This year’s edition of Strichka Festival was the most unusual one. And still lovely

    The sign of Strichka Festival on Lisnyy Prychal. Photo by Sasha Halushchak

    It seems, that the Closer crew finally adapted to the most turbulent times in the recent history of Ukraine. Even during the rough 2022, they managed to get some European guests into their lineups, 2023 seems to be a little easier – at least, the first scare is gone and all those brave guests, who visited Kyiv already, gave a very nice feedback, as a signal for other DJs in the scene, not that semi-generic “great city, great crowd” bullshit. But we’ll come back to that later.

    People are gathering on Dvir stage. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    So, the first time, when I visited Kyiv since the full-scale Russian invasion in Ukraine, was their traditional Hippie Love event with Adam Collins and Ancut as the main guests in February. A few days before that I had thought about the possibility of doing Strichka this year, but it seemed like something unbelievable – the country just recovered from months of blackout, caused by constant Russian bombings. After a very nice two days’ party (daytime only, remember about the curfew), these plans seemed to be a little more realistic. After their another traditional Masnytsia (also known as Maslyana) event it was obvious, that we were just waiting for the announcement. It happened on 7.04.

    Saturday evening at Dvir. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    If you’ve never visited Strichka, let me tell you about its structure. Usually, it’s Closer’s biggest in-club event, which starts on Saturday evening with some live performances and then uses all possible places at 31 Nyzhnyoyurkivska Street. After the first night, most of the dancefloors are closing at the morning and the main action moves into Lisnyy Prychal (and Dvir, on the latest editions). There was only one exception – in 2015, when there were two nights on Friday and Saturday, but with a break in between. This version was never repeated.

    A lot of people in traditional Ukrainian vyshyvankas vere spotted. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    This year – because of the aforementioned curfew, some additions were made, and since Closer couldn’t use the night, they moved all the night activities to the day of Saturday. As usual, on Saturday Dvir was used as a place for all kinds of lives. Closer itself worked as another dancefloor. Otel’ took over all the broken stuff. Mezzanine became a home for some disco, associated with a LOW Party type of vibes. Metaculture space was used as a techno spot, while the 3-D Floor, usual for those types of kicks, wasn’t used as a dancefloor. Instead of people moving slowly from the locations, that were closed, to those, that were still working, people this year came home to have (or not) some sleep, and came back on Sunday, when only Dvir and Lisnyy Prychal were having a duel of gorgeous Sunday sets.

    Also Saturday, but on Lisnyy Prychal. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    This year a new dancefloor was also added to the collection – Closer Connections, the DJ school and store inside of the same building, made their debut as the participating stage. It was situated behind Lisnyy Prychal and was working for two days, being some kind of chill zone, with its own line-up, just without the chill zone soundtrack. The highlights of the stage were Yansima & Lenzyak, Dudkin and Rustam & Domnitsa.

    A look into Closer Connections stage, the newest one. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    So, even if Sunday seemed more interesting to us, Saturday had its own reasons to be there. First one – Afriqua. The main underdog for me from all 4 foreign guests. And the main discovery of the festival, I would say. We were promised an eclectic set, but, damn, I don’t remember that type of tracklist since the first set of Seth Troxler at Closer. When you’re playing almost anything, some of which is allowed to be played at Closer, as it seems, only to you, and the crowd goes wild anyway. Respectfully, sometimes I didn’t believe, that I’m on the main dancefloor of Closer – the music wasn’t bad at all, quite opposite, but you have to be a master to set the right mood for it. Juggling between soulful house, soulful electro, soulful minimal and tech – it seems, that after 19 hours on the road (yes, you have to make some sacrifices to play in Ukraine now – and, yes, you’ll forget about those after the crowd will react to your first track), he was on the maximum level of joy. And also those sexy moves…

    Speaking of “sexy”, but in a more punk way. Another Saturday highlight is definitely the set by Alex Savage in Otel’. Hard, rough, dirty selection of every possible broken beat on the planet. And if it’s not broken – be sure, you’re going to hear one of the fattest basslines ever. Another destroyed crowd and a lot of recorded videos after the set’s end.

    Igor Glushko playing the last set of Saturday at Closer. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    While Closer’s main stage was delegated to Roman K and Igor Glushko for their trippy part of the evening, on another stage, Mezzanine, there was discomayhem. Jazzmate, one of the craftiest men in the scene, went bananas with his selection of disco and synth beauties. And the hot crowd (literally, it was very hot on that dancefloor) was totally happy until the very end.

    Jazzmate on disco duties at Mezzanine. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    “The end” this time meant that you’re going home to sleep. Or, to hide in your bathroom, since we didn’t know if the city would be bombed by Russia again, as it happened every single night that week. Somehow, the next air raid alert hit the city only on Monday evening.

    Amir & M.Tkachenko are opening the schedule of Sunday on Dvir. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Sunday. This time everything started even earlier, at 8:00. Both – Dvir and Lisnyy Prychal started with duos. Amir & M.Tkachenko and zolaa. & Shults.Sashaa – I’m leaning more toward the last two of them. Then it was my time to fill the slot at Closer Connections stage, so I almost missed the set of Aliana (from Lviv, just like me) and the live act by Brooht – one of the best live performances you’re going to hear in Ukraine. Gladly there are plenty of videos, both did a great job, she – with her house selection, he – with his signature energetic live.

    Aliana on Lisnyy Prychal. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    And then – one of the main dishes of the weekend. Brooht was replaced by John Dimas on the Dvir stage. The most anticipated set for most people, as I understood. John started slowly, it seemed that he needed to chill the crowd a bit after Brooht’s energy, but when he adjusted, all went enormously well. Especially during the last part of the set, when heavy weapons were used – all sorts of broken beats but in a way, that you won’t forget who’s playing.

    On another stage Aliana was replaced by Trippsy – the member of the THP crew who came back to Ukraine specifically for Strichka, just like Ponura, Travis and Karine did (and Inna, a legendary person for Closer, on the entrance and face control). I haven’t heard him for a long time so somehow I was expecting some trancey stuff, instead he came with a lot of heavy groove house jams. Can’t say I was disappointed. Peshka continued the mood after him.

    Borys, probably, putting another rare gem on Dvir. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    The hardest part to choose was after the trippy live of Brother G. Borys at Dvir or Sibil at Lisnyy Prychal? Of course, I chose both. Borys played in his usual manner – that means that he’s not playing any obvious bangers (at least, trying to avoid them as much as possible), but the crowd is ready to climb the walls after just 30 minutes of his set. And after these 30 minutes the feeling is just growing bigger and bigger. This time, since that stage could be considered as the main one, he, as I felt, pushed more into the electro-house category, At least, more than he usually does.

    Sibil and her flower on Lisnyy Prychal. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Sibil, at the same time, was the main flower of Lisnyy Prychal. Literally flower, somebody gave her one and she inserted it under her headphones. In comparison with Borys her music was much more gentle, still it didn’t save her from getting screams and applause from the crowd at any given moment. Playing all types of house, her set had a lot of, as one of my friends says “silly” tracks, with those kinda funny melodies, that you’re going to murmur in your head for a while. I got caught by two of them.

    Lisnyy Prychal before the end of the festival. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    The closing acts were Bambu at Dvir and Karine at Lisnyy Prychal. And Karine squeezed the crowd to the max. While there was almost no room to dance, people still danced to the fullest, despite a few skips at the beginning of the set (covered with rounds of friendly screams and applause, as usual at Closer). Later it was a true celebration of life, that, after the last track of the festival, was finished by the spontaneous singing of the national anthem of Ukraine by the whole stage. A very humble moment, I would say.

    The aftertaste of the festival is rather nice. The organization is as good as it gets under the current circumstances, don’t forget, the city could be bombed at night or even during the daytime. Also, Closer building itself just recovered from a fire not so long ago. The crew managed to get some international guests, and not just ANY guests, but those who wouldn’t be lost in any Closer’s line-ups. The domestic part of the line-up, probably, couldn’t be any better since a lot of artists are abroad right now. The only sad thing is, of course, the war, that won’t let you go at any moment with that everyday curfew and bad news coming constantly. Still, the chance to see friends that are coming back from the frontline just to recover for a few days, and you see them in the crowd, is a good thing (I personally recognized 3 of them, so you can imagine, how many soldiers or paramedics were there).

    John Dimas, his nice shirt and just as nice record is ready to be put. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    I told you before that I will show you the comments of the guests – now it’s time to see them. My comments here are unnecessary, so I’m leaving them full and uncut. John Dimas: “I’m still processing the whole experience that was Strichka Festival. Being invited to play in Kyiv during the middle of the war was a difficult decision but I’m so glad I said yes. The incredibly long journey there and back was challenging, especially after coming almost directly from my 2-week tour in the US, but the experience was worth every second. The bravery and strength of the Ukrainian people was so inspiring. Being one of the few international artists there was a huge honor and it was so special to share in our love for music during such a difficult time. Shoutouts to all other artists from abroad that also made the trip. The performances of local artists and their brave stories deeply touched me and I want to thank everyone who joined for my set, dancing and sharing their energy.”

    A little jump back into Saturday, to the set of Alex Savage. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Ish: “I’m still processing my trip to Kyiv and Strichka Festival. I had an amazing time meeting new and old friends. I was completely overwhelmed by the experience and all the appreciation I received for coming to Strichka. It was a truly special moment, and I was so happy to see all the smiling people enjoying. I was very impressed by how many people attended the festival and the huge effort and love the team put into its production, despite living in a warzone. I spoke with many people, from artists to guests, and even soldiers who came directly from the frontline to have a brief moment of normality and fun. It really helped me understand what life is like for people living in this difficult time. I want to encourage artists to go and perform in Kyiv, as it means a lot to the local people and supports them in their ongoing struggle. While the city has a good defence system and is generally safe, the sound of it working almost every night is unsettling. Additionally, the curfew has made the concept of “nightlife” seem nonsensical. It’s important to remember that the people in Ukraine are far from living a normal life, and I hope that they can soon regain some sense of normalcy. Please don’t forget that the war is still ongoing, and I urge you to support Ukraine.”

    Afriqua: “Kyiv last wknd was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s hard to process positive emotions that emerge from circumstances as tragic as war. But it was revelatory to see a people being subjected to an assault on their culture and history still wanting to dance by any means. This music came from people who were doing the same thing, and it’s easy to forget that it continues to bring the same message of hope and humanity to the world when called upon. It’s what this dance music shit is all about. Greatest effort I’ve ever made to perform somewhere (19 hr sleeper train actually kinda lit tho ngl) for one of the most rewarding musical experiences of my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and encourage all of my fellow artists to do the same. Endless love and respect for the brave Ukrainian people, the amazing organization of Strichka Festival and Closer, and the other artists who made the trek.” 

    And you can see the comment from Sibil (with some extra comment by Eltouss, who played at Closer a few weeks ago) below.

    What more can I say – usually at this time of the year, we’re starting to think about the Brave! Factory Festival. This year it still feels more like an impossible dream. But so was Strichka Festival just a few months ago. Well, stay tuned then?

    Sibil’s flower is resting. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Photos: Sasha Halushchak (psn87)

    More information on Closer

    Facebook | Resident Advisor | Soundcloud | Instagram | Telegram

    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.

    - Advertisement -