Kutná Hora’s Creepy Teepee alternative music festival

07-08-2009

Instead of vespers, it was bands such as Health and Final Fantasy’s music reverberating around Kutná Hora’s Jesuit College on Thursday evening. Over the next couple of days, the building, its spires and courtyard, will be playing host to an impressive selection of alternative bands from around the world, all in the name of the Creepy Teepee music festival. Štěpán Bolf is one of its organizers:

“The idea behind the festival is that we as A.M.180 – which is the gallery and collective of promoters from Prague – we were asked by the people from GASK gallery to curate the musical section of this thing. And the idea behind the whole thing is that this place will be open as a new museum of art next year, and they wanted to promote this fact not the usual way.”

What unusual way did you chose to promote the fact that this will be opening as a gallery next year – can you tell me about what you have put on?

“The people who created this gallery know what we are doing. They know that we are trying to bring to Prague, to the Czech Republic, alternative artists, and that the musical section, with us curating it, will not be a mainstream thing, or have the standard lineup for Czech summer festivals.”

Do you think that it is a disadvantage that we are not in Prague, but instead in Kutná Hora – or do you think that actually this location makes this festival something special and something different?

“I’m very happy that this event takes place here in Kutná Hora, because it is a nice place. The bands enjoy it, we enjoy it, all the people enjoy it, the audience. And it’s not so far from Prague, so people travel here and back again every day. Some people are staying here around the city in campsites and so on. I think it is maybe good for the city that there are maybe many people who never came here before visiting now. And at the same time, I think there are many types of people here who you don’t usually meet on the streets of smaller Czech towns, so I think it is good to do this.”

On Thursday, it was Illinois’ own Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - also known as Owen Ashworth - who opened the show. Perhaps surprisingly, given his stage name, Ashworth was performing in Kutná Hora en route to a wedding in Slovakia at which he was set to play:

“Well, actually, they didn’t tell me it was a wedding until right before I left for this tour. I think they were afraid I might say no, so they booked it like a normal show and every indication was that it was just going to be an average show. But just a few days ago I got this email which said ‘oh, by the way, it’s going to be a wedding’.”

And what do you think about this place as a location for a festival?

“It is really beautiful, I just walked over and saw the cathedral – is it Saint Barbora right here? And I’m going to go and see the ossuary, the bone chapel in the morning, which I’m really excited about – I’m really kind of terrified.”

You were asking the audience for some stories of the ossuary – did you get any satisfactory tales from them about the bone church afterwards?

“No, no one has been any help at all.”

What did you make of the audience?

“Umm, people seemed really nice. You could tell that some people, the people I was looking at, at least, were enjoying themselves and it is nice that people were requesting songs. It was good. Sometimes you play at festivals and, you know, this was a smaller audience than at some festivals I’ve played, but it can be very alienating. And you kind of have to hone in on a few people right in front and sort of read their faces to tell if people are enjoying it. You find yourself playing for very specific people. In larger spaces I think more so than if it were a standard club audience, where you are gauging the room a bit more. But there were a few people who were really nice and who were smiling and seemed encouraging. So, it felt pretty good.”

It seems to me kind of weird to have such a North American lineup today here in Kutná Hora – does it strike you as sort of incongruous, or not in the slightest?

“Umm, well I think these are all bands that these promoters have booked before. And I guess yesterday was more of a European-centric lineup, so, I think they just lumped us all together because they thought that we all speak the same language so we’d get along.”

While Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s performance consisted of one man and a lot of machines, Canadian band F* up’s set was a rather more animated affair. As is tradition, lead singer Damian stripped off and circulated amongst the audience, sometimes changing people’s hairstyles, sometimes squashing their beer cans on his head. The rest of the band, including drummer Jonah Falco, played their socks off:

“That’s a miracle that I don’t look sweaty, especially considering how sweaty I am. I take my shirt off when I play, which is maybe the most modest thing that anybody who sweats in the band does. But, the appearance of not being sweaty is as remarkable as it gets in this corner.”

Maybe as you alluded to just there, your shows seem to be quite audience participatory, and quite interactive. Maybe for a radio listener who can’t see what’s going on, can you explain a bit of the philosophy behind your live act?

“Well, I can do this in two parts, and I’ll try to be brief, because the listeners in Prague and Brno and beyond have places to be. The philosophy with the band, musically, first – was to create something that was as engaging as it could be. I mean, it’s a bit selfish in that we try to make things that are as interesting for us as possible, but in turn, I think that, having put everything together, we’re trying to make it as textured and interesting and enjoyable for the audience as well.

“The only problem with texture and interest and layers is that, live, it just sounds like a load of pabulum. So, the philosophy live is to make things as interactive and boisterous and explosive for the audience as possible. Now, there are six of us – five of us have to concentrate full-time on the texture and the layers, and one of us takes it upon himself to just roll in the gravel, scream and sweat and bleed and ooze all over the floor and the ground. And that way, everybody’s happy. So, the live performance is really interactive, and it is not so much that the audience participates, it’s that the audience is coerced into being a part of the show.”

It seemed there that your frontman was greeted with a mixture of excitement and complete fear by the audience. Would you say that is quite a normal response, or would you say that Czechs are more game?

“I would say Czechs are more game, and I would hands down say that. Like I was just relating, the first time we were here, we went to hell and back to get to the club, and when we got there, the most immediate response could be summed up in the sentence ‘the Czechs are game’. You know, generally speaking, if a big hairy sweaty man whose job it is to scream for an hour sprints at you full-speed, some people will respond with terror, some people will respond with an open embrace. Czechs are up for it.”

Creepy Teepee, and the GASK Artfest that Creepy Teepee is part of, runs until Sunday at Kutná Hora’s Jesuit College. For more details, and the full programme, go to the festival’s website: gaskfest.cz.

07-08-2009