Once again in 2017, NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION is teaming up with Hamburg’s acclaimed Reeperbahn Festival for a media partnership. Our ongoing article series Road To Reeperbahn will report about specific highlights in the program of the 2017 edition. Find all articles of the story right here.

Anchor Award 2017 jury revelation at A2IM in New York (Credit: Annett Bonkowski)

Not long before this year’s Reeperbahn Festival kicks off in Hamburg again on September 20th and along with it the ANCHOR which returns for a second time now after a successful start last year. If you were too busy checking out music over four consecutive days, you have the only valid excuse in case you missed all the fun in 2016 and the winner of Anchor 2016: ALBIN LEE MELDAU.

We met up with various members of the ANCHOR jury during A2IM in New York in early June as part of Reeperbahn Festival’s New York Edition. It was there when the team around legendary producer TONY VISCONTI was revealed who is going to be head of jury once again in 2017.

Apart from Tony Visconti, the jury members of the ANCHOR 2017 are as international and prestigious as the Reeperbahn Festival itself: Shirley Manson (Garbage), Emily Haines (Metric, Broken Social Scene), Huw Stephens (BBC1 DJ) and BOY. During Reeperbahn Festival they will all come together to judge eight different acts based on their live performance.

Out of 50 applications, a pre-selection of eight artists and bands made it into the last round and is now ready to compete against each other with the ANCHOR jury carefully watching their moves when seeing them live in action. 2017’s nominees include:

Alice Merton (DE, CAN, UK), Fast Romantics (CAN), Fenne Lily (UK), First Hate (DK), Jade Bird (UK), Joseph J. Jones (UK), Matt Maltese (UK) and Pabst (GER)

There are a whole lot of awards out there so why is this one particularly special, you may ask yourself. We asked this year’s ANCHOR jury the same question while talking to them in New York and Reeperbahn Festival’s founder ALEXANDER SCHULZ, who explained the idea behind the ANCHOR to us saying:

‘Ever year the Reeperbahn Festival presents not only German, but international new talents. Often at a very early stage in their careers. We give them the opportunity to play in front of fans, not only an expert audience that is also part of the festival. The Anchor is a competition that wants to honour all this emerging talent, similar like the big film festivals do by presenting films to a larger audience, but also to a jury that picks a winner. We wanted to achieve the same thing with music. That’s how we came up with the idea of letting eight artists compete against each other onstage. It’s quite a challenge.’

About revealing the ANCHOR jury in New York instead of Hamburg, for example, Schulze adds: ‘Reeperbahn Festival has always been an international platform. That’s why the international jury will be presented here in New York.’

Alexander Schulz (left) and Tony Visconti (right) (Photo by Annett Bonkowski)

Of course, the jury’s chairman, TONY VISCONTI, was present, too, and we had the great honour of asking him a couple of questions about his role in the jury and his expectations for this year’s competition.

Reflecting on last year’s experience, he said: „It was a lot of fun for the judges to run up and down the Reeperbahn to catch each show. We travelled in a group and it was a great atmosphere. We were able to see all of the nominees in front of an audience. Some of them were tough audiences, some of them were really gracious. That part was fun. We could examine the bands carefully – almost like under a microscope and after the final performance we spent at least two hours voting. It was difficult because all of the acts were superb.“

But what is it that someone as experienced as Tony Visconti is looking for in a new talent? Visconti smiles and comes up with an answer in the blink of an eye:

‘I’m always looking for a star. That’s the business I’m in, you know. Obviously, I’m looking for someone who has got a wide appeal, but who is also very interesting and different. The biggest stars are always the people who are far out and have that little bit where they grab you into their little private world. This year I’m going to look for the same thing: uniqueness.’

It’s the one thing many artists strive for, but only few are able to achieve. Further elaborating on uniqueness and also creative success, Visconti emphasizes what is most important when you want to make it in the music industry. All while paying great respect to his long-term friend and fellow artist DAVID BOWIE during our conversation: „Creative success is when a person becomes well-known or successful on their own terms. I’ve known so many groups – they’ll imitate another group to get somewhere. This happens all of the time.”

‘David Bowie was someone who could’ve imitated other people when he was beginning, but he wrote songs like ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Songs no-one else was writing. He did it on his own terms. Look how long his career lasted. That is what creative success is for me.’ (Tony Visconti)

With the help of the other ANCHOR jury members, Visconti is ready to run up and down the Reeperbahn again in order to find this kind of uniqueness, even though such a rare talent like David Bowie is most likely hard to find.

Speaking about his fellow judges this year, Visconti adds: ‘I think it is going to be a very healthy judging team. As usual, there is going to be a diversity of music as well. I think all of the judges are really sharp. Strange things happen. It’s almost like an election. Suddenly, you realize the person standing next to you voted for the other person and you’re like ‘Oh! How could you do that?“ All of that drama is about to happen, but I can’t wait to meet them.’

Valeska Steiner (left) and Sonja Glass (right) from BOY (Photo by Annett Bonkowski)

Just before he got up onstage in New York to greet this year’s ANCHOR 2017 jury, we also talked to Swiss-German duo BOY consisting of Sonja Glass and Valeska Steiner who shared their excitement with us. As artists themselves, they know about the beauty and challenge of playing live in front of an audience. Having that in mind, Valeska says:

‘We are really looking forward to seeing all these different bands playing live. There is always a special magic to it. A big part of Anchor is about witnessing that and hopefully being moved with what we see onstage. The main thing is that the music does something to you which is a very individual experience, of course. We’ll go to these shows as music lovers rather than professional musicians.’

Her bandmate Sonja Glass agrees: ‘Just because we do it for a living doesn’t mean we’ll be super analytical as judges. We just want to be moved and see if these artists have a story to tell, whatever that may be.’

Someone who is always looking out for new talent as part of his job is UK’s BBC 1 radio presenter HUW STEPHENS who also joins the team of judges. Although we talked to him months before the Reeperbahn Festival adventure and his role in it, we could hear some serious excitement in his voice when he said:

‘It’s my first time of being on a jury of this kind. It’s a really interesting idea and I’m excited to hear the music at Reeperbahn Festival. I know the quality of artists is going to be really high and it’s very important for the Anchor. I love live music and going to gigs. Watching a band live, you see the real artists and you hear what they’re all about. So to do that at Reeperbahn with my fellow jury members is going to be a real pleasure I think.’

Whoever, out of the 8 nominees, is going to be picked as a winner of the ANCHOR 2017 this year, we’re hoping Tony Visconti sounds as genuinely intrigued again as he does when talking about Albin Lee Meldau:

‘I think Albin is fantastic. He was the hands-down winner of last year. He is undeniably very unique. I couldn’t take my eyes or ears off him. He was really electrifying. A very dynamic person.’

On Saturday, September 23rd, the jury will reveal who won the competition this year as part of the ANCHOR award show at St.Pauli Theater. We are looking forward to finding out which artist convinced the jury the most.

Here is where you can catch this year’s nominees live:

Imperial Theater

Imperial Theater

Imperial Theater
Imperial Theater
Reeperbahn Festival takes place from Sep 20th – 23rd in Hamburg, Germany.