Berlin is a battle field. At least certain areas like the Warschauer Brücke, the tourist-drenched frontier between districts Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are. Especially on a Friday night. There we stood, a few of us from the NBHAP staff; watching the ever-floating masses from the U- and S-Bahn-station making their way into the nightlife. A hypnotizing but also slightly disturbing view no matter how long you’ve been living in the German capital.
There’s a special relationship between the city, its streets and the nightlife; much of it romanticized by movies, music and other pop cultural reports. As an inhabitant you can get tired of it quite easily, especially when you’re residing in the hip districts. Still, all in all it’s an undeniable plus of the city. Basically, at every weekend you have the opportunity to see plenty of music everywhere, and some of it also remains free like the many street musicians prove.
First We Take Berlin, the city’s showcase festival, partly tries to capture this special atmosphere. The nightly running around between clubs while grabbing yourself another beer at the Späti shop. Music everywhere, not for free but for a moderate price. The second edition of the event provided plenty of talented new acts on multiple stages. One of them, the Privatclub, was also hosted by NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. And although it’s basically impossible to see every act we tried to get a glimpse on as many artists as possible. Here are the eight most memorable musical moments from these lovely late summer nights in Berlin.
It’s a mystery to us why Belgian dreampop outfit AMATORSKI is still quite unknown outside their home country. Once again the group around charismatic singer Inne Eysermans proved why this is a group to look out for. Dreamy and tender pop melodies that circle around the lead singers sweet vocals. It’s music that should be wrapped in cotton wool with the listener in the middle of it.
Last week Ahmed Gallab and his alter ego SINKANE released a quite satisfying new album called Mean Love. On this Thursday night he performed a big part of it live and it was like a delicious and tasty midnight meal. Gallab and his fellow musicians brought the songs to life with a maximum amount of soul and emotion. They even made us dance a little but most of the time it was pure … let’s call it… ‘baby-making-music.’
It’s no surprise that the charismatic Norwegian blonde has been a long time favourite of NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. Time for the rest of the world to find out about her, we think. That’s probably one reason why she performed multiple times during these busy days in Berlin. The songs of her forthcoming new LP Zero Gravity State Of Mind have undeniable potential and so does her extroverted stage presence. Still, it was quite enjoyable witnessing her playing a tender acoustic set at the ‘Tante Emma’ bar. Just her voice, a piano, quite impractical shoes with heels and a lot of smiles.
Having Dev Hynes as one of your best buddies isn’t the worst reputation. In terms of Adam Brainbridge and his alter ego KINDNESS the impact of BLOOD ORANGE in the recent years is quite sensible when watching the new live show to support his forthcoming second LP Otherness. Within two years Brainbridge evolved from an entertaining but weird laptop musician to a full-time funk crooner with a full band line-up, plenty of confidence on stage and even better dance moves. He can even eat bananas during his performance and make it look cool. Despite facing technical problems (which ‘forced’ the band to mainly play old material) Brainbridge and his band acted like professionals and just let the funk come alive. The show was a revelation, pure enjoyment and the proof that the future should belong to KINDNESS.
Alice Phoebe Lou
A street music event without the queen of Berlin street musicians? Unthinkable. Having ALICE PHOEBE LOU as part of the ‘First We Take The Streets’ event seemed like a consequent choice. The new happening added a certain ‘street spirit’ to the event and gave unsigned and unknown musicians the choice to play in front of the festival audience or at least hundreds of tourists at the Eastside Gallery. Right here we sat down to enjoy Mrs. LOU and her gentle little folk songs during the surprisingly hot late summer sun. And we couldn’t think of a better artist to sing the summer of 2014 a final farewell. Unbelievable what a voice comes out of this young little girl; especially in combination with the depths of her lyrics. Although she promised to still play the streets of Berlin in the future we highly doubt it.
It’s one of the finer situations in the artistic life of a band when they end their gig with more people in the audience than at the beginning. Thanks to GLASS ANIMALS (who got lost in traffic and cancelled their show) we got the chance to witness Estonian folk rockers ODD HUGO in the Berghain cantina and it proved to be a true blessing in disguise. The likely lads drove over 1.000 miles to play in front of this handful of people. That alone is quite impressive but her songs are even better. Like mixture of harmonic-singing 60s Americana folk and the band’s Balkan roots these gentlemen combined playfulness with expertise. Highly recommendable material.
Throughout the whole festival various secret acts played shows, constantly raising rumours under the audience about their identities. Prior to the performance of the secret act at City Slang’s showcase on Thursday many people talked about a surprising CARIBOU gig. Of course, it wouldn’t make any sense, although Dan Snaith is part of the City Slang family. Instead we got songwriter Cherilyn MacNeil and her project DEAR READER who brought a big fat smile on our face. The band’s irresistibly lovely folk-pop in combination with their sheer enjoyment of performing is just that sort of thing that makes you want to go ‘aaaaahhwww.’
The White Album
One special mention goes to the folks from Our/Berlin Vodka and Nordic By Nature who once again provided the best venue of the event again, this time even bigger and as an official part of the festival although the program was for free. It’s a relaxed urban setting that somehow also contains a certain ‘countryside charm.’ And there’s plenty of great food and fine drinks and even finer music. Great up and coming acts like DNKL, ADNA or HENRIK JOSÉ performed right here. Bearded Danish folk newcomers THE WHITE ALBUM deserve a special mention because a) their beards were badass as fuck and b) their tender music perfectly matched with the late afternoon sun on that Wednesday. A lovely little moment of true bliss; and as long as there are such moments possible on an event like this we won’t mind another visit in 2015.