Festival Season 2014: MS Dockville, Hamburg (DE)

The look across the river: Dockville is famous for its waterside location (© S. Prahl)
The look across the river: Dockville is famous for its waterside location (© S. Prahl)

GENERAL

Belle Brummell: 2014 was my 6th Dockville out of 8 installments, and while I have never been this disappointed with the line-up before, especially in the face of the constantly rising ticket price, I must say that this year was extremely well-organised. There were both enough drink stands and toilets (the latter even with toilet paper!), no long queues anywhere, not even for the shuttle buses back (only a few extremely popular food stalls had long waiting times – the food range being great as well, by the way) – even the festival app worked, mostly. And it wasn’t poorly visited either – this year was sold out, except for Sunday day tickets, and a new second campsite was opened due to the high number of visitors from outside of Hamburg. The only thing I could complain about was the lack of any beer brand apart from the vile Jever – and no wine, which would have been a welcome alternative for me. Speaking of alcohol, they still cling to that frankly ridiculous rule that non-campers can’t bring any drinks at all to the festival area, while campers can officially bring one tetra pak, but in reality can just fill any alcoholic drink they like into a plastic cup and take it to the festival site. Which is why I used to buy a camping ticket, set up a tent, put alcohol in it and slept at home, but after being exploited too often by other people I saved the €10 and the hassle of setting up and taking down the tent and instead used my own wits to get the alcohol on the festival site. That’s what you get, Dockville.

The "Nest" is one of Dockville's DJ only stages. (© S. Prahl)
The “Nest” is one of Dockville’s DJ only stages. (© S. Prahl)

What was bothering me as well was the clear shift in line-up towards electro, resulting in me going home unusually early every night, as after 11pm or so there was only electro on. In past years, one would often have a local indie DJ spinning records somewhere, but apparently this is no longer demanded by the Dockville crowd. At least this way we always got a good night’s sleep, but it also makes me wonder whether in future years I’m still welcome there, as this year there was already hardly anything for me to see that catered to my musical taste. Still, I found enough things to somehow pass the time and not overly regret the amount of money I’d spent on an earlybird ticket, and it’s still a nice little festival after all, though it feels like the art installations are not really valued as much as in the early years. This year however I attended the poetry slam for the first time and it was really worth coming early for. Read on to see what musical acts we’ve watched and what we thought …

FRIDAY

Jungle's vocalist was definitely a sigh, though we sadly could not find out his name. (© S. Prahl)
Jungle’s vocalist was definitely a sight, though we sadly could not find out his name. (© S. Prahl)

Jungle

Belle Brummell: We hit the festival area on Friday afternoon for the much-hyped UK collective, whose indescribable blend of styles had actually managed to draw my interest (not something a lot of acts do these days). If I was a little more versed in sub-genres of hiphop I could probably do a better job at telling you what they sound like, but chances are you have already heard hit singles like “The Heat” and “Busy Earnin'”. Their set wasn’t exactly boring, but as I’m not that familiar with the album yet, I found it all to sound a bit alike.

Dressed like a real "Hein von der Werfs": Cole Alexander of Black Lips (© S. Prahl)
Dressed like a real “Hein von der Werft”: Cole Alexander of Black Lips (© S. Prahl)

Black Lips

croconut: To see the Black Lips I had to leave Hercules and Love Affair’s gig unfinished, which was a pity since they pretty much ruled with their mix of soul and electronical music. But well for Black Lips no price is too high. To be honest: my expectations about their gig were not low. As a great admirer of lo-fi and garage music Black Lips stand out as some of the leading figures of these genres for me. Well the atmosphere during their set was amazing. Everyone was dancing in the famous punk way, also known as pogo, from the start. Which was kinda weird since the first song they performed was pretty quiet and not very suitable for this kind of dance but well I guess that’s the effect that the band had on the audience. Just their appearance caused a major chaos. They played all their classics like ‘Oh Katrina’, also known from the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ soundtrack, ‘Family Tree’ or ‘Bad Kids’. Hearing all the songs live that I have danced to so many times, at pubs, in the street or sometimes alone in my room, was an unbelievable greatness. Also some favorites of mine like ‘Dirty Hands’ were part of their set. Well their new ones sounded amazing as well. Very soul-y, a lot like The Almighty Defenders, which I definitely approve of. As already mentioned not just their songs but also the band itself is quite legendary as a part of the garage scene. So seeing them play was something really special. Though the fact that they threw toilet paper rolls into the audience made it even more special. Ending their performance with ‘Bad Kids’ they once again gave everyone around a chance to get fucked up. Lots of people seemed to be well prepared for this last act of madness, some pyros were lit and guys from the Antifa movement were also just around the corner waving their flags at the end of the gig. There is nothing more left to say beside of ‘it was a very Hamburg-like Black Lips experience and definitely one of my highlights of the festival’.

Almost overshadowed by his backdrop, but Nottingham's Jake Bugg stood strong (© S. Prahl)
Almost overshadowed by his backdrop, but Nottingham’s Jake Bugg stood strong (© S. Prahl)

Jake Bugg

Belle Brummell: Perhaps surprisingly, Jake Bugg had been given Friday’s headlining slot, playing even after Birdy, who I’d thought to be more commercially successful in Germany, but I’m not complaning. (Except about the fact Birdy played there in the first place, as I have her down as a teenage mainstream singer who’s biggest hit was a cover, correct me if I’m wrong.) I hadn’t listened to Jake’s second album quite as much as to the first but I still found his set thoroughly enjoyable (though this time he sadly didn’t get hit by an inflated condom). The best part about seeing Jake in Germany, however, is still people showing the “victory sign” during “Two Fingers”, being beautifully unaware that “putting two fingers up” or “flicking V’s” is a British way of saying “fuck you”.

Annie May: Friday-night headliner Jake Bugg was seemingly unimpressed by the biggest festival slot he’d probably ever been given and started his set with There’s a beast and we all feed it, the opener of his latest album Shangri La. Maintaining his usual calm and expressionless stage presence the English singer-songwriter continued to play a few songs on his acoustic guitar, one of them being his hit Two Fingers before he switched from acoustic to electric guitar. In my opinion this was when his show really started. The songs had more energy in them, which was very appreciated by the crowd. Sing-alongs like Trouble Town and Seen It All were just as appreciated as newer songs like Kingpin, Slumville Sunrise and What doesn’t kill ya. The youngster proved his impressive guitar skills by adding guitar solos here and there and mastering them without batting a lash. A personal highlight was the extended version of Simple Pleasures that he played towards the end of the set. The last song was, of course, his smash hit Lightning Bolt. All in all, a worthy headliner performance.

SATURDAY

She probably named her band after her hair colour: Pale Honey from Sweden (© S. Prahl)
Probably named her band after her hair colour: Tuva Lodmark of Pale Honey (© S. Prahl)

Pale Honey

Annie May: Pale Honey, a drummer/guitarist duo from Sweden, opened the main stage on Saturday, only attracting a very small crowd due to the bad weather, earliness and the fact that this was their first time in Germany. The two girls were accompanied by a bassist and second guitarist, which suited their sound. The band’s strengths were not their quiet but rather their dirty, faster songs, which unfortunately were the minority. Their last song was definitely their best one.

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Not a real breton: Roman Rappak of Londoners Breton (© S. Prahl)
Not a real breton: Roman Rappak of Londoners Breton (© S. Prahl)

Breton

Belle Brummell: Less than twelve months after their spectacular, yet intimate set at Reeperbahn Festival, the Breton I saw at Dockville seemed like an entirely different band. Apparently having gained some commercial success with their second, more accessible album “War Room Stories”, Breton now drew a massive crowd to the Vorschot stage. Styled more rockstar-like than I remembered, frontman Roman Rappak had the antics of a poppunk singer, getting up close with the audience and being obviously amazed at the big turn-up. However, this daylight show did not allow for the visuals that had made their Mojo Club gig so atmospheric, so it felt more like watching some “cool” indie rock band without a very special vibe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Synchronised dancing/headbanging: The olympics of Kakkmaddafakka (© S. Prahl)

Kakkmaddafakka

Belle Brummell: I’m not sure how I managed to get through the last 7 years without ever seeing these Norwegian guys live anywhere, as their big popularity in Germany is evident and they surely play plenty of festivals over here. I had heard a lot about their stunning live show, but as I’m not too enthusiastic about their formulaic dancefloor-indie, I remained oblivious to what a Kakkmaddafakka show is really like. There are about 8 people on stage, two of them being identical twins singing backing vocals while doing synchronised dance moves, and as if that wasn’t rad enough, the members will goof around by doing ballet jumps across stage between songs, or covering Loona’s 90s summer hit “Bailando” unironically, with their percussionist, who looks like Thor, on lead vocals. Needless to mention, pretty much everyone is hot. (They’re Scandinavian, duh.) Well I’m pretty sure their tour manager would rather herd cats, but I wouldn’t mind partying a night with these nutjobs for sure.

Annie May: There was a lot of expectations and pressure on Norwegian party band Kakkmaddafakka before their late evening set at Dockville. Last year they had to cancel last minute, which had left many fans disappointed. You could clearly tell that the band, now equipped with a new keyboarder, had big plans for that night. Their set had a rather unpleasant start for the people in the crowd who were pushed over at the very beginning of the set. It took almost all the time of their intro before everyone was back on their feet. The intro was traditionally followed by Touching and Make The First Move before the band launched into songs of their second album Six Months Is A Long Time. The thing with Kakkmaddafakka shows is that you never now where to look, as there are eight guys on the stage, two of them being their famous dancers. The crowd went especially wild during their hits which they played at the end of their set. As the last song their extra percussionist performed a cover of Bailando shirtless, which topped off their excellent show. But even that was topped by their encore Forever Alone and the fact that the band was absolutely unwilling to leave the stage.

SUNDAY

Sweet psychedelia from Berlin: Oracles were rather tolerable for a German band  (© S. Prahl)
Sweet psychedelia from Berlin: Oracles were rather tolerable for a German band (© S. Prahl)

Oracles

Sodapop: On Sunday morning I struggled through crowds of early birds, festival aficionados and music lovers. I passed flower-crowned women and men, surreal looking wooden installation art to finally get to the first act I wanted to see on this cloudy Sunday. We’re talking about Oracles, whose gig was announced to take place at the Maschinenraum stage in the early afternoon. Oracles are from Berlin and are music-wise geared to shoegaze, dream pop, afrobeat and exceptionally eighties and early nineties inspired neo-psychedelia. When they started to play, a constantly growing crowd in front of the stage had already been formed. Oracles straightly played their music into the open arms of the audience. Their opener Journey Back To Dawn is a kind of psychedelic ballad which walks in the footsteps of Temples’ Move With The Season. The audience swayed back and forth in the middle of these psychedelic electronica sounds. The next song was Melt Tonight, which features a captivating harmony between vocals and instrumental sounds. For one moment it just seemed as if the whole scenery was located way beyond the Hamburg clouded sky; somewhere far away on a South Seas island straightly set back into the paisley patterned seventies. I didn’t seem to be the only one to feel that way: from all quarters people in voluminous clothes came closer to watch the psychedelic spectacle on stage. Oracles created a musical intensity which unleashed the audience – dancing people who were one with the wind all over around. In the end Oracles threw two copies of their new EP Stanford Torus in the crowd. Their performance was dynamic and intense – in short the perfect new festival discovery.

Mac Demarco

Big Mac was apparently more entertaining than it looks here  (© S. Prahl)
Mac Demarco: More of a joker than a sensitive slacker (© S. Prahl)

croconut: Unfortunately I missed the first 3 minutes of his set. And dear lord, those were definitely 3 minutes too much. Mac and his band are possibly the most entertaining people you could have put together in a music group. With the charm of Southern state gentlemen (not sure if they are from the south though) and the charisma of young Jesus they could melt all the hearts in the radius of 5 kilometers, at least (!). They played their set in the most precious way filling the gaps between songs with little speeches that were full of this special Mac type of humor. After some glases of whiskey, spontaneous words of love to the security guy and broken guitar strings Mac jumped into the crowd taking a ride above people’s heads. Everyone was very pleased to be a part of the movement that brought him forwards. After he had finished the ride his beloved security guy helped him to get on the stage again. Later he disappeared from the stage promising to hang out with everyone afterwards. The eyes of everyone around were filled with love, pure and true love caused by the presence of Mister Demarco and his friends. Some stayed near the stage though he was already gone talking very excitedly to the people around about what has just happened. Was it even real?! No one knows but it was amazing and well I felt some love too.

Wolf Alice

Wolf in Wonderland: Ellie Rowsell, also more punk than it may seem  (© S. Prahl)
Wolf in Wonderland: Ellie Rowsell, also more punk than it may seem (© S. Prahl)

Sodapop: I arrived too late for Wolf Alice’s set at the Maschinenraum stage (blame Mac DeMarco and his blissful surf daze music). While my eyes were still concerned with working out a route through the crowd, I suddenly found myself exactly in front of the stage. Sense and action seemed to be alien to each other that day. Apparently there couldn’t be a better day for a new perspective. Wolf Alice have released their newest EP Heavenly Creatures in June and I wasn’t just very pleased about listening to these songs live for the first time, I was very curious about their performance at Dockville Festival since their last gig in Hamburg in November as well. Wolf Alice’s gigs always are fascinating live experiences. Lower tones are paired with grungesque pop melodies and rock guitar riffs. Ellie Rowsell’s voice can sound dulcet like that of an angel, a heavenly creature, and then wild again. Wolf Alice who already were the insiders’ tip of the NME back in 2012 have evolved into a festival secret weapon and guarantor of high spirits. The audience formed moshpits in front of the stage; confetti showers bathed the entire festival grounds in a colourful light. Wolf Alice played plenty of my favourite songs like Blush, Bros, Storms and Moaning Lisa Smile – and besides an exciting reinterpretation of Chris Isaak’s legendary song Wicked Game. Singer Ellie and bassist Theo Ellis jumped off their amps, did headbanging and one wouldn’t have been surprised if they would’ve done stagediving during their forty minutes set. They finished their set with their first grunge-affected single Fluffy. In the end I became aware of the fact that it was the right decision to see Wolf Alice and their blazing inferno of sounds live again.

Glass Animals' Dave Bayley, not looking like a complete dork with a tambourine also being an art.  (© S. Prahl)
Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley clearly won ‘outfit of the day’. (© S. Prahl)

Glass Animals

Belle Brummell: One of the few interesting new bands and reasons Dockville isn’t entirely shit yet were Glass Animals. Their fragile, electronic indie pop would probably please fans of Wild Beasts, who I bet were not too happy to find Glass Animals’ and Wild Beasts’ sets to overlap by ten minutes and the respective stages being at the opposite ends of the festival site. Whoever came up with that great idea. Same as with fellow Brits Jungle, I found all their songs to sound rather the same after a while, and of course they would wait until the very end to play hit single “Gooey”. But the fact alone that Dockville still books these kinds of bands proves while they’re still relevant to indie fans at least to some degree.

And with this cheesy picture we leave you… (© S. Prahl)
And with this cheesy picture we leave you… (© S. Prahl)
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