A quintessential date on the alternative music calendar is on the horizon - here's how to make the most of your time in Estonia
Cai Trefor
11:15 20th March 2019

Once a year, music industry and fans turn their heads to the budding talent or legends all carefully selected to play at the prestigious, infinitely inspiring Tallinn Music Week (25 - 31 March).

It seems to be a festival that’s truly about pushing artists the organisers believe in and the love of music from the festival management, promoters, volunteers and everyone involved – even the president gets her hands dirty – filters down through to punters to create an intimate, inviting festival quite like no other. The number of people who’ve named Tallinn Music Week their unofficial showcase festival highlight of the year to Gigwise is quite something. Similar to Glastonbury, once it ends people are already plotting their return.

Given our new-found adoration for the festival – they also co-run an amazing festival called Station Narva – we’ve put together some things that we feel are musts if you’re new to the occasion and haven’t yet scoped out your favourite spots. Similarly, if you're a veteran you may find something that passed you by. Terviseks Tallinn Music Week!

Watch the best cult and breaking alternative bands

The music programme this year – as every year – stands apart for exhibiting such an array of acts that you won’t find at every other festival. In other words, a large chunk of the line-up feels like the physical manifestation of a fanzine which champions thought-provoking music ahead of what might have mass appeal and break the charts. Ultimately, quality permeates at every corner but we can't see everything and here’s the acts we think you’ll absolutely adore: 

Zahir
Not every rock band who’ve been playing together to create a séance-like atmosphere akin to Swans and Jesus Lizard can claim to be from the small city of Tartu in Estonia. But this bunch of heavy music outcasts can and are flying the flag for bands-that-should-be-massive-but-criminally-overlooked brilliantly. Awesome on every level. Bring earplugs.

SEN
Neo-gothic post-punk of the highest order. SEN are Taiwan’s answer to Bauhaus and are pleasingly neurotic about the quality of their recordings. Their debut album took 10 years to create and just recently had a release on the hip White Wabbit Records, which is based in Taipei.

Yegor Zabelov
If Colin Stetson grew in Belarus and developed the same fondness for atonal avant-garde patterns that eschew the temptation to be anything familiar and immerse himself in a parallel universe, he’d probably be Yegor Zabelov. Beyond tempting, and a potential festival highlight.


                                                        Photo: Kaya Brezoknic

Sharpen your pencil – it’s time to learn

In addition to its focus on breaking artists from the Baltics, Tallinn Music Week has an outward ethos and welcomes people from scenes all around the world, creating a place for new ideas to be born. Considering time’s short at the festival and you’ll want to see a lot of shows, too, below area a couple of speakers to definitely keep an eye out for and we believe will give you a broader appreciation of the European music scene.

Koen Ter Heegde
Dutch man Koen Ter Heegde has put out records by The Homesick, brought Lewsberg to Gigwise’s attention before we put on their first London gig, and is providing a platform for central and eastern European bands to break in the Netherlands such as Glintshake. He’ll likely have some practical advice for breaking independent bands and will be worth picking his brains for great new music to hear. We wouldn’t have discovered half the great Dutch bands, we've done lately if it wasn't for him.

John Robb
Manchester-based post-punk legend from The Membranes and founder of Louder Than War John Robb is one of the most natural, entertaining speakers in the music industry. With an ear to the ground on multiple music scenes across the globe, and a biographical knowledge of punk rock and Manchester, you won’t help but come away from his talk more excited about music than ever before.

Discover the full seminar programme here.

Grab a lungful of the Baltic breeze at an abandoned concrete colossus

Tallinn old town is an enchanting place to lose yourself in but occasionally you may want to hop outside of the stone-walled perimeter and get a sense of the geography of the city. A great place to do so is Linnahall (Kalasadama 4, 10415 ), which is one of the few remaining Soviet buildings and offers a stark contrast to the quaint Medieval archtecture in town. It was purpose-built to host the sailing event of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Then attempted to diversify to survive. It tried being a concert hall and an ice rink before falling into disrepair. Now, this urban ruin offers a spacious graffiti-laden vantage point to prance around in and look out across the sea and ponder jumping on to a ship to Helsinki.


                                                    Photo: Wiki Commons

Get gluttonous at the Scottish bar

A lot of the band’s and delegates last year found their way down to Scottish pub, or more accurately named The Highlander Scottish Pub (Kuninga 1, 10146 Tallinn). Charmingly it doesn’t feel like an expat bar at all but more of a staple for the old town. And with much of its medieval stone walled interior of this cellar bar meticulously kept, it feels pleasingly like time's stood still and we can ponder our ancestors' similar debaucherous habits. Plates of buff fish n' chips and battered Mars bars are among the are served at three in the morning, and great array of scotch and beers are served until way after you want to go to bed.

Soothe your hangover with some rare, trippy tea

On a beautiful cobbled street in the old town but away from the hustle and bustle of trigger happy selfie posers that populate the Raekoja Plats - the old town’s main square - you’ll find this hidden gem named Chado Tee OÜ Tea Store Teashop (Uus 11, 10111). Inside is an array of rare teas, including tea from the oldest tea tree in the world. Aromatic, energising, and expensive, this mix of retail therapy and physical recovery ought to put the kick back in your step after a late night on the town watching bands.

                                                           Photo: Chado.ee

Tickets to Tallinn Music Week 2019 are still available here

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Photo: Rasaa Etten