About This Festival
When Rihanna comes to see a show and Instagrams her 11 million followers a photo captioned "Easily the best night of our lives!" you know the festival in progress is hot. Open'er inspires such raves.
Poland’s largest annual music event is uncommonly cool. Many fans refer to it as a low-cost Glastonbury Festival (the UK's big rock and arts ta-do), since it has similar big-name bands and avant-garde theater and arts, but for a much smaller price tag. And while Open'er is no secret—at least to the 60,000 grungefully stylish music lovers who turn up daily—it still feels undiscovered.
The offbeat location adds to the effect. The festival sprawls across a deserted military airfield in Gdynia, a port city on the Baltic Sea. Old war bunkers pock the grounds and provide bizarro venues where Open'er puts on dance parties, fashion shows and multimedia exhibitions. An underground show here is literal, encased in a concrete chamber.
Another unique facet: the festival doesn't begin until 4pm each day, so late-night revelers have plenty of time to catch up on sleep. Everyone else heads to Gdynia's beaches for a morning frolic. The city is Poland's sunniest spot and unfurls several strands of sand where folks splash around.
For crowd-shy types who like copious elbow room, Open'er delivers. The stages surround the outskirts of the airfield. The food stalls and merchandise stands are behind the stages. So there's nothing in the middle except an enormous grassy patch dotted by a cloud-scraping Ferris wheel. By late afternoon the young crowd—in their pink Zara sweatshirts and yellow Doc Marten boots, tie-dyed shirts and black jeans—files in and roams between the three main stages: the Open'er Stage (for top acts), Hear and Now Stage (for quirkier bands) and Beat Stage (for electronic music).
By nightfall multi-hued lights swing out over the masses. Occasional crowdsurfing and pogo'ing can be seen, but no piggybacking—that's prohibited to ensure everyone has a clear view of the bands. There's no drinking either. Alcohol flows only in designated areas by the food vendors (on the periphery, behind the stages), which makes for a well-behaved audience that's truly there to soak up the music.
Children are welcome, too, and get their own Kids Zone to romp in, with a musical playground and fabric tunnels. Arts and crafts projects—say, making shadow puppets or learning to use a pinhole camera—take place daily.
Open'er entertains with much more than concerts. Polish theater troupes perform original works at pop-up venues throughout the festival. Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art screens experimental films, and there are music-related and political documentaries to watch. The Fashion Stage showcases new designers' wares in a slew of groovy shows.
A couple of large-scale art installations take pride of place each year. In 2013, the action revolved around four big white buses that festival-goers were encouraged to graffiti with markers and spray paint.
A good ol' library is also on site. Classic, fantasy, music biography and history books stuff the shelves, no library card required. No overdue fines either—visitors are welcome to come in and grab a tome using the honor system.
History & Past Headliners
Warsaw hosted the first Open'er in 2002, with the Chemical Brothers headlining the one-day event. In 2003 the fest moved to Gdynia. By 2006 it had grown to a three-day bash, and in 2009 the party was extended to four days.
Open'er is a perpetual nominee for "Best Major Festival" at the annual European Festival Awards. It won the title in 2009 and 2010.
In 2011 Prince, Coldplay, The Strokes, Pulp, M.I.A. and Primus were among the headliners. 2012 upped the ante with Bjork, Bon Iver, Franz Ferdinand, Janelle Monae, Mumford and Sons, New Order, Public Enemy, The Cardigans, The Kills, The Ting Tings and Wiz Khalifa.
2013 saw the Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Blur, Nas and Kendrick Lamar take the stage. Festivalgoers got a bonus when Rihanna played the venue the day after Open'er, and four-day ticket holders were allowed to stay on and see the show for free.
2015's line-up included Chet Faker, Alabama Shakes, D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Drake and Disclosure among others.