Very hot, very nice. Reporting from the 2023 edition of Brave! Factory Festival in Kyiv

    Dandy Jack from the back Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Under one of the posts about Brave! Factory Festival on our Instagram, you can stumble upon a type of comments I find particularly annoying, which you can also see under almost any news report on Ukraine. In this case, the comment is “Surprising to hear Ukraine is having festivals while at war.” How dare they, right?

    But, in this case, after the announcement, I must say, that a lot of people here in Ukraine were quite surprised too. Knowing the scale of the festival, “the original” Brave! is definitely impossible until the war ends with our victory. So the Closer team decided to do a little trick and rebuild the territory of the club (again!) specifically for this event. The place is already holding the Strichka Festival, but originally it is still a much smaller event, so some additions were needed. Well, afterwards the territory never looked the same again.

    One of the performances on Tokar, the newest stage at Closer. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    At first, you have two directions from the entrance – you either go right along your usual way to all your beloved sections, you already know from Strichka. But you can also go left… And still finish at all the same locations, but with a new additional scene (usually, its name on Brave! was Tokar) built specifically for this event and live performances. After that, you can go on a little trip, which will finish in Topka 1 (or Otel’), Topka 2 (or Mezzanine) or Garden. A trip, that will kill a few minutes for you and will give you a chance to respawn from the heat on the dancefloors.

    But, if you’re going right, you’ll see a few new things too. A real night in the daylight, for example, because a dancefloor, also known as Dvir on Strichka was turned into Angar from the Brave!. Must say, it was a very unusual, maybe even risky decision. But it worked perfectly and it was the start of the festival for me. So, it’s Saturday, around 14:00 and we’re starting the festival polydancefloor run…

    Dvir/Angar with the night in the daylight. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    …from Igor Glushko. The member of Rhythm Buro stepped up for one of the most beautiful sets I heard from him. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of these sounds, but his deep and groovy tracks on the edge of house and techno at the speed limit around 130 BPM were just perfect for that moment. And with Igor’s skillset of selecting and mixing you could easily lose the moment between “oh, nice opening” and “damn, my hands are in the air”. Huge start.

    On the Depo stage (usually known as Lisnyy Prychal) Closer’s resident Bambu opened the day paving the way for Dandy Jack’s live. Soulful, energetic performance, again – with a lot of hands in the air, both by the crowd and the artist himself. M.Tkachenko took the stage after him and kept control of the dancing crowd.

    The energy of Dandy Jack. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Going back to Angar, where between the bangings of Shifted and a little bit calmer bangings of Kangding Ray, the breaks of Oles, a member of Detali crew from Ivano-Frankivsk, could be heard. And the track, we just had on the premiere, was spotted too, checked.

    The last artists from Saturday, I’m going to mention here are Jazzmate, who saved some energy at Topka 2 with his slow disco and just a pinch of something, let’s say, EBM-like. And Caim who was picked for closing the Depo (Prychal), and, probably, gave the best house performance of the first day. Like Afriqua on Strichka, he was a bit of an underdog for me there, but now I’ll definitely do more research on him. And if you need to – here’s my recommendation too.

    Smoke and madness during the Saturday set of Caim. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    The end of the day, time to slowly go home to have some sleep, aaaand… There’s no sleep, Russia is attacking Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine with rockets for the bigger part of the night (fortunately, all 4 rockets were shot by air raid defense, many more were shot at the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, on the video below). Sleep time came only at dawn, just for a few hours, because the second day was about to start.

    So, a quick breakfast (I had shakshouka) with a double dose of coffee, and here we go with the other news – Vera Logdanidi could make it from Berlin in time and was swapped with Roman K at the opening duties on Depo. She took his place a bit later on Topka 2 instead.

    The morning at Depo was lovely – just the right amount of people during the sets of Roman K and yours truly and a solid but still comfortable crowd during Aliana’s performance (definitely one of the best on the festival). The Closer Connections morning, which was turned into a live of Bogdan Zaiets. A lot of people said to me that he was the biggest surprise of the festival for them. Not that he was bad before, but because of his great performance here.

    Going away from Depo to Angar to hear Alex Savage was definitely a great idea. At first, somehow, I managed to stand under some ventilation, which gave me a little wind (MUCH needed during the whole festival). Also, it was just another great performance by him. Binging between all his signature broken stuff he made the crowd eat from his hands again. As usual. After his performance, even the long-awaited set of DJ Sotofett wasn’t THAT good.

    Alex Savage looks at his realms. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    Anthea at Depo. Yes, you were waiting for this paragraph, just like we were waiting for her set. Nothing to say more about her really, at least something you wouldn’t know, because it’s obvious, that she’s able to deliver under any circumstances. Her set could be 3, 5, 10 or even 20 hours… Ah, wait, not 20, we have a curfew in Ukraine. Anyway, the set was great and full of top-quality tracks, perfect for a packed dancefloor, just as expected, but, as with everything nowadays at parties in Ukraine, it had to have a proper ending time. Times, when Brave! could last dozens of extra hours are gone, unfortunately. So, politely waiting for her set to start, Ponura took the stage after Anthea until the end with her genre-bending broken stuff (and the anthem of Ukraine sung by the crowd after the last track again).

    Anthea. Sunday. Perfection. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    And we were moving to Topka 2 to hear Borys. Just, as I was worried, in extreme heat. A bit earlier in the day, during the performances of Vera Logdanidi and Brother G, it was the coolest place at the festival and somehow I thought that maybe it would stand like that during the set of Borys. So naïve…

    Borys, probably picking another “Track ID” mystery. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    But, he’s that type of DJ, you’ll try to check even under those circumstances. A quick search of the dancefloor confirmed my thoughts – almost, let’s say, every 10th person on that packed Topka 2 was a DJ, that can’t be a bad sign, right? Just as his set on Strichka this one slowly moved from “oh, nice track, smooth and interesting” to some wonky house madness. And with his almost neurosurgeon-type of mixing skills, it was a pleasure for everyone’s ears. Heat? Pff, let gin-tonics with a lot of ice deal with that.

    The biggest douchebag of the festival? Definitely the heat. Metrobud factory is MUCH bigger and could handle the temperature issues a bit better. Strichka, which takes place at this location in May, is usually held under 20-25 degrees. On that weekend, it was 32 degrees in Kyiv. Add the whole energy of the dancers and you’ll have an additional 5-10 degrees on the dancefloors. But, that new stage for those live performances with a huge territory, Garden with its chill zone or just opened Octan vinyl shop with a huge air conditioner saved a few gasps for the dancers.

    Scenes at Depo/Lisnyy Prychal. Photo: Sasha Halushchak

    One paragraph, as usual, is reserved for quotes like this, which I’ll just leave without my comments – “…I took the long trip down to there and received so much love and gratitude for doing so. It was soooo worth it. So now you know you should and can go!” (Anthea), “Just landed back home from my trip to Kyiv. All my doubts to travel and play in a warzone have completely left my mind. Ukraine and its people made me feel at home in a place unknown. There is no other word to describe the people as real, pure and authentic, each telling their own story…” (Caim), “Traveling back to Kyiv after 1,5 years, I was again completely struck.. Having visited the city pre-invasion and in moody November there obv were differences. Yet, what’s completely the same is how I am struck by the amazing Ukrainian people…” (Pieter Jansen), “KYIV 💙💛 Було так добре повернутися! It was so good to be back!” (Kangding Ray).

    Now we all can only hope for the quickest return to the usual format of the festival, but even this “mini-version” was much needed for the people. I shared a cab home with a friend of friends, a soldier, who had just managed to have his vacation for a few days. He told me a story, that everyone in his brigade brought the best possible coffee from their homes to the frontline – just as a reminder, that even during the hardest fights you could drink some nice coffee, like you did at home, before becoming a soldier.

    Or, as another friend (also a soldier) added later, dancing between the air raid alerts counts as a reminder too.

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    More information on Brave! Factory Festival

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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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