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Kilkim Zaibu Festival 2019 Preview

in Thursday, 20 June 2019 at Varnių Regional Park
by Erika Kuenstler & Sarunas Dreseris

It is always fun to cover the greats of the metal scene, both the bands and the festivals. But then there is always that WOW moment when you uncover those gems that have been matured and shaped through the years into unexpected perfection. One particular example of something that has been moulded into perfection through years of honing can be found in one of the small Baltic countries, in Lithuania, in a shape and form of a metal festival called KILKIM ŽAIBU (which roughly translates to “arise/soar with the lightning”), which will be celebrating its 20th birthday this year.

Whilst this festival may be smaller on the musical side when compared to the average European festival, KILKIM ŽAIBU more than makes up for this with its historical and traditional feel. Just as Lithuania was one of the last countries in Europe to convert to Christianity, so is the festival deeply rooted in pagan traditions. Thus the whole atmosphere of the festival breaths history. There is always a medieval market where merchants, blacksmiths, and artisans will satisfy any of your needs and even teach you a bit about the history behind their craft. And for those who prefer more action, there are also activities for those wishing to test their strength or wits or just have some fun with ancient games. Or maybe you just want to know how people lived back in the day? That is also covered by historical reenactment groups from several countries that will enlighten you on ways of life in bygone eras, and will sometimes even put on a show of an old battle or siege. And if you still haven’t had your fill of pagan traditions, just wait until nightfall to take part in one of the pagan ceremonies dedicated to the old gods with pyres and rituals.

This almost otherworldly atmosphere of the festival is even more complimented by its location, nestled in Varnių Regional Park on a shore of lake Lūkštas. This provides you with the perfect combination of forest for hiding the camp site and open fields for the main festival area, all combined with a seemingly endless view over the lake next to a beautiful beach. This really needs to be experienced to really fully imagine the pristine beauty of the area. But keeping this in mind, there are obviously a few rules in place to preserve the area’s stunning scenery. Bringing your own alcohol is not permitted, to reduce the amount of general waste produced. But fear not, there is a large amount of alcohol on sale, and at very reasonable prices too. And as is common at almost every festival, there is a complete ban on glass, even if it is as food packaging. And you are asked to keep a general mindfulness of leaving your camping site clean. But besides these few rules, you are free to relax and enjoy the majestic scenery of the campsite to its full extent.

While on the subject of camping, KILKIM ŽAIBU has two options, both of which are located at a slight distance from the main festival area in a peaceful and sublime forest. The first option is the free camping, situated a short walk away from the parking lots. The parking itself also has two options, namely guarded and unguarded, with the former costing a nominal fee and other being free. But if you want to have the comfort of your car right at hand you can go for VIP camping, which does cost a bit more, but saves you the hassle of having to schlep all your camping gear around.

From camping we can move on to the main festival area which is split into three parts. The one closest to the camp is the beach area with a kind of outdoor barn cafe. Here you can some food and drinks, or spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach, going swimming or sunbathing, if weather and drunkenness levels permits that. There are also usually a lot of physical activities happening here, from something as simple as volleyball all the way to something a bit more rigorous like jugger fighting. A bit further from the shores you will find the small stage with some alcohol and food stands, creating a cosy and more intimate area. And finally, moving even further away from the beach, you will reach the main stage. This is a big, open area where all the fun happens. Here you will find many different food and drinks vendors, the medieval market, the ceremonial wicker sculptures, main stage, resting areas and the place where all the medieval clubs fight.

And whilst we’re on the topic of stages, even though there is no time-table available yet, the line-up already looks completely breath-taking, with a whole host of bands that will fit in perfectly with this very special and magical surrounding. Besides the big bands like PRIMORDIAL, ROTTING CHRIST, SKYFORGER or GAAHLS WYRD, there will be a rare opportunity to see a phoenix risen from ashes - HELLHAMMER, now called TRIUMPH OF DEATH, reunited just for a few scattered festival performances in Europe. On the other end of the scale, one of the absolute highlights not to be missed is THE HU, an incredible Mongolian band who deliver something completely rare and different. But these are just a smattering of what the festival has to offer, with a massive range of other incredible bands also lined up for this unforgettable occassion.

Now, as for getting to the festival: The easiest choice would be by car, as the festival is a bit off the beaten path. However, there are options of taking a bus from major cities to Varniai and then walking to the festival area. Or you could try to get a spot on a special bus that leaves from Vilnius, goes through Kaunas and stops at the festival. For more information on this shuttle, be sure to check out the KILKIM ŽAIBU website. If you do not feel like taking buses and do not have a car there is the opportunity of sharing a ride, with people offering and looking for car sharing in the KILKIM ŽAIBU facebook page.

Overall, KILKIM ŽAIBU is one of the more special festivals in Europe, and still very much an undiscovered gem, combining the best of both historical and musical perspectives. If you’re into pagan history and tradition, and would love to see some amazing bands in a stunning and unique location, this is definitely the festival for you! KILKIM ŽAIBU is an absolute must visit if not for music then the atmosphere. And seeing as this year Summer solstice will be on the Monday after the festival, and as this is one of old pagan celebrations in Lithuania, there can be no better way of spending these celebrations than at KILKIM ŽAIBU. Be sure to get your tickets soon! Metal Temple looks forward to seeing you there!

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Edited 27 November 2020

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Yiannis Mitsakos

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