The Reeperbahn Festival is one of Europe’s most intriguing festival to date. There are so many things to pack into just a few days, at times, you can feel quite overwhelmed. Budding musicians, festival goers and artists alike will feel right at home in Hamburg, as there is so much influence around every corner for you to pick and choose from. It’s catnip for the musical/artistic population of the world. I mean this place has World War 2 bunkers as nightclubs for Christ sake, now where else in the world can you experience that as well as a festival. Try and apply for a gig night somewhere in England with the same caliber as that then. As a band, playing in something like that would really take your breath away and give you a real boost as an artist. Mind you, it’s even a privilege to experience a venue like that as a journalist. With such an array of different venues to explore and experience it’s a wonder you have any brain capacity left to even consider looking at the art invading-cluster-fuck that encapsulates what Hamburg is all about.
What a way to close off the end of a long hard summer too, the festival drops right towards the end of September and is pretty much the perfect way to end your summer. Providing the weather plays along side the festival you can experience a large range of outdoor gigs, street musicians and whole array of creative sections to Hamburg. Believe it or not but the festival organizers have managed to pack in more than 200 events at 40 different locations along the legend that is the Reeperbahn. No wonder the festival had a record breaking 17.500 attendants and 1.900 professionals and journalists from 31 nations attending the festival this year. Even some chap came all the way from Rio De Rio de Janeiro – now that’s dedication for you. You could definitely see that guy traveling all the way to give it some “crunk” on the open-air silent disco till all hours in the morning – showing us how it is done in Rio.
Some of you may have a view of the Reeperbahn as a seedy place for gangs of Stag Dos and youngsters looking for sexy time, but the Red Light tag that comes with this part of Germany is totally drowned by clubs, bars, restaurants, theaters, art galleries, cabarets and much, much more. This transformation has taken a while but has now come to a point where Hamburg is becoming an unstoppable force. However if you’re looking for that sort of thing then the Herbertstrasse is definitely for you: the street consists of brothels that is off limits for juveniles and females. Yet this just shows you how much of a small part of Hamburg that this scene is today.
Dominating the festival is the newly revamped Spielbudenplatz which offers the public a chance to watch bands play live on two mobile platforms. These open-air gigs give the festival a real “festival” vibe, without all the muddy fields. This area is the hub of the Reeperbahn Festival featuring a whole heap of venues within one strip of tarmac. You can probably spend the whole three days jumping from venue to venue taking in the sights and smells of the Spielbudenplatz – however this is not recommended as outside of this hub are some absolute gems to Hamburg.
As a journalist covering the festival by your lonesome it’s extremely hard to focus on what you’re actually going to be able to physically cover within three days, without passing out from lack of sleep. The three main sections to the festivals: Music, Campus and Arts provide more than enough entertainment for you and a crew of 100 journos. So how does one choose what the hell they are going to cover? Being a music journalist – thoughts are swung towards covering music, which would be ideal. So, that’s what one accomplished. Yet a lot was still untouched, so apologies to all the bands, the artwork, the exhibition areas we missed.
A few hotly tipped bands for the weekend seemed to be the best option, but kind of didn’t work out as planned, nor should don the title “Hotly Tipped”. French electro stagesters Yelle provided what sounded like the ending to an N64 game for the duration of their set. She’s got the look, but the music don’t got no naffink. The venue was astonishingly packed and for the first time since the festival started – a cue seemed to be forming on the door. If only this writer had German linguistic skills to stand near the door and “Yelle” the words – don’t come in, or something to that effect. The girls got the looks, and the stage presence to boot but the two Topman catalog boys banging drums and stabbing keys makes you wonder why everyone in the room is jumping up and down like Kangaroos on crack. Oh yeah, that’s it, a generic drum beat, sly build-ups and a fit bird singing French = A recipe for the “scene” kids to nosh on. Gypsy and The Cat seemed to provide some Australian ear pleasing relief with their melodic Bee Gee tunes. A somewhat more enjoyable performance, and probably a relief on their half as this show was their final tour date. What better place to finish up than Hamburg.
Flicking through the very German schedules gave a glimpse as to how many bands were actually playing the Festival, sometimes its worth just closing your eyes and pointing at the schedule to see who is next on your list. Even if the music isn’t pleasing you, then just look around at the venues as they have such an authentic, rustic, individual, unique and crazy look to them. Toilets covered in Graffiti, with couches just outside the door, kind of like a waiting room for taking a piss – they even had magazines there to read.
Unfortunately The Duke Spirit couldn’t take the lead with their performance as their soundman must be on some kind of Otex suppository as the sound was WAY too gainy. You literally couldn’t hear anything other than the Guitar, the odd yell from the blonde bombshell at the front and the clapping at the end. Disappointing is the only words to describe this performance, especially after the long walk to the venue.
Finding the venues can get a little difficult (especially after a few pints of the old German ale) and sometimes drained quite a bit of time if you don’t know where everything is. Yet once you find the venue, it’s a strong sigh of relief and excitement to see the next band. The War On Drugs failed to do any justice with their sound within the small venue on the other side of the Reeperbahn. This was no war on any kind of drug – a very disappointing boring sound from their set.