s room. Standing there, a man … and his wiener. He looks up. And the English lady utters the only Slovenian word she was taught: “Hvala!” (Thank you)
Goodbye Lent 2023, hello Lent 2024!
Perhaps it’s only right that we broke with tradition and took this year’s group photo deep into the first part of the festival. At the very place we hope to return to soon. As soon as possible. Because now … we’re really aching for it. For the promenade and stages on Lent. This year, the only stages next to the Drava River were the KMŠ Stage in the east end and the Judgement Tower in the west. But we know. This is not it.
All of this despite the fact that it came damn close on the last evening at the KMŠ Stage with a sweated-out gig by Batista Cadillac. But it’s not the way we’re used to. All of this is what we look forward to. This is where our longing gazes landed while standing at Wine Lent or Minoriti – Nova KBM Stage. Even at the Jurček – Večer Stage at Glavni trg we caught of whiff of “down there”, a wish to return. Back to our true home.
All the questions to match all the answers
By now, we’ve grown accustomed to that, once we open the City Park that hosts the Art Camp and the Triglav Stage, it fills up with happy people, especially if the weather is nice. And let’s not forget about the Music Artists’ Salon in Union Hall that shapes the future of classical music in Slovenia through concerts played in front of rather solid crowds. There’s also the Street Theatre Festival Ana Desetnica, which had no trouble at all in conquering Trg Svobode. This goes especially for The Horse, for which we will wonder for quite some time whether it wasn’t perhaps a (true) living horse. See, this is what it’s all about; the questions that burned in the fiery display of The Oracle. What matters is the spark, not the flame. And what good are answers if there are no questions.
And Festival Lent 2023 had plenty of those. So many questions. And answers. All those beautiful songs drawn and written at the Children’s Programme in Vetrinjski dvor. At discussions in GT22. At Living Courtyards. At the exhibition Turnaround on Trg Revolucije – cultural heritage of Marko Brecelj. At StopTrik. At Dokudoc. At the Open Dance Scene. In Vetrinjski dvor late into the night with KUD Coda. And so, so much more.
Wherever it is, however it is, you just can’t have enough of Lent. Forget about it. This is why we’re starting now. Toward a new thirty.
For you. For us. For the river.
For Festival Lent that awaits. Festival Lent 2024.
Bye! See you in a year’s time!
Snippets from backstage
• Rumour has it that Triglav Stage had the best concert on Tuesday with Let Kud DolinaMiru. That’s right, after an epic downpour.
• Is this a real horse? Is it? No it isn’t. Or is it? No, it isn’t. Those of you who were at Trg Svobode at the end of Ana Desetnica on Saturday, you know what we’re talking about.
• Jimi Hendrix came back from the dead at Grajski trg for Attention! Music on the Road with Midnight Lightnin'. Lemmy Kilmister made an appearance at Metropolis’ gig at Jurček – Večer Stage. And Freddy Mercury was back again. For more than two hours. On the Main Stage.
• Did you know that all the songs were already drawn, too – not just written? This is just one of the many stories we learned at the Children’s Programme.
• Our Gogo made a name for himself at karaoke night at Bar Coda Rock Beats in Vetrinjski dvor on Friday, 30 June 2023.
Unexpected figures of Lent
1 – Yes, this was the first time that Leopold I appeared at Festival Lent.
2 – True, we had two rainy days this year; we’re not counting the few raindrops that fell on the last evening, just the one true evening storm. On the first day. And even that came and went and wasn’t too bad. All the downpours happened in the afternoons this time around. While not as good for Art Camp, the Triglav Stage certainly couldn’t be deterred.
3 – This was Joker Out’s third appearance, but Bojan Cvjetićanin did remind us that they played their first gig in 2018, again on Trg Leona Štuklja (what was still Večer Stage back then), in the pouring rain (opening up for Goran Bare & Majke), only for handful of people who were hiding under the umbrellas of the street bars.
8 – Tekochee Kru played their eighth gig, the first after 2014. And it was good.
10 – The runtime ofLovable, the rhyming and rambling song by Je Veuxat Attention! Music on the Road was at least ten minutes.
12 – A dozen times we had to hang out the SOLD OUT sign. Three times for seating at the Main Stage (Trieste Partisan Choir, Indexi & friends, Rock opera), three times in the Judgement Tower (Jure Ivanušič & Nordunk, Severa Gjurin and band, Robert Petan) and twice each in Minoriti – Nova KBM Stage (Tadej Toš, Fred Wesley) and StandUpLent (Perica & Robi show, Four Musketeers).
35 – As befits its age, the thirty-fifth Folkart again ended where we’ve grown accustomed for it to end. On the Main Stage.
70 – The drums carried around by the folklore group from Burundi weighed 70 kilograms. And they carry them over their heads. And the athletes that kick these drums could easily be in the Olympics.
49 – This was the forty-ninth appearance for Vlado Kreslin.
2,500 – This was the turnout for Joker Out, give or take.
By: Jaša Lorenčič