It’s been five days since the end of Berlin’s newest major festival and it was a real doozey! For the outstanding price of just 140 euro, one was given the delightful spectacle of two of Britain’s most eclectic and innovative bands, as well as a night of full on indie magic from arguably one of the genres modern day giants.
Given it was just a two day festival with no camping on offer the whole thing felt more similar to a couple of one day events than a full on smorgasbord of glamping treats intermixed with roughing it in the fields through thick and thin. With no option to break out the tents we headed for the centre of Berlin, renting out an airbnb apartment that was about ten times too big for just four people, but it gave us an excellent base for merriment in the middle of one of Europe’s most happening cities.
When compared to the price of some UK luminaries such as Glastonbury or the Reading and Leeds weekend, we spent a sum still well under what you would fork out for the ticket only back home. Added to that some of the names on the list and you started to wonder just how they had managed to pay for everything in the first place.
Getting to the festival for the weekend wristband exchange about half a mile from the gate we schmoozed our way through a throng of people taping tetra-packs (good old fashioned juice cartons to the non-Germans) together as they were the only thing you could take in with you. A quick sniff test was all they did on the gate to guarantee the lack of alcohol but given the amount of empty vodka bottles kicking around we doubt anyone drank only OJ the whole weekend.
Location wise it wasn’t far from the city centre and on the first day, full of excitement and glee, we waltzed our way there which took just over an hour through Kruezberg – think Shoreditch on acid – picked up our wristbands and made our way to the entrance. There were a lot of smiley happy people, heavily laden with hipsters and pop princesses – but the mood was light and enthusiastic, with the odd sprinkling of older folk and families, who undoubtedly made up the crowd later on at New Order.
One of the highlights during the middle of the day were the Kaiser Chiefs, but the choice to see them had little, if anything to do with the quality of their back catalogue, but rather the anthems and opportunity to sing-along with a cold beer at one of Leeds’ lairier bands, chanting with soft-rock gumption interlaced with lots of ‘oooooooohhs’ and crescendo ‘aaaaaaaaaaahs’. It was just what the crowd wanted and they lapped it up like thirsty beatniks in a pretentious wine bar watering hole.
As the sun shone a full 30 degrees people sought shade quickly after they finished, rolling in to the dusty tree lines and back in search of beer and cider, but it would be later on that the Alternative Stage would really come in to its own. At around 9pm there were some important decisions to be made and as I told my girlfriend that “I couldn’t live with myself if I missed the opportunity to see New Order” I dutifully dragged her along to a gig I don’t think I’ll forget in a while.
Retro and historical videos lit up the stage and played out under synth-guitars and dance inducing bass lines that shook the ground and lead to probably the party of the weekend. By the time they had ditched the slower tunes for the more upbeat Bizarre Love Triangle and Blue Monday, the crowd had fused in to a drunken mass of age defying buzzing teens, jumping and clutching at the stars wishing the music just wouldn’t finish. Simply amazing.
Come Sunday the mood was buoyant but the edge of the night before had been blunted by the never ending sunshine and dust that continuously threatened to kick up and engulf your nasal passages and despite it being the Sunday and the last day of music it was roundly agreed that the line-up that day just about sneaked it.
Years & Years conducted a fantastic electro-pop session in the midday sun that was full of energy and emotion, as well as waking up one or two tired bodies, including yours truly, and the day didn’t want to stop there as the other bands began to reverberate around us.
Following on from the Y&Ys came Martin Solveig with his own brand of French electro-pop house and as he stood up on stage and mixed songs in to one another, interspersed between a few of his own dancey numbers the sun begun to set and relinquish its hold on the people who found new energy in the cooler climes. Doing the running man for an hour in 30 degree heat isn’t the most comfortable so when the shade grew it made things a lot easier.
We exited MS and went over to catch the beginning of Major Lazer before quickly regretting the decision. As we stood there the four of us wondered what it actually was that they do, or specifically Walshy Fire. Is he a producer? A singer? A Bez? A rapper? None of us could really work it out and he seemed to just take other peoples songs and shout over them, yelling at the crowd to take off their shirts (which only the men seemed happy to do, which I don’t know if was the response he expected), then instructing them to run left and right and introducing his own posse of strippers-cum-dancers for everyone to ogle. After an hour it was all rather flat, a hell of a lot more dusty and we still didn’t really understand what the bloody hell he was doing, apart from adding a Jamaican twang to other peoples music. But hey-ho, you can’t have everything.
Then, before you knew it, Radiohead entered, stealing the day for themselves in a set that wasn’t overly spectacular, reworking several well known favourites, but without any real strong zest or impetus, yet still managing to blow everyone away. It was a lights and music phenomena without ever reaching previous heights and if that sounds confusing, then not as half confused as I feel having watched them walk off twice, the first time a full 50 minutes before the end of their 2 hour and 15 minute allotted window.
And then, in a stroke of a chord on Karma Police, the weekend was over and we all walked groggily home.
It was a quick and special weekend and the organisers had clearly made a big effort despite the shortness of time on site for the attendees and although you could only see so much in two days, there were plenty of added attractions, like the circus big top, the arcade games in the centre where you could win small prizes, or the chill out area with strange and wonderful minor artists and singers – something that perhaps Primavera in Porto could take note of.
Overall it was a superb weekend full of magic, fun, hysteria and parties and if I’m still living in the area of Dresden next year, I will without a doubt be back for more, and most importantly, you’re all invited!