Category Archives: Festival Season 2014

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

Advertisements

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.

.

.

.

.

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)

Festival Season 2014: Dot 2 Dot Festival, Manchester (UK)

This year’s festival season started abroad for me with the Dot 2 Dot Festival in Manchester. The festival, which has been awarded Best Metropolitan Festival, consists of roughly 200 bands on three nights in three cities. Next to Manchester (Friday) the event also took place in Bristol (Saturday) and Nottingham (Sunday). It only costs 20 pounds, for which you get a wristband that allows you to get into the 9 venues that take part in the festival, kinda like Reeperbahn Festival or First We Take Berlin in Germany. Apparently it’s a highly successful concept as there are similar festivals in England, too, for example Great Escape in Brighton and Liverpool Sound City.

A charm of Dot 2 Dot is that it offers you the possibility to get to know a lot of new artists before their big breakthrough or the first gigs of local and unsigned bands. It’s mostly an indie festival but you will also find bands of various other music genres. All in all it’s a great festival where you definitely won’t be disappointed.

Nice guitar, Mr. Mattinson (© A. Hachmeister)
Nice guitar, Mr. Mattinson (© A. Hachmeister)

The first artist I saw that day was also the first artist to play that night, Jake Mattinson. The singer-songwriter played at a pub called Thirsty Scholar in a tiny space that would only offer enough space to one person. He wasn’t a singer-songwriter of the typical kind as he had only brought his shiny electric guitar with him. His set offered a variety of songs, some sounding deep and dreamy while others were so powerful that they sounded like Kasabian songs stripped off anything but one guitar and vocals. Even though Jake Mattinson had mastered difficult picking and strumming rhythms, his voice was the most dominant thing about his music. I got startled when one of his songs sounded almost identical to Wonderwall. Nevertheless it was pleasant music but towards the end of his 30 minutes set I got more distracted by the little Alex Turner look-alike standing alone at the bar.

A typical singer-songwriter (© A.Hachmeister)
A typical singer-songwriter (© A.Hachmeister)

I stayed at the venue and after a short 15-minute break another singer-songwriter took the stage. Scott Lloyd was almost the exact opposite of Jake Mattinson. He had brought his western guitar and even a harmonica with which he played proper country songs. He was mostly ignored by the crowd and only got their full attention towards the second half of his set. The topics of his songs were mostly love-related and since I didn’t find it particularly interesting, I left the venue.

Other People's lives had to play at an empty Tiki Bar (© A.Hachmeister)
Other People’s lives had to play at an empty Tiki Bar (© A.Hachmeister)

I went over to the Zombie Shack, a zombie-themed tiki cocktail bar (yes that does exist) to watch Other People’s Lives, a four-piece that played indie-rock, partly with heavily distorted guitars that buried the vocals completely. The venue was almost empty and I felt bad for the band that no one was standing up. They gave their best though and the singer made some jokes about the situation. When the guitars weren’t heavily distorted the songs were mostly built on a solid drum/bass rhythm. The band really fitted together as they all played Fender instruments and wore similar hobo shirts and jeans. The best thing was probably their last song, which was over 6 minutes long and collapsed in a brilliant, slow-built finale. If they took themselves a little more seriously, they would probably be more successful as they were skilled musicians.

Fruit Tones care more about their looks than their music. Boo. (© A.Hachmeister)
Fruit Tones cared more about their looks than their music. Boo. (© A.Hachmeister)

I left the Zombie Shack and went to another venue, Sound Control, which has 3 floors with a stage on each one. I randomly decided to go to the Loft, where Fruit Tones were just about to start. The band was rather a disappointment. They only seemed to care about their looks (skinny as hell and long, messy hair – just like Serge of Kasabian) and couldn’t even get their sound right properly. The start of their set was delayed as the drummer had to help the clueless guitarist turning his guitar louder. When they were finally ready to start they played twice as fast as probably planned. It would have been a good song but I felt way too rushed. The only thing I liked about this band was the bass player’s lefty bass guitar. I soon left to check out what other bands were playing at Sound Control right now.

In the Sound Control Club (the basement) a band was playing in complete darkness. No lights were on and I didn’t know if that was on purpose or not.

Girl Power! (©A. Hachmeister)
Girl Power! (©A. Hachmeister)

It was definitely a good choice to come downstairs because Mina Falls were by far a better choice than Fruit Tones. The quartet was fronted by a female singer and guitarist with an impressive voice. What was just as impressive was the other guitarist, a girl too, who went absolutely crazy with her Fender Jaguar, never standing still. The drummer and bass player were men, visibly older than the girls, but they just stood in the girls’ shadows. To be honest, their music was not exactly my type, with too many Paramore and Evanescence influences. But their confidence and skill made up for it and I watched the rest of their set. It turned out that they are actually from Manchester. I kinda have the feeling that they still go to school.

Beautiful man, beautiful music. (© A.Hachmeister)
Beautiful man, beautiful music. (© A.Hachmeister)

Next band I had on my personal timetable were Jaws and I knew that I had to be there early but I got held up by a singer-songwriter who was playing in the Sound Control Mid on my way out.

Tor Miller from New York sang such beautiful songs that I had to stay for a while. He accompanied himself on a big keyboard. Not only his music but also his appearance was very pleasant. He had a bigger crowd that the other two bands I had just seen at Sound Control. But I couldn’t stay for more than two songs before I had to leave. Bonus points for his cute stripy socks!

Photo proof I ran into Matt Hitt (© A.Hachmeister)
Photo proof I ran into Matt Hitt (© A.Hachmeister)

Side-note: On my way to the Ritz I ran into Matt Hitt of NY band Drowners. For those who don’t know him, he is a model who felt like being in a band again and is kinda famous among tumblr-using teenage girls.

Jaws aka. bored teenage boys (© A.Hachmeister)
Jaws aka. bored teenage boys (© A.Hachmeister)

When I arrived, the Ritz Basement was already packed with people waiting for Jaws. It was way to hot and crowded for my liking and so different from the almost empty venues where I had been before. I had never seen a picture of Jaws before so I was a bis surprised when they took the stage. They seemed so young and yet they had such a big fanbase in Manchester. Already after the first seconds of the first song, the crowd was on their feet and happily bouncing and singing along to the rather relaxing song. The band reminded my a lot of Swim Deep and the fans of Swim Deep Fans. I guess that no one in that basement was over 23. Then the band asked for moshpits and moshpits they got even though it didn’t fit the calm music at all. The moshpits never died, not even when the band decided to play mostly new material. The band seemed rather unimpressed by the crowd’s reaction, though. The singer almost never blinked.

Made for big stages: The Heartbreaks (© A.Hachmeister)
Made for big stages: The Heartbreaks (© A.Hachmeister)

After Jaws had finished their set I went upstairs into the main concert hall of The Ritz. It was really huge. I bought myself a cider and sat down on of the barstools that were placed conveniently at the sides because I knew what was still to come and that I should take every chance of resting I could get. I had a really good view on the stage when The Heartbreaks started. The fivepiece with their charismatic singer totally looked like they belonged on such a big stage. Everything about their performance and music looked professional and in place. If you weren’t paying attention you could amost believe that someone had simply put The Horrors on that stage. Almost everyone in the band had black hair and wore extravagant clothing which really fitted their style. Their music was surprisingly poppy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they landed a big radio hit soon with their new album coming out soon.

Synchronised dancing? Why the fuck not! (© A.Hachmeister)
Synchronised dancing? Why the fuck not! (© A.Hachmeister)

I stayed at The Ritz but got up and stood closer to the stage to catch The Midnight Beast. The crazy rap-parody-fun trio were definitely one of my most anticipated acts of the festival and they totally lived up to my expectations. When their intro began the girls in the crowd started screaming. The three guys entered the stage in coloured tracksuits and masks covering their faces. They were accompanied by two people in a bunny and a dog costume. They put on a big show and the energy never died. The background dancers went and came back again multiple times wearing different outfits every time. The only time The Midnight Beast actually slowed down was for their song “Friends for never”, for which Stefan played the piano. They played almost all their hits including “Lez Be Friends”, “Booty Call”, “Just Another Boyband” and their break-through hit “Tik Tok”, a parody of the song with the same title by Kesha. The band managed to transform their funny music videos into a very entertaining live show.

My love for this band also stays alive (© A.Hachmeister)
My love for this band also stays alive (© A.Hachmeister)

After The Midnight Beast had finished it was my time to change venues again to see London quartet LSA, who were playing at Zombie Shack. Luckily the venue wasn’t as empty as it had been a few hours ago when I had watched Other People’s Lives there. LSA, short for Love Stays Alive, entered the stage a few minutes too late and opened their set with the just released song “Keep It Alive”. The band also suffered from the bad lightning on the stage as you could only see the guitarist and the frontman. They also played their debut singe “More or less equal” and its b-side “No good man”, which gave me a nostalgic summer feeling. Some songs were more upbeat and direct while others were dreamy and full of feelings. Unfortunately the band only played six songs in total, which didn’t fill their 30-minutes set. Except for the few polite “Thank you”s the band didn’t interact with the crowd. They only cracked up once when someone in the crowd said the their drummer looked like Jesus. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this band soon.

Two boys who make a lot of noise (© A.Hachmeister)
Two boys who make a lot of noise (© A.Hachmeister)

Then it was time for me to go back to The Ritz to catch Drenge, one of the headliners of this festival. There was already a big crowd waiting for the band and they went crazy when the twopiece (just a drummer and singing guitarist) started. Mosh pits started immediately and didn’t calm down during their 45-minute set, it was really wild. The band totally deserved this kind of reaction as their dirty and fast rock music was just perfect for moshing and dancing. They even got a handful of crowdsurfers, much to the dislike of the venue staff. One of the highlights of their set was definitely their song “Fuckabout”. Just like The Black Keys this band lives off their brilliant music alone and don’t need to put on a show.

Peace definitely care about their looks (© A.Hachmeister)
Peace definitely care about their looks (© A.Hachmeister)

After Drenge it was time for the real headliner Peace. They have a crazy career behind them, having played at Dot 2 Dot just two years ago as one of the smaller bands. Even though I thought it would be impossible they had an even bigger crowd than Drenge and even more screaming fans. Not being up to date with the latest fashion in the NME world I was surprised at frontman Harrison Koisser’s orange hair. Peace opened with “Money”, the first single off their upcoming second album and that song is already one of my favourites. The next song they played was “Follow Baby” before they calmed down with “Higher Than The Sun” and “California Daze”. The crowd really celebrated their headliner and sang and danced along.

I would have loved to stay for their whole set but I’ve also wanted to catch a bit of Darlia, who played at the Zoo. Unlike the other venues I had been to, the Zoo was more than a 5-minute walk away. On my way there I bumped into the guys from LSA and they decided to accompany me because they had played together with Darlia before. The Zoo venue looks kinda like a barn and since the headliner was still playing there were only a few people there. Given these circumstances it looked weird that the drummer was playing shirtless. Darlia were the most “hardcore” band I saw that night. The played non-political punk. The last songs they played were “Napalm” and “Queen of hearts”.

The band of the Home Alone star (© A. hachmeister)
The band of the Home Alone star (© A. hachmeister)

After their set I had an hour to kill before The Pizza Underground would play at the same venue. So I decided to spend that time with LSA at the Zoo Pub. When I returned the venue was packed and I could barely see the stage. The band around former child actor Macaulay Culkin (“Home Alone”) played mostly covers of The Velvet Underground songs, replacing the important lyrics with words like “pizza”, “slice” or “cheese”. In between of the songs they talked so much that they spent more time talking than actually performing songs. The band also played a cover of “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “We didn’t start the fire”. One of the vocalists played the Pizza Box as a percussion instrument. While most of the crowd got that the band was just one big joke, some people were deeply confused. Behind the the band hung a big screen which showed a slide-show of pizza slices.

Sometimes the experience seemed just unreal, like a trip.

Daytime model, nightime rockstar: Matt Hitt (© A.Hachmeister)
Daytime model, nightime rockstar: Matt Hitt (© A.Hachmeister)

My last band for the night (the 15th!) were Drowners from New York. They played 01:30 AM at Sound Control Mid and everyone who still had enough energy was there as they were one of the last bands to play that night. The band, fronted by model Matt Hitt (whom I’d met earlier that day), played mostly to young people who celebrated them like superstars. The whole band was clad in all black and leather jackets, putting on a show, posing with their guitars. The second to last song they played was their hit “Long hair”, which is also the only song of theirs I know. The band was entertaining but only in a superficial way.

After that I was completely exhausted after being on my feet for more than 13 hours. I said goodbye to the lovely guys from LSA and took a cab back to my hostel, still flashed by this amazing night. I got to discover new artists of very different genres and see some of my favourites that night for just 20 pounds. I can surely say that this festival was definitely worth its money!