Mr. Witchfinder – Somewhere in central Poland, tucked away amidst cornfields and towering wind turbines, lies an old charming train station. A place once destined to receive and transport local crops, now serves as a coven for underground Polish bands that, along with their followers, congregate here once per year to celebrate life, riffs and love.
Rifffields Festival started in 2020 and was one of the few parties of this type that could happen despite covid-19-related restrictions. Initiated by Smokes of Krakatau, a stoner rock formation hailing from Poznań, the festival intended to bring bands and fans together in dire times of the pandemic. Following its success, came this year’s edition that saw the festival grow and expand into a 3-day formula where the last one was dedicated to a low-key jam session. And since the pursuit for mind-boggling sonic experiences has no end nor borders, I invited Mr. Fuzz for his first trip to Poland in order to witness the second edition Rifffields Festival in its entire glory. Needless to say, it was a blast!
All pictures by Mr. Witchfinder & Mr. Fuzz
Mr. Witchfinder – The first day started off on the wrong foot for us as we typed in the wrong address in Google Maps (Gałązki Wielkie instead of Gałązki, come on!) and we ended up missing the opening gig by Smokes of Krakatau. However, having seen them last year and having talked to those that hadn’t missed them, I know it was a solid concert. Next year, no navigation issues for sure! Despite only 4 bands playing that day, it was a fantastic celebration that saw its culminating point with a movie night projected on a screen set up on the stage as well as late-night socializing by the campfire. Good times!
Mr. Witchfinder – Bathing in the setting Sun and playing as the second act were Psyhoes, a young psych act hailing from Warsaw, Poland. Being hooked on their debut EP from 2020 titled Typhoon Trip, I was excited to finally see them live. The setting was beautiful as orange sun rays were flooding the stage, people hanging around all chill and smiling with the band gradually crafting their psychedelic tales. And while the live performance was playful and catchy, I got the impression that Psyhoes weren’t perfectly in tune with the sound engineer and the output felt rather flat. On the other hand, it was the band’s second live show ever so one can’t be overly critical as there is definitely experience to be gained. All in all, a decent one!
Mr. Fuzz – Surtarang was certainly the most unexpected band of the whole festival but in a good way! I was intrigued at first when the 3 members came on stage, all dressed up with oriental robes and face paintings, with one sitar on the left, percussions on the right, and the singer in the middle with her beautiful blond dreadlocks. So I thought: “Hey there’re going to play some sick tribal psychedelic rock, can’t wait!”. Then they started playing.
Aaaannnd… it was indeed unexpected. Pure Psytrance mixed with some Indian mantras! Not something I usually listen to, but in this setting, it was really interesting. I normally don’t like live EDM music because there’s nobody to watch on stage (apart from a guy twisting knobs). With Surtarang it was different, all 3 members complement well each other, and they’re playing real instruments backed by some machines. The nature of Psytrance and its high-tempo is also very fun to dance to, and a lot of people started jumping around and doing some crazy hippie moves. Ballsy move to book a band like this in a fuzzy festival, but it worked! I just wish they played last, with some more beers and weird substances in my body to enjoy it even more
Mr. Witchfinder – Moonstone is a flagship example of doom done right. Having released their debut LP in 2019, they quickly climbed the local stoner ladder and shook the grounds with their minimalistic take on all things heavy, repetitive, and menacing. And then seeing them on the Rifffields bill I was beyond stoked to witness them live again, this time headlining an open-air festival.
Sharing a bottle of Jägermeister, breathing sweet smoke, and exchanging devilish smiles, Moonstone set out to close the night. In short, the concert itself felt like drowning in a swamp. With each passing minute, the hope for maintaining one’s sanity kept on disappearing. Monolithic riffs were continuously pouring down the speakers, amps were on the brink of destruction and stage lights amplified this unholy experience by bleeding red most of the time. The crowd was hypnotized and so was I. It was nearly impossible to resist swaying one’s head in rhythm with Moonstone’s addictive stoner doom formula. Aside from playing their whole debut release live, they spiced up the setlist with two new tracks hinting at an upcoming release. Then after almost an hour-long ritual came the last song, that to me, felt as if the gig had just begun. Where did the time go? I asked. Then I just helplessly sat on a heap of hay still banging my head with my mind infected by the Mushroom King.
Mr. Witchfinder – As soon as the sun crept up on the horizon, the fields of the Riff started to become alive again with people lazily pouring out the tents, caravans, and from underneath the hay. Waking up to the sight of majestic wind turbines sticking out of seemingly infinite cornfields is one of the festival’s precious and unique qualities. I love those mornings at Rifffields Festival as the air feels so fresh, the sun so warm and there is nothing but tranquility and peace prevailing all around. Having eaten some basic breakfast and fuelled the body with coffee and beer, we sat down on a nearby hay bale and slowly waited for the day to unfold. And what a day it was! Filled with gigs, smoke, fantastic people, local Polish food, and even a charity auction at the end of the night! Let us tell you all about it.
Mr. Witchfinder – As last night closed with Moonstone, the following day opened with Moontoy – a sonic entity blending genres, space, and time into one cohesive organic solution. Hailing from Warsaw, this instrumental band brought another level of chill to the Rifffields grounds by playing their mellow, space-infused tunes in front of a crowd still partially stranded in sleepy states.
Moontoy‘s music resonated with the festival’s vibe extremely well as it wasn’t too abrasive and had a strong jam-like feel to it that eased one’s mind and helped to properly navigate into a day full of adventure. The sense of exploration and positivity beating from the speakers just asked to close one’s eyes and let go of any terrestrial attachments. At one point during the concert, the bass player’s string popped and a swift guitar replacement was in order. Help arrived immediately as Kapitan Bongo‘s bass player stormed the stage and helped to replace the string. In no time the initial guitar was back in action to continue telling that peculiar cosmic tale. What else can I say, it was simply a solid opening gig and a great opportunity to take things easy in the early afternoon.
Mr. Fuzz – I must have missed the debut from this instrumental Stoner band when it got released in 2019, unfortunately, I can’t listen to everything! But then I was happy to discover them on stage at Rifffields. And while their music isn’t that original, they do it absolutely right! The good dose of well-crafted heavy riffs and bangers solos intertwined by some trippy parts was all we needed to continue this beautiful day, headbanging under the warm Polish sun
Mr. Witchfinder – Straight from the sandy dunes of Tatooine arrived the mighty Bantha Rider carrying a load of hairy riffs and astral grooves. I was super stoked to finally see the band live as I’m secretly a big Star Wars geek. And when stoner rock meets Star Wars, life is complete. And so it happened, the band climbed the stage and spilled their cosmic fuzz. Primarily playing songs from their latest LP, Binary Sunset Massacre, the band blessed the crowd with tracks holding power to tame even the wildest of Banthas. There was addictive riffage, hints of blues, sleazy guitar solos, drum blasts stronger than the Seismic Charge, and a whole lotta fun. Seriously, Bantha Rider know their strength which is a sonic kick in the guts followed by relentless shredding spiced up with spacious passages.
The gig was seamless and full of grit. Not only were the amps burning but also the sun, amplifying the heated atmosphere to insane levels. The crowd consumed the heavy riffs with the highest pleasure and the band visibly enjoyed playing live. Definitely wish to repeat and catch Bantha Rider at another open-air setting. This time perhaps on Tatooine? Gotta check their booking possibilities.
Izzy and the Black Trees
Mr. Witchfinder – Izzy and the Black Trees followed soon after catching the setting sun and lighting the stage on fire yet again, this time with an untamed rock ‘n roll spirit. Hailing from Poznań, the band stood out from the lineup as they had a slightly different twist prevalent in their music, oscillating somewhere between vintage americana, raw rock and roll, and post-punk. Labels be labels so let’s cut to the point!
The time of the day was just right as the heat was letting go and the colors were turning hazy orange. Playing for a little less than an hour, Izzy and the Black Trees spilled track after track continuously crafting their performance. Izzy, the vocalist, was visibly the driving force behind the gig, not only being the leading voice but also attracting attention with wicked moves and a confident stage presence. And while the first half of the gig felt rather unimaginative, it later evolved into a worthy celebration. Their music resonated with me better than I had previously expected and I banged my head to some of the riffs, tapping my feet to others. Summing up, it was definitely worthwhile seeing a band out of the stoner comfort zone, and from what I’ve heard around the festival, I wasn’t the only one appreciative of that fact.
Mr. Fuzz – For those who don’t know them, Kapitan Bongo is a legendary Stoner Rock band from Poland. I discovered them way back in 2015 with their amazing 2nd album « SKIBI », and then kinda forgot about them… But when I saw they were gonna play in Rifffields I knew I had to come to this festival!
And they were on I can tell you! Their sludgy Stoner Rock sounds most of the time super heavy for a strong headbanging session. But I also dig it when they take the psychedelic path to let your mind wander into the cosmos. I especially like the addition of the bongos (ofc) and the keys, which adds another interesting layer to their overall sound. Add to that they didn’t play live since 2018, so a lot of people were expecting them today, and I think we all agreed that it was really cool to see them back up on stage this night!
Mr. Fuzz – Clearly the band I was expecting the most of this festival, if you remember well I placed Taraban in my Top Albums of 2019 with their stunning Retro Rock debut album. And yes they totally met my expectations with a very tight set. I was glad to hear live those well-crafted songs I enjoyed at home, special mention to Daniel and his beautiful clean voice which takes a big part in making this band sounds so good. They also had a very professional and stylish scene presence while at the same time burning energy and good communication with the audience.
Taraban totally earned the title of the « Polish Graveyard », though like I said in my review, they’re way more than that and I urge you to check out their debut if you haven’t done so already. That was a perfect gig to end this last night in the Polish countryside, now the next day is going to be the most chill of all, with a full day of jams, read on!
Mr. Witchfinder – Festivals always pass in a blink of an eye and Rifffields Festival was no exception. After a Saturday saturated with riffs, laughter, herbs, and sonic rituals came Sunday where there were no gigs planned but rather a laid-back jam session for anyone willing to participate. Set up just where the stage had been the day before, the ‘jam stage’ consisted of a pair of amps, columns, a drum set, a rug, and a patch of grass. All one needed to rock out and postpone the festival blues by a few more hours. Scattered around were people taking things easy and slowly wrapping up, reluctant to leave the festival grounds and indulging in last bottles of beers and local deli. A
nd the jam session itself was performed by a variety of souls, all exchanging instruments and trying to tune in to each other’s grooves. Seeing people play live (especially friends!) is one of my favorite things in the world, so to me personally, it felt like a brilliant way to close the festival. Trust me, it was extremely hard to leave that place, so much so that I along with Mr. Fuzz and two friends were literally the last visitors to leave the festival.
What a great time, oh my. Eternal thanks to Smokes of Krakatau, Rifffields Crew, and Galactic Smokehouse for the great organization and welcoming. You guys do a great job promoting the local underground by giving a stage to rising talents and it commands the highest respect. Last but not least, what great fun it was to worship riffs along with my dear Mr. Fuzz yet again, this time on Polish soil! Always great times together and already looking forward to the next one
Mr. Fuzz – A last day full of jams? Hell Yes! Despite a lot of people already left, only the true believers of the mighty riff were here to continue getting their faces melted.
All in all, it was a very chill day for yours truly, baking under the warm sun and listening to the different musicians come up with something unique and which will be played only once, ever. That’s the beauty of jamming, you don’t know what will come out of it, it can be sloppy, it can be mind-blowing, but each time it’s unique and comes from the heart.
And to be honest there were lots of talented musicians in there! Of course, some of the bands’ members that played during the weekend played with each other, and that totally portraits the Polish scene as a whole: a big family of fuzzheads just here for the love of the riffs! I just wish I wasn’t so shy to also put a foot on « the stage » and take a guitar to jam with these guys, because I do love to jam also! Well, maybe next year then!
Thank you so much to the whole Rifffields crew for welcoming the Frenchy, and to my good friend Mr. Witchfinder for inviting me to a small and very cozy festival of his own country (though I wasn’t that hard to be convinced), and most of all to all the bands for filling my head with awesome music