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Review of Berlin Festival

Words by Marco Zande - Published on September 20, 2012

Although belated this review is a necessity. If you’re in Berlin in September, Berlin Music Week is a must.

Describing the city of Berlin isn’t a hard task if you’re here for a week of music. They live and breathe partying and when they have their biggest music week in town they definitely don’t leave any stone unturned.

To say we were excited is an understatement. Leaving Outlook Festival in Pula, and traveling north 1200km en route to Berlin was not a minute task, as we had to travel across 5 countries, the majority in German, booking our week of itineraries via iPhone with limited reception. We sniffed out a spot out in the heart of the partying/music venues for the antics that were to unfold. Hotel Klassic was the epicenter of all the debauchery and was a great hub in Friedrichshain overlooking the Berlin Wall from the east side. The furthest venue was 1.5km, the local curry wurst was across the road, and the 24hr supermarket provided great amusement for the gaggle of mongs that frequented it for their daily pick me up.

Now enough of setting the scene for our location. The music week.

We entered into the music week realm with an eventful night out featuring Ghostpoet and Jinja Safari. The Aussie lads tested their sound but to our disappointment pulled the pin at the last moment. No biggie, as its their loss, but we had the headline act of Ghostpoet to look forward to. Being a mercury prize nominee, I knew we were in for something special and yes, they produced a finely tuned intimate gig in the heart of Berlin, closing with their very own “Liines”. Lead singer Obaro Ejimiwe had beers with his fans post gig and posed for photos for those who wanted to grab a snap with him.

Awoken next day by the bustling streets of Berlin, we cracked the 10% cans of Barcardi Superior and coke, a few bratwursts and concocted a lethal playlist of deadly tunes on Rdio of the artists that were playin at the two day blood bath of a festival.

We landed at Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof and to our astonishment the venue was one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports which was no longer in use. We lined up as you do in an airport, checked in as if you were in an airport and left the departure lounge to the backdrop of planes, a casino, dogem cars and 4 well thought out stages amongst the hangers and tarmac. To say we were gob smacked wouldn’t be a lie. The lineup warranted a ticket price far exceeding what we paid, and on top of that not only could we venture into the above, but also taste the finest local produce at a fraction of the going prices back home.

Day 1 was full of the worlds hottest indie acts opening the day with Of Monsters and Men, Clock Opera, Little Dragon and Michael Kiwanuka. Gaining a little break from the mess of an early afternoon of music we prepped ourselves for the onslaught that was before us with a few thousand drinks and bratwursts.

Grimes was next and, having hooked me with her production of her album through GarageBand on the Mac and catchy tunes such as “Oblivion”, and “Genesis”, I knew she would put on a great show. I’m not exactly sure what her counterpart on stage actually does musically to enhance the sound, as all it seemed to be was him clapping his drum sticks hmm. Overall, the crowd was amped we were amped, and ready for Sigur Ros and Miike Snow. Catching only glimpses of Sigur Ros was possibly a mistake but I was adamant to recollect some of Miike Snow’s brilliance from Splendour’s looseness. Front and centre for Miike Snow with a group of more than willing German girls I was in my element and my lord they didn’t disappoint (both parties that is…) Opening the show with “The Wave”, and breaking nextly into “Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)” I knew we were in for a heavy set of hits. Following Bavarian #1 was classics of “Cult Logic”, “Silvia”, “Black and Blue”, and “Plastic Jungle”. I was anticipating some more from the latest album and they brought “Paddling Out”, and “Devil’s Work”! Andrew Wyatt frequented the crowd and singing tracks from the front row to the crowds amusement. I thought this was going to be hard to trump, but I knew there was a plethora of bands to follow that were more than capable of doing so. These bands being The Killers, Orbital, Major Lazer, Metronomy, Hercules and Love Affair and Crookers to finish at 6am. Yep this festival is nek level.

The Killers as usual had me sold from the first chord, hand selecting an abundance of tracks from their hit filled back catalogues. I’m glad they chose to mix in tracks from their latest LP Battle Born as a preview pre release is always a great indication of what to expect! My lord their new release has brought the ruckus. Delving deep they opened with “Runaways”, closely followed by a run of “Somebody Told Me”, “Smile Like You Mean It” and some adventurous covers of “Shadowplay” by Joy Division and “Forever Young” by Alphaville. Closing the set with an encore of “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and “When You Were Young”.

We left The Killers early and caught a bus ride to Club Exerg, which was where Metronomy showcased their talents! Seeing them in Brisbane at the start of the year at The Zoo at their own show, I knew the crowd would be blown away. I don’t think there are too many bands out there that have the finesse that Metronomy have, and led from the front by Joseph Mount they brought track after track after track. Heavily selecting tunes from the English Riviera, I wasn’t disappointed at all but I was hoping they’d throw in their a bit of “My Heart Rate Rapid” or “Radio Ladio”. Opening with “Some Written” and closing with their encore of “Loving Arm”, they announced they will going into hiding and writing new material much to my excitement. Day 1 conquered. My lord.

Day 2 featured something next level. When I saw Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs was playing a set at 3.15am at Club Xberg I was half tempted to go to bed and wake up for it but, fuck that, I was going full retard, and in fine form I did. A couple of hippies of vodka and I was sorted. Opening day 2 with UK’s Django Django, it was my second time seeing them after their stellar set at Belongil Fields. I now see that the hype is warranted (not much recollection from SITG), engaging the crowd throughout the entire set, with frequent danke schoën and general happy vibe, the crowd was hooked. Opening with “Hail Bop” and closing with “Default” they left the stage letting the crowd know they’ll be back sooner rather than later!

Having enjoyed Friendly Fires set full of dance floor tracks, Franz Ferdinand followed and I was to get a good spot. I was excited to watch them abroad as I’d seen them on numerous occasions down under and know their antics. Clearly they are a party band with the repertoire of tracks to fill a 45 min set easily, opening their set with “The Dark of the Matinee” and followed closely with “Michael”, “Tell Her Tonight”, “Ulysses”, and crowd hits such as “This Fire”, “Do You Want To”, “Take Me Out” and closing with “Outsiders”. The lads played some new tracks being, “Right Thoughts! Right Words! Right Action!” and “Scarlet Blue” to the crowds pleasure. The Scottish cohort as per usual finish their set with a group session on the drums which has become a go to closing routine!

Winding through the day we had SBTRKT now to cause some destruction, and they did more than that. Third time in a year to see SBTRKT live and every time, I can see why they are such revered artists. A two piece who know every in and out of their art, they have so much talent, and track by track the cheers reinforce their prowess. SBTRKT live mental. A chosen track for our festival experience was “Wildfire” and we were hoping Little Dragon may make a sneaky appearance, not to be. SBTRKT’s set featured the likes of “Pharaohs”, “Heatwave”, and “Something Goes Right,” not all inclusive.

Now we knocked about for a fair part of the rest of the day in anticipation for my most looked forward to acts of the weekend,
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (TEED) followed by Simian Mobile Disco.

Arriving at Club Xberg we were greeted by the electronic sounds of Modeselektor. This two piece DJ setup played a heavy set up electro tracks with the back drop of an amazing light show. I hadn’t heard much of them but for my enjoyment I downloaded their material swiftly on return to wi fi.

We positioned ourselves front and center for TEED and after a few technical difficulties he was full steam ahead with his set of dance floor anthems to delight of the crowd. His meticulous approach to his art was clear from the outset with the set being delayed as he couldn’t get the right sound front of house.

Taking the cake for me was definitely “Tapes and Money”, “Household Goods” and “American Dream Part II”. I think the hype I built up internally was definitely superseded and his set, although short, encapsulated his brilliance and cemented my positioning of a 9.5/10 for his debut LP.

Closing Berlin Festival for me was Simian Mobile Disco. An hour and half at 4.30 in the morning was sensational and a delicious curry wurst for the walk home, in fine company.

To top things off, we stumbled across a roof top mini festival called Auf den Dächern Festival on the Sunday which featured Two Door Cinema Club, Ghostpoet, MIA. and Bonaparte. We grabbed some beers and snacks and sat on the banks of the River Spree listening to 20 min sets! It was a great wrap up of an epic week. 2013 is already locked in.

Seeya in October, Berlin.

He's a what? He's a what? He's a newspaper man And he gets his best ideas From a newspaper stand. - -

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