Stereoleto part II
The second night of this year’s Stereoleto will be held this weekend.
Published: June 29, 2011 (Issue # 1663)
The Austrian modernist pop group Architecture in Helsinki will perform at Stereoleto this weekend.
Stereoleto, arguably St. Petersburg’s finest outdoor summer event which marks its 10th anniversary this year, claims it is not seeing any slump in attendance despite the warm weather and city residents’ tendency to escape the city for their dachas.
Held on the beach of the Malaya Nevka on Krestovsky Island, the two-night event’s first night — featuring Ilya Lagutenko and KETA, Chinawoman, Club des Belugas and Zenzile — drew about 2,000 people — a solid number for St. Petersburg, organizers say.
Stereoleto will resume this Saturday with a night of performances by acts including Austrian modernist pop group Architecture in Helsinki, Germany’s Apparat Band, Finland’s Uusi Fantasia and Norway’s Casiokids.
Stereoleto is the brainchild of Ilya Bortnyuk, the founder and director of the Light Music promotional agency that has brought acts such as Morrissey, Sonic Youth and David Byrne to St Petersburg.
“The original idea, like any idea, was very basic: To create a good, enjoyable festival with quality music and in a nice place, which would not be a rock festival, but nor a rave or an electronic music event either,” Bortnyuk says.
“We looked toward good Western festivals for inspiration. There’s such a concept as a boutique festival, which means a festival with a declared idea, and an accent on visuals, design and image. It doesn’t necessarily entail a huge number of people; the main thing is good music and good bands.”
Bortnyuk says that Stereoleto has made impressive progress during the past 10 years.
“If I had been told then that Nick Cave, Massive Attack and Royksopp would play at the festival, I would not have believed it,” he says.
However, Bortnyuk says it is not essential for Stereoleto to have major names on its lineup.
“Normally, all festivals are built like this: They get one big headliner and start sticking all the other acts to it,” he says.
“We have different goals. Although the headliner is also important, we don’t set ourselves the goal of getting just any headliner, whatever it is. This year, we don’t have artists as well known as Morcheeba or Royksopp, but that’s because the acts we wanted either could not come for some reason, or were too expensive. Next time we might have a big headliner, but it’s not the main issue.”
According to Bortnyuk, Stereoleto’s specialty is to have many good, contemporary acts. “Of course, it’s not right either when all the artists are unknown; we keep a quota of well known acts,” he says.
“For people who follow what happens in music closely enough, these acts are all interesting.”
The opening night last week was headlined by KETA, a new electronic project by Ilya Lagutenko, the frontman of the Russian pop-rock band Mumii Troll.
“It proved to be quite unusual, but again it was chosen not because it’s Ilya Lagutenko, but because I liked the project itself — the music, style, etc.,” Bortnyuk says, adding he was also pleasantly surprised by other Russian acts such as Yekaterinburg’s Tip Top Tellix and St. Petersburg’s 7he Myriads [sic].
The genre of Stereoleto, which features extremely diverse artists, cannot easily be identified.
“I think it’s impossible to define the genre of the festival: What genre is Primavera Sound or Benicassim, where Leonard Cohen performs after the Chemical Brothers?” Bortnyuk says.
“It’s just good, quality, interesting music. I can say what we don’t have, rather than what we have. We have no traditional rock and its sect branches — it’s clear we don’t have any metal or heavy music. We also don’t have any hard-edge electronic music.
“We’re looking not at styles, but at how current and fresh the music is. It could be psychedelic folk rock or experimental electronica. What’s important is that it should be interesting and great.”
According to Bortnyuk, Stereoleto would be a bigger festival in Western Europe, but in St. Petersburg its scope is limited by the tastes of the Russian public.
Norway’s Casiokids are among those due to play on Krestovsky Island.
“It’s clear that the audience of this kind of festival in, say, Norway or even in Finland is a dozen times bigger,” he says.
“Roughly speaking, if such a festival were to be held in Helsinki, it would attract not 2,000 or 3,000, but 20,000 to 30,000.
“But all the same, I think that for St. Petersburg, it’s great and we’re growing. The status of the festival has increased now, and people have started coming to the festival from other cities and even other countries.”
Some say the relative lack of interest here can be explained by Russia’s insular music industry, in which a person raised on the repertoire promoted by mainstream Russian media can barely access or become interested in the kind of music that events such as Stereoleto have to offer.
“Why in the rest of the world do tickets to a Nick Cave or Morrissey concert sell out in minutes?” asks Bortnyuk. “And why didn’t the U2 concert in Russia sell out? I think the reason is the same.
“If we organized a festival featuring [Russian pop acts] Stas Mikhailov, Yelena Vaenga and Lyube, it would sell out in an hour or two. We wouldn’t have to think about anything at all.
“We have good artists that are not in demand in Russia. It’s no surprise and is an obvious fact. But we have got used to that and orientate around it. We realize that we won’t have 10,000 or 15,000 coming to the festival.”
The first Stereoleto took place in the gardens of the Molodyozhny Theater on the Fontanka River in 2002. From its first site on the Fontanka, Stereoleto moved to LenExpo congress center on Vasilyevsky Island, and for the past two years it has been held on Yelagin Island.
“Every year, we look for a location that would be perfect,” Bortnyuk says.
“This one on Krestovsky Island is good; the portion of the beach is closed off, and there’s a bar and restaurant. There’s also a lot of space, and the stage is right against the background of the Gulf of Finland.”
Stereoleto, featuring Architecture in Helsinki, Apparat Band, Uusi Fantasia and Casiokids will take place at 10 p.m. on Saturday at the Vozdukh Project on Krestovsky Island, 6 Yuzhnaya Doroga. Metro: Krestovsky Ostrov. See www.bestfest.ru for the shuttle schedule and other details.