Small local festivals are always my favorite attraction of the summer (with football championships being a close second and effective mosquito spraying my third on the list). The first festival roadtrip of the season was taken slightly impulsively, as we packed tent, boots, music and our pretty selves into a borrowed car on a seemingly rainy weekend. What I love most about small festivals is the friendliness of most in the audience, the feeling of togetherness, the cosy atmosphere, and not having to fight through half a million of drunk people to make it to the front of the stage. This year, Seewiesenfest (a festival in Upper Austria I'd never managed to make it to) was celebrating its 20 years with a small, but compact and gorgeous, line-up.

After setting up the tent and mentally getting ready to party all night long, we headed towards the creek along which the stages had been set up. The first band on was, inexplicably and not according to schedule, Esben and the Witch, as they should have been on later. After hearing rumours of destroyed instruments, I'd been looking forward to seeing them live; the Europe-wide acclaimed trio from Brighton did everything but disappoint, with thumping bass, grumbling drums and growling vocals, gloomy like the soundtrack of a horror movie, all the while reminiscent of acts such as Zola Jesus and the XX alike, and yet so delightfully themselves.

Esben and the Witch Esben and the Witch Esben and the Witch Esben and the Witch Esben and the Witch

A break and some questioning later, we found out that the reason local Austrian band Bilderbuch had been pushed back into the line-up was that they'd just had a car accident on the way. The quartet of tweens originating from Upper Austria took to the stage with thundering applause as if nothing had even happened, playing a wide array of songs from their brand new release "Die Pest im Piemont", as well as older tracks. Bilderbuch are notable for their critical, self-reflective rock songs and for the theatrical mimics of frontman Maurice.

Bilderbuch Bilderbuch Bilderbuch Bilderbuch Bilderbuch

As day progressively faded into night, we somehow missed the second local band Kreisky, and got back into the main stage tent right on time for Syracuse-based baroque-pop band Ra Ra Riot. One of the greatest things about this band live - not wanting to take anything away from the actual skills and musical involvement of each member - is the visual appeal; how could one possibly not fall in love with a glittering violin and 'transparent' cello? Yeah, I wonder that too. Throughout their 45-min set, these "young Americans" did not stop smiling one bit, seeming even more excited than their audience to be playing on that small stage in the middle of nowhere, oozing sweetness from every pore.

Ra Ra Riot Ra Ra Riot Ra Ra Riot

Last but not least, the wonderful, insane and exciting FM Belfast, hailing from Iceland. Part vampire-rock, part ballet-party, part freak-show, the headliner was like a Britney-Spears-meets-Scooter concert for grown-ups, mind-blowing and confusing at the same time, a grandiose indielectro circus of glittering men in pink tights and musicians in capes singing their own version of Rage Against the Machine‘s "Killing in the Name Of", forcing the public down on the floor and then up jumping again, throwing a heart-shaped balloon into the moshpit in the midst of epilepsy-inducing spotlights.

FM Belfast FM Belfast FM Belfast FM Belfast

Happy Birthday, dear Seewiesenfest, and thank you for the memories – let’s hope you keep it going for at least another twenty years.