Festival Season 2012: MS Dockville, Hamburg (DE)

The festival’s ignorant stars: the illuminated industry complexes across river Elbe. © D. Prahl

Introduction by Belle

In 2007, Dockville Festival took on the Elbinsel of Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg for the first time. Back then, it was just one stage and a few food stalls and NGO’s, confused teens and twens traversing the surrounding wasteland. Or so my blurred memory recalls. Five years after its inception, MS Dockville is widely known for its arty, independent approach and fantastic booking, scoring, for instance, MGMT’s only festival show in 2009, while also offering spaces for the local and the obscure as well as poetry slams, discussions and guided tours through the art park. This reputation by now draws hip crowds from all across the country, turning Dockville into some sort of Mini-MELT! made up of small-town youths in fancy dress and glitter as well as intellectual urban thirty-somethings. And even as a “mini”-version, this year’s installment drew more people that the – significantly downsized – area could handle at times, causing obscene congestions especially at the second-largest stage, the Vorschot. But at least this year we were spared the mud – in fact, no rain came down at all, which in Hamburg is an absolute sensation for a three-day festival, even in August. Under these conditions we saw a beautiful festival headlined by Hot Chip, James Blake and Maximo Park, but which offered much, much more – some of which we will summarise for you now, accompanied by lovely pictures of course! We start with a personal overview by Pete:

Summary by Pete

After I had missed it the past two years, this year’s Dockville was a real revelation. I don’t know where to start, because there are so many points which made this festival something special. But let me try. So, the first point was that I witnessed the entire construction/deconstruction process, because I was working there the week before and after the festival and it’s unbelievable how much work is put into three days of music and fun. As a reward I got a shiny silver backstage wristband and free entry to the festival. The second point was definitely the weather. Three days of clear sky, sunshine and no rain, best weather for a festival and a record for Hamburg. The third point was that I did not have to camp this year, because I live in Hamburg now and it only takes me 45 minutes to get to the festival area. And believe me, after camping at three festivals this year, it was very relaxing to sleep in my own bed . So the last point was of course the music. As every year they had a large and good selection of bands with lots of new discoveries and thematic days. Friday was the day with the big indie bands like The Maccabees, Maximo Park and Hot Chip. On Saturday we had an electronic-influenced day with Metronomy, James Blake and Purity Ring and Sunday, when everybody was exhausted, was the relaxed, experimental/folk/dreampop day with Slow Club, Tune-Yards, Memoryhouse and Tocotronic. I noticed that there were lots of female singers in the line-up, like Lucy Rose, Daughter, Sóley, Tune-Yards and Dillon. And now we will sum up some of the performances we saw, along with lots of pictures of the musicians, area, visitors and artworks … There was truly a lot to discover!

Viennese boys with a poetic vein: Indie rockers Bilderbuch were our first act on Friday (© D. Prahl)

Belle: After I had stumbled upon Bilderbuch in 2009 at a club show in Berlin, I hadn’t heard much from the Austrian outfit and their stomping indie rock, obviously influenced by certain British bands dominant at the time. Preceding their Dockville gig, I had started listening to their two albums and they became an instant addiction. The expressive, engaging poetry of their German lyrics delivered a fresh approach to a stagnating genre and their festival performance proved once more that they are just as gripping live. Their latest album “Die Pest im Piemont” is a definite recommendation of mine.

Captain Capa’s Hannes Naumann: Raving against sunshine (© D. Prahl)

Redheadess: Not having heard of Captain Capa until last year’s Reeperbahn Festival, where the two boys from Germany had played alongside better-known label mates Supershirt, Bratze and Frittenbude (they’re all on Hamburg-based independent label Audiolith Records), I thoroughly enjoyed the energetic set on Friday afternoon. Freshly returned from Warped Tour – which has obviously left a big impact, seeing as the boys couldn’t talk about anything else – the band played their electronic dance-pop songs with great enjoyment. Contrary to popular Audiolith-bands such as Frittenbude, who played the same stage later that day, Captain Capa’s lyrics are in English, which is probably one of the reasons why they got to play Warped Tour at all. Songs like “Faraday”, a personal favourite of mine, got great response from the teenage crowd that danced in the midst of the afternoon sun, blowing bubbles and throwing confetti.

Doubtlessly a highlight of the festival: The Maccabees’ performance on Friday evening (© D. Prahl)

Pete: The act I was most looking forward to on Friday and maybe at the whole festival were The Maccabees. For a long time I had ignored this band for unknown reasons and the first time I listened to their latest record “Given to the Wild” it failed to impress me again. But after some weeks the wonderful dreamy songs made their way into my ear and this album grew to be one of my favourites of the year. So of course the time had come to see them live and after I had missed their gig at Uebel & Gefährlich in Spring I was very relieved and happy when they were confirmed for Dockville 2012. Unfortunately they only did a 50-minute set so they mostly played songs from their second and third record. Especially during the songs from second album “Wall of Arms” the crowd was jumping around and got on their knees at one point. After closing the set with “Pelican” the band was very thankful for all the dancing and singing and I think the audience was as well for a great little gig from a wonderful band. The voice, the guitar solos, everything was perfect.
If you were lucky enough you could spot some of the band members walking around the festival site. My friend told me he saw one of the guitarists in the circle pit during Maximo Park’s ging, so that was really funny and you could see that successful bands also have their fun at festivals.

Belle: A much anticipated act for me too, as I hadn’t seen live before either. “Given To The Wild” had, eventually, made it into my list of “must-hears of the year” as well. The set contained much older material too, but I found it no less enjoyable although I hadn’t listened to the earlier albums in full. Singer Orlando Weekes has an impressive voice, but pretty much no facial expression and seemed somewhere between unfazed and annoyed about having to be on stage. This was, however, compensated by the good mood and energy radiated by the White brothers on guitars. All in all, an enjoyable set that did not disappoint in any way.

Samantha Urbani (middle) & Friends: As always winning in the style category (© M. Weiher)

Pete: Friends, the new sensation from Brooklyn, entered the stage with a 10 minute delay at Maschinenraum Friday evening. In those 10 minutes the band were already on stage and I don’t know what they were doing there but mostly it looked like nothing much. So some people in the audience started to sing Justice’s “We are your friends” which led to some smiles and comments from singer Samantha Urbani. The performance and music was good but at the end I must say that the gig at Molotow earlier this year was better, because Friends are more of club band. I also have to mention that I never saw as little enthusiam on stage as that shown by bassist Lesley Hann. Come on, you’re in a cool band and you’re on stage and giving the people good music! But maybe she was nervous, who knows!?

Paul Smith pointing at things during Maximo Park’s set on Friday (© S. Prahl)

Redheadess: Maximo Park were one of the bands I’d been looking forward to the most, since I’ve been listening to the five-piece from Newcastle for five or six years now, but had never once seen them live. And I wasn’t disappointed. Having chosen wisely between Frittenbude from Bavaria, Friends from New York, and Maxïmo Park, I went to see the latter and was greeted by five guys in a very good mood. They played old stuff and new stuff, Paul Smith danced like there was no tomorrow (and dancing with him is now totally part of my bucket list, it would be so much fun) and told us to snuggle up to our friends and lovers during their 2007 hit “Books From Boxes”. It was a very good show, even better than I’d expected and left me happy and ready to rush over to Frittenbude playing Vorschot, to catch at least their last few songs.

Pete: I missed their whole set because I was watching Friends but I made it to their last song. Actually my plan was going to the Vorschot and watching the rest of Frittenbude but as I heard Maximo Park playing I felt the need to get close up to the stage, come what may. It only took a few minutes rushing through some people and finally I met my friend in the circle and they played “Apply Some Pressure”. What a great moment!

And the light show was good, too: Hot Chip were the headline act on Friday (© D. Prahl)

Belle: Thanks to pretty much everyone I wanted to see playing on Friday, and logically at the same time, I was properly exhausted when Hot Chip finally came on. Gradually working my way from the back of the crowd to the middle – I had been waiting for ages for The Hundred in the Hands to finally start and then didn’t want to leave without catching at least a couple of songs – I started getting into the mood for grooving along to some epic tracks of theirs, like ‘One Life Stand’ and ‘Ready For The Floor’. The recently released ‘In Our Heads’ had also left a good impression and accompanied by a blazing light show, it was truly something for the eyes, ears and feet.

Son with violin bow … (© D. Prahl)
… Daughter with the voice of the angel (© D. Prahl)

Belle: Just so discovered by me a few days before the festival, Daughter turned out one of my personal highlights. Her gracious stage presence (that smile!) went well with the delicately crafted songs often reminiscent of a sonically stripped Florence & The Machine. Especially her indie hit ‘Youth’ was a success with the predominantly teenage festival crowd – something like the hipster alternative to fun’s ‘We Are Young’. Then again, ‘Setting fire on our insides for fun’ is lyrically on a whole different level than ‘So let’s set the world on fire/We can burn brighter than the sun’. But hey, who would ask that fun. have good lyrics too …

For Katie Allard, it was her last performance with The Kabeedies. (© S. Prahl)

Redheadess: For the second time this year, the indie/afrobeat/rock’n’roll band The Kabeedies from Norwich pleased my eyes and ears. On the hot Saturday afternoon, they invaded the Vorschot stage, just as they had done twice before. For singer Katie Allard, it was the very last show and she has now unfortunately left the band, leaving the three boys on their own. And the sadness took over some: Not quite as happy-go-lucky as back in April she was dancing across the stage, while guitarist and birthday boy Evan Jones cracked jokes about wasps and heat and beer. I’m excited about the band’s future, now that Katie’s not with them anymore, and definitely hope to hear a lot from both her and the boys soon.

This time with a full band: British singer/songwriter talent Lucy Rose (© M. Weiher)

Pete: On the very sunny Saturday afternoon I made my way over to the Maschinenraum at the end of the festival site to see Lucy Rose. I had seen her before supporting Bombay Bicycle Club, but there she had played only with a cellist. This time she brought a whole band with guitarist, bassist, drummer and her old cellist friend, to the result that the songs had more power and the audience really enjoyed her set. Lucy was very sympathetic, smiling all the time and saying how great it was to be here. I remember her saying: “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done in my life.” And maybe it was, because the weather that day was one of the best I’d ever had at a festival. Later I saw her in the backstage area, but was too shy to say that she has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. 😉

Matching trousers and musical skill: Metronomy had not just ‘The Look’ but also the sound. (© D. Prahl)

Pete: This year was Metronomy‘s second time at Dockville and they were the band I was most looking forward to on Saturday. I had seen them in 2009 and it had been great. But this time it should be even better because in the meantime they had released the outstanding and Mercury Prize nominated album “The English Riviera” with songs like “The Bay”, which they performed at the beginning and “The Look” at the end. Their uniform band outfits with white shirts and beige trousers I think is called the “Riviera style”. Their one hour set consisted mainly of songs from “The English Riviera”. From their old albums they only played “Heartbreaker”, “Holiday” and “The End of You Too”, which finally made the crowd freak out. For real fans they had the little gem “You Could Easily Have Me”. You can find this song on their very first and unknown album “Pip Paine”. Back in those days Joseph Mount made music on his own without any band members. So all in all it was a very good set and I really enjoyed it.

Belle: Another highly anticipated act for me, especially as I’ve just recently fallen completely for their latest LP ‘The English Riviera’, mostly my personal MELT! anthem ‘The Bay’ (Metronomy weren’t even there, but it always came on the PA in breaks between shows). As their band name suggests, they played as precise as a metronome, with a certain reserved attitude, but the songs’ perfection made up for this apparent lack of emotional involvement on the band’s part. I danced a lot and someone threw an unidentified item at my head. It still hurt days later when I touched the spot but boy was it worth it.

Me alias Charlotte Brandi and her drummer Matze Pröllochs were a true discovery (© D. Prahl)

Belle: Me And My Drummer were another late discovery of mine. The single ‘You’re A Runner’, however, hasn’t left my head since the first time I listened, and after seeing the Berlin duo at Dockville, I will most certainly pick up the album (good for them it’s not on Spotify). Calm, atmospheric, intense indie pop that gets strangely close to you in a way that’s not uncomfortable at all.

Made Sunday even sunnier: Charles Watson …
… and Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club (© D. Prahl)

Belle: One of the few highlights of the rather poorly equipped Sunday timetable were Slow Club from Sheffield. Not quite as twee as on their debut album, the duo’s second longplayer ‘Paradise’ shows a slightly more experimental side without leaving the catchiness behind. For their set they were backed up by a bassist and a second drummer beside singer Rebecca Taylor, which allowed her to switch between drums and guitar as she pleased. Apart from her hideous t-shirt, it was a wholly pleasurable performance.

Both the crowd and Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus agreed that face paint was a must at this year’s Dockville. (© D. Prahl)

Belle: A both fascinating and slightly strenuous set came from Tune-Yards. I was absolutely stunned what Merrill Garbus can do with her voice, often seeming like a shaman crying and drumming for rain (the face paint strengthened that impression). She was accompanied by a bassist and two saxophonists on stage, who together with her drum loops, ukulele and distinctive vocals formed a unique sound that evades description. At times something to dance to, at times something to marvel at.

Redheadess: We ended our festival with Touchy Mob – something I hadn’t expected to see. Just about everything about this set was surprising. At first, me and my friends spontaneously decided to go to the Butterland stage, a little dancefloor just outside the forest, where usually electronic dance parties were happening (at least every time we somehow found our way there). Since we had nothing else to do and I’d heard the name Touchy Mob somewhere already, we decided to sit down and look what happened. Touchy Mob turned out to be a solo artist equipped with a laptop and a guitar, German, very beardy, very ginger, who had serious sound problem. His music is very quiet, very soft, and very slow, with electronic bits and a voice seeming to be far, far away, somewhere between not on stage anymore and a secret dreamland. Even the crowd got very quiet and nobody even cared too much about the sound problems. It was definitely the right thing on a Sunday evening to end a wonderful weekend.

Picture gallery

Butterland was the place for DJ sets from day to night. (© D. Prahl)
Part of the art was this lovely swan-shaped seating area. (© D. Prahl)
And so were the artist collective Krautzungen, who decorated visitors’ body parts with lines from the German version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. (© D. Prahl)
Our Belle was not spared … You can read the novel on Dockville-goers’ bodies at dockville.krautzungen.org!
(© Krautzungen)
A goggle-eyed owl watched over the Nest stage. (© D. Prahl)
And a tree of plastic bottles took care of environmental awareness. (© D. Prahl)
So much for the ‘Dockville style’ (© D. Prahl)
Sunset over the cranes of Wilhelmsburg (© D. Prahl)
Confetti was a must at the Frittenbude show … (© S. Prahl)
… while Metronomy fans got the sparklers out. (© D. Prahl)
We christened this installation ‘The Ha Ha Wall’. (© D. Prahl)
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