In Germany Hamburg is often named the ‘gate to the world’ – most likely due to its importance in terms of economic export and import. It’s not far from here to lots of places. Last weekend Hamburg invited the world to pass this gate. They imported the bands and fans from all around the world while exporting great music, great art and one of the loveliest festivals we had ever been too. The sixth installment of the MS DOCKVILLE FESTIVAL was filled with almost too much to take – so many bands, tons of impressions, a wide range of emotions. Almost a bit too much to name them all. But we’ve been there, we tried and this is what we had to say.
First fact we must say: the area – located around Europe’s biggest river island in Hamburgs district Wilhelmsburg – is truly beautiful. Of course you got the bigger mainstages – the ‘Grossschot’ and the ‘Vorschot’ – but around them there are a many trees and tiny stages with joyful names as ‘Nest’, ‘Butterland’ or ‘Maschinenraum’ where the visitor can experience new and surprising artists. And of course there is art everywhere – fancy installments like a tree of old recyclable plastic bottles or a labyrinth made out of canisters are just two examples. There’s creativity everywhere around the musical offer – you can even print your own festival merchandise or decide to listen to some poetry slam instead of a band. This sense of interactivity is also beneficial for the atmosphere within those three days and between the people. Although there were 20.000 visitors around on these days it’s a very calmed down atmosphere, very chilled and focused on the content and substance of the event. A lot of different people – everyone with a different purpose (from the fashion-focused hipster chick to the drug-consuming party guys, to the music lovers) but all peacefully united under the flag of the Dockville wave.
Friday – “I told you I was nothing but a heartbeat”
So, there were plenty of acts – we managed to have a look on a lot of them, sometimes a bit longer, sometimes a bit shorter. Friday was still a bit cloudy, cold with slices of rain but that didn’t bother us that much. We started our festival with befriended danish musician Brian Batz and his project SLEEP PARTY PEOPLE. As always Batz and his band mates wore their bunny masks and played wonderful dreamy tunes between ambient-pop and chillwave which led us deeper into their very own rabbit hole. Great way of starting a festival. Another great danish act – DARKNESS FALLS – was rocking the ‘Vorschot’ stage with their groovy wave pop and got followed by british indietronic trio WE HAVE BAND who kept the warmed up crowd going.
By that time one of the finest performances happened over at the tiny ‘Nest’-Stage since the fabulous – and once again danish – musician Esben Andersen and his band RANGLEKLODS gave a wonderful performance. Very intense slow-grooving and dark synthie beats in combination with his magnificent voice – a unique atmosphere that grabbed everyones attention in the audience and was clearly one of the weekend’s highlights. Even the upcoming big headliners on the main stage didn’t managed to recreate such a feeling. But indie-rockers MAXIMO PARK did a solid performance while their electronic fellow countrymen HOT CHIP did the same – although they still somehow seem to have a problem transferring the groovy tunes from their records onto the stage. They can do better, we’re sure. But it kept us dancing and so we decided to rave right through the night over at the ‘Maschinenraum’ with the hard techno sounds of German acid rockers DUMME JUNGS and the smooth groove of DAUWD – a dubstep and garage producer from England.
Saturday – “It feels so good in the bay”
To the pleasure of everyone the sun finally showed itself on Saturday, the temperature went up which was – again – quite positive for the mood of the festival in general as it now really became a lovely and harmonic summer festival. Since our feet were still a bit tired from the night before we decided to take things smoother on this Saturday. LAKE PEOPLE – a atmospheric minimal producer from Germany – was a great way to start the day with his sunny set over at ‘Butterland’. On the other stages, DAUGHTER played here beautiful folk songs while icelandic indie poppers RETRO STEFSON proofed once again while they are the ultimate must-have for each festival. Great live band that keeps the crowd running with a mixture of – well – probably every genre you’d ever imagine. They played wave, rock, pop, R’n’B, house, techno and even metal – very often everything in just one song. Their performance was a pure package of good vibrations that infected everyone who managed to line up in front of the main stage on this afternoon. If you ever organize a festival – book those guys! Danish indietronic-rockers WHOMADEWHO – who followed their Icelandic colleagues – would be a great choice too. Australian bombast rockers THE JEZABELS are probably less danceable but their songs are full of emotion, big gestures and every kind of feeling you can imagine. Especially front women Hayley Mary does a great job as performer and singer – a voice you can’t really resist. We are in love – an interview with the group will follow soon. Same goes for chillwave newcomer SLOW MAGIC who did an impressive live show on the very small ‘Torte’ stage earlier that evening. Hidden behind a creative and colorful mask the man played his atmospheric and slow beats while facing the upcoming sunset. Probably the most perfect environment his music could work in.
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Tonights main acts focussed on their strength as METRONOMY kept the people dancing with hits like Heartbreaker or The Bay while hyped newcomer JAMES BLAKE cooled them down later with his reduced compositions. A difficult but brave choice as a headliner since he’s definitely not a entertainer that pleases the masses. His music – especially his earlier work he also performed on that night – is full of complexity and ideas and won’t please everyone. A smaller stage with a more intimate atmosphere would have been wiser but probably impossible due to the huge interest from the audience. But after Blake slowed down our heart frequency and the sun has settled there was still a lot of things to discover in dark of the festivals nightlife. DISCLOSUREpresented lovely disco vibes behind his decks, while the currently hyped and – of course – masked Manchester-based witch-house producer HOLY OTHER presented a challenging and facinating live set over at ‘Butterland’. Spooky electronic soundscapes with a certain but very decent dance groove in the middle of the night – kind of exhausting during the whole hour he played but definitely the right sound for the right time. The second day finished with a fabulous set by ROBAG WRUHME – one of Germany’s first addresses when it comes to delicate technoid sounds. If you ever want to find out how there can be true beauty in dance music just listen to the sets and songs of this man. We left the area tired but with a huge smile.
Sunday – “We’ll see daylight through the blinds”
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The final day of the DOCKVILLE FESTIVAL is a bit more laid back than the first two ones – probably because everyone’s a bit far out after the weekend. This means – a bit less bands and stages but still enough room for music, arts and walking around in the sun. Sunday was even hotter than the day before. But that doesn’t kept the people from dancing – especially when French show indie rockers MISTER VALAIRE put a big fat smile on everyone’s face with their funny and entertaining live show. If you ever managed to stumble upon them, go see them live! There was some more to see on this hot day – German dreampop newcomers ME AND MY DRUMMER embraced us with their soulful songs while Norwegian indie poppers TEAM ME celebrated their hymnic sound and the birthday of a band member which a huge celebration over at the ‘Vorshot’ – including huge and colorful balloons. TUNE-YARDS and their charismatic lead singer Merrill Garbus were a true bliss with their experimental but always soulful experimental pop over at the main stage. The sun is already setting as German electronic duo DIE VÖGEL mixes hard electronic club beats with classical instruments like a tuba or a clarinet. We decided to close our three days at Hamburg with a performance by Canadian dreampop duo MEMORYHOUSE. With the sun slowly setting in front of the small stage and the impressive harbor buildings beside us we couldn’t imagine a better setting for the lovely music by these guys. Especially singer Denise Nouvion made us really fall in love with her voice and her charisma.
As the last tones of the music by the Toronto duo had gone the sun had already settled – the gates of MS DOCKVILLE FESTIVAL are closing once again, leaving us happy, satisfied and quite impressed. When they open their gates again next year we’ll definitely be back again since we were received with much love, creativity and variety – almost a bit too much to handle with. But there could be worse points of critique than this one, wouldn’t you agree?
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MS DOCKVILLE FESTIVAL
[one_half last=”no”] Hamburg, Germany