Brave! Factory: Our Thoughts On Kiev’s New Underground Festival
I can’t find Brave! Factory Festival’s ambient room on the map of the site posted to Facebook on August 22, the day before it started. The detailed layout shows the shapes of its five stages—two indoor, three outside—the location of the concept store that sold Brave!-branded merch and various rows of port-a-potties. Even the wooden platform erected on a mound of sand, in which a colored light shone out of a small cave, has a label: The Beach. But the warehouse hangar that housed a soothing audio-visual installation isn’t marked. Maybe it was supposed to be a happy accident to be stumbled upon by those in need of a meditative break from the 24-plus-hour party thrown by the crew behind Kiev’s most internationally renowned nightclub, Closer, and its sister festival, Strichka. (See photos from Strichka Festival here.)
The space that housed the ambient installation was split in two. The front half was fenced off and populated by what looked like a bunch of junk, probably sourced from around the industrial site where the festival took place. In the second half of the room, people spread rain ponchos out on the unswept floor and sat down to watch an orb-like projection on the wall while droning tones facilitated deep listening. It was one of a few artistic installations made for Brave!, along with a collection of ice blocks that slowly melted to free the flowers and chains frozen within and a massive piece that spelled BRAVE! in scrap materials. I sat in the ambient warehouse for an hour or so in the afternoon on August 24, after Bill Patrick and Jane Fitz had finished their respective sets and before I went back to the Depo stage to see Perlon contributor Mayaan Nidam. At this time the room was probably more packed than it had been all day because the threat of rain had finally materialized.
The wet weather had started the night before and unfortunately seemed to have discouraged some potential punters from showing up. As a result, the first edition of Brave! Factory Festival—a spinoff of the Brave! Factory parties that have taken place in Closer on a regular basis since 2015—never felt super hustling or bustling. However, certain stages and areas filled up at various times, and the program and vibe insured that the event would be fun, interesting and worthwhile anyway. The indoor Angar stage, which was located in a hangar on a raised platform with a wall of plants behind the booth, had a healthy crowd during Robert Hood’s morning set, as did the tube-shaped Truba room on the other side of the site. But the main stage in the middle of the site where bands and live acts like Laurel Halo, Simian Mobile Disco and Brandt Brauer Frick performed throughout the night was sparsely attended by the time it closed around 6 AM.
Europe’s fickle summer weather has plagued several notable festivals, including Lithuania’s woodland restreats Sūpynės and DT Camp as well as Estonia’s Into The Valley weekender. Brave! ended up having to reckon with the same menace, but it was more a bump in the road than a total disaster. The crew’s strong curation—especially of the daytime program, which included some of the most exciting DJs on the bill, like Fitz, Nidaam, Patrick and DJ Masda—meant that there was good music, rain or shine. Fitz delivered a dope few hours of consistently bassy UK tech-house at the Container stage while Patrick wound through a selection of comparatively lighter, more agile tracks laced with broken beats at the Depo. But the dark horse winner, for me at least, turned out to be the back-to-back set from local DJs Noizar (owner of Wicked Bass Records) and Borys that opened the Container stage in the morning. The sun had finally broken through by the time they placed the first record on the turntable, and they channeled the morning’s refreshing energy with a committed digger’s selection of 2-step, electro and bleepy minimal that turned more techno-ish after about an hour.
By the time DJ Masda took over the Depo stage for the festival’s second-to-last set, the wooden enclosure had filled with bodies. The full floor spoke to Brave! and Closer’s success in building a committed community that will stick out a bit of drizzle for their vibey parties and solid bookings. It also spoke to the strength of Kiev’s dedicated raver community in general. The all-black uniform that has spread from Berlin’s techno strongholds to club scenes in other countries hasn’t infected Ukraine, where dancers have immunized themselves with a taste for colorful, vintage athletic gear or full-on furry costumes. It’s an inspiring and promising context for a crew like Closer to experiment with and expand upon their vision with similar events in the future. Brave! Factory Festival proved that the organizers have built something cool that can withstand a bit of rain.