Brave! Factory review: Kiev's new festival impresses on every level

Jane Fitz, Robert Hood and Brandt Brauer Frick excel as the team behind one of Europe's best underground clubs bring a new event full of aural and visual treats

Kit Macdonald
Wednesday 06 September 2017 18:06 BST
Crowds enjoy a set at Antricite, Brave! Factory's live stage. Photograph: Roman Ketkov
Crowds enjoy a set at Antricite, Brave! Factory's live stage. Photograph: Roman Ketkov (Roman Ketkov)

Kiev, according to just about everyone with an opinion on the current cultural and social landscape in the Ukrainian capital, is having its “Berlin 1993 moment”. Having visited last week, felt the febrile atmosphere created by two revolutions in a decade and the war in the east with Russia, met the people primarily responsible for bringing quality electronic music to the city, and attended a wonderful new festival of theirs in an evocative, post-industrial setting, I'd struggle to find fault with that description. Brave! Factory is run by the people behind Closer, the first high-quality house and techno club (and an art space, clothes store, record shop, rehearsal space and cafe to boot) to open in the city, and a place described to me over the weekend by more than one of Closer's regular international bookings as “easily one of the best clubs I've ever played”.

Closer has a devoted and passionate following in Kiev (Roman Ketkov)

The Closer team have been running an annual festival called Strichka at the club for four years now, but Brave! Factory (the name is taken from a regular party the crew has been throwing for a couple of years) was its first off-site festival, and clearly a huge deal for everyone concerned. Brave! went down at an old complex of factory and warehouse spaces known as METROBUD which took in five stages (two indoor and three outdoor), plus a pitch-dark ambient area in a warehouse. The word Brave!, fashioned from scrap materials salvaged from the site, stood illuminated in huge letters as you entered the site, and art installations made from similar stuff plus unintentionally artful relics of the place's Soviet-era industrial past were dotted around a site that had strange new items of visual interest around every corner.

The Angar stage (Roman Ketkov)

The festival ran for 24 hours-plus from late Wednesday evening to the early hours of Friday. I arrived a couple of hours in and spent a while getting my bearings and trying not to fall over too many times in the darkness, cocking an ear to Derrick Carter's set at the outdoor Depo stage, local producer Konakov's live techno at the air raid shelter-like Truba and Brandt Brauer Frick's wonderfully musical live show at the Antricite stage as I went. Robert Hood's packed-out early-morning set at the cavernous Angar stage, however, which pivoted gloriously on his trademark diva-house edits, was the point at which Brave! turned from a night-time ramble round a curious landscape into a serious musical experience.

Mysterious Soviet-era industrial detritus (Kit Macdonald)

Lawrence and Jus-Ed's rolling, jazz-tinted b2b over at the much-revisited Depo was a great way to stretch out the generous vibe Hood had created, and at five hours had a welcome permanence at a time when staying in one place for a while had become an attractive prospect. Festivals that run through night and day always benefit from the refreshing effects of opening a new stage after daybreak, so I headed for the Container stage a short while after it opened to bright sunshine at 10am. Kiev's Noizar and Borys were turning in a highly diverting b2b set that marked them out as my new discovery of the festival, and their warm techno was a perfect scene-setter for the sweet spot of the whole festival: Londoner and Pickle Factory resident Jane Fitz's early-afternoon set straight afterwards. Fitz is someone I've been aware of for years without ever managing to actually see, and the intimate, happy environment of the Container was the perfect place to take in her blend of bassy, gauzy UK tech-house and techno up close. Her three-hour set was a perfect confluence of mood, energy, weather and music, and a standout moment of my summer.

Jane Fitz at the Container stage (Kit Macdonald)

The intermittent rain, which affected Brave!'s turnout somewhat but never threatened to be its undoing, sadly returned as dusk fell on Thursday, but healthy crowds watched Egyptian Lover's live set at Container and DJ Masda at Depo, helped no doubt by the fearsomely loyal and proud following Closer has in Kiev. I managed a few minutes of The Bug, Flowdan and Miss Red's closing set at Antricite, but after 24 hours on my feet and with drizzle in the air, I finally headed for home. Kiev is a place I've wanted to explore for a few years now, and I came away extremely glad I had made the journey and hungry to see more of the place soon. Anyone with an interest in quality electronic music who is considering doing the same should make a visit to Brave!, Strichka or Closer a non-negotiable component of their trip.

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