by / September 16th, 2010 /

Berlin Festival, Day 1

Now in it’s fifth year, this mini-festival gathers a number of international acts to play across it’s four stages spread out across the tarmac and in the hangars of Hitler’s old city airport – the majestic Tempelhof. This year they have cleverly got hold of Fever Ray, LCD Soundsystem and Robyn, all drawing big crowds to their lauded live shows, as well as guaranteeing a party by getting Fatboy Slim and 2 Many DJs on the bill as well as having Irish acts The Cast Of Cheers and Yes Cadets up there too.

The airport is one impressive place to hold a mini festival and the imposing architecture, as well as the huge awning that covers the tarmac makes it an instantly memorable setting. as all the stages are based under this awning it means that everything is arranged in a line and with some of the best acts in hangars 4 and 5 you have to pass the entire site to go between these two stages, both of which have crowd control gates outside which makes sense in light of the recent Love Parade disaster. After acclimatisation we find ourselves at Zola Jesus in Hangar 5. She looks not unlike a mini Ellie Goulding, and much warmer than her press photos. She’s pacing the stage incessantly and looking down most of the time while the two backing musicians make a decent fist of delivering the shadowy electronic sound. Sadly the setting, the super small band and the fact that she moves too much to focus on loses a lot of impact and she ends the gig by jumping into the crowd and neither us, nor the worried security, see her again.

We flit over to James Murphy’s always-impressive LCD Soundsystem show but still haven’t found a way to love him in those short, white t-shirts. We sing along, pretending to know the words, but remembering all the beats and have our first dance of the day. The dancing improves when we get to Robyn in Hangar 4. The Swede is in superb form with an energetic full band behind her, and the smart pop aesthetic is irresistible. Editors are up to their usual on the main stage and we finally break it to ourselves that they just can’t make the cut live. There is something in the rhythm section that doesn’t rise up to the live arena and while trying to get into the mood we were finding ourselves a split second ahead of the drums and it kept dragging us back. Tom Smith is a superb frontman and performer but he is carrying a lot of dead wood on stage.

You’ll have read about Fever Ray’s live show already this year but it is still an impressive spectacle when you see it with your own eyes. The hangar is full of smoke and the lasers cut through and make a green canopy over us as the album-perfect versions of ‘Concrete Walls’ et al blast out. The recent live addition of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Mercy Street’ is a million times more intense than their recorded version.

We catch the second half of Junip which was pleasantly less heavy that a Jose Gonzales gig but the lack of subtleties in the venue really made it feel like they were playing in a hangar, which of course they were.

Then the entire event changed. As we were moving towards the eagerly awaited 2 Many DJs we realised that the gig wasn’t actually going on though it had started on time in Hangar 4. With a capacity crowd inside the hangar, the stiles outside were shut and some of the crowd denied entry were apparently none too happy with this. Citing unusual “crowd dynamics” at these stiles, the police and the organisers pulled the gig with the Belgians only a few minutes into the gig. All other djs playing were also pulled including headliner Fatboy Slim who was all set for a typical Berlin club blow-out at 4am.

To be fair, with the recent events at the Love Parade in mind there was very few problems with the crowd as far as we could see, with everyone leaving peacefully and the organisers were just happy that no-one was injured. So that was our night. Cut short by 4 hours and denied our dancing end to the day we weren’t to worry. With the city of Berlin at our fingertips, we weren’t left wanting.

Photos: Geert Schäfer

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