Everything’s an acronym if you’re brave enough, but some acronyms are better than others. This was the outline along which my thoughts were twirling when, earlier this autumn, I became aware of the existence of the Budapest Showcase Hub, BUSH for short. The idea itself is rather welcome: a conference centered on the promotion of Eastern European music, enriched with performances by several bands from said area, spread over a number of clubs located fairly close to each other in the ’party district’ of Budapest.
As any respectable event these days, they had their hashtag as well, #newkidsfromthebloc, which I found to be quite fortunate, as opposed to that acronym. Try as I might, the first association is with the American president, who was only a wee bit more presidentiable than the person who’ll move in to the White House come January. Second association- perhaps Bush the grunge band, which made me google Gavin Rossdale to see how he’s doing now he’s not tabloid fodder anymore. And then came the burning bush of the Bible, and then at one point I even thought about how nice a tumbler of Bushmills whiskey would be. The point being that it makes you think of anything and everything but the festival itself, and that is a pity.
But what’s in a name, as the bard would say, let’s focus on the event and see how that went. We’d originally planned to go both days, and to different clubs, but the Murphy’s law of Budapest concert programming struck again. This law states that in a period otherwise devoid of interesting acts, two of them will invariably be scheduled on the same day. So we deserted day one for Tricky, but got to know from Golan’s Facebook feed (of whom we’ve previously written here and here) that the Gödör concerts were a blast.
Now that we’ve touched on the locations- I would say they were fairly chosen, with the size being adequate to the bands which were to play, yet having a daily ticket that entails your moving from one place to the other on a chilly November night might not be quite as fun as it first seems. As per our as always very professional ad-hoc assessment, most people with all-day or festival bracelets were the acts, the organizers and their friends and relations, while the rest of us went for buying the daily ticket, which in Kuplung was an exciting adventure. Since the tickets were not available from the beginning of the evening, you would most probably be caught unaware by a bouncer after a visit to the loo, and unceremoniously be sent to the ticket office. Which was alright, as the prices were more than affordable (1000 forints for one club, 2500 for the daily ticket), but it would have been much more sensible to get them as soon as you arrived.
The Kuplung location got odder as the evening turned into night, as a lot of the people streaming in were not there for the shows at all, and couldn’t care less about who’s playing, whether it’s a live act, or a mixtape of Gloria Gaynor’s greatest hits. They were instead Kuplung’s core audience: the Brit about to get plastered. Lest someone should suspect us of discrimination, we will insert here another super scientific case study: besides Estonian and Serbian, present on account of two of the evening’s acts, we only heard some disparate bits of French and Portuguese, while everything else was basically a living, breathing, and very much drinking dialectal map of the British Isles.
This did not bode well for the first act, Serbia’s Stray Dogg, who got pushed into the 9:40 slot by Kate NV’s last minute desertion. Their rather minimal guitar music would have worked much better with a more knowledgeable crowd, or at least one who knew what to expect- the general downside of events such as BUSH is that most people, even in the world of endless online musical resources, will not really check the bands in advance, expect something completely different and then become easily disenchanted and saunter off for drinks and such. It was probably this feeling that put its mark on the band themselves, who wandered on rather like someone entering a new bar without knowing anyone there and being afraid to ask where the toilet is. Since this is also a feeling I can very much sympathize with, I would still recommend them warmly as a very pleasant relaxational listen.
In case one assumed that there is some sort of continuity genre-wise, they were to be deceived: Hungarian iamyank hovers in an uncertain universe of vibes ranging from alt-j and Apparat to Skrillex, with sadly a bit too much of the latter. The crowd was however decidedly more lively, which was understandable since this was arguably the most popular name on the bill, and local too. (Although based on the also scientific measurement of Facebook likes, Stray Dogg should have easily taken the palm.) While I can’t say I was left enamoured with iamyank’s sounds overall, I did discern a core of interesting ideas which might be promising in the longer run.
The evening was brought to an end by Estonians I Wear*Experiment whose bouncy electro-pop was probably the best match for the venue. Lead singer Johanna Eenma also made the most poignant fashion statement of the evening (well, maybe the only fashion statement, if we count aside the iamyank’s spectacular dreadlocks) with a sequined ensemble which might or might not have been a onesie, whereas drummer Mikk Simson and guitarist Hando Jaksi showed up with a set of matching beards. As you can see, I Wear*Expriment inspired me into a thorough wiki investigation and I would venture into concluding that out of the three acts they are in the best position to make it internationally as well. And in an unexpected development, they’ll also be playing Budapest again in Gozsdu Manó Klub on the 22nd of November.
All in all, Budapest Showcase Hub has the potential to grow into an exciting addition to the city’s festival scene but should probably focus more on promoting the event with the not-so-specialized public. The only people who seemed to be in the know were those who were somehow affiliated to the event itself, or participated in the conference. Bringing together talents from several Eastern European countries does sound like an excellent, and somewhat overdue idea, but it won’t really work if the fans don’t know what’s in it for them.