The 57th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival got off to a banging start on Friday evening as free opening concerts by Russell Crowe — with his musical collective Indoor Garden Party — and British electronic music band Morcheeba got crowds rocking and grooving in the square in front of the picturesque Czech spa town’s Hotel Thermal.
Morcheeba fans came out in droves in the early evening despite some rain, cheering and moving along to such hits as opening number “The Sea” and “Trigger Hippie.” The performance followed the fest’s opening ceremony and seemed to put the town into party mode.
After Morcheeba’s appearance, anticipation started building for the late music act. Just before 11 p.m., Crowe arrived on stage, with a drink cup in hand, where he was greeted with loud cheers and applause. Earlier in the evening he had received the Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema during the Karlovy Vary festival opening ceremony.
After several songs, he welcomed the people of Karlovy Vary who responded with much noise, saying “You look fantastic, you look amazing.”
Crowe clearly enjoyed interacting with his audience. Early on, he also shared some insight into his songwriting process with the crowded square, saying: “Sometimes you walk through a doorway, you see something and that’s what you write about then. Other times, it can be multiple things going on in your life, multiple things that are affecting you differently emotionally, and somehow they come together in a totally disparate narrative. Sometimes it gets very complex.”
As an example, he introduced the song “Southampton” by explaining it came about after an awkward experience. He shared that he thought he would meet up with a woman in Paris, but she instead went to Southampton, England. “That’s when it got really offensive,” Crowe said, quipping: “In the lists of great places you have to visit while you are still alive, top 10, top 50, top 100, top 1,000 – Southampton is never mentioned.”
At some point, the star took a brief break and left the stage to Lorraine O’Reilly, who worked with him on Indoor Garden Party’s 2017 album The Musical. She then brought out Charles Crowe, whom the crowd also embraced, to sing. Then Crowe returned and introduced Charles as his son — to much applause.
Later on, the actor recalled filming the movie Rough Magic (1995) with Bridget Fonda in 1994 and having to shoot a scene where a tarantula, bigger than his hand, crawled up his naked body and into his mouth, before being snatched away by a spider handler. In one case, the animal stopped at his neck and spread its legs out. Crowe said the next day he woke up with a rash on his chest and elsewhere and saw a doctor. “When a tarantula becomes aroused, it ejects these very fine hairs,” meaning his body was “full of tarantula venom,” the doctor explained, Crowe recalled. The doctor gave him stuff to put on and take with the promise he would be fine within a week. Crowe’s takeaway: “I’m pretty sure that in the history of cinema, I am the only Academy Award winner who has been fucked in the neck by a tarantula.”
Before that, he had shared how he came to make that movie with the late director Clare Peploe, who was the wife of the late filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci. At the time, he was looking to make films overseas, the actor said. “I get a phone call from the famous Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci,” Crowe continued. “I go around to his house, and Bernardo is watching football [soccer] — he is watching Italy lose really badly to Brazil. Come the end of the game [Crowe switched to an Italian accent for the rest of the sentence], Bernardo, he doesn’t want to talk so much anymore.” So Crowe ended up talking to his wife who gave him the script for her next film, and he decided to board it.
He shared with the Karlovy Vary audience that when he read the spider scene, he did what he tends to do when reading scripts: “Certain things will be in the scripts that I am a bit uncomfortable with – I just put them to one side of my mind and I think ‘to be dealt with later.’”
Around 20 minutes past midnight, Crowe thanked Karlovy Vary and said farewell. But after loud cheers and chants of “Maximus!,” the name of Crowe’s famous character in Gladiator, the band performed a few more songs until 12:40 a.m., followed by a fireworks display.
The star has been making music since the 1980s, with his first solo single being called “I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando.” In the 1990s, he performed with Australian rock band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts, releasing three albums with it. In 2005, he began working with Doyle, first using the name The Ordinary Fear of God. He formed Indoor Garden Party with Canadian musician Alan Doyle, the former lead singer of folk rock band Great Big Sea, in 2017.
Morcheeba, nowadays made up of Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey, has performed in the Czech Republic on numerous occasions, most recently at the Metronome Prague Warm Up festival in September 2021 after the band supported a Czech online-only concert during the COVID pandemic with the world premiere of a song from its 10th and latest album, Blackest Blue. Its other albums include the likes of Big Calm (1998), Fragments of Freedom (2000), Charango (2002), Head Up High (2013), and Blaze Away (2018).
The Karlovy Vary film festival runs through July 8.