Monday, September 20, 2010

Berlin Festival - Day Two Review

Arriving at the festival in the early afternoon, I had a chance explore a bit more of the venue. Although small, only 3 main stages, yesterday I had neglected to even step foot in hanger 5. After looking around I headed to main stage assuming (a festival like this, a 4ish time slot and being ON said stage) whoever is up next would be a sure bet.

Far from it!

Gang of Four are an old school, post punk band from Leeds, England. While the actual sound of their politically motivated songs was something I can see people getting into, there performance was not. This set was up there with the worst I have ever seen. Lead singer Jon King roamed across the stage like a cocky wanker, shirt open and acting as if he was 30 years younger and actually attractive. Trying to ramp up the audience the man stumbled about as if he was off chops (but perhaps this was his style), either way it was a non-event. Guitarist Andy Gill was no better. His dance moves and playing style looked staged; overly thought out; unnatural and made him awkward watch. Gang Of Four were ill suited to the festival line up and clearly unappreciated by the majority of the audience.

Finally exploring the smaller of the three mains, Hanger 5, I accidentally stumbled across The Morning Benders - a band who’s album I will be sinking my teeth into. 

Fresh from the sunny shores of California, TMB made waves on Saturday at Berlin Festival with their dreamy indie pop tunes. Having supported acts like Broken Bells, The Kooks and Grizzly Bear, the quartet have released two albums and are soon working on a third. Taking a nod to Death Cab for Cutie, The Morning Benders seem to draw much inspiration from the alluring, soft charm of singer Ben Gibbard.

With a strong stage presence, frontman Chris Chu was thoroughly enjoyable to watch, expressing to the crowd their love of Berlin and promising to be back soon. Doesn’t help us though, right? Well, happy to say the guys will playing Falls Festival, Southbound and Sunset Sounds over new years, so if you have a chance check em’ out.

Back to the main stage for festival legends and remix veterans – Soulwax! Entering the stage dressed as if about to take their high school sweethearts to a 70’s prom, the electro-rock quartet were amazing.

(Photo by StereoDan)

With over a decade of music up their sleeves, Soulwax’s set was thick with hits, although many remixed to such an extent that it hardly sounded like the original. The live versions showcased less of the vocal hooks but more the epic festival breakdowns and a much heavier electro beat. E Talking and Miserable Girl were crowd favourites, dropping just as the sun was setting over Tempelhof airport.

Up next Alex Ridha a.k.a. Boys Noize, who played an impossibly heavy and long set. Half way though, all though out the main hanger, people began dropping to their knees. Apparently it’s common across European festivals but I had never it before, never the less I go down too. People remained on their knees (with the odd person standing to film it) for a few minutes. And as the cheers built, so did the music until people were on their feet and the track finally dropped. The response was monstrous. 

(Photo by Stereodan)
Having pulled out some massive tracks early on, by the time Boys Noize drew to a finish the dancing had eased up. Didn’t expect to see this from the Germans. Despite being famous for, among other things, partying for days on end, the crowd actually seemed over this set by the end.

Following a flooring performance at Parklife a few years back, I was compelled to check out Peaches, and with a line that read “Peaches Lazer Show” on the timetable, I needed to witness this. Don’t get me wrong, the lazers were wicked to watch, but having such an elaborate visual masterpiece apparently gave Peaches licence bring nothing to the table herself. The electronic artist, known for her sexually overt lyrics and dominating “pussy power” persona, stood almost deadly still against a wall of coloured lazers. To top it off the sound in hanger 4 was not doing the Canadian performer justice, so I left after 2 tracks in search of something more satisfying.

(Photo by Stereodan)

This hunt ended with a beer, dinner and Hot Chip. Despite having seen them countless times before, they were, as always, infectiously danceable.

(Photo by Stereodan)

Berlin Festival day two was pretty average, although seeing some stellar performances, the early close made a huge difference on the vibe and at 11.30 people were dribbling out of the venue clearly disappointed.

Post by Bec Clark 

Berlin Festival - Day One Review

As promised – the music side of things

First act of the day - MIT, a three piece from Cologne, Germany who began making waves after delving a DIY demo to Peaches’s manager prior to one of her shows. After listening to the demo, Peaches invited the band to open for her show that same night. Since then, the band have come along way and are now fast growing in popularity across the UK and have finally gained some much deserved attention back home (their home, that is). 

Playing one of the early sets at Berlin Festival, the fresh faced trio, introduced us to some highly infectious synth pop/ post punk beats. Building upon each layer, the sound produced from the wall of synthesizers that surrounded one of the members ensured the industrial size of hanger 4 was matched musically. Influences such as Digitalism, Daft Punk, Soulwax and even New Order were more than apparent during the groups Friday afternoon set. 

Lyrically I had no idea what the hell was going on (surprisingly this was the only acts I saw at Berlin Festival who sung in German) and performance wise the band was less than impressive. Showmanship was non existent but then again, MIT are still relatively new to the scene and I don’t doubt that this is something that will improve as the band matures. Besides, if they have already been backed by Peaches and have worked with members of Kraftwerk & Simian Mobile Disco, I’m sure we can expect huge things.  

Up next in hanger 4, Belgian electro-rockers, Goose, who brought the house down amongst a mass of sweaty drunk Germans. Although starting out as an AC/CD covers band, Goose quickly moved to producing their own sound - drenched with synth, yet still maintaining the raw power that an Acca-Dacca cover band calls for. 

Since making their live debut supporting Soulwax in the UK, the edgy quartet have grown in to a monstrous LIVE band (none of this samples shit). Heavy synth waves and rock elements, delivered in equal measure, immersed the audience and as the dance rhythms built up, before coming crashing back down, Goose’s sets ensured undeniable dance floor adrenaline. Gaining momentum through out their set, the group delivered British Mode, 3T4, the enticing rave-esq sound of Everybody; electro powerhouse – Bring It On; the filthy beats of Black Gloves and many more. It was the bands powerful performance and their Euro-Electo sound that ensured Goose were a Berlin Festival highlight. 

Detouring via the bar and some grub, we headed back to a familiar standing position for Robyn. Moving on from regular LP’s, this year Robyn had decided to deliver fans three mini albums, Body Part I, II, and III, all of which should be out by the end of this year. The platinum blonde bombshell has a unique style of music that is 90’s pop with out the teeny bobber stigma. Or so I though. Sadly, Friday’s set was extremely poppy, borderline cheesy – think Britney Spears, only with a little more street cred. Performing as the single focal point, her band behind, electro-pop princess covered hits including Dancing on My Own, With Every Heartbeat, Dancehall Queen, Cobrastyle and even impressed Royksopp fans when she closed with The Girl and The Robot.  
Following much anticipation, the solo project from Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife), Fever Ray began. Andersson’s signature vocals took control of hanger four on Friday night and, building upon with the musical depth achieved by a multitude of layered lyrics, her performance was stunningly surreal. Eerie soundscapes and haunting vocals, enhanced by a thick smoke, that devoured the stage and the performers on it, created an atmosphere that was like no other.  As the fog flowed from the stage onto the audience, the space became almost claustrophobic yet worked to make the entire performance and experience that much more intoxicating and potent. 

As the faintest glimpse of light seeped through the fog, 17 or so lamps on stage became distinguishable and shed a faint glow on to the other five persons on stage, creating the softest of silhouettes. Opening with If I Had A Heart the audience soon became absorbed in the baselines, thick reverb and siren song of Andersson. Standing captivated as green lazers soon shot out across the stage, creating a surreal glow when hitting the smoke, the crowd was in awe. Although not as powerful her performance at Electric Picnic, Fever Ray sets are honestly a stunning master piece. They are creepy yet seductive, a combination that I never thought I would see, but if any one can pull it off, its Karin Andersson.  

Missing 2ManyDJs and Fatboy due to the festival being closed prematurely (check out earlier blogs if you have no clue what I’m on about) I headed with a few friends to what Berlin is most well known for – its Under ground club scene.

Through a random door in a semi residential street, into what looked like a shop front, through to a back room, down a spiral staircase and into a basement. We then opened a door that looked like it belonged to a huge fridge. What we discovered, a sick underground club. Several rooms, DJ’s and Bars. This is what I love most about Berlin!

Bec Clark 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Little Look Around: Berlin Festival

We never did manage to get the video cameras’ into any of the festivals, but in an attempt to give you guys a glimpse of what each festival was like, I caught a bit of the action on my shitty little digital camera. Will have some footage up from Leeds and Electric Picnic soon, for now, here is a taste of Berlin Festival – Tempelhof Airport, September 10 & 11, 2010.

Bec Clark

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Berlin Festival - The Festival Side Of Things

An airport turned ghost town, the most unlikely of festival venues - unused, empty and lifeless, until resurrected for 2 nights for Berlin Festival as part of Berlin Music Week.

Aware of what S-Bahn to catch but unable to read the directions on our ticket, we followed the crowd of punters off the train at Platz der Luftbr├╝cke to Tempelhof Airport.

On the way to the venue, we past a group of local artists who were enticing people into their exhibition with the offer of free vodka. Taking the bait, we took some time to explore the original collection of sculptures, art works, installations and to watch the live band.  

Entering the festival, via what used to be the check in counters, we collected our wrist bands. Passing the baggage claim carousels, through the security checks and drawing nearer to the pulsating beats of the main stage, this venue was unique alternative from the rolling fields we had become accustom to.

(above two photos by StereoDan)

With two additional main stages, a mobile disco, Berlin Club floor and silent disco, the festival appeared to offer a vast collection of musical treats that leaned more towards the electronic end of the spectrum. The line up however, began to crumble after the first signs of pressure on the venue, and people were left with a not so vast array of performers.

Friday night following Atari Teenage Riot, a brief DJ set by Boemklatsch and only moments prior to 2ManyDJ’s taking the stage, people had gathered in mass trying to enter Hanger 4 (hangers 4 and 5 were the other two stages, more enclosed and not as large main stage). With the fear of crowd surges, and a repeat of the unfortunate Love Parade incident, festival organisers and local police authorities decided to pull the pin on the remaining acts. Around 2.30 am Saturday morning the festival was shut down and revelers were denied major acts 2ManyDJ’s and Fatboy Slim. 

The Saturday night line up was, as a result, drastically changed in an attempt to move the major acts from hangers 4 and 5 and put them on the main stage. The initial programme had music running until from 2pm to 6 am, the new timetable, to the anger of attendees, ran only until 11pm. Saturday’s vibe felt of disappoint and frustration, especially for the punters who had only brought tickets for the Saturday and arrived late thinking they had all night. But organisers have asked punters to hold on to their wrist bands as it will give people free admission to upcoming gigs over the next few months.

As a venue, the airport hangers were a novel approach. Festival sound was not all that good but on the plus side there were bars literally every 20m. Festival food stalls were the worst yet, with little more that hot chips, kebabs and bratwurst (German sausage). The venue also had only two toilet areas, but then again, despite being sold out, the festival was not all that large, looking around 30 thousand at its peak. 

Music Blogs on the way 
Bec Clark

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ELECTRIC PICNIC Festival 2010 (StereoDan)


Well in a nutshell isn't Ireland a lovely little country. Upon arriving customs officials greeted us with a friendly smile and asked how long I'd be staying for? There was no line up, no fuss, just wander down to the bus station and wait for our transfer to Portlaoise (historically spelt and pronounced Port Laoighise). Once we arrived there we headed to the local supermarket to grab some snacks. I decided not to purchase any alcohol as being hung over in a tent at a noisy music festival wouldn't be a particularly good mix for me!

On the transfer bus to Electric Picnic people were nattering away to each other like budgies.  I was quite content to just sit back and take in the charming Irish landscapes and scenery passing before me. Bec got chatting to some friendly girls from Dublin and before we knew it they had adopted us into their friendly tribe. Walking through the festival camping area the girls found a suitable spot next to the service road in the "Oscar Wilde" camping grounds. I had originally planned to meet some friends over in the more distant and subdued "Charlie Chaplin" area but with a little persuading stayed with the group we'd just met (and I would find out in the future that was a good decision too!).

So with my tent erected thanks to some help from the girls (I'm really useless at doing it myself) I was ready to go see what Electric Picnic had to offer. Surprisingly the sun was out in all it's glory which I hear is reasonably good luck for those living in Ireland. People were chilling out, lying back on the lush green grass and just generally looking like the cats that got the cream. I wished I'd taken a few photos around this time as by the mid afternoon the sun was gone and replaced by a misty layer of thick cloud.... oh well it was nice while it lasted.

So I went my own way from the group to go get a taste for what was going on around the festival. I was immediately struck by just how vast the site was and how much variety there was. My first stop was the "Crawdaddy Stage" where I was met with the rather 80's sounding, synth pop-duo Hurts (picture below left).  They had a distinctive synthy pad sound that was well supported on this occasion by a guest opera singer. 

Next stop was the "Little Big Tent" which is where all things good and electronic would be! Starting a early festival riot was electro collective The Subs (picture below right) who describe themselves as "Belgian beatbastards." The Subs are Jeroen De Pessemier (singer/producer), Wiebe Loccufier (from the dj-duo Starski & Tonic) and Stefan Bracke. Not ones to hide behind laptops, these fellas were jumping around on stage and twisting those knobs like there was no tomorrow. With songs like "Fuck that Shit" and "Bang Bang Bang" you certainly knew what you were in for. Most of the audience was dancing around like maniacs as the trio worked the crowd into a feverishly hot sweat with their well produced bouncy grooves and bleeps.

Ducking out of the tent before I turned into a disco dancing droid I was met with some fairly interesting sights and sounds. the 360 Afterburner (picture below left) is possibly the most fantastically bizarre festival structure that I've ever seen at ANY festival! With synchronised pyrotechnics launching out from each of its corners and an eerie mist pouring out of various holes this was indeed a bizarre structure to behold. Not only that it sounded incredibly solid for an outdoor dance space which kept people grooving well past their bed times and into the early morning.

The structure was designed by a company called Arcadia who combine skills in engineering, sculpture, performance and special effects to create mind-blowingly insane party environments for live events and festivals. I had barely taken in what was going on when to the side of the Afterburner stage two Electric Men wandered out onto a level platform and started shooting lightning bolts across the stage. It was very amazing and visually spectacular stuff. I managed to get a few more cool photos so have a look at my facebook page if you're interested.

Throughout the first day/night of the festival I managed to catch more then my fair share of musical acts. Those not already mentioned included: Roxy Music (felt a bit old and daddy rock to me), Modest Mouse (great collection of instruments), Jonsi (amazingly brilliant as always), Public Image Limited (You've got to love it or hate it... i loved it!), Booka Shade, Sneaky Soundsystem and Sebastian Leger.

As you can imagine I was please with my progress for the day and headed back to my tent. After my car experiences in Coachella I carefully made special mental notes before leaving so as to be able to find it in the dark of night. Upon arrival I jumped promptly into my sleeping bag and fell asleep.


Scattered around the festival grounds was a multitude of random and interesting objects. It was nice to see that people were respecting most of these items and not vandalising them. My personal favourite was the doorway.... a portal to another dimension? A space within a space? or just an arbitrarily door to confuse or bemuse? Either way people were interacting with it and having their photo taken as they passed through it.

Their were other interactive and musical treats including a communal piano if you fancied an Irish sing along and the very zen Gamelatron (pictured below right) which claims to be the worlds first fully robotic Gamelan Orchestra. According to the website the Gamelatron is "Modeled after traditional Balinese and Javanese gamelan orchestras, the GamelaTron is an amalgamation of traditional instruments with a suite of percussive sound makers. MIDI sequences control 117 robotic striking mechanisms that produce intricately woven and rhythmic sound." If I had my way I'd love to stick a bit of drum n bass sequences into the thing and let it rip!

My first band to see at Electric Picnic Day 2 was Dublin based band "Redneck Manifesto." Acting on a local's tip off I was impressed with the musical skills displayed by this strictly instrumental band. I did feel it was a shame not to incorporate some kind voice or singing into the performance but perhaps they'll reconsider this in the future and get in some vocal collaborators? Their infectiously funky grooves were very danceable and everyone seemed to be getting into the swing of things. Interestingly the band has rejected any traditional record label support, preferring instead to remain fully independent.

Slipping across to the adjacent tent I discovered These New Puritans performing on the Cosby Stage. Intrigued by the hanging chains and small woodwind section I decided to stick around for a bit and see what they were about. Their sound was very artistic and somewhat reminded me of a cross between The Cinematic Orchestra and Patrick Wolf, but minus the diva. I would definitely be interested to see them again and was interested to note they have recently come from a tour of Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and main land China. 

I briefly watched Crystal Castles perform at Latitude Festival and their live performance and stage show antics were very entertaining! So it was great to get a better vantage point closer to the stage at Electric Picnic and snap some pictures. The photographers were relegated to side stage for some unknown reason and for the first few songs I felt sorry for anyone with epileptic tendencies as the strobes fired of in rapid succession. During the set lead singer Alice Glass spent more time crawling around on her hands and knees, curled up in a ball or hanging out in the mosh pit then she actually did on stage. I heard criticism that most of the vocals were lip synched or mostly backing track which is not an unfair comment (although I didn't even notice this and usually I would). It didn't really matter though as I think the majority of people who turned up for the set were simply there for the spectacle of it all.... well I know I was at least!

Everybody around the campsite was talking about Seasick Steve (pictured below left) who was back at the festival by popular demand after playing at last year's Electric Picnic. It's hard not to like him and his music as he approaches his performance with a sincere honesty and relaxed humour that's impossible not to like. Described as one of the world's "Greatest living Bluesman" he's lived the life of a hobo and has injected his very soul into his music. There was a line of girls holding "pick me" signs in desperate hope that he would pull them onto the stage and serenade them with his authentic songs.

In a completely different style of music hiphop duo Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip tore up the Little Big Tent with their electronic beats and spoken word rhymes. After sorting out some technical issues with their onstage rig they spent no time mucking around and jumped straight into crowd favourite "The Beat That My Heart Skipped." The duo consisting of Daniel Stephens (aka dan le sac) and David Peter Meads (Scroobius Pip) formed back in 2006 when dan booked Scroobius to play at one of his promoted gigs in Reading at the Fez Club (now known as Sakura). I don't think I've ever felt my head being so pounded by the levels of sub bass in the tent and even with ear plugs I could only bare it for a short while before moving a more safe distance away from the speakers.... ie 100 meters down the road outside the tent. Even then it was still bloody loud!

After the bass pounding on my ears I decided it was time go for something a little more organic. I headed over to the Body & Soul Arena which seemed to have some interesting alternative entertainment. It's nice to know that with all the technological distractions available in this day and age, people still enjoy a good old fire gazing session. I noticed one caveman lookalike had made it his day's mission to ensure a perfectly consistent bonfire to be enjoyed by all.  Continuing on with this slightly tribal theme was a large drum ensemble that was so popular the gathered crowd refused for them to leave without them performing "just one more song." After 3 encores the poor lads must have been completely knackered but it was all in good fun.

You can't say you've been to an Irish music festival if you haven't seen The Frames. Well it was my first time and I'm happy to report it was the highlight of my day. Most of the audience was there for nostalgic reasons and to sing along with the songs, however for me it was all new and fresh. Prior to meeting Glen Hansard at Byron Bay's Bluesfest I'd never really heard of them, so I'm glad that I actually got the chance to see them perform live.... better late then never I suppose. Apart from some minor glitches with a faulty or an incorrect guitar (wrong tuning perhaps?) the set was pretty flawless and displayed the bands effortless talent. Things were never overly dressed up any more then they needed to be and it was refreshing to hear good old fashioned songs performed by seasoned musicians.

Happy and content with the music that I'd heard for the day I headed back to the campsite. However I'd been told about a 'secret rave' which was apparently going on somewhere in the scrub. The advice I'd been given was simply to follow your ears but I'm glad I was also carrying a mini LED torch as I would have most certainly broken my leg multiple times trying to find it in the dark. Upon arrival I was greeted with a nice serving of grimey dubstep remixes and light show. For a rave out in the jungle it was pretty well stacked technically and people were trickling into the area in dribs and drabs. I hung around for a little while before heading back to the campsite to enjoy some inter-tent banter.


Overnight there had been a moderate amount of rain but things seemed to be relatively dry. Our camp mates were all in good spirits, albeit a little seedy from the previous late night. Curiously one enterprising individual had set up his own little shop selling five cans of beer or cider for 10 Euro. It was a pretty good deal (relative to festival price of 5 Euro a beer) so I took them up on it.... twice... sharing a few of them around with people.

For the final day of music there were plenty of great acts to see for the day. Most of these bands are very well known so I'll keep this section of my blog short and sweet!

First up I saw Two Door Cinema Club which musically are very much a favourite of mine at the moment. A lot of their live performance relies on backing tape but if it gets the sound just right then that's ok by me. Friendly Fires performed a conflicting set with Two Door Cinema Club and consequently had a very thin audience standing before them at the commencement of their set. It did however progressively fill up as people arrived from other parts of the festival to be greeted with Ed Macfarlane over the top dancing. I took a quick video of it which I'll upload later...

Australian audiences are no strangers to Mumford & Sons (pictured below left) having been given massive amounts of airplay on Australian radio and featuring throughout Triple J's Hottest 100. That's certainly no reason to ignore them so I was quite happy to go watch part of their set on main stage before it got too crowded by overly enthusiastic middle aged women. The Horrors performing on the Crawdaddy Stage were a less commercial alternative and it was very interesting to see the live. I know them for their earlier indy thrash punk rock work (i.e. Death at the Chapel and Sheena Is a Parasite) so it was interesting to see that they've mellowed out a fair bit since then.

I watched a few songs by U.N.K.L.E. which was a pleasing way to segue from The Horrors to something more uplifting. As a band there has been some serious metamorphosis over the years and the results can be heard in the diversity of their productions. I love the variety of lush samples and atmospheres used in their music.

I've now seen The National (picture below right) quite a few times at the various festivals we've been to recently, and I'm still really enjoying them! The low vocal register of singer Matt Berninger is very soothing to the soul and over time I've gotten to know the band's setlist well. At Electric Picnic I was delighted to edge a little closer to the front of the stage to catch a glimpse.

The big draw card of the day was of course Massive Attack with their super-dupa LED light show extravaganza! Their compositions over the years have honed in on a blissful disregard for traditional electronic music formulas. More akin to classical music their use of epic crescendos and string flourishes is perfectly counterpointed by looped bass lines and well produced orchestral arrangements. So the hour long wait in the pour rain surrounded by drunken chanting Irishmen and women was worth it!

Sopping wet it was time to head back to my pool, I mean tent, which due to the continuos down pour of rain was starting to degrade literally in front of me. Any sensible person and with accommodation on the other end opted for departing the festival. I on the other hand had little choice and setup my umbrella above my head so that at least it might be semi- dry. It was a good idea in principal, and might have worked had it not been for the howling winds which continued all through the night. I didn't really sleep much at all that night and I swear that the bass coming from the secret rave party had become much louder than previous nights. I was not a happy bunny and by 7am sharp the next morning I was ready to catch the first bus home and wished my Green Tent good riddance.  

Overal Electric Picnic was by far the best festival I have been to on this experience thanks largely to the very kind hearted and thoughtful locals. There was such a multitude of things to do, look at and listen to that even people with an ADD attention span wouldn't get board in the space of the festival. Musically Ireland has quite similar musical tastes to Australians and I think as people we get along well. I've never seen people drink and smoke so much but they seem to be able to handle it no worries. 

Post and photos by StereoDan

Lucent Dossier Experience

More than just a music festival, one of the non musical highlights of Electric Picnic was the Lucent Dossier Experience. Roughly translated to "a collection of glowing light", Lucent Dossier are a surrealist dance troupe who incorporate elements of dance, aerial acrobatics, circus performances and fire twirling. There style utilizes many modern elements as well as traditional dance technique. Performing twice at Electric Picnic at a stage in Body and Soul their performance was a theatrical sceptical of grand proportions. The group are regular performers at music festival and have previously done shows at Electric Picnic, Coachella and Burning Man.

Here is a bit of footage from their performance on the Friday night.

Bec Clark