Festival Season 2014: Reeperbahn Festival, Hamburg (DE)

Since Reeperbahn Festival is mainly there for showcasing new artists, many of whom don’t even have more than a single out, I’m going to make it short this time and bring you my top 5 new (and one not so new) acts from this year’s installment:

 novemberdecember

5. NovemberDecember

Autumn is here and Winter is coming, so it’s never too early to take care of the right soundtrack for the dark months. NovemberDecember from Denmark apply for this job with not just a fitting band name, but a perhaps typically Scandinavian melancholia with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Kings of Convenience, accompanied by light guitar picking and some added drama provided by the strings section. Their brand new single ‘Save Yourself’ with its memorable chorus has a good chance of becoming this season’s indie hit.

bohicas

4. The Bohicas

The Bohicas were one of my main reasons for buying the festival ticket after having made waves earlier this year with double a-side ‘XXX / Swarm’. Both tracks brought new hope to all who craved some good old-fashioned, leather-jacketed rock’n roll that makes you want to dance as well as pick up a guitar and start a band all at the same time. On the stage of the newly opened Molotow, however, The Bohicas are not a very memorable presence – their songs however all the more so. Not a single track seemed out of line with their fast, danceable set, proving that the debut single wasn’t just a lucky shot and we can expect an album full of potential hits to hopefully come around the corner soon.

manythings

3. Many Things

Other than The Bohicas, fellow Brits Many Things (formerly MT) are the definition of a live band. I discovered them while listening through the line-up and it didn’t take more than one play of their fatally catchy single “Alpha Romeo” to convince me to give them a shot. Live, Many Things fall into the category of “band whose entertainment factor is mostly based on a nutcase singer who spends more time in the crowd than on stage, likes to stand on monitors, photobombs his own band’s live pictures and shamelessly flirts with every female in the audience”. Needless to say, the whole place was having a hell of a time. Definitely a band I would go see again, but I wouldn’t blindly buy a record of theirs without a test listen first.

july talk

2. July Talk

Without a doubt the discovery of the festival for me, July Talk were another lucky find while I browsed that evening’s artists in the afternoon. The Canadian quintet have their very own brand of punk-infused indie pop, their most outstanding characteristic being their lead singers’ vocals: Peter Dreimanis with his sandpaper voice vs. Leah Fay’s sweet and quirky vocals makes a contrast that works surprisingly well. On top of that, they also have a whole bunch of tunes up their sleeve, and the live show to match. While playing the tiny stage in front of the window of Michelle Records, Fay is constantly mounting a record stack or any other elevation she can find, waves at little children standing outside the window or calling out to passers-by to come in, when she’s not busy lying down on the floor or flirting with / dry-humping her co-singer boyfriend Dreimanis. In this case, I would have bought the album, which had just come out that day, right there at the gig (if they’d had vinyl or CDs had been less than €15).

bilderbuch

1. Bilderbuch

The other major reason I bought the ticket were the Austrian guys from Bilderbuch – half experimental indie, half dorky boy band, they are the most refreshing thing to sing in German since I can remember, basically. When I first saw the Viennese band at Berlin’s Magnet Club in 2009 –completely unplanned–, they sounded like a German-language rip-off of the recent British indie rock wave. But when I stumbled upon their second album ‘Die Pest im Piemont’ some time later, they definitely won me over. After all that record was basically a concept album about a plague in Italy, with screeching guitars and lyrics reflecting a slow descent into madness and apocalypse echoed by the music.

At their Reepfest gig, the audience at the well-filled Grünspan sings along to every word of their recent hit ‘Maschin’ off the ‘Feinste Seide EP’, a record that makes the upcoming third album look more electronic, more dancefloor-oriented but with the same love for experimentation. I could go on and on about their wonderful sense of irony that is pitted against lyrics of poetic depth. I mean, this band can write lines like Wenn ich in tausend weißen Nächten Diamanten schlürf / und mich dein Puppentanz zu altem Glanz verführt while at the same time they have a song called “Softdrink” which basically goes Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Pepsi, 7up, alright, which, if you think about it, is the “Burger Dance” all over again. But who could even hold it against these boys, in their trashy 90s outfits, their lead singer Maurice Ernst with his badly dyed blond hair, who is so effortlessly charming and so overly Viennese that it must be for show (or are they really like that, using words like vorzüglich and calling the audience meine lieben kleinen Hamburger) or Michael Krammer on guitars and percussion who looks like a hip-hopper in his basecap but suddenly lays down a kick-ass heavy metal guitar solo. It’s this element of surprise, of humour, and also this sense that these guys actually have a new and fresh approach on pop music, and that approach is playful and ironic and can use auto-tune without sounding shit. Truly, this must be art.

All pictures © D. Prahl

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