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If someone had told you that you had to be in Mannheim last weekend to take part at a pretty cool derby, then you could have asked yourself: “Since I’m not into horse-racing, Catholic gatherings are not my thing either and Mannheim isn’t really the place to be at a sunny weekend, so why should I just go there?” Well, the answer is simple: because last weekend, this year’s festival season has started and the Maifeld Derby Festival made up a lovely opener – and we were there to meet awesome people, enjoy great music and have a good time.

Last year, the festival took place for the first time and it was complete success – 3000 stoked visitors and reviewers alike. So even though being still one of the baby festivals, this year’s version was quite impressive too: about 30 amazing bands of different genres, a neat location and a relaxed atmosphere and, not to say the least, very, very, very nice people made the whole event a great experience. Especially notable is Mannheim’s participation in the whole planning and realization of the festival, for the city’s pop academy helped to prepare and organize, the local butcher shop took care of the catering, the beer was delivered by the regional brewery and the filmlet festival “Zum Goldenen Hirsch” contributed some films to enrich the cultural program even more. The area was well-arranged and you could easily get from one stage to the other without having to overcome any bigger obstacles, and so was the timetable, which made up for the full experience.

The bands were accommodated in a three-storey house just right within the festival site (well, in the backstage area of course) and the glassy front gave sight to the big tent and the whole rest of the area. Only the gorgeous “Parcours d’amour” – the stadium’s grandstand – was located behind the band house and it shaped up as the festival’s romantic and cozy corner where people could sit and watch song-writer concerts, readings and filmlets while enjoying a glass of wine offered at the integrated bar. All in all, there were four locations: the big tent, which offered the biggest stage and pretty cool lightshows to create dramatic and dreamy atmospheres during the shows, a smaller open air stage, another tent named “Play Me Room” and, as already mentioned, the acoustic stage “Parcours d’amour”.

We got there late Friday afternoon and immediately started our interview sessions. Since there was no real press area, we had to look for suitable places to talk to the bands which was no problem at all, since the area offered enough space to walk around and to withdraw a bit – e.g. in a little wooden hut or under the trees in the backstage area. I have to emphasize the helpfulness and friendliness of all the staff, especially the “helpers”, who took care of us so wonderfully – you guys really rule! They supported us getting in touch with bands and finding a nice spot to talk to them as well. Basically, everyone – artists, visitors, staff members, security – who crossed our way was friendly, which created a pretty nice atmosphere.

In terms of musical performances, the festival ranks among IMMERGUT FESTIVAL and PHONOPOP – great indie, folk, rock and pop acts such as WE HAVE BAND, ME AND MY DRUMMER, TALKING TO TURTLES, TU FAWNING, ORPH and headliner bands like BLOOD RED SHOES and FRISKA VILJOR. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet them all, but quite a few of them, and they really impressed us every single one!
The first day of the festival opened up with some beautiful acts, among them SUSANNE SUNDFØR, a Norwegian singer and songwriter with a dramatically high voice and creepily wonderful compositions that were embedded into an illuminated lightshow scenery on stage. Another highlight was definitely the show presented by BALTHAZAR, the Belgian pop-rock delicacy that stands out with its live performances: very energetic and passionate musicians and very fun to watch! Friday night’s headliner was the Swedish rock band FRISKA VILJOR, whose front guys Daniel and Joakim undeniably know how to rock the crowds, ‘cause they’re true “stage hogs”. The ROYAL BATHS – San Francisco/New York-based psychedelic “Pitchfork”- rock – completed that day’s musical potpourri, a very satisfying and amazing first day of a festival!

Saturday started no less impressive, with ME AND MY DRUMMER almost knocking over the audience in the tent – not due to the estimated 40° Celsius – but because of a very stunning live set and lead singer Charlotte’s amazing voice. Other great acts were DEAR READER and TU FAWNING, two diverse bands, yet both featuring female front singers with beautiful and exceptional voices. The latter really killed it, so dramatic and stirring, even better than I had assumed when I first listened to their album A Monument. WE INVENTED PARIS braved the elements of nature while playing their “spectacular” tunes on the open air stage, followed by WE HAVE BAND making the people dance to their electro-pop sound inside the hot tent. Another beautiful show was presented by THE MISERABLE RICH, who we also got to talk to before – the interview is going to follow soon! – and who earned standing ovations for their tuneful folk songs. BLOOD RED SHOES rounded out a fantastic two-day festival that was really worth visiting!

Maifeld Derby Festival was an excellent event to celebrate summer time and indie music within a music-loving community – and according to the festival’s philosophy – in responsible exposure to nature and environment. Hooray for festivals, hooray for this life!

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