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Reeperbahn Festival 2017

Mauno live @Kukuun Reeperbahn Festival

Reeperbahn Festival 2017

When the Reeperbahn Festival first started in 2006, I was actually part of the line-up with my band Kajak. And it was quite interesting for us to play, because it was not a common local gig: we played in Angie’s Night Club – a glamorous venue I never set foot in before. And during the show was not a single familiar face in the crowd. For me it felt like playing on a different planet, although my apartment was about 100m down the road.

To be honest: back then I never thought the fairly ambitious concept would work out, trying to establish a hybrid of conference and music shows on an international level, like a German version of everyone’s festival darling SXSW. But obviously, I was wrong! The Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg grew steadily and by now is well known as Europe’s largest club festival. This year’s 12th edition set a spotlight on up-and-coming bands and artists from all over the world, and I was very curious to check some of them out during the four festival days in late September. Here’s what I like to share with you:

Mo Kenney

Canada is currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of its confederation and it was a smart move from the festival to set a focus on to this country, because it has a thriving music scene and lots of interesting acts to offer. Like Mo Kenney for instance: She and her comrades played a pretty tight and catchy power-pop set in the early afternoon. There were feet tapping and heads nodding across the room while Mo Kenney moved through her tunes with a certain easiness – I only wish she played a few more songs!

Mauno

Next up was Mauno (see photo), also a band hailing from Nova Scotia. I set my golden ears on this act in 2015 when they released a batch of very first demo songs via Bandcamp and since that time the Canadian quartet defined a remarkable sound of their own: complex, but with a great sensibility for pop and dynamics. Initial sound problems plagued Mauno’s set as the power supply went off several times. And I’ve seen other bands getting nervous or angry about these kind of technical issues, but not here: Mauno didn’t mind to improvise, it’s part of their music and they handled the situation like experts: “The power’s telling us a lesson” said singer/guitarist Nick Everett at one point. “If you have power, use it wisely” – true words. In the end, they managed to play an elegant set of deconstructing pop with just the right amount of haunting intimacy. Watch out for their new album  “Tuning”, to be released in October.

Superorganism

After this first highlight it was time to hook up with my friend and colleague Alice Peters-Burns. If you’re not already familiar with her, please tune into her radio show Kaleidoskop on ByteFM or Offbeat via NovumFM. As well, she runs a fabulous blog where she features music off the beaten track.

The first thing we witnessed in the eve was a new thing called Superorganism. The word is that this group comprised of eight members from all over the world and is fronted by a 17-year-old Japanese girl from Maine. Smells a bit like the next big thing? Well, Superorganism just got signed to Domino Records and here at the Reeperbahn Festival they were thrown in at the deep end by playing their very first live show in one of the bigger venues in town – and I can report: they didn’t sink, they did a pretty good job! If you’re a fan of infectious electropop tunes, you might love this buzz band Superorganism. Supported by visuals, playback und three punchy background singer/dancer, the show was colorful fun from start to finish.

King Creosote

Alice and I floated on to King Creosote at the Imperial Theater. Here it was more than suitable to sit down in fluffy chairs while listening to the bard of Fife alias King Creosote who apparently, just shaved his head completely bald. Furthermore, his music was stripped down to a solo performance with acoustic guitar and voice only. He played a bunch of honest and wistful folksongs with lovely banter in between – all this worked well for King Creosote.

Jane Weaver

Quite interesting was the response to Jane Weaver’s show late at night: some people grooved along to the music, others just closed their eyes to get lost in it. And both was fine. The elusive songwriter’s been making music for 20 years now and her latest release Modern Kosmology was an ambitious piece of unearthly psyche-pop and futurism. Surrounded on stage by a tight backing band with Kraftwerkian beats and analog sci-fi sounds, Jane Weaver had enough freedom to present her pop gestures in the likes of Kate Bush. It was a performance you don’t see very often these days and I was surprised, the club was not completely packed with people. Hopefully next time.

Marika Hackman

The other night Marika Hackman rocked out with her band on quite a different level: no fancy dress or make-up like Jane Weaver, only basic t-shirts and simple hairstyles. But it fit perfectly to the 90ties inspired American slackersound she played, some of them in the spirit of Nirvana’s softer side. But still, the live sound was heavy enough to move and bob along with the songs, and especially the fan crowed upfront was really into it.

All We Are

Later on, the stage was invaded by All We Are, a trio based in Liverpool. I never really liked their records, but my friends Alice knew better as she met the band before. And indeed: the live sound was filled with energy and catchy hook lines. And I quite enjoyed the fact, that the drummer stood while playing. All We Are delivered top notch festival entertainment, although I left with a feeling that they were trying a little too hard to please everyone.

Aquaserge

Probably the best thing about visiting the Reeperbahn Festival is simply drifting along. All (70+) venues are within walking distance and there’s a lot of great stuff to discover. Of course, the schedule was packed and I missed quite a few acts I badly wanted to see. But as well I popped into unknown shows and made completely new discoveries. Thanks to that I fell in love with a French group named Aquaserge: they were mind-blewing! With five performers dressed in costumes, Aquaserge delivered a hypnotic show with analog keys and (bass-)clarinet. Lots of effect pedals served the psychedelic paradigm and when the polyphonic voices came into the mix, it felt like they’ve found the sixth sense of music. Imagine Stereolab with Tortoise as experimental jazzy shapeshifters, you may get an idea, what Aquaserge is about.

Thank you, #RBF17, for putting on this great discovery and all the other fabulous artists. See next year at #RBF18!

 

Andy Shauf live review

Andy Shauf live Winterthurer Musikfestwochen

Andy Shauf @ Wintherthurer Musikfestwochen 2017

 

Last weekend I took the train to Winterthur about 90 minutes NE of Bern, to pay a visit to the city’s annual Musikfestwochen. The name “Musikfestwochen” sounds like an earnest classical affair, but don’t worry: this neat and predominantly free festival started in the seventies as an alternative music event and proudly celebrated its 42nd edition this year with 12 days of music and a nice selection of local and international acts. Thankfully the rainfall stopped in time and the sun came out again when I found myself in the historic center of Winterthur on Saturday to watch the Canadian singer-/songwriter Andy Shauf. He released the most impressive concept album last year based on a party, filled up with sophisticated string arrangements and mesmerizing melodies. Furthermore I was curious to hear, how this intimate, soul-feeding gentle pop works out on a Swiss festival stage.

Of course, you figured out by now that the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen is not a common festival. Apart from some notorious hipsters the audience is pretty mixed, more like a social event for all ages. And the whole setting is nice and comfortable, with many stalls to get your beer from the local “Chopfab” brewery or traditional Swiss food. All this works well for Andy Shauf. When he enters the stage, long haired and coupled with a trucker cap, he looks like the young J Mascic of Dinosaur Jr. But this first impression on Andy Shauf from Regina, Saskatchewan is leading to the wrong path: instead of furious feedbacks he prefers tone over volume and creates an emotionally resonant and captivating performance from the first minute to the end. His narrative style is accompanied by a full band which includes not only one, but two clarinet players and they capture the studio sound of the record surprisingly well: all the subtleties and melodic lines sound perfect and the audience pays decent attention, although most of them probably had never heard of Andy Shauf before and want to see the other acts of the following evening.

While the sun sets down, the Irish songwriter Glen Hansard puts on a solid one man show for the lovers of more roots inflicted singer-/songwriting tunes. Thereafter it’s time for another renowned artist from Canada: Feist is closing the night with a glamorous show, performing songs from her latest album Pleasure. I’m surprised how relaxed she keeps chopping her guitar and how she enjoys talking to the audience in-between songs. But when I head back home, it’s the empathetic sound world of Andy Shauf that keeps spinning in my head.

Anyhow, it looks like I’ll be getting on the train again in August 2018, when another round of music and celebration hits the lovely town center of Winterthur.

Make-Up in der Betonwüste

Primavera Sound Festival 2017

Das Primavera Sound Festival 2017

Ich hatte es geahnt, und deshalb war es längst überfällig gewesen, endlich einmal auf das Primavera zu reisen. Denn all das, was ich nicht mehr sehen möchte, sucht man hier vergeblich: Etwa Bierleichen, die sich bereits zu früher Nachmittagsstunde embryonal im Schlamm wälzen, oder auch ergänzend kuratierte Hippie-Events. Nein, all das gibt es nicht auf dem Primavera, und das ist erst einmal sehr angenehm. Stattdessen haben wir direkten Zugang zum Mittelmeer-Strand, Palmen, ein großzügiges (wenn auch weitenteils zubetoniertes) Gelände, auf dem die Zigtausenden in lockerem Abstand zueinander schlendern. Und ein Programm, das neue und alte Helden, sehr kleine und ziemlich große Nummern zwanglos vereint. Der offene Charakter des Festivals macht es möglich, Helden des Autoren-Technos inmitten einer Indie-Crowd zu entdecken, daneben ein intellektuelles Ehepaar um die 60. Alles bestens, und doch wollen wir ein paar Worte über Rahmen- und Produktionsbedingungen verlieren.

Da wäre zunächst einmal der überwältigend frequentierte Weißwein-Stand, ein untrügliches Signal für den Strukturwandel: Der urbane Freigeist stellt sich eben lieber für einen Schoppen an, anstatt die dünne Brühe des Festivalsponsors zu kippen. Ein Zeichen guten Geschmacks. Vielleicht sogar ein bisschen penetrant? Kommen wir damit zur Fressmeile: Sie wirkt wie die mobile Version eines aufgehübschten Straßenzugs – und das in Barcelona, einer Stadt, die schwer unter der Gentrifizierung ächzt. Organisches Essen wird aus anspruchsvoll designten Campinganhängern verkauft. Verdammt, sind wir in einer Jamie Oliver-Kochshow gelandet? Auf einmal nervt es, dass Kate Tempest gleich nebenan auf der „Adidas-Stage“ spielt, wo sie doch in ihren Songs über Kinderarbeit in der Turnschuhproduktion lamentiert. Ok, ganz ruhig. Das sind die kleinen Lügen einer im Großen und Ganzen schwer anständigen Angelegenheit. Und damit zu einigen Musik-Highlights, vier unter 200 möglichen.

Kate Tempest

Adidas-Bühne hin oder her, der Auftritt von Kate Tempest war extrem gut, was auch daran lag, dass das Primavera-Publikum nicht einfach nur unterhalten werden möchte, sondern konzentriert zuhören kann. Die Londoner Wortkünstlerin kam wie immer in Straßenklamotten, unfrisiert und ohne Make-Up auf die Bühne. Und sie legte ein absolut ergreifendes Set hin, bei dem sich ihre Tracks mit Spoken-Word-Einlagen stetig abwechselten. So kam der Dancefloor zwischendurch zur Ruhe, nicht aber die Stimme von Kate Tempest, die sich über eine Welt am Abgrund in Rage rappte.

The Make-Up

Phänotypisch am anderen Ende der Skala: The Make-Up, die stilbildende Mod-Core-Legende aus Washington D.C., ehemals im Mao-Style, inzwischen kollektiv in glitzernde Elvis-Anzüge drapiert. Das Quartett präsentierte seinen Gospel Yeh-Yeh hysterisch wie eh und je, dabei frisch wie der junge Morgen – was daran liegen könnte, dass sich die Band extra für das Primavera reformiert haben soll. Das Publikum bekam keine historische Aufführungspraxis serviert, sondern ehrlich empfundenen, grundsympathischen Wahnsinn. Sänger Ian Svenonius verschwand schon nach wenigen Takten im Publikum und wäre noch vor Ende des ersten Songs fast an seinem Mikrofon erstickt. Beste Ansage: „Most rock bands think about bringing themselves to orgasm. Not The Make-Up!” -Yeh!

Sleaford Mods

Ein Gegenstück zu Kate Tempest ganz anderer Art: die notorischen Nörgler Sleaford Mods, ebenfalls anklagende Texte in unversöhnlichem Vortrag. Doch als sie zu zweit mit Laptop und einem Mikro auf die riesige „Ray-Ban-Stage“ traten, wirkten sie etwas verloren, umso mehr, als sie der Sound im Stich ließ. Irgendwann dann aber doch die hinlänglich bekannte, geballte Wut, umhüllt von reduzierten Beats. Aber offen gestanden: Verglichen mit Großmeisterin Tempest wirkte der prollige Jason Williamson doch etwas eindimensional.

Teenage Fanclub

Herrlich unprätentiös zeigten sich am Samstagabend Teenage Fanclub. Die good old boys aus Glasgow lieferten einen schlichten und doch euphorischen Auftritt ab; das selige Publikum sang lauthals mit und zeigte sich bisweilen sogar textsicherer als der legendär zerstreute Sänger Norman Blake. Im Fanblock eine riesige schottische Flagge – wäre ja ein Grund, sich abermals zu echauffieren. Aber nein, lassen wir das. Aufregung passt einfach nicht zum Primavera, dem hübschesten aller Festivals auf massivem Grund.

P.S.: Avant-R’n’B Meister Frank Ocean hatte seine Teilnahme als Headliner kurzfristig abgesagt. Seine Präsenz auf dem Festival fiel daher anders aus, als geplant: in Form von Protest-Shirts mit der Aufschrift: „Fuck Ocean!“

Dieser Text erschien ebenfalls im Blog von ByteFM

 

Balduin

I honestly couldn’t believe my ears when I discovered that this great artist called Balduin is hailing from Bern (Switzerland) – what a pleasant surprise! Fact is, I live in this city for almost 10 years now and I always had to struggle with the local scene, which seemed to be different and difficult for me on all terms. Eventually I made my peace, thinking there’s nothing to expect from this city music wise… But then I heard the songs from Balduin and his second album All In A Dream (2014) which left me relieved and excited at once.

The one-man-orchestra of Balduin shows a great sensibility for shimmering 60ties pop and psychedelia. And I can tell you: he gets better with every release! His third long player Bohemian Garden was just released and the first minutes are like a clear statement: Balduin wasn’t made for these times and his music wasn’t made for the small world of Switzerland.

Between sophisticated baroque pop arrangements, where vibraphone meets analog synth tunes, there’s a colourful cosmos to discover. Some of the tracks achieve a cinematic quality from the likes of Morricone or Theodorakis, taking you on a trip with compelling sounds and melodies. Listening to A Song For The Moon makes you think that Syd Barrett joined The Beatles for an unreleased hit single. All this sounds unique, although the aesthetic is very specific and some influence easy to pinpoint. Because Balduin makes sure, that his music takes a playful approach, that it’s resolving in some unexpected turns and vibes. The effect is simply highly enjoyable and worthwhile.

Minta & The Brook Trout

It’s a rare treat, but sometimes it happens: you hear a tune and suddenly it’s holding you spellbound. You’re captured by a voice or melody, trapped in a special sound or mood. I experienced such a moment when I discovered Minta & The Brook Trout.

The project from Lisbon (Portugal) started out in 2006 as an outlet for singer-/songwriter Francisca Cortesão’s home recordings and developed into a five-piece band. Earlier this year they released their third longplayer Slow which offers folk-inspired indiepop with a mesmerizing and intimate quality. It’s easy to get lost in the graceful arrangements with double tracked harmonies and the soothing timbre of Francisca. I could add a lot more attributes here, but really: just give it a listen and you’ll start to understand why the music of Minta & The Brook Trout is a splendid thing.

HPSTR GEMS

I always keep my ears open and try to discover new fresh sounds. This compilation is kind of perfect: it’s variegated and full of good material. It’s not called HPSTR GEMS for no reason! Responsible for this and other great releases is the DIY label Spirit Goth from Los Angeles. There’s lots of great stuff worth checking out. What are you waiting for?

Snails

This quintet from Bristol is a lovely, slightly eccentric and sincere affair with songs about people like Olivia, Masie, Jessica and Anthony. The music is playful, but not plain – some songs are melancholic, but never too sad. A broad range of instruments like trumpet, organ, cello and flute are cleverly arranged, sometimes folky with a psychedelic twist. In these moments it’s hard to deny the influence of British psych-pop. The other reference is early Belle & Sebastian in songs like the title track Safe in Silence, but the effortless and charming way of Snails makes sure to have all your pop hearts melting.

Swooning

This one’s very special: I like how every song is built around the human voice as a musical instrument. With their multi-layered harmonies and loops, Michele Finkelstein and Briana Marela aka Swooning create nothing but enchanting moments and an overall sense of warmth and creativity. Some tracks tap into the tradition of doo-wop music, but in the first place it all sounds pretty unique and dedicated.

Andrew Morgan

Apparently there’s quite a lot to discover from this gifted artist, I’m just beginning with his album Please Kid, Remember. It’s a collection of heart-melting chamber-pop, reminding us of forgotten sounds and beauty. Every song is filled with clever ideas, accompanied by interludes. Some might say that it sounds old-fashioned – but only in a good way! This is an astonishing, beautiful album. Re-released by the spanish pop-connoisseurs Pretty Olivia Records.

Happy Sadness

Listen carefully with your headphones on, and it’s easy to get lost in these tracks. Happy Sadness knows pretty well how to create contemplative moments with his floating textures and warm compositions. Sometimes it’s like a soothing soundtrack that tells stories without words. But as well we have a few songwriter-based tracks where Jason Andrew Brown (multimedia artist and the man behind Happy Sadness) gets very close to you with his voice. In these tracks he shows his real quality as a versatile musician.