Damn. It happened anyway; although we tried to avoid it. Suddenly we’re in the middle of group of obviously already quite drunk British males. ‘Yeah, fucking boobs, man.’ It’s one of the moments where you find yourself shaking your head, questioning western society and human intelligence in general. On the other side, it’s the bloody Reeperbahn, girls and boys. Germany’s ‘mile of sin’ is a place like no other, an adult playground full of neon lights, alcohol, sex, crime and cheep dance music. It’s entertainment to the maximum whether you like (or asked for) it or not. There’s a mutual agreement between all the visitors and the originate Hamburgers to keep this district a place of insanity in a quite sane society. So yes, you can romanticize it as well.
Despite its furious nature it really is a great place to organize one of Europe’s most important showcase events. The annual REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL belongs to the street and the district of St. Pauli just like all the countless bars and sex clubs. It represents the original punk spirit of the area but mixes it with a contemporary approach. Yes, you are free to call this gentrification. Plenty of clubs and venues on and around the Reeperbahn mark the perfect place to discover up and coming bands, meet old friends in the industry and probably make some new ones in the shine of the neon lights. 2014 saw a lot of changes for the established event about which NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION also talked with festival founder Alexander Schulz recently. Once again, we threw ourselves into the wild circus and experienced plenty of memorable moments. Here are a few of them.
The moments of great musical (re-) discoveries
There were plenty of artists at the Reeperbahn Festival we knew from previous encounters, whether it was at other showcases or right here on NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. But it was great seeing them all again. Ahmed Gallab aka SINKANE delivered another funky live performance while all-hyped one-man-synthpop-army EAST INDIA YOUTH proved why he just earned a well-received Mercury Prize nomination. What a blast on Thursday evening at the just re-opened Molotow Club. One day earlier Belgium ensemble OSCAR AND THE WOLF delivered a gentle mix of M83 and SOHN that was mainly carried by charismatic singer Max Colombie. To say these guys got a certain potential would be an understatement. Same goes for the one and only HAUSCHKA who delivered a virtuosic performance at the Mojo Club (clearly the venue with the best sound, so very much fitting for the composer). Following his recent feature article on NBHAP he truly stood up to our expectations.The freshly re-opened Molotow Club – Photo by Heiko Sehrsam
The (positive) flashback moments
Back at this year’s SPOT Festival we saw SEKOUIA who highly convinced us there. A band that was buzzed a lot over the last months. Now we saw them again to find out how they do. Seriously? They do massively good and convince live now even more. Same with SEA CHANGE who played Imperial Theater. People lining in front of the club waiting to get into the fully packed location. The singer convinced. Again. It can be taken for granted that SEKOUIA and SEA CHANGE have a bright future right in front of them.
The shining moment of the front woman
A good band leader can carry his own band and convince a whole audience. We saw plenty of great and cool lead singers on the event. But the coolest and most convincing one was probably INTERGALACTIC LOVERS’ very own Lara Chedraoui. Not only is the Belgian beauty quite lovely to look at but her voice spreads an undeniable feeling of warmth and solace as she carries the gentle indie-pop songs of her group. We almost missed this year’s longplayer Little Heavy Burdens but we surely didn’t want to miss the great performance in the Große Freiheit 36 last Saturday. The audience hung on the lips of Chedraoui as she danced and joked her way through the set in the loveliest way. Great band, great songs and a promising future.
The moment when the noise got the upper hand.
A performance by British goth rock trio ESBEN AND THE WITCH is always a quite special one. It’s an intense rollercoaster ride straight into the heart of darkness. On that Friday night at Hamburg’s Uebel&Gefährlich the band performed tracks of the just released new longplayer A New Nature as well as a few classics. It truly was a noisy, droning lesson in intensity. Huge guitar walls, dramatic breakdowns and the siren-like voice of singer Rachel Davies… it really shook the listeners’ inner guts. Quite possibly the best performance we witnessed.
The moment we fell in love
Okay, we might be faithful to our partners at home and clearly didn’t fall for the obvious temptations from Hamburg’s infamous Reeperbahn and its even more infamous hookers. But on Thursday evening at the Knust we really felt for Elida Inman Tjørve, the sweet keyboard player from Norwegian power-pop ensemble TEAM ME. When she performed the tender Steven from the band’s new album Blind As Night she truly owned the hearts of the audience. A brief moment of romance right before her fellow musicians continued their joyful over-the-top-performance.
The most surprising moments
We accidentally bumped into YEARS AND YEARS‘ show at Prinzenbar. Guys who look like teenagers but do music as if they have the experience of wise people. Later we found out that these guys are not as young as they look (they are pretty young though). Proper pop, proper r&b on the highest level you can think of. Definitely on of the most surprising moments at this year’s Reeperbahn Festival. Another surprising moment was NATAS LOVES YOU‘s show a Grüner Jäger. Most danceable indie pop from Luxembourg we fell instantly in love with. Neither we nor the rest of the crowd was able to stand still. Moving legs and dancing bodies everywhere. Surprising discovery!
The countless moments of sweating
One of the nicer aspects of the event was the fact that Hamburg offered – despite all the clichés – warm and sweet late summer weather during these four days. A nice change from all the rain in 2013 but… well, clearly not an achievement of the organizers. Besides that fact the venues itself proved to be sauna-like temples of sweat far too often. As the up and coming Austrian pop gods BILDERBUCH performed in the Grünspan for example. Singer Maurice Ernst compared the hot atmosphere with the process of childbirth. Well, okay then. Other venues faced the same problem. The Clubheim of the famous local football team FC St. Pauli for example. Right here Finnish shoegaze ensemble NEØV delivered a dreamy performance drenched in fuzzy guitars and psychedelic reverbs. A positive example for the combination of ‘climate’ and sound.Bilderbuch – Photo by Nina Zimmermann
The most ‘retroesque’ moment
British producer nerd J. Willgoose and his project PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING are all about the glory days of the past and their transformation into something contemporary. That’s way more easier said than done but in reality the concept of the group works quite well. Willgoose samples vocal tracks from old documentaries, movies, commercials or news broadcastings while creating a sort-of-live soundtrack to it. The result is an eclectic and grooving mix of electronics, math- and post-rock. Visuals of old black-and-white propaganda movies are projected during the performance while Willgoose itself wears a lovely old suit and speaks to the audience via pre-recorded vocal samples. Surreal but somehow also quite hypnotic. It was probably the most original performance of the festival and an outstanding live experience.
The most ‘totalitarian’ moment
Speaking of great concepts… Swiss ensemble KADEBOSTANY got a lovely one for their band as well. Producer Kadebostan plays the dictator of a small fictional country and KADEBOSTANY are their state orchestra. Expect uniforms, flag ceremony, saluting and big gestures as the dictator comes to your country for a proper musical invasion. It’s Blitzkrieg Pop with a furious mixture of electronic, hip hop, punk and trumpets. The audience quite quickly surrenders. Hail Entertainment!
The moment of pretentious boredom
So, yes, mainstream-focussed pop music is always a bit manufactured in some way. We totally get this. But still, is it so hard to show at least a bit authenticity within a performance? CLAIRE’s show at the Mojo Club felt pretentious, soulless and affected. Almost like a staged choreography. We left after three songs.
The most ‘badass U2-diss-moment’
This year’s prominent speaker at the opening panel was none other than one of Germany’s most established and famous artists, Mr. HERBERT GRÖNEMEYER. Although the man itself is an old buddy of U2 frontman Bono he clearly didn’t support the band’s recent marketing stunt around the free release of the album Songs Of Innocence. According to Mr. GRÖNEMEYER it’s a kick in the guts of all hard-working musicians and a wrong sign from the world’s biggest band. The German itself won’t release his forthcoming album via Spotify or other streaming service. A way easier move for such a major label ‘cash cow’ HERBERT is and way less ‘rebellious’ as he might think.
All these other tiny moments of exchange
The Reeperbahn itself is a place you don’t want to visit when you’re an introverted misanthrope, especially on the weekend. You meet plenty of loud and weird people, from grumpy old Hamburgers to drunk British party tourists. And during the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL you, of course, run into a fair amount of people from the industry. Some are colleagues; plenty of them are weirdos or pretentious media people while others might even become friends after a few bottles of Astra beer or a Whisky. We met befriended folks, artists, lost them in the course of the evening only to find them again a few hours later, slightly wasted in the Prinzenbar or obviously tired at the festival lounge. It’s this special, somehow family-like, atmosphere that defines the microcosm of the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL. For some it might be the most important business meeting of the year, others just come for the free booze and snacks while others try to enjoy as much music as possible. At the end it’s a mix of everything since the Reeperbahn clearly isn’t a place for ‘black-and-white-thinking’ but rather the home of colourful neon lights.