Sunday, November 22, 2009

Planning Stage: Slovenia (Pt. 1 - Ljubljana)

Last night's merriment was had at the Book House Pub (the photo is from that, and I am the handsome blonde guy in the middle of it). I imbibed less last night, got to bed relatively early, and so awoke without the usual bloodshot eyes and headache of recent days. I turned down the temptation to hit MJQ Concourse after the pub because I'd punished myself enough Thursday and Friday night and I needed to sharpen myself in order to get stuff done today.

A couple days ago I wrote about Estonia. I thought it would be fun to a play a sort of six degrees of separation game today, so here goes. Caater, a Eurodance group from Estonia, frequently partners with the Finnish Eurotrasher K-System. Finland recently stepped messily into Slovenia's elections when a Finnish TV station accused the Slovenian Prime Minister of accepting bribes. And so we find ourselves in Slovenia today. How was that?

Balkan Slovenia has a lot in common with Baltic Estonia. Both are tiny countries with small populations (2 million people live in Slovenia). Both are relatively well-managed and are doing very well financially for formerly communist states, in part due to their luck in geographic placement (Estonia is tied to the ultra-wealthy Scandinavian region, and Slovenia shares a border with Italy and Austria). Slovenia is currently the only former communist state on the euro currency; Estonia will likely adopt the euro in 2011. Both countries have their share of regional and cultural tensions, but overall these are not so bad.

A big difference between the two lies in their music scenes. Much of Estonia views itself culturally as Scandinavian, and Scandinavia loves its pop and dance (think ABBA). Neighbor Russia has a love for the tawdry and trashy, and these worlds intersect in Estonia to create some really stellar pop music that manages to move the feet while also giving a little bit more to the brain.

Slovenia, on the other hand, tends to be mellower. Their music gravitates towards the live. They love their jazz. Their RTV Big Band spits out tons of high-quality recordings. Maribor hosts a jazz festival as well as a more general music festival. Tolmin hosts a metal festival each year.

Turbo folk does not seem to be popular in Slovenia, but turbo polka is. Turbo polka sounds exactly as you would imagine.

I have been to Slovenia once before, so I know a little bit about the feel of the country and its nightlife. The trip was fabulous, despite my being chased back to my hotel by two thugs one night in Ljubljana (probably glue-sniffers, the hotel porter reckoned).

My goal is to DJ through Eastern and Central Europe, and since I've already laid eyes on three towns in Slovenia you would think I'd be able to come up with some good ideas for places to spin. You would be wrong.

The "problem" with Slovenia seems to lie in its tastefulness. After spending a chunk of my afternoon today reading up on Ljubljana clubs both new and old to me, I realized that there seem to be two extremes of club taste in that city. One is the exclusive, luxurious club that is staffed by bouncers who will deny you entry if you are wearing the wrong clothes--or might beat you to death if you invoke their ire. Point is, a stuffy or exclusive club is one where the focus is more on the preening, networking, and hooking up, and less on the music.

The other extreme is the ultra-alternative venue. I speak here primarily of Metelkova Mesto, which I partied at on two different nights in Ljubljana. Here you find your hippies, crusties, squatters and travelers, as well as your gay/lesbian/trans-gender community.

Metelkova totally rocks. But this presents its own strange problem for a Eurotrash DJ like myself. My music is not tasteful enough for that community. It's hard to follow a drum & bass/dancehall set with Cascada's "Fever."

Interestingly, in Ljubljana my best bet would probably be at Metelkova's gay clubs, because only there does a blend of pop, trash, and house find balance. I know this because some friends and I stumbled into a Metelkova gay club on New Year's Eve, and we demanded to be let by skeptical door staff despite not being gay enough because the music was so freaking awesome.

So, maybe gay clubs in Ljubljana are better.

What is missing in Ljubljana that would make DJ King Pigeon's mouth water? It seems there is a lack of student discos catering to the younger, poorer, yet well-educated pop fans out there. This population exists in abundance in Warsaw, Poland, and fuels some awesome nights at places like The Parc. But I haven't seen signs that such a venue exists in Ljubljana.

I might need to turn to Maribor or Celje to find a better fit. I will do that tomorrow, and post part two of my review of Slovenia then.

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