That was Reeperbahnfestival 2018 like – to me

No excuses, I told you about Hamburg’s Reeperbahnfestival last year and let you know that and when it is happening again. Hope you were there and enjoyed it as much as I did this year. It is been and gone and it was superbe. That was Reeperbahnfestival 2018 like – to me:

For a dedicated follower of music, the Reeperbahnfestival on St. Pauli (yep, ON is correct), Hamburg’s famous harbour quarter, is heaven – and hell at the same time, especially when you can throw in a good dose of OCD like myself. It has clearly become what the festival has been modelled on: Germany’s, if not Europe’s answer to the US’ SXSW festival. This is where music’s movers and shakers, fans and makers meet up. I said it before but like to drop it in again, just for good measure: Face the impossible with nonchalance, you will and cannot do everything at the festival even if you only concentrate on the music side of it.

For me, additional torment was in store this year, as I could only make it to the Reeperbahn by Friday afternoon. By then, the festival had been in full swing for two and a half days already. Plus I had work commitments and quite frankly: Yes, I did get sidetracked in parties and chats, in drifting and laughter, in soaking in the atmosphere in general. But that is as good a feature of the Reeperbahnfestival as any. And then the storm hit: On Friday afternoon the festival organisers decided to close down the open air venues such as Heiligengeistfeld and the Spielbudenplatz. It was just too risky. The weather did peak up again in intervals but generally myself as loads of other people seemed not so inclined to walk a lot between the venues and stayed put. And yet, it was fabulous. Thank you Reeperbahnfestival!

That was Reeperbahnfestival 2018 like - to me
Views of St. Pauli

Meeting up with my friend and colleague Sandra Zettpunkt at the well-trodden and established music venue Molotow, slapbang on the Reeperbahn, and missing each other because we used different entrances, we both enjoyed The Babe Rainbow’s set on Friday late afternoon immensely. The venue was packed, the audience was jumping, beer was consumed in large quantities already and was it any wonder, when an Australian band gave a tremendous and exhilarating and sunny and completely “down under” performance? Theirs is an amazing mix of funk and pop and psych and och, anything, melted into their version of Australian laid-back good feel. That was a brilliant start.

Time to eat, to snatch a drink and to wander around a bit and make our way to St. Michaelis, Hamburg’s landmark church, locally referred to as Michel. To be on time for Okkervil River‘s performance seemed crucial, as there was already a long queue. Stunned by the interior of this huge and impossibly imposing church, I almost missed the band turning up. Will Sheff did not look out of place under a painting of Jesus, albeit his brown suit and the glasses and greeted the audience warmly. Also clearly impressed by the church, he mentioned however, that on arrival, Okkervil River were dumbfounded because, hey, the acoustics are mighty and their set was not suitable at all for a big echoing space like this. Experienced musicians they are, though, they quickly adapted their set and everyone was treated too some classic early material, quite a few songs – to my delight – from their album “Away” – and then a few from the latest “In The Rainbow Rain”. The opulence of the latest album maybe did not allow for more songs in this environment. There was funny banter, a solo and acoustic excursion of Will Sheff through the pews of the church (even asking a dedicated fan for some lyrics he had forgotten) and some fantastic cover versions. A fairly long set for a festival and the pews became ever so hard to sit on and quite frankly I would have preferred a more intimate, more interactive environment for Okkervil River. But they left happy and so did the audience. The moment, a full moon was casting its light through one of the church windows to the sound of Okkervil River, is something I will never forget.

That was Reeperbahnfestival 2018 like - to me
Okkervil River at St. Michaelis

We got sidetracked to a party which was very enjoyable and pitied the people queuing up for Muse – the surprise act – for hours and missing out on so much. After all, not everyone got in, the venue was quickly full. Now, it is not that I have something against Muse (cough), but I was not too heartbroken to have to give their gig a miss. In all fairness, they were introducing the first songs of their new album and their live performance is said to be great.

Indeed we went for the packed and swaying and hopping Mojo Jazz Cafe to give Uns, a Berlin band, a listen. Fashion sense of the eighties combined with the Neue Deutsche Welle Sound of the same decade, huge dance and magic potential and a good laugh or two shared between the band and the audience inbetween made this very worthwhile.

The evening ended for us in the gorgeous Prinzenbar where Liza Anne and a very tight backing band (unnervingly all dressed a bit like little Playmobil builder figures) played her new sounds. I remember Liza Anne as a folksy, indie singer not unlike Sharon van Etten and was meeting the change in her music – now fast, loud, trashy, rocking – with quite some hesitance. Was there a commercial reason for this change? I would not approve at all, at all. But I had read beforehand that Liza Anne just wanted to get it out of her system, the anxieties, the depressions and clearly, the new songs were just doing that. Tremendously enjoyable.

That was Reeperbahnfestival 2018 like - to me
Liza Anne at Prinzenbar

Next day, more bands (don’t tell me what I missed out on, I cannot be everywhere at the same time because work was calling on top).  Yes, I had a super time meeting everyone from work too, so happy as Larry, we were moving on much later than anticipated, to maybe see Metronomy. Fat chance, should have queued up for that some time ago. A great stint of Field Division, a band on of my favourite labels Bella Union, had been on my radar for quite some time and they delivered their Americana tinted cloud with silver lining songs with heart and soul. Check. Wonderful.

Something completely different now at Angie’s Nightclub, a venue of some disreputable distinction (no shit, Sherlock, on the Reeperbahn? You don’t say.) and quite the suitable backdrop for the seventies’ to eighties’  or rather plasticky clad Lomboy from Brussels. The front woman clearly has been all over the world and brought bits into her music from everywhere as well. The languid, francophile music kept everyone nicely on their feet and dreaming away. Oh yes, did I mention that? France was the country represented on this year’s Reeperbahnfestival. Yes, and I did miss Halo Maude who performed astoundingly according to Sandra. But here’s the plan: Forget the plan. After a short visit to the famous Golden Poodle Club, we galloped to Nochtwache, the cellar club of Nochtspeicher and were expecting a late night treat like last year, something wild and quiet and jazzy and trippy and got Chris Garneau. Now, I would have been happy with the announced Canadian singer-songwriter, indie folk to tone down after a long day and make me weep a little bit. But no.

Great guitar, great drums, but the somewhat whiney, keyboard accompanied songs of Chris Garneau did not do it for me (think Marc Almond, kind of). But that’s just me. The numerous visitors seemed to enjoy it whole-heartedly.

And shock and horror, that was it in terms of gigs. Plenty of parties going on still but the instrument cases were being packed. There is always a next year. I have told you so!



Coming soon…Reeperbahnfestival

While Offbeat finds that the summer slump in the music industry does not really exist anymore, it has to be said that individual gigs are giving way to festivals during the summer and releases take place in September – we are getting fed album teasers until then.

Coming soon...Reeperbahnfestival

And yes, Offbeat was having a wee summer slumber as well…time flew by. But soon the posts will be flying out the window again. Before that I would like to draw your attention, if you would be so kind, to one the finest festivals ever: Reeperbahnfestival on Hamburg’s St. Pauli is coming up again, from the 19th till the 22nd of September. It is Germany’s answer to SXSW and just like its counterpart has a two-sided nature: It is a meeting point for the music industry with all that entails – label introductions, new artists being introduced, conferences, workshops and seminars. On the other hand we have the festival side with performances from the arts, movies, theatre and music of course.

Forget about trying to see everything, you can not. Especially since you will not be dragging yourself through a muddy, separate festival ground but will be visiting endless individual venues, differing in size and character. But that of course, is also the beauty of the Reeperbahnfestival. Hope to see you there! Keep your eyes peeled for news on the blog…coming soon.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Hamburg – you need loads of time for a visit to Germany’s second largest city that was built on the labour the river Elbe port had to offer and the ensuing trade opportunities it generated. Of course, Hamburg has been severely damaged in World War II and today you will find soulless high rise estates around Hamburg that are not exactly welcoming places. But then again, as a tourist, you would not go there anyway. Plus, you will have your agenda full with just visiting the old town, the merchant city with storage houses, the harbour, the beautiful old mansions and the sinful and happening Reeperbahn as well as other trendy quarters like the Karoviertel or the Schanzenviertel. Which is where you see Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017.

Indeed the multitude of banks, insurance companies, the IT sector, the media companies and of course a lot of the breathtaking architecture speaks of riches in no small part due to the success of Hamburg’s port. But visiting sailors also needed to be entertained and thus Hamburg boasts probably the world’s best-known red-light district. In recent years the Reeperbahn in St. Pauli has still been offering the sex trade and everything related to it but has cut down on crime and become a tourist attraction plus the place has seen an abundance of non-sex industry related theatres, clubs, cafes and venues popping up.

Add to that Hamburg’s native lively music scene (yes, The Beatles were born in Liverpool and grew up in Hamburg as John Lennon put it) and lovely friendly locals and you have the perfect location for a club festival: The Reeperbahnfestival. It is been around for twelve years now and boy, has it grown. I’d easily call it Europe’s SXSW. Actually it has become Europe’s biggest club festival.

Naturally there are drawbacks when a festival reaches such a size. It was very well organised and of course you give your all to see as much as you can – but there is always the pang you missed something. (Yep, I missed Timber Timbre and Nadine Shah!) You just have to accept the fact you cannot attend everything and let yourself drift and then discover wonderful things.

A huge thanks to my dear friend and colleague at Byte FM, Sandra Zettpunkt, musical detective for her show Golden Glades and musician herself and ever so handy: A Hamburg native she is and knows St. Pauli like the back of her hand. So I had not to worry about a thing. I did not get lost, not hit by a car, received a lot of information and discovered great bands. Oh boys, and how did we laugh:-)

So, do please join us next year for the next edition of Reeperbahn Festival. You won’t regret it.

Reeperbahn Festival runs for four days choc-a-bloc full of music-industry related workshops, conferences, networking affairs and of course live performances around many many venues. This year’s festival was dedicated to Canada as featured country, the “other” America:-) Canada’s huge music scene was represented very well, I thought, with the big names included as well as absolute freshmen. Then there was the surprise performance: Liam Gallagher. We gave that a miss as we both had seen Oasis before and queues were huge – and so much to do and so little time.

I only arrived Friday afternoon and while Sandra had already checked out a couple of bands (see her blog post here), poor me was only starting. Well, trying to: Strict security at the first venue, Grünspan. As laudable as that kind of security level is in today’s times: I had to get rid of my bag and try again. Yep, off we went and saw the very first live performance of Superorganism.

Superorganism have just been signed to Domino, before their first live gig…fancy that. There was no need to worry, as eight-piece Superorganism deliver technicolour pop with bravado and witticism, with accompanying art and an interesting set-up of conservative instruments, three backing singers and fronted by a seventeen-year old Japanese girl from Maine in New England. Their current location/mainstay is East London and it is there where they come up with their truly intriguing live shows and performances.

So we were off to a good start then on this Friday, 22nd of September then. What next? We walked all the way up to the bunker where Terrace Hill is located. Fazerdaze was playing. Alas, it was so packed that you could not see a thing and thanks to the bar in your backs not hear much either. So up for a breath of fresh air on the roof terrace and a view over Hamburg. Pity about Fazerdaze but then an amble down to the gorgeous Imperial Theater where on entrance (yes, we were late), the dulcet tones of King Creosote could already be heard. I was missing one of my favourites “Melin Wynt”, aargh…No bagpipes by the way. Indeed, Kenny Anderson alias King Creosote was on his own, just with an acoustic guitar but still the songs conveyed all the deepness and layers that the full band could have offered, or so I hope. Astonishingly, the King’s guitar playing was quite basic despite up to 40 albums under his belt. I suppose though, that this minimalism is intentional. After all, the songs thrive on King Creosote’s tenor voice with trademark little yelps and prominent Scottish accent as well as those bittersweet, poetic lyrics. Had I not heard him, I would not have recognised him, without hair…Or maybe it was one of his two stuntmen anyway, as he claims – Badly Drawn Boy and Baldrick from Blackadder…

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

There was onstage banter galore and a wordsmith like King Creosote of course had the audience in the palm of his hands. At times I was howling with laughter. Yes, the tears of a clown comes to mind, as used up as that saying might be. Lovely, lovely gig in the intimate and wondrous setting (with plush seating) of the Imperial Theatre.

All warmed up we went on our way and took a short break at the centre of it all, the Spielbudenplatz, amazedly staring at the queues for Liam Gallagher and wondering where to go next. We gave a young Canadian band a chance and I forgot the name and remembered they were nervous but there was no need to be, neither was there to crank up every channel on the sound system.

By then Jane Weaver beckoned. She graced Häkken, right at the Spielbudenplatz, a lounge bar that fitted her music perfectly well, I thought. For no apparent reason other than the ominous Liam playing next door, the gig was not as enthusiastically attended as I wished it would be. The fans who were there enjoyed it immensely though. And what was not to enjoy? Jane Weaver voice and lyrics shimmering ethereally over the music of a very close by – locally and musically – band. Man, were they tight, were they on point. It must be very difficult to perform someone else’s music, especially Jane Weaver’s – so hats off to that band again! A beautiful satisfying danceable swaying spirit-lifting mind-drifting krautrocky, psychy set in truly individual style by Jane Weaver mostly featuring songs from her very latest “The Architect”. “Modern Kosmology” and “The Silver Globe”.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Of course the sets at festivals are shortish compared to individual concerts and then you have reach the venue and then there are the overlaps but in most cases the artists managed to convey the complete esprit of their music. We called it an early night (well, for the Reeperbahn anyway) as we were facing a long day the next day.

Saturday saw us missing This Is The Kit due to other commitments. Trying not to be too hard hit, our opener for the evening was Marika Hackman in the Nochtspeicher – an incredibly warm venue. But never mind, rock away, Marika. And she did, seriously and ironically with a fresh almost grungy twist to her folky songs. Enjoying that very much, especially her kind in-between banter. Surprised at how young she looks (she is, she is) and yet is an old hand on that stage. Marika Hackman had the audience entranced and deservedly so. Special praise to her excellent and non-showy band. Luis from All We Are was watching too and after talking shortly, we decided, suffocating heat in the place or not, we would return for All We Are, who are such lovely lovely people.

Meanwhile though we wandered around the Reeperbahn a little more. By the time we could finally enter the venue Molotow Karatekeller (was absolutely packed), the gig by Canadian Taylor Knox had ended. Boohoo…Next year we will plan our schedule with absolute military precision and run as fast as we can.

We squeezed into the backyard of the Molotow, where, you guessed it, a gig was about to end: Philadelphia’s The Districts. From what we still gathered they sounded amazingly raw and fresh.

Rightio, back to the Nochtspeicher for All We Are. Their new album “Sunny Hills” seems a little coherent to some critics but then again, as much work as has gone into Guro, Luis and Rich’ albums, I always have regarded them as a live band. This is where All We Are truly shine and engulf you in their contagious enthusiasm. Word. I did not spot anyone in the audience who was not hopping along (did I mention this was an incredibly hot venue?) and the front was a veritable mosh pit. Also Marika Hackman and band were happily grooving along. Thank you, All We Are, that was awesome.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017 Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

The night is young and so are we…kind of. What next? Time for drifting. So we stumble down the cellar stairs of the Nochtspeicher to witness French Aquaserge drowning us in a concoction of jazz, funk and later a lot of psych. Magnetising and good fun in both measures and the right poison for head hitting the pillow and falling into a coma.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Thank you so much, Reeperbahnfestival for doing such a lot of work to entertain so many people to their heart’s content. It was ace. See you and you, dear readers, next year!