Daydreaming about Kyiv at Night: Reporting from the 2024 Edition of Strichka Festival

    Lisnyy Prychal in full effect. Photo: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

    When the team at Closer released the provisional poster for this year’s Strichka Festival, many were surprised to see some blurred names like DMX Krew and Luke Slater. But it was just a trick—the poster was a composite of all the previous ones. Heavy-touring names are still a rarity in Ukraine due to the war, no matter how friendly they are with local promoters or how much they “enjoyed the epic crowd” in 2021. People have somewhat adapted to this reality — who cares about “big names” when the best performance at the festival will likely be from Borys. Or from Noizar. Or from Borys and Noizar. Or from someone else from the formidable Closer crew (hope you understand, I’m partly kidding in the last few sentences).

    Still, those foreign names bring the feel of a big festival. The rarity of their appearances now makes any performance electric — ask anyone who’s played in Ukraine recently, and they’ll probably tell you that the long road ends with a truly “epic crowd.” Closer managed to fill around 20% of the line-up with international acts (the line-up consisted of about 50 names, as usual).

    Daytime chill at Garden. Photo: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

    Ukraine is still under curfew (thanks, Russia, hope you’re enjoying your nights), so the festival was daytime-only again. The usual Strichka dancefloors (Dvir, Closer/Lisnyy Prychal, Otel’, Mezzanine, 3-D Floor, Garden) were filled with all kinds of electronic and near-electronic music. Sunday, much like in the past, was mainly divided between Dvir and Lisnyy Prychal, but this time there were additional activities on other dancefloors. Now that the introduction is over, let me take you on a tour.

    The festival started slowly (I’m talking about BPMs now), which is typical for Strichka. The beginning always feels like an intro. Depending on where you go, it could be slow house by Serge Jazzmate at Closer or something beatless at Dvir or Garden. But even if that music isn’t your style and you don’t want to head to the always-banging techno floors, there were still activities to enjoy. For example, watching the monstrous live performance of the Berezil crew, consisting of 8 members playing together, divided into two groups of 4. As one friend told me, “Oden & Fatzo, just at 33 RPM.” That live performance transitioned into a special hybrid vinyl set by Roman K, with Igor Glushko closing the day on that dancefloor. One of the best evenings at Garden ever, I’d say.

    Piece of the monstrous setup of Berezil’s live. Photo: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

    But I had to leave Garden early because the first day’s main event was slowly brewing on the 3-D floor. Usually a very hot and sweaty room, full of techno kicks, the home of the best live performance I’ve ever heard (Paranoid London, an eternity ago) had another unforgettable hour with the live set of Eversines. After that slow start, the tempo was just right and grew as his set progressed. If you know his sound, you’ll understand: groovy, slightly progressive house jams, perfectly mixed. Add the best light show this stage has ever seen, and you have a winning combination. Brother G followed with another live set, bringing his “metallic” house sounds as described by some attendees.

    The moment during the live performance by Eversines at 3-D floor. Photo: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

    The main dancefloor that day wasn’t as appealing to me. I tried to get into Charlotte Bendiks’ set three times but couldn’t stay long. It just wasn’t my style. Conversely, Bellis, despite her appearance on RA’s Mix Of The Day selections, wasn’t an obvious choice to close the day at Closer but did her job perfectly. She juggled new beat and dark disco vibes, adding everything in between.

    However, the best set of the evening was, unexpectedly, at Otel’. Cyber_696969, a frequent guest at parties in my city, delivered an incredible performance. After starting with an empty room due to a short pause following the previous live act, he filled it with people who were completely absorbed by his set for two hours. Think of Alex Savage’s almost punk rock performance from the last Strichka, but leaning more into EBM, transitioning from “Oh shit, it’s a techno party” to “I think I heard this track in a Christian AB set.” The perfect ending to the first day.

    The second day began early Sunday morning after a rare peaceful night in Kyiv. After grabbing breakfast ramen, my friends and I headed to our usual Closer spot. We missed the opening acts by Bambu and Shults.Sashaa, but Sasha mentioned it wasn’t his easiest set due to the unexpectedly high temperature in Kyiv, which caused records almost to melt under the sun. Talk about warming up the crowd!

    Next on the schedule were one of the most interesting newcomers from Ukraine— shjva with her morning trance selection at a hot Dvir, and the duo Eversines (yes, again) and Marie K at a much cooler Lisnyy Prychal. This was the first time we had to choose between dancefloors, but music wasn’t the only focus. At Lisnyy Prychal, the music was different from Eversines’ solo live performance on Saturday—less energetic but not too chill, perfect for that time of day. Some Ukrainian tunes were even spotted, possibly forthcoming on Trommel.

    Later, the choice was between Karine and Enrica Falqui. If you wanted a mellow sound to continue your morning routine at Prychal, Karine was your choice. For something more electric (not electro), Enrica was the pick at a now cooler Dvir. Both did well, as expected.

    Alex Savage kept the electric mood on Dvir, while on Prychal, Beyondre delivered one of the best vocal live performances I’ve ever heard. Hands down.

    …but not for long, as Aliana followed and had everyone’s hands back in the air. Probably the most screams during one set on that dancefloor, if not the whole festival. Still wondering what that one track with the Macarena bassline was among all those bangers.

    Aliana, collecting daytime screams at Lisnyy Prychal. Photo: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

    The final choice was between Travice or Alice & Zahvat at Dvir and Borys b2b M.Tkachenko at Prychal. Despite the good music at Dvir (you can check the all the best highlights here, Borys and Maksym’s set was perfect for closing the festival. Prychal was packed, making it hard to dance, but even standing still, you could feel the joy from those usually unknown vinyl jams.

    The aftertaste of the festival is mixed—there was literally nothing wrong with the event; on the contrary, under all circumstances, it was the best festival you could dream of. But the full-scale war has been draining all joy for over two years, making it harder to feel good or even normal. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

    And finally, a quote from Marie K and Eversines: “Still processing the surreal experience of traveling to Kyiv and getting to share our music at Strichka Festival. There is no club like Closer, where it’s equally easy to lose yourself as it is to connect with people. Hearing the brave people’s stories about their life there was deeply humbling. Any doubts we had before traveling there instantly disappeared upon arrival—everyone made us feel so safe and welcomed there 💕 If you’re an artist considering playing Kyiv, we highly recommend making the trip… We hope to be back soon!” A bit different from the quotes we usually (or can’t) read from people visiting Russia with their supersecret sets, right?

    The busy evening at Lisnyy Prychal. Photo: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

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    This article was written in Ukraine. Ukraine is in the middle of the war with Russia right now. Would be great if you could donate to the biggest Ukrainian volunteer fund here. Also, you can pick any music initiative, that is also trying to help from our list here. We’ll be stronger together.

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