After the shut-down amid crowd safety fears the night before, the festival website this morning reveals that the acts on the second day have been rescheduled to allow the event to close at 11.30pm instead of the 6.30am blow-out planned originally. Some acts have been cancelled (including Ireland’s Yes Cadets) but most have been pulled back up to earlier in the day and the organisers do all they can to get this info out to the attendees.
Sadly we now miss Edwin Collins who starts much earlier in the day but do catch the Wedding Present playing their Bizzaro album, though with all the catchy, jangly tunes produced by them in the late ’80s/early ’90s playing their first album proper (1989) to a Berlin festival crowd is just not really engaging enough. The sound is awful and it looks more like indulgence than fun. Lali Puna sound quite sweet but again there are intimacy issues in the hangar (changed to the big one in the reshuffle) and their beautiful breathy electronica is swallowed by the massive ceiling like a whale eating a goldfish.
Denied the chance to play as 2manydjs, Soulwax still get their outing and are all tuxedoed up and thrashing about the main stage as we pass. They have drawn a healthy crowd and are certainly trying to bring a party to Berlin, but the band were only ever second fiddle to their dj alter egos. The Morning Benders are making a fair fist of things back in Hangar 5, apologising for only having 30 minutes but deliver in perfect packets their often moody, west coast, prep-pop from the fine Big Echo album and we get a relatively well received la-la-la singalong for our troubles.
Festival treat of the weekend, if not the year, came in the guise of Chilly Gonzales, a “big, hairy, sweating Jew” who’s a kind of Phillip Glass on acid with a white suited band following his erratic, hammering piano. Gonzales’ hilariously intimidating demeanour (he wore a dressing gown), and songs that are more like monologues brought some hugely appreciated humour to the day and though every song seemed to begin like the start of the Style Council’s ‘Shout To The Top’, he did manage to fit in having a member of the audience play piano, getting Boys Noize (who produced his album) on stage to play for two songs and played The Police’s ‘King Of Pain’ with one socked foot.
We Have Band were also a victim of very last minute shuffling about but we caught enough to be lifted by their bedrock of disco-punk and half-sung, half-spoken ’80s tinged lyrical style. A light musical snack which would have been much more fun at a later hour. Hot Chip now closed the festival and played ’til curfew’s end at 11.30. A band more at home playing a festival, it was a dancing marathon all the way back to the bars from the opening ‘Boy From School’ through the electronic/tin-drum genius of ‘I Feel Better’. For a band who now create an arc from the electronic/dance side to a more traditional band set-up, they are adored here and the ideal way to close this festival-in-flux.
Though the individual gigs certainly had their moments, the venue and organisation of it were left wanting on many occasions, but to their credit all on-the-spot decisions were made in the name of safety and, over-cautions or not, there were no injuries. One of the merely annoying things was the that heavy dance acts (Shitrobot, A Guy Called Gerald) were pulled back to way too early in the evening and the linear lay-out of the site meant there was no respite from the blasting dance ‘area’ which was basically an open area covering a third of the main thoroughfare (add to that the disco-on-an-airport-luggage-cart that covered the grounds). Also, while the gated entry to the hangars was a good idea in theory, nobody though of an easier way to let the crowds out after a gig and it was mostly left to people to move some fencing themselves to avoid a bottleneck going through the stiles on the way out straight into a group of people coming in. The hangars themselves have an entrance on one side only, and a brick wall on the other. Nice to know that people’s entry was controlled at the stiles but still not an ideal place for a few thousand people to see a concert.
Certainly the idea of the festival is a good one – a late season mini blow-out with the rock acts topped off till the early hours by some quality dance in a nod to Berlin’s legendary nightlife. Tempelhof Airport is an awesome venue, but whether it’s a viable option with its noise curfew and linear lay-out is another matter. We hope the festival is back next year having ironed out their obvious problems, and we’ll definitely bring our dancing shoes if so.