Berlin Festival Day 1

Something You Said’s Jemma Cole girl-crushes on Grimes and ends up on stage with Diplo:

For the past three months I’ve been amongst the millions of Australian youths who decide to go abroad and reap the benefits of the European summer. Alas, it has been mind-blowingly good but one drawback of such conditions of travel is that you are constantly lured into tourist clubs where, it seems, they are convinced Rihanna’s We Found Love and Eurovision smash hits are as good as it gets. Needless to say, leading up to the Berlin Festival, I was beginning to go a little mad/began questioning my self worth.

If I was to regain my faith in music, it is only too fitting that it would be in the most celebrated city in the world for both arts and culture, where they had decided to host this blessed event in the eerie, abandoned confines of Templehof Airport. But wait… it gets cooler! For the next two days, I was not only surrounded by random airplanes and endless expanses of runways but also a constantly evolving Art Village, Poetry Saloon, a ridiculously FUN Bumper Car Disco, mechanical bulls AND not to mention a brilliant lineup of bloody fantastic bands playing pretty much around the clock, between Tempelhof and the festival’s afterhours club area – Club Exburg.

Kicking everything off was a group probably the most accurate model to fit the bill of your a-typical ‘festival band’. This particular rendition of the ‘oh so familiar’ formula goes by the name Of Monsters of Men from Iceland. If you are a little unsure of what I mean by festival band, the repetitive requirements are of the indie-folk-pop variety and all members must sport a Castaway-esque beard and/or long Pocahontas hair and basically manage to cram in as many shamelessly euphoric vocal cries and harmonies as humanly possible (if you’ve conjured images of Angus & Julia Stone and Mumford and Sons you’re getting the picture…). Their song Lake House was one example of this pivotal encapsulation and was really nice to soundtrack some whimsical aeroplane dance moves simultaneously easing me into that sweet summer vibe of things. But we’ve all been there, right?

Clock Opera were next up on the Hanger 5 Stage and were one band that did exceed expectations as, prior to the festival, I had them pigeon-holed as yet another Interpol rip-off. In the flesh, their sound is much more epic and leaning towards a really cool 80’s vibe mixed into a neat little roll of indie derivatives too multiple to fault into sameness.

The Hanger 5 Stage was pretty much where it was at early on Friday and the next item of interest was hipster hype band Friends. With the age-old question of whether they would in fact to live up to the PR agents’ grandiose words burning everyone’s ears, the 80’s explosion of sultry dance-pop boarded the stage for a five-minute instrumental. Thereafter lead singer Samantha Urbanie (pictured above) awkwardly pushed through titles like Sorry and a hard-to-listen-to cover of Usher’s My Boo. It seemed her humungous ego was not sitting as well with the audience as she had hoped. Her pursuit of the love and admiration was relentless as she continued to crack jokes, brag about having sex in this airport one time and jump around in the crowd to rope in her straggling sporadic fans. Friend Crush and I’m His Girl – being the standouts of their 2012 debut album – proved to be the redeeming factors but, overall, I’m sad to say the set left a bad taste in my mouth because of Samantha’s cringeworthy pretension.

Manchester’s We Have Band followed in a similar path of danceable indie-pop but took a disco-tech detour which worked much better for them. The obvious draw card of the band is the lead singer/key boardist lead vocalist Darren Bancroft holding his own in contrast to his wife, who exists as a weird-looking glorified back-up dancer. The funky lay down of Divisive was a really feel-good moment, getting the audience to singalong and dance like nobody was watching.

Fuck Azealia Banks, Lana freaking Del Gay or that annoying chick from Friends; if there is an ‘it girl’ of coolness right now it is undoubtedly Grimes! And judging by the bustling crowd in the lead up to her set, she most definitely takes the crown of the festival’s overall most anticipated act. I mean, I was quite literally behaving like a nine-year-old One Directionator, I was that excited. And thank god the 24-year-old Canadian proved to her audience the wait was well worth it, as she provided an amazing set of otherworldly sounds mixed in with her hits from recent album Visions. There were even back-up dancers with Christmas light dreadlocks and laser light explosions, but not one item of visual eye candy could detract from her effortlessly electric stage presence. Genesis was one of the songs which really got the crowd to that other level of euphoric excitement as well as some brilliant new tracks. In essence though, it was all fucking incredible.

Major Lazer was the one headline act I wanted to see, not because I’m necessarily his biggest fan but because I knew he would put on a show. And oh boy, did he ever? Diplo and his riotous entourage took the stage to an overwhelmingly anxious crowd and they proceeded to impress, laying down tracks in the most professional fashion; coupled with some bodacious booty dancers doing unspeakable things to the speakers. And yes, when Pon de Floor came on I did get up on stage with all the booty dancing ladies….. leading to a distinct moment where his MC looked my friend and I like we were absolute freaks. Apparently our thrashing head-banging around stage in amongst all the other chicks taking off their tops and booty dancing wasn’t what he had in mind. Whatever, it was fucking awesome. After a much-deserved encore, he finished on his recent single Get Free, featuring sampled vocals from Amber of Dirty Projectors, which went off like nothing else in amongst a glorious smattering of confetti and our collective screaming along to the chorus. After months of resenting the playlist this song spawned from, I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end the first day.


Review by Jemma Cole. See more photos from The Berlin Festival at our Facebook page and check our review of Day Two, featuring a bad ass juvenile delinquent kid in a panda mask, SBTRKT, Django Django and to find out who Jemma’s new favourite band is.