Music Features

Reeperbahn Festival Preview

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Reeperbahn Festival before. It’s a far cry from the type of festivals we tend to get here in the UK anyway, the type that has you up to your elbows in sludge and awakening with the majority of the campsite urinating on your tent. Firstly, the entire festival takes place along a mile-long road in the centre of Hamburg - the Reeperbahn - boasting to be the most infamous red-light district in Europe. Littered with strip shows, sex shops, yuppie bars and punk discos - the Reeperbahn promises in the very least to be an eclectic environment for a music festival.  

Comprising not only of music events, Reeperbahn Festival has a renowned arts programme along with networking and music ‘business’ workshops. At this year’s event is the returning Flatstock Europe Poster Convention, a feature of the festival since 2006. Small editions of band and concert posters will be on sale direct from the artists who created them as unique and collectable motifs of both the festival and the subject matter. Along with this returning feature are new installations throughout the city of Hamburg. Firstly is the Platz-Tag (Park-Day), following in the ilk of NY, the participants ‘take back’ the streets of Hamburg for one day, transforming parking spaces into recreational lawns and music venues. Dotted intermittently throughout the city; the concept is to question our use of public space in areas which are most densely populated (Hamburg has only 15 square meters of public space per resident).

Other notable events are; ‘A Wall Is A Screen,’ an open air cinema which will move throughout the city where buildings become screens and pavements become cinema seats, showing pieces such as ‘1234V,’ ‘Incidental and Anecdotal Stories about Vaginas’ and ‘Music Man Murray,’ a short film about Murray Gershenz, a failing independent record store owner whose collection is one of the largest in the world. Nearing 90, Murray still spends most of his days with the collection and has put the business up for sale. Struggling to find a buyer the film tells the story of Murray and his son Irv’s attachment with the collection and their struggle to let it go. There’s also to be a screening of James Murphy’s swansong documentary detailing LCD Soundsystem’s final show.

Also unlike other festivals, we have the music venues of Reeperbahn. Instead of a flagship stage where 50,000 people can go to not see the headline act there are over forty individual venues - each hosting their own shows. For example, Japandroids and Best Coast will be playing Gruenspan; Graham Coxon and The Temper Trap - Docks; Yeasayer - Groβe Freiheit 36; Charli XCX and Clock Opera - Café Keese and Dan Deacon - Uebel & Gefährlich. A pretty impressive line-up for a festival that is largely elusive to those of us outside of Germany, and what’s more it allows the festival-goer the opportunity to decide who their own ‘headline’ act should be and consequently where that show will take place without a hierarchy of stages that often don't complement the sound of the artists, 

But that’s just the established acts. What is really intriguing about Reeperbahn Festival is its commitment to showcasing new music from across the world. With artists arriving from 23 countries, the diversity of talent is a mind-opening and astounding attraction. Researching the artists at this year’s festival has certainly done much to burst the UK/US bubble to which many of us subscribe. In particular, Scandanavian and Canadian music scenes are particularly well represented, along with much of Eastern Europe, Asia and, of course, Germany itself.

I have compiled a small shortlist of artists whom are relative newcomers and therefore may be slightly unknown, but who, of course, are very exciting prospects playing at this year's festival.

Amatorski (St. Pauli Kirsche, Friday 21 September, 8.15pm):

Ambient minimalism with heavy dub-infused bass over which Inne Eyserman’s caressing vocal appears precious. Belgium’s Amatorski released their debut LP ‘TBC’ this summer and deliver delicate melodies over raunchy and powerful introspection. With a sound which is both expansive and delicate, I’ll be interested to see how that transforms into the live setting.


Cannon Bro’s (Hörsaal, Friday 21 September, 2.30pm):

Canada’s music scene is heavily represented at this years’ festival and Cannon Bro’s are an exciting prospect. They are a girl/boy duo whose garage-power-pop is laced with irresistible melodies. But don’t think they are a simple band who play their designated instruments indefinitely, oh no, they can swap guitar for drums and vice versa. Maybe it’s a gimmick, maybe it’s a unique facet of their band, either way, I like it. 


No Ceremony /// (Prinzen Bar, Friday 21 September, 8.35pm):

The illusive chill-wave-electro Mancunians have insisted upon their anonymity since releasing their first singles Hurtlove and Heartbreaker. Despite the understandable desire to discover more about the band they have remained true to their ethos of removing, frankly, any bullshit from proceedings. Their focus is entirely upon the music and while they remain as potent as they currently are, who cares about anything else?


Peace (Molotow, Saturday 22 September, 10.40pm):

Recently signed to Columbia and having just released their ‘EP Delicious’ Peace aren’t likely to remain understated for long. There’s a raw emotional textuality to both their temperament and indie-disco grooves that elevates them above simple alternative restraints. The few releases so far suggest a sound that is varied and complex, touching upon melancholy and soaring pleasure alike.


Swim Deep (Molotow, Saturday 22 September, 12.45am) :

Birmingham, England is fast becoming a musical Mecca. With bands like the aforementioned Peace, Jaws and Swim Deep themselves, there is already a plethora weight behind that argument. Landing somewhere between indie-pop, surf and self-proclaimed grunge-pop there’s a certain effortless ease to their genre-spanning brilliance.