Music Review: Berlin Festival, Day One

pet shop boys

Having heard beer and strudel were cheap and a-plenty, I packed up my shit and headed to Germany to meet up with fellow contributor Jemma for the Berlin Festival. It was a neat two-day inclusion of a bevvy of events as part of Berlin Music Week. In nights building up to the festival we’d seen Jagwar Ma kill it with a performance that brought a ridiculous amount of familiar faces from Sydney together. We saw UK youngster Chlöe Howl gyrating along to her tunes and a new favourite, Parquet Courts. It was strange to hear something that wasn’t dance music, with no programmed beat or synths, but, it was a great punchy set nonetheless. These gigs were littered around the centre of Kreuzberg and were a good way to sample great spaces in the city.

Having spent a day taking in harrowing war-memorials and ridiculous five-storey vintage stores, we headed south to the Tempelhof Airport, the site of the two-day festival.  The disused airport, complete with a lonely carrier on site, was a stellar venue choice, with open space and a good layout for various stages. The crowd were relaxed, there was a complete lack of ass revealing shorts, no fluoro, or bikinis, in fact, the crowd were incredibly well-dressed and there were many glimpses of stunning aryan seven-foot babes sashaying between stages.

The good scenery and the lineup had us satisfied and ready for the two-days of festival funtimes. On closer inspection, however, there were some misunderstandings about the acts listed. For example, Mia. wasn’t the same chick who did Paper Planes and Casper was a German rapper that hadn’t ever buddied up with Rusko. These misunderstandings as well as cancellations of artists that we were keen to see, such as LE1F, were a bit of a dampener, but despite this trickery, we were excited for our two days at the old airport.

We started in the early afternoon with a group called Bosnian Rainbows, a Texan outfit that had lead singer ripping her tights, cocking her leg like a dog and screeching. It wasn’t really pleasurable in the slightest for the ears but the spectacle of the batshit mental singer losing her shit on stage was entertaining as we nursed our first Warsteiner of the day.

We missed NYPC but weren’t that miffed because it’s not 2009 and Ice Cream is pretty past its prime. Next up we caught Villagers villagers(pictured, right). Baby-faced front-man, Conor O’Brien led the indie set in a pleasing manner, but it wasn’t mind-blowing. Maybe all of the dance music we’d been subliminally prescribed over the previous few days had brainwashed us into disliking anything without unst-unst.

We expected Fenech-Soler to be a French electro band, but spotting members of the crowd with Australian flags draped over their shoulders (d’oh) and the band’s accents gave it away. They upped the ante, and played some sort of poppy-emo-with synths thang. Surprise musical highlight of the day was Say Yes Dog, a warming electro band that played an atmospheric sunset set. We boogied to their track Get It and made a mental note to tell everyone and anyone about this band.

In good, pro-dog spirits, we moved over the main stage to check out what Pet Shop Boys (pictured, top) had to offer. Now, quite drunk, we were very much feeling the incredibly over the top, camp affair from the band. There were several amazing costume changes and bodacious back-up dancers, it was all sorts of amazing to watch.

A headliner clash had us back and forth between Blur and John Talabot. As a double-denim clad Damon Albarn crooned out Girls & Boys, we agreed that we preferred the Soulwax remix of the number, laughed about it, decided that our  mutual vibe was not 90’s throw-back focused and moseyed over for a guaranteed boogie at Talabot. He provided the goods with tracks like So Will Be Now and Destiny.

After the bands had packed up there was a courtesy bus which herded the keen masses to central Kreuzberg for extra party times that went way into the small hours. We made it to the venue but didn’t stay, it was all a bit too big and noisy and we were dirty from the poor hostel showers. So, as the gurners sucked their cheeks we begrudgingly made the judgement call that we couldn’t be fucked waiting till 4am for Boys Noize, and packed it in to be nice and fresh for Day Two…

For more pictures of Berlin Festival check out our Facebook page for the full gallery. Stay tuned for our review of Day Two…  



Words and pictures by Carol Bowditch