How Kiev’s Burgeoning Techno Scene Is Giving Berlin a Run for Its Money

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For many Berliners, Kiev’s underground rave scene is revered as a techno wonderland of sorts. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to hear jaded Berghain-goers romanticise parties in the Ukrainian capital, remarking: “It’s how partying in Berlin must have been in the ’90s.” After factoring in fashion’s ongoing obsession with a post-Soviet aesthetic, there’s no denying Kiev’s current status as the epitome of subcultural cool. So when I arrived at Brave! Factory’s festival grounds last week, I was eager to see if the legends were true.

Situated on an unused train depot, Brave! Factory boasted a lineup comprising over 30 hours worth of music spread across six different stages. The event coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day, bestowing Kievan ravers with a new way to celebrate the public holiday. Put on by a young group of local techno heads, its organisers are infamous among the city’s underground for their monthly event Closer. After spending the last few years coordinating Kiev’s coolest party, the group of ambitious promoters set their sights on creating the city’s first large-scale techno festival. Thus, Brave! was born.

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This ambitious attitude was palpable throughout the entire festival, providing a genuine sense that this wasn’t about money or ticket sales. Rather, it was about bringing together the best DJs for a few days of great music.  The desire to focus on music first and foremost meant that any misfortune that popped up along the way – be it rain or mid-set microphones outages – never escalated, thanks to unwavering high spirits. Throughout the nearly two-day event, the authenticity among the crowd could only be attributed to the overall DIY mentality of everyone involved. As Berlin’s raving community continues to face overexposure and commodification thanks to techno tourism, there’s a certain amount of comfort that comes with visiting such an intimate festival, united by an unadulterated passion for a solid night out.

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A quick survey of Brave! Factory’s crowd and it was apparent that a few things differentiated it from raving in Berlin. While music is certainly vital to a great techno party in the German capital, other important factors play a part, including safe spaces for LGBTI clubbers as well as an open attitude towards sex-positivity and hedonistic behaviour. All of these things were absent from Brave!, which made for a techno event wildly different from what Berliners are used to. However, just because something is different doesn’t make it any less good, and it didn’t take long to get accustomed to the new surroundings. In fact, dare I say it, I kind of enjoyed being able to dance without spotting a couple engaging in wild intercourse to my side.

As for the general consensus on what to wear, nary a leather harness adorned any of the festival-goers, and forget about the usual all-black dress code. Instead, the crowd seemed to exhibit an affinity for vintage threads and a heavy dose of sportswear. There was even a small second-hand store inside the event space, allowing partygoers to cop the perfect pair of Matrix-era glasses on-site.

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Positioning itself well above the average music festival, Brave! Factory also included a number of art installations from creatives both local and based throughout Europe. One contributor was Berlin’s very own Clemens Behr, who constructed a brutalist structure made of concrete and fluorescent lighting. Due to the festival’s industrial location, participating artists were encouraged to utilise found materials in their work. When questioned about his experience creating a work of art for the event, Behr said, “Because the festival took place on a former subway tunnel factory, I found a lot of large concrete parts, which I’ve always wanted to work with.” Comparing the experience to a life-size board game, Behr went on to say, “From there, a few crane operators helped me move things around – it was a lot like playing Jenga.” Elsewhere, Polish street artist Zbiok painted a massive mural of smiling faces that served as a testament to the event’s optimistic ethos.

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Throughout the event, the Angar stage consistently drew the biggest crowds. As the festival’s main techno hall, it housed incredible sets by Octave One, Robert Hood and Function. The highlight of the event, however, came on the second day when the festival opened its Container space. Opening the stage were Noizar and Borys, two local techno titans who frequently spin at Closer. A cancellation from Zebra Katz bumped the legendary Egyptian Lover to last billing, whose performance was about as unpretentiously fun as a set can get. As the night dwindled down, partygoers rowdily climbed along the sides of the stage cheering until the festival’s end.

I once heard someone refer to Berlin as in its late 20s – a city past the growing pains of youth and attempting to throw itself into adulthood, but still prone to a few mistakes here and there. If that’s the case, then maybe Kiev’s rave scene is in its college years – still green and ripe for experimentation, on the brink of an exciting new adventure.

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Image courtesy of Clemens Behr
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