This year’s Torstraßen Festival was different to its other editions. For the first time in the festival’s nine-year history, the event didn’t spread out on various locations at the infamous Torstraße in Berlin’s fancy borough Mitte but took place in the legendary Volksbühne at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. Another change was the timing of the festival, set on the first September weekend instead of June. With major festival competition in form of Lollapalooza on the same weekend, one thing still stayed the same: A well-curated line-up for lovers of independent music. The location-change also had one major advantage. You could listen to the sets relaxed, not thinking about the stressful location-hopping or missing out on acts. At Volksbühne, it was just a matter of minutes to change between Roter Salon, Grüner Salon or the Big House.

Kate NV shot by Camille Blake

We started our evening off by attending Kate NV set at Grüner Salon. Also known for being part of Glintshake (ГШ), she produces more experimental, almost ambient sounds. With her own looping station, she created a unique tapestry of sound, that was enchanting and challenging to follow. While the whole audience sat on the floor during the set, it was distracting to see a lot of people coming in and out of the venue. Later on, London-based MC Shunaji created a much more different atmosphere for her set at Roter Salon. The charismatic artist and her band delivered a mixture of feisty HipHop and laid-back funk. The audience received her set well exuberant and we’re sure to hear a lot more of this lady soon. With soul artist duendita, another one of the many local artists of the festival graced the main stage at Großes Haus.

Intimacy vs. euphoria

Having just recently relocated from New York City to Berlin, the young artist proved that spiritual soul doesn’t have to sound cheesy. Afterwards Jessica Pratt, who delivered one of our favorite albums last year, graced the main stage with her partner Matt McDermott on piano. Though set in a big-capacity hall, the only 40-minute set still seemed very intimate. With a grasp of vulnerability in her voice, you could’ve just imagined the sound straight out of a bedroom production. With a lot of standing ovations and ‚encore‘-shouts, the artist proved that she’s one of the most outstanding and unique folk artists in the music scene. Over at Roter Salon, there was a way different kind of vibe. Amsterdam-based artist BEA1991 delivered an euphoric set somewhere between R&B and electronic.

Bea1991 by Dieter H. Engler

During the end of her set, she made the whole audience sit down, while she was sitting in the middle of the circle. She even gave a musical birthday toast to one of her fans. With her unique sound and performance skills, we’re sure she’s one of the artists to watch. Chinese-born artist Rui Ho took the Roter Salon after BEA1991 to ring in the Torstraßen party with sounds from Techno and Trance to pop music.

Hidden-gems next to established indie darlings

Even though we couldn’t catch all sets of the day, Torstraßen Festival once proved again that it’s a refreshing alternative to other Berlin festivals. With many venues closing down in Mitte and neighbor borough Prenzlauer Berg – such as Bassy Club – Torstraßen Festival shows as one of the last remaining events that alternative music and culture should have its place in Berlin-Mitte. With their hand-picked lineup, the festival makers ensured many hidden-gems next to established indie darling Jessica Pratt. The location-change to Volksbühne spared us from the previous location-hopping, yet the venue didn’t seem that crowded, especially during the later sets at Großes Haus. With its 10th edition approaching next year, we cannot emphasize enough, how important an independent event like Torstraßen Festival is in an ever-gentrifying city such as Berlin.

Jessica Pratt by Dieter H. Engler