Playing Poland - Jordan Reyne

Playing foreign territories is always exciting. Polish audiences are receptive, open, and willing to book music that does not fit in boxes. When you stand on stage in Poland, everyone stops what they’re doing. When you stop what you’re doing, and your set is over, they usually ask you to continue!

Jacob Andy Sorrys

Re-invigorated arts sector

The arts sector in Poland is going through a re-invigoration. Arts council subsidies have meant that festivals and venues can afford to bring in international acts that the local populace could otherwise not manage the ticket price for. It’s not like the locals don’t know that either - there is a sense of enthusiasm and excitement at almost every show. It’s a buzz of expectation that leaves little room for the cult of disaffection that places like London can be famous for.

Above: Poster on Lodz main street for the Sound Edit festival. Supported by the Lodz local council, it can bring in names like Laibach, Karl Bartos (Kraftwerk) and John Cale.

Avoid the hard sell

Like Germany, Poland has that intriguing mix of the familiar and the unusual. The familiar: global capitalism. Chain stores and advertisements pushing the cult of me-me-me and pressing people to buy what they don’t need. The intriguing part - Polish people don’t react well to the hard sell. There is more respect for modesty and meaningful chat over bombasticism and repeated attempts to move units. In the UK and USA, we’ve normalised the cult of selling and self promotion to the point where we can try that bit harder to cover our costs, but in Poland, you don’t tend to sell a lot of merch at shows if you overdo it.

Don’t let the good fee you might get from arts council festivals fool you - the average person on the street is not as well off as you might think. Bring your EPs and lower price tag items if you are relying on merch sales to make your tour work. Be prepared to take a smaller cut on higher price items and drop your prices where you can. It’s definitely worth it for the reaction you get on stage, the conversations afterwards, and the opportunity to build a fanbase there.

Language and soundchecks

A bit about language. As for any non-english speaking countries, it is a sign of respect to try and learn some basic sentences when you tour. Yes, many people speak english in Poland, but making the effort shows you are glad to be there. To make a good impression, learning “hello”, “excuse me / sorry”, “please”, “thank you”, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand” and a greeting are already a good start. Polish people are aware that Polish is not easy to learn. Those few simple things will help to dispel the idea that we native english speakers think everyone should adapt to our ways first. For the more complicated things like soundchecks, it can help a lot to bring a diagram of your setup - especially if you are using anything unusual like loopers or out of the ordinary instruments.

Lastly, do try and get to see some of the cities you are playing in. It’s hard to see much outside of the venue a lot of the time, but it is always worth it for the experience of seeing something new.

Buskers in Gdansk

Polish language basics

formal - Dzień dobry (said dyen doh-breh)
informal - Cześć (said Chesh-ch)

Please: proszę (proh-sheh)

Thankyou: Dziękuje (dyen-koo-yeh)

Sorry: przepraszam (p-sheh-prah-sham)

I don’t understand: Nie rozumiem (nyeh ro-zoo-myem)

Nice to meet you: miło mi (mee-woh mee)