Grasnapolsky 2020 feels like ages ago, when it’s just been three weeks. COVID-19 took the world by surprise but thank God for this edition of the winter festival which very well may be one of the few events we can cross off our list for this year. Sofia visited Scheemda based factory De Toekomst and dove right in the adventure called the Rythm of Time.
Well hello Scheemda!
I’m inside an old factory building, inside what seems to be a huge maze. There is this sort of purple mist that wafts through the rooms, making it feel like the place has been enchanted by a magic spell. Within each room I discover different art installations, including indoor swings and huge structures made from colorful threads that reach up all the way to the high ceilings.
I’m at the opening of this year’s edition of Grasnapolsky, a three-day winter festival. It takes place at De Toekomst, a former straw board factory. Upon arrival in Scheemda, a sleepy village about 30 minutes from the city of Groningen, the weather is bleak. The rain that has been trickling against the windows of the bus for the whole trip, is whipping in my face as we make our way up to the entrance of the Festival.
Jo Goes Hunting
Upon entering the grounds, the first thing I spot are the many colorful trucks that offer a bunch of different food options. The bright decorations that are everywhere cut through the greyness of the weather and brighten up my mood immediately. The theme of the seventh Grasnapolsky edition ‘Ritme van de Tijd’ (Rhythm of Time) is reflected in various elements of the festival.
First and foremost, it is their mission to provide a platform for new musicians, giving them a change of being heard. According to Jimmi, lead singer of the band Jo Goes Hunting, this is what makes Grasnapolsky such a great event. The band had their first ever festival gig at Grasnapolsky in 2016 and have returned twice since then.
Up and coming
‘The booking team really knows how to find up-and-coming artists. For many musicians and bands that play here it’s the starting point of their career.’ For Jimmi and his band it feels great to be back where it all started out and play their latest tracks.
Jimmi tells me that in showbusiness artists are often put in pre-defined boxes. ‘Most labels don’t easily give a chance to newcomers.’ The front man thinks this is understandable to some extent but disapproves of the constant comparison that is being made between different musicians.
Out of the box
‘Labels see that certain things are popular and want to find the next artist in this genre. If you do that too much, it eventually gets boring because there is no room for something new,’ Jimmi elaborates. Grasnapolsky however, is a great platform for undiscovered performers to share their talent with the world. The organizers truly pulled together an event that encourages experimentation and celebrates diversity.
‘Out of the box’ is also what defines the music of Jo Goes Hunting best. The lead singerescribes it to me as fresh, innovative and expressive. ‘I don’t really think in borders. I just want to make what I want to make at that moment.’
As we chat, I’m getting a better understanding of Jimmi’s creative thought process and his approach to making music. The free spirit explains that to him, getting inspired is more of a subconscious process. ‘I especially feel galvanized when I experienced something and think “What the hell, what I encountered today, is quite something.”’ He adds that of course his band also gets inspired by listening to other music.
However, when making their own songs they don’t have previously defined goals in mind. ‘When I listen to a track it’s about the energy which then inspires me to make my own music’. The singer discloses that he doesn’t really see himself as part of the industry and that to him, it’s about making art. ‘Else I wouldn’t do it’, he says firmly. I feel like this mentality is what fuels the organizers of Grasnapolsky too.
Dixieland – Hello darkness my old fiend
At first sight I felt like the organization around the festival was impeccable, however, upon having a closer look, I notice a few details that could be improved. I must admit, the toilet situation is rather crappy, unfortunately.
Dixieland was to be found outside of the factory building and as it gets darker outside it becomes quite a maneuver to take a leak. There’s no light and I struggle finding a good way to sit down without being scared where I’ll put my ass down. Although, I guess the discomfort of going to the bathroom is just part of the whole Festival experience.
Another thing that could be upgraded are the poor facilities that are provided for smokers. Yup, we’re a dying breed and it’s okay. But when you want to let go and enjoy some of your vices at a festival, like smoking a big J, I suppose that should be possible. People are simply told to smoke outside, which is more or less impossible without getting soaked. It’s raining cats and dogs and there is no roof or anything else visitors can stand underneath for some shelter.
Enough complaining! Inside of the venue the nasty rain and the cold are quickly forgotten. As I’m walking through the old factory building, I’m constantly amazed by the quirky, colorful artwork that is everywhere. Next to music, art is another very prominent element of the festival. Again, the theme ‘Rhythm of Time’ is incorporated in the exhibitions.
Jimi Kleinbruinink is one of the artists that got to present his work at Grasnapolsky. His colorful, three-dimensional sculptures create the impression of being weightless. The artist’s assemblies blend into your physical surroundings seamlessly; looking at them makes me wonder where the structures end and where the room around them begins.
I love how the artwork that is spread throughout the entire factory is meant to stimulate all your senses. Soundscapes are provided as a background to psychedelic light installations, using indefinite color variations and holographic shapes. What I think is especially cool: Part of this year’s art and expedition program at Grasnapolsky is created by students of the Minerva faculty.
Another aspect that clearly reflects the theme of this year’s Grasnapolsky edition, rhythm of time, is the integration of sustainability. With coins guests could purchase re-usable cups to minimize waste. Also, the venue is decorated using secondhand furniture and recycled carton. The afternoon turns into evening and while me and my gang enjoy the performances by Kay Slice and Black Mamba, my tummy starts crying out for fuel.
Thank God for the food trucks!
Being a vegetarian, I’m happy to learn that the available food options don’t just sound super yummy, but that they are also mostly without meat. The majority of food trucks outside even provided vegan options, tying together the sustainability theme nicely. The stands offer something for every taste: From coffee and smoothies over pizza, crepes and fries. To this day I still dream about the vegan curry. I mean damn! That was something.
We enjoy our food together with other visitors in the big pavilion that is placed in the middle of the food court outside. The structure is entirely made of glass and looks futuristic. It doesn’t matter that the space inside is small. Quite the contrary. It creates a cozy, really warm vibe despite the storm that rages outside. Squeezing on the wooden benches with everyone leads to some interesting conversations with random people around us, which I generally think is one of the best things about festivals – Brining folks together.
One of my highlights at Grasnapolsky is seeing Dutch techno legend David Vunk play. The in Rotterdam born and raised DJ – who also happens to be the label boss of Mustache Records – is a true veteran in the scene. His music covers the spectrum from acid to techno, Italo disco to electro. David Funk is capable to firing up a crowd in an instant.
He truly induces a funky extravaganza in the Verzendlokaal, one of the six rooms visitors are curiously exploring. Sadly, the crowd doesn’t do him justice. When you basically stand in front of the DJ booth and someone blasts such raw tunes, you can’t just stand around and talk. But that’s just me, you know.
The performance of Shake Shake Shake is another act that really stands out to me. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Think of a concert that slowly derails into an extremely well-coordinated dance performance. The actors are spinning around, flying through the air while singing at the same time.
The plot of their show basically shows how the power of music takes everything over, making you want to move around, inviting you to shake off all negative thoughts. You can’t help but smile when you see this show. The visual appeal of the performance in combination with their well-crafted rhymes, some of which were funny, others rather deep, is amazing. The actors’ energy is simply electrifying and graspable in the entire room – What a show!
I could go on for pages, but truth be told, you just have to check this festival out for yourself. If you’re looking to go to an event that offers a good balance of young, emerging artists and more established performers, Grasnapolsky is a great choice.
The crowd is very diverse: People from all ages laugh and dance together, creating an eclectic blend. On the way back home, I instantly fell asleep on the bus, exhausted from dancing and exploring and mingling but awfully happy. See you next year Grasnapolsky, the pleasure was all mine.