About This Festival
At Positivus, girls in flower crowns, guys in fuzzy bear costumes, families with children, even the president of Estonia filter in through the trees to hear indie, pop, and electronic music.
The well-curated lineup of global and emerging acts impresses, as does the bargain ticket price, but it's Positivus's nature-packed areas that really set it apart. The forest meets the sea here. Tall, thin pines surround the stages, with shafts of sunlight reaching through and speckling the young crowd sitting on blankets. A few steps beyond, the woods give way to the beach, where the Gulf of Riga glitters and everyone jumps in for a swim. Fest-goers hang out on the cool, velvety sand and in the hammocks swaying under a grove of shade trees. Add in ruby-red sunsets that meld into a star-smudged sky each evening, and the enchantment is complete.
Fans rove among five stages: Two main venues, located at opposite ends of the grounds, host the headliners, while the Music Academy Stage showcases electronic and DJ acts. (It parties on after the other stages have shut down for the evening.) The two smallest stages are indoors and present regional bands. They're where you go for Latvian synth-pop, Estonian new wave, and Lithuanian funk.
Positivus's clean-cut crowd eats it all up. Most are twenty-something urbanites from the Baltic countries, though music junkies from Finland, Germany, and other northern European countries make the trip too.
Despite all the available booze and the cheap prices, very few overindulgers are stumbling around. There's a smattering of butt-naked peacenik types, but overall everyone is well-behaved and tuned in to the music.
Arts and Kids
Positivus entertains with more than concerts. The Arts and Nature Stage presents global dance troupes, improvisational theater performances, and literary readings, much of it with a Baltic bent.
The Cinema Tent shows feature films by Federico Fellini, David Lynch, Lars von Trier, and other famous directors from around the world. It also screens cool short movies by Baltic animators, documentarians, and music video makers.
The Craft Market is a must to browse for that flower-stitched headband or flowy polka-dot skirt. Local designers sell all kinds of modern and vintage clothing, footwear, handbags, and arts and crafts.
Children are welcome at Positivus, and get their own Kids Island on which to romp. Staffers are on hand to play games and lead craft projects each day.
Beet Soup and Black Balsam
Positivus proffers a fine array of eats. The main food court is indoors, near the festival entrance. Roam past vendors selling traditional Latvian pork and mash or cold beet soup, as well as pizzas, kebabs and other booze-absorbing staples, then take your pick to one of the tables and dig in.
The Trailer Park is a cluster of food trucks out by the stages; they cook dishes that are more global and gourmet. The smaller Fresh Garden caters to vegetarians and raw-food eaters with smoothies, salads, faux meats, and other healthy options.
For drinks, there are bars located conveniently next to each stage. Alus is the Latvian word for beer, and lots of local ones flow from the taps. Jägermeister goes down the hatch in surprising quantities. And keep an eye out for Riga Black Balsam, a Latvian herbal liqueur that blends 24 different plants, flowers, roots, berries with vodka. It'll cure what ails you—they say it healed Catherine the Great when she became ill during a visit here in the 1700s.
History and Past Headliners
The first Positivus took place in 2007. There were no big music fests in the Baltics at the time, so a group of promoters from Riga created Postivus to fill the gap. The inaugural two-day event drew 3,000 people. By 2013, it had expanded to three days and was bringing in 40,000 fans. It's now a frequent nominee at the European Festival Awards for best mid-sized event and best lineup.
In 2013, Sigur Rós, Imagine Dragons, the xx, Two Door Cinema Club, and Crystal Castles headlined. In prior years Moby, Muse, Sinéad O'Connor, Fatboy Slim, Mark Ronson, OK Go, Manic Street Preachers, Scissor Sisters, and the Tiger Lillies have been among the big names.
Performers in 2014 included Kraftwerk, Bastille, Ellie Goulding, Tricky, the Pharoah Sanders Quartet, Junip, Carnival Youth, Mø, the Kooks, Elbow, Phantogram, Chet Faker, Laura Mvula, Future Islands, Temples, Anna Calvi, and Of Montreal.
2015's bill included Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Kasabian, Placebo, Tom Odell, Basement Jaxx, Warpaint, and Charli XCX.