Slavnost Staropramen

Overall the Slavnost Staropramen (Staropramen Celebration) on Saturday was a blast. I caught up with my friend Oliver, who I hadn’t seen in months, drank good beer right from the source (the mini-festival took place on the grounds of the Staropramen brewery – I’m a Gambrinus man, but when the pipes are clean and the beer is cold, Staropramen’s a fine Czech brew), and caught excellent performances by Jolly Joker & the Plastic Beatles of the Universe, Southpaw, Zouzecnost, Divokej Bill, and Skyline. All for a mere CZK 150 (in advance; tickets were CZK 170 each at the gate).

All the gigs started and stopped right on schedule, which was a bit surprising considering how these things tend to go with all the drawn out soundchecks and encores of a festival. While some encores would have been great (especially from Southpaw and Skyline), things moved along at a perfect pace.

The atmosphere was what one would expect at a Czech beer festival: good-humoured, appreciative of the performers, relatively polite, and, of course, falling-down (or at least staggering-around) drunk.

There’s no denying that the festival was a success. However there were a couple of things that the brewery’s event planners (or its event planning agency) should take into consideration prior to next year’s festival.

First of all, when Oliver and I got to the brewery we were a bit surprised at the massive queues at the ticket booths in front of the entrances. There were a fair number of them, but still, anyone who got to the brewery from 14:30 onward (the festival started at 14:00) faced what must have been a one hour wait.

“Man, am I ever glad we bought our tickets in advance,” I said to Oliver as we approached the security guys at one of the entrances.

Well, turns out it made no goddamn difference – one security dude told us to queue with the others at the booths in order to get some other ticket that was good for admission and one free beer.

Of course there was a lot of “What the fuck?” and trying to get the security lump to give us the logic behind this, but no, we had to go and wait in line with people who hadn’t bothered to get their tickets in advance. Fortunately Oliver knew the security dunce’s partner, who very kindly apoligised and let us through.

The festival used the token system for beer – several booths on the brewery grounds sold sheets with five tokens for CZK 100, each token being good for one beer. This indeed spared us the long drink queues. Pity they didn’t have the same thing going for all the grilled klobasa, racks of ribs, and pork steaks, but queuing being part and parcel of the music festival, we opted for music over sustenance. While our decision was a good one, I kind of regret not having had any ribs – they were massive and get my mouth watering just thinking about them. But I can sort out my craving for ribs at atmosphere, so no biggie.

My only other complaint about the festival was the lack of crowd control at the entrance to the main stage. I really wanted to see Divokej Bill (Brouk has got to be the best Czech tune on heavy rotation on Ocko at the moment). Well, so did pretty much everybody else at the Staropramen brewery. As the crowd was fenced in, things got to a point where there was just no way anybody could make it in – or out. Plastic cups half-full of beer arced through the air and showered unsuspecting fans. I was threatened with a raised fist by a guy who was trying to get around me, when it was obvious that there was simply nowhere to move.

And sure enough, about three songs into Divokej Bill’s show, there was a sudden surge forward.

I don’t tend to handle crowds very well. Perhaps that’s one reason why I don’t participate in protests (that and the fact that I don’t particularly like getting beaten by cops, and would be sorely tempted to beat a fanatic misguided crusty for tearing cobblestones out of the streets of the city I live in and love for the purpose of throwing them through a McDonalds or KFC window or something just as trite).

Anyway, crowds, especially crowds that are pushing on me freak me out. I turned to Oliver, said “Let’s go,” and started trying to get out politely. Then I started swimming. I’m not talking about an infant’s dog-paddling, I mean full-on Olympic champ breast strokes. At one point some guy grabbed my arm, but let go when I threw a glance at him – I wasn’t really raging, so I have no idea what he saw in my eyes. Desperation probably. I was actually rather void of feeling, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

I suppose this entry gives more screen space to the negatives of the festival – that’s because I’m firing it off to the good folks at Staropramen after I’ve posted it. Slavnost Staropramen is a very cool event (I didn’t mention the educational tour of the brewery, did I? Well, a tour is part of the festival – I didn’t go on it owing to all the great bands) and worth checking out, as are a lot of other Czech festivals, which I’ll probably write about in the coming days.

Jun 21, 22:00 (Filed under: Prague events, Culture )

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