This year for the very first time, the New Fall Festival simultaneously took place in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart. Yet, the original concept remained: Ambitious concerts accommodated in extraordinary, unusual places such as the grounded Johanneskirche and an 11th floor hotel bar over the roofs of the city. The opening night even saw French singer JAIN playing at an incredibly small stage at the trendy housing of a telephone company.
NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION attended the Düsseldorf edition of the festival and found that the concept still perfectly works. Much happened throughout the five festival days from Wednesday to Sunday. As the weekend was about to start, even the sun came out and stayed, making autumnal Düsseldorf look as colourful as the New Fall Festival poster and corporate design. So unsurprisingly, we came back with hearts full of love only to report you our eight favourite gigs.
1. Jain at Sipgate
The New Fall Festival organising committee and its new partner sipgate, a telephone company, really knew how to welcome visitors who were attending the opening night of the festival. Right between trendy, minimalist offices and a high-end ‘cuisine’ serving free drinks and healthy food, lovely newcomer JAIN from France played a set of infectious pop tunes that made people dance, sing, and ultimately celebrate what would become a triumphant five-day event featuring amibitous performances and places. The stage might have been indeed rather small, but it’s because of the mere creative atmosphere this very place radiates that we wish to see more concerts taking place at sipgate in the future.
2. Explosions In The Sky at Robert-Schumann-Saal
Walking down the majestic Ehrenhof in order to reach the Museum Kunstpalast made us pass a huge collection of empty beer bottles. It’s something you wouldn’t usually see at this gracious and cherished place that sort of connects the Tonhalle, NRW Forum, and Robert-Schumann-Saal. Looking at the scenery from the elevated entrance of the museum, we found that nobody was picking up the carefully and neatly arranged line of bottles. From this very perspective, it almost felt like watching a weird art installation by Beuys. Inside, however, EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY played a hypnotic collection of intense post rock hymns accompanied by a spectacular, warm light show. No mobile phones, no talking. People just closed their eyes and let their minds wander.
3. Grandbrothers at Johanneskirche
GRANDBROTHERS at Johanneskirche, a church lying at the very heart of the city, must have been one of the oddest events of this year’s New Fall Festival. By entering the church, we found some people strangely walking around, nervously tipping their toes, leaving behind a clearly puzzled impression. By the look of their faces, big speech bubbles above their heads seemed to ask whether they were at the truly right location, or even more so, if they’d really entered and passed these dignified gates. GRANDBROTHERS, however, made the church look like a hybrid of lecture hall and dancefloor. While some parents carefully listened to Lukas Vogel’s almost whispered speech on how exactly their experimental electronic sound evolves, their young children moved around in the church, ending up right in front of the altar dancing along to the pacy new songs of this arty, academic duo.
4. All The Luck In The World at Bachsaal
Sometimes it happens that a marvel of beauty is simply out of our sight, ridiculusly hidden, strangely inconspicuous. The Johanneskirche is of great arcitecture and structure, but you wouldn’t necessarily focus on the rather plain door next to the main gates that allow you to rise to the marvellous Bachsaal. It’s a place you immediately want to inhabit: Almost of oval shape, overseeable size, and a history-charged look, the young and older indie crowd alike immediately felt home and besieged the ground floor. The clock struck close to 11 PM, some people were lying down with their eyes directed at the subtle balcony that enables to capture the whole beauty of a hall that is, as modern times suggest, also equipped with a little bar.
Onstage, though, the Irish band ALL THE LUCK IN THE WORLD shared their weltschmerz with an open-minded audience that in turn carefully followed the kitchen-sink drama going on there. Was it the influence of alcohol, midnight approaching, or more like the desperate tone of the singer’s voice that made all of us turn slightly melancholic, taking the line ‘And I don’t know if I have ever been happy’ right to our hearts? It’s been probably all of that, and all of that was incredibly beautiful. If only people had just looked at each other’s faces.
5. Agnes Obel at Johanneskirche
Currently, the forecourt of the Johanneskirche is in a terribly messy state. There are a lot of roadworks going on in Düsseldorf city and the area around the flamboyant church does not constitute an exception. When we arrived at Johanneskirche at 4 PM, afternoon was in full swing, pedestrians and cars were hectically passing by. The church, however, stood right still at its usual place and looked warmly protected by a very long and calm queue that lasted from the entrance to almost half around the church. As time progressed, it made the impression that more and more people were arriving, joining in, sort of declaring their solidarity with us. The crowd shared an allied look on their face, symbolising that something precious was soon about to start, needs to be protected from the big city life. Some people came that weren’t lucky enough to get their tickets in advance. When a group of adult attendees offered a ticket to a French guest, it was not because they wanted to make money, they gladly handed it out to him 15€ off the actual price so that he could participate. Inside, the sworn community attentively listened to AGNES OBEL‘s divine music that is now carried together under the title Citizen of Glass. Indeed, this beautifully fragile performance by the singer and her band almost cried for protection, for shelter – to be given by the attending audience in this very church. And so the Danish singer closed her eyes, singing ‘it’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening again’ during her second date at Johanneskirche.
6. Roosevelt at Capitol Club
Saturday night saw us heading to the charming Capitol Theater that is situated nearby Düsseldorf main station. Catching a glimpse at the theatre made us all of a sudden realise that the adult folks came to see KATE TEMPEST performing her terrific new record Let Them Eat Chaos, whereas the younger crowd entered the doors of the club in order to dance along to the warm and balearic synth sound of german wunderkind Marius Lauber aka ROOSEVELT. That night, the seats stayed empty, the standing area next to the seats seemed almost deserted. The enthusiastic group of adolescents decidedly gathered in the ‘inner sanctum’, the ‘dancefloor’ of the club directly in front of the stage. And so the young crowd visibly enjoyed themselves, blithely celebrating ROOSEVELT‘s enchanting disco hymns as much as themselves. Later, confetti would flood the room. Lauber slowly raises his arm, assuming the pose of a shy, reserved winner. The dancing folks smile and hope this party never to end. Marius, looking rather sweaty after a glorious performance, feeds our wish, singing ‘The night moves on and on’ right before the band vanish behind the curtains only to come back shortly for an encore that saw them performing the classic WOMACK & WOMACK tune Teardrops.
7. Wyoming at me + all hotel
Very often it happens that the emotional state you’re in doesn’t match the position your body obtains. After heavenly and euphoric performances of AGNES OBEL and ROOSEVELT we pretty much felt like flying. And so it seemed rather approprate when the escalator of the newly opened me + all hotel brought us up the 11th floor where we entered an elegantly wooden based bar in order to attend a midnight concert of Cologne-based indie band WYOMING. The view was terrific; and although many visitors clearly weren’t there to specially attend the show, almost everyone around got more and more absorbed in what we consider the most extraordinary body and dance performance at this year’s New Fall Festival. It was amazing to see how the band couldn’t care less about some bewildered eyes in the midst of the audience. They just went on doing what they came for, and while being so perfect and precise at it, they convinced more and more faces that seemed rather puzzled in the very beginning. Musically, the at times Notwist-like harmonies brought us back down to earth so that we, by leaving the hotel shortly after midnight, were able to make our way right back home – still overwhelmed by the thought of how talented WYOMING clearly are and what a great new location this bar is.
8. Adam Green at Capitol Theater
New Fall Festival ended with a bit of semi-anarchy. Right back at the theatre on Sunday, we found ADAM GREEN entering the stage, not using any microphone, telling us that he would first show us a film (Aladdin) and then come back for a full band performance. The theatre was crowded and filled with excitement. Young folks, adults, even whole families with their kids attended. ADAM GREEN‘s Aladdin is just everything you expect it to be: childish, gaga, a bit dadaist – still under the surface there’s so much meaning, references, and social critique to it. The audience, however, didn’t completely feel that way. Whole groups of people left the room, probably never coming back even when the movie had ended.
To make it even more absurd, Green introduced a companioned songwriter to the stage who played two or tree terribly bad songs. Yet, we didn’t even know whether this was meant to be a joke and the songs rather improvised. The moment Green’s concert started, however, the residual crowd felt unified with the awkward singer again. People got up from their seats, moved right to the front of the stage, and danced around nerdy. As much as this was entertaining to see, it was even more heart-warming to find Adam hopping around onstage just like a little boy. You can’t deny it: There is something absolutely charming about his personality. Yes, it surely would have been more reasonable to have such a combined spectacle on Friday or Saturday night. But then again, we could all be a bit more Green-esque, at least for a day only, just feeling okay with it and being thankful for having such a fantastically weird way to end this amazing festival.
All Photos by Felix Weichelt, Luc Bachelet, Jan Becker & Chris Hegholtz for NBHAP