Kids moving around in front of the main stage. Photo by Felix Weichelt.

Visiting Düsseldorf’s one-day festival Open Source is a lovely experience from the very beginning: The first visitor who enters the race course which is surrounded by a peaceful forest is greeted with a free pass for the follow-up edition taking place in July next year. The organisers do not make a big fuss about their likeable gesture and neither does the lucky winner, namely a young woman who wears a flamboyantly quadratic haircut. The moment she is handed over the ticket she reacts with an enthusiastic ‘thank you’, waves, and ultimately vanishes in order to placidly explore the multifaceted area. Many people of different ages, groups of friends, and families with kids would follow her on a Saturday that is once again characterised by perfect weather. Specially provided shuttle busses help bringing the attendees to the entry. However, a great many visitors decide to simply walk up the hill or instead use their bikes to reach the picturesque scenery.

At the end of the day, 7000 people spent a glorious time at one of North Rhine-Westphalia’s finest festivals.

One key aspect of the Open Source experience is its peaceful, relaxed, and harmonious atmosphere. Already last year we came to the conclusion that we found a festival where everyone is ‘enjoying their time in a classy, relaxing environment built with passion for detail’. The green, open, and neatly arranged spot accommodates three stages, 20 Open Squares presenting innovative ideas of different fields coming from NRW, various art installations, and a selection of food trucks. A widespread meadow as well as a classic and particularly high stand in front of the main stage help people find suitable places to watch what is going on. Nowhere else did we encounter such a blithe festival environment where families are able to picnic and children feel free to play football or fool around while the headlining acts perform on stage. It is appropriate to say that people gladly leave behind their big city life, considering the Open Source Festival as a great opportunity for a day trip. Due to our fascination for its atmosphere, we decided that this year we want to feel more like being part of the general crowd. This basically means that we spent considerably less time backstage and went out to talk to artists, Open Squares participants, and visitors. In what we call ‘mini-portraits’, we took portrait shots of selected folks and asked them three spontaneous questions that evolved during the conversation. This gave us the chance to act more freely and catch the spirit of the festival. At the end of the day, this is what we came home with:

1. Frank Spilker (Die Sterne) – performing artist

Frank Spilker is the singer of the German indie cult band DIE STERNE. We encountered him after the band’s concert when he just finished his meal.

Portrait of Frank Spilker. Photo by Felix Weichelt.

Mister Spilker, you’re living in Hamburg which is a city way up north in Germany but of similar importance as Düsseldorf if it comes to music history. Is there anything you connect with Düsseldorf?

Apart from having relatives and further acquaintances that do come from Düsseldorf I connect artists like MOUSE ON MARS or TOM LIWA with the city and its nearby region. So, we are indeed in one way or another connected with Düsseldorf, I guess.

Due to an early slot you now possibly have the chance and joy to walk around and attend the festival yourself. Did you already spot anything you like?

Well, it’s the first time ever we attend the Open Source Festival but I like the decentralised aspect about it which reminds me of considerably bigger festivals like Roskilde. It’s really nice to have the opportunity to explore multiple facets of the festival at the same time and stumble upon something unexpected.

Do festivals like the Open Source offer a chance to escape the ‘depressions from hell’ (refers to Depressionen aus der Hölle, a single released by DIE STERNE in 2010)?

Definitely! Yes! But even if there is no way to escape there is still the chance to take them by the hand and go for a walk so that you meet other people who share the same fate.

2. Rob Keane (WATT!) – performing artist

Rob Keane is a musician who originally comes from Australia. He currently lives in Düsseldorf and won a slot at the Young Talent Stage as part of a newcomer contest that took place at Sipgate in June.

Portrait of Rob Keane (WATT!). Photo by Felix Weichelt.

Rob, today marks your first ever festival performance. What did it feel like?

Oh, the atmosphere is totally different from a regular concert. First of all festivals tend to be outdoors and this is no different. The sound quality is different, the way in which the people react is different, and the fact that it’s daytime for me. I can perform here in the daytime and people are happy to have a beer and dance. That’s fantastic. So, I think the whole kind of atmosphere behind the festival is a complete contrast to a night time club gig where people are looking to party or that club atmosphere in particular. And here, for me, as an earlier act it’s all a bit different.

What do you particularly like about the location where the festival is taking place?

I love the location! I mean I’ve been to Open Source for the last six years straight as a listener. I prefer to sit on the grass but if I’m sitting in the top of the pavilion I can just look out over the race course across to the forest and it’s fantastic. The location itself is a dream.

You’re originally from Australia. What fascinates you about Düsseldorf?

Düsseldorf is the home of electronic music. I think if you list any of the top 5 electronic bands in the world most of them or let’s say the original ones would have come from Düsseldorf and the current ones would have been influenced by the Düsseldorf sound. I’m a massive fan of KRAFTWERK and NEU! who are the reason why I have the exclamation mark in my name.

3. Christina Irrgang (BAR) – performing artist

Christina Irrgang is one half of the duo BAR which is about to release new music in the near future.

Portrait of Christina Irrgang (BAR). Photo by Felix Weichelt.

Düsseldorf is known for a distinctive connection between music and art. How much art is in the music of BAR?

Quite a lot, actually. I’ve studied art sciences and it’s my involvement in the theory of art that very often contributes to the conception of our songs. For example, one of our new songs refers to an artwork by the artist Christoph Westermeier. The lyrics work as a description for his installation.

In your opinion, what is special about the line-up of the Open Source Festival?

It’s remarkable that on this very day at a considerably small location local acts and international artists share the same stage in order to present their material. Local acts are given the opportunity to present art which is influenced by the whole world and artists coming from the whole world visit Düsseldorf. It’s beautiful.

Do recent acts of terrorism influence the way how you encounter concerts or festival performances?

They’re no reason for us not to perform. Also, our new songs cover topics like living together, interhuman relations, openness, warmness, and love. These new songs are our reaction towards such developments.

4. Peter Witt (die digitale) – Open Squares participant

Peter Witt is involved in organising die digitale – a young festival for digital art and music.

Portrait of Peter Witt (die digitale). Photo by Felix Weichelt.

What is it that die digitale can learn from the Open Source Festival?

die digitale is a comparatively small and young festival but if we manage to grow we’d like to handle our duties as professional as the Open Source Festival so that our visitors have every reason to be in an equally good mood as we experience it here today.

What do you expect from being part of Open Squares today?

It turns out that every second visitor who passes by doesn’t know that we exist. Indeed, die digitale is such a brand-new format that we’re only starting out. We organised the first edition of our festival last year and received great feedback. Ideally, our presence at Open Squares makes as many people as possible take notice of our program.

Why does Düsseldorf need a festival like die digitale?

die digitale is a festival that is specifically dedicated to digital art and music. It’s a format that didn’t exist that way in Düsseldorf before we premiered last year. So, we’re actually filling a gap here. Digital art and music is an expanding genre which deserves its own platform. For instance, when we asked ‘Off-Räume’ (a number of self-organised locations in Düsseldorf) whether they would like to collaborate with us they happily agreed. The enthusiastic response we get shows that there indeed is a demand for a festival and concept like die digitale.

5. Wolfgang Flür (Ex-Kraftwerk) – visitor

Wolfgang Flür visited the Open Source Festival to watch his friend WATT! perform at the Young Talent Stage.

Portrait of Wolfgang Flür (Ex-Kraftwerk). Photo by Felix Weichelt.

Mister Flür, why do you attend the Open Source Festival?

To begin with, Open Source has a good reputation as it’s already the twelfth edition taking place this year. I remember that in its early days the festival used to take place at the lido of Düsseldorf Lörick where I also liked to go for a swim. However, the current location at the race course and in the midst of a forest is even more beautiful and romantic so that it could hardly get any better. Moreover, another reason for visiting the festival is the appearance of my dear Australian friend Rob Keane whose project WATT! won a slot at the Young Talent Stage.

What do you particularly like about the music of WATT!?

I like the way how the music is created. WATT! is the one-man project of Rob who produces electronic sounds with the help of an iPad and a small Akai keyboard. So he doesn’t need, for example, a rhythm guitarist or ‘the everlasting drummer’ just like KRAFTWERK didn’t need me as a drummer anymore once the drum-sequencers came into play. Furthermore, his music is characterised by interesting arrangements, Kraftwerk-esque samples, and extraordinary lyrics that he sings. Everything about it is very touching and romantic. Also, apart from having played only three to four shows in Düsseldorf up to now, you can clearly hear that he’s rapidly improving on his music which is great.

The Open Source festival has always been a platform for local acts. Which current artists from Düsseldorf do you like as well?

I’d like to name Lucas Croon who is a worthy successor of my former colleague Florian Schneider (founding member of KRAFTWERK) in terms of fashion and the range of topics he covers. He is part of two musical projects named BAR and STABIL ELITE. I’ve seen BAR perform once and STABIL ELITE who are around for quite a while now a number of times.

6. Steph & her daughter Josi – visitors

We met photographer Steph with her daughter Josi and talked to them about the festival.

Portrait of Steph & her daughter Josi. Photo by Felix Weichelt.

What do you like at the Open Source Festival, Josi?

The Open Source Festival is special because it takes place only once a year. I like that there is so much going on here and that so many different bands are performing. That’s cool.

What makes the Open Source Festival so family-friendly, Steph?

It’s most definitely the location and its open space. There is no problem at all for families to move around with their kids. In addition, you can get away from the crowd and watch the bands perform from the stall or be even further away and the sound is still classy.

Steph, you’re a photographer so you probably have an eye for details. What detail of the festival do you like?

Josi: I like all the activities that you can do here.

Steph: Yes, Josi likes all the tents that together form the Open Squares area. Otherwise that’s a difficult question for me I have to admit. It’s got to be the corporate design of the festival, though. It’s quite appealing. I really like the clear structure and the colours of the design. Apart from that, I love the good atmosphere of the festival and that everyone has a good time.