Southside Festival 2023!


Ready for an intro worthy of a year 4 book report? Southside is a medium festival in the south of Germany with 3 big stages and 2 smaller ones. Roughly 65,000 people visit it every year (with the exception of 2020 and 2021) and for the past year, we’re two of them.

We started off strong by not checking if the tent bag did, in fact, contain tent pegs when packing. Turns out tents are much more susceptible to wind when not attached to the floor. So, first order of business was tracking down tent pegs. Good news, they sell those at a stall. Bad news, the stall was on the other side of the main area. After a little hike in the afternoon heat past James Bay and Nina Chuba I got to the other camping area and got hold of the prized cargo. Luckily the security guards let me enter the area again, now in possession of 20 small metal stakes. The tent was finally secured as Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls played behind me. Bit of a bummer to miss them, but I guess that’s one way to learn the importance of checking your stuff when packing.

It was still very warm at 7pm as we grabbed dinner and watched Clueso. It was nice to see someone who’s act has his name on it to be such a hype man for his band. Both band and crowd were clearly so happy to be there, dancing in the evening sun and failing at getting down and standing up as a wave from back to front (but the main thing is they had fun).  The set contained several songs that feature other artists on the studio recordings, but they worked well with the band filling in the additional voice parts or Clueso singing the whole song alone.

Queens of the Stone Age were the penultimate act on the main stage. Technically (as in technique, not on a technicality) brilliant, the show had a fantastic sound and interesting stage design. The band was flanked by angled light strips looking a bit like a landing strip. Lead singer Josh Homme had a certain reserved regality (that’s a word now) about his performance, remaining steadfast at the microphone in the centre of the stage. The group in front of me were developing a pretty extravagant choreography during one of the songs that was starting to spread to its neighbours. Sadly, the song finished before the dance got very far. The performance finished with the guitarist leaving the guitar hanging on the mic stand, prompting it to fall over and leaving a piercing ringing sound playing until the speakers were turned off.

Die Ärzte could easily be considered part of the German musical bedrock. The punk rock band from Berlin are known for their antics both in their songs and during live performances and tonight was no different. The banner covering the stage (with a badly cropped image of the band logo on it) fell during the first song to reveal: another banner saying “nearly” before revealing the band a few moments later. What followed was two hours of the band members chatting absolute nonsense, interspersed with a ride through their repertoire from 1982 until 2023. There were semi disco balls covering the stage, there was a fridge disguised as an amp, there were Mexican waves of thumbs up, there were bad jokes and there everybody nodding respectfully in lew of cheering.  As the band was essentially a triple comedy act, the drums were at the front in a line with guitar and bass and drummer Bela B frequently walked around while talking before returning to drum standing up. He also went through roughly a bajillion drumsticks, throwing them into the crowd after pretty much every song. Towards the end of the set, he had a full quiver of them on his back for maximum stick to audience transfer efficiency. Also, just for the record: waistcoats without shirts are a vibe.

Placebo were on at 00:30, which was beyond our energy levels since we’ve been travelling all day. We could hear a lot of the set from the tent, including covers of Shout but Tears for Fears and Running up that Hill by Kate Bush.


Classic summer weather problems, hot tent in the mornings. We crawled out into the shade and slowly managed to get ourselves to coffee and breakfast. The opening acts across the three stages Domiziana, Kasi and Razz already had very loud, keen crowds. Likely louder than last night despite the size difference. Probably because everyone had something akin to a “good” night’s rest.

Gayle was one of the many female acts on the Blue stage today, the number of which felt like an improvement on past years. Her stage set up was very minimalist, only having the drums and a guitar stand on stage with no backdrop or decoration. The set included a cover of misery business and finished with abcdefu. She announced her songs with the expected punk rock attitude but was humble in her gratitude to the crowd especially at the end, thanking everybody for making it this career possible for her.

Ska punk band and festival regular, Sondaschule, got everybody moving. Not even the most stoic nodder in the crowd could stand still. I saw what was likely the most impressive thing of the weekend in the crowd: a guy wearing nothing but shorts and a half eaten candy necklace, standing barefoot on the searing tarmac of the runway on which the festival is held. Calluses of steel or a heroic level of alcohol are the only likely explanations. The set contained everything you would expect from a punk gig: chanting, clapping, circle pits and all-round good vibes. The final song was dedicated to a friend they lost accompanied by his face on the backdrop banner.

They were followed by the Donots, one of the most energetic and fun punk bands Germany has to offer. Their enthusiasm is always so catchy. From the first tones, smoke flares erupted in the crowd and mosh pits formed. No stranger to joining the audience up close, lead singer Ingo took a photographer with him this year, along with a camera man to record the photographer taking a picture. Both of whom were somewhat apprehensive about the expedition. The crowd courteously parted to let the three walk into the middle before moshing together as the song started up. Singer, photographer and cameraman were carried back to stage. The piece of camera equipment dropped along the way was gently passed along after them. Across the crowd, lost shoes and phones were recovered from the ground and reunited with owners.

Having played the sister festival Hurricane yesterday with the same line up (similar to Reading and Leeds festival in the UK), the Donots told the crowd about having gone for a 2k jog with friend and following act Bosse, only for the latter jumping into a taxi halfway through. This led to the crowd chanting about his lack of physical fitness. A chant they repeated later during Bosse’s own set where he promptly said the record straight that he was saving his energy for his 9k run with tonight’s headliner Kraftklub. After the Donots ran onto the stage during Bosse’s set and started doing push ups he finally admitted to being less fit. Ingo went crowd surfing again and all was well. Bosse’s set was a wonderful performance of positive vibes and hanging out with friends in the summer sun.

During the intervals between acts, tweets mentioning the festival were shown on the screens This had its own entertainment factor as standard tweets, like sending love to people are sharing excitement for an upcoming band, turned into conversations about lost (or stolen) beer pong tables, arranging swaps of airpods for a sack cart or one guy photographing his tweet on the big screen, posting the photo, the photo getting shown on the big screen, the guy taking a photo… round in circles at least 4 times.

Peter Fox released his first album in 2008 and is therefore firmly baked into German millennial consciousness. Now in 2023 he’s back with his second album. The split between the two albums could be felt through the set, the older one’s clearly getting the crowd going more. The new songs were good too but didn’t feel like they had the same impact. The stage had a large split level set up with an urban graffiti vibe. The upper levels were full of backing dancers for most of the show, giving the whole thing a street party vibe. The band looked like they were wearing pyjamas or at least loungewear. Peter Fox did make the cardinal faux pas of addressing us as Hurricane Festival but didn’t seem to register the booing that ensued. The show drew a massive crowd, securities needed to tape off the sides of the crowd to keep access free in case paramedics needed access.

Tash Sultana performed on the Blue stage starting off alone on stage and building up songs through a loop pedal and an impressive range of instruments. They were later joined by some additional musicians, but the core of the performance remained the loop pedal process. At the start of the show, they proudly declared “to all those who thought it was fake, it’s real” (but with more expletives). Musically very interesting and a really nice ambience.

Doing a bit of a sprint over to the Red stage, we managed to catch the first few songs from Enter Shikari, complete with fireworks and pyrotechnics. Two block towers of screens flanked the stage with a big screen behind. The crowd was relatively small but committed. Unfortunately, there was a lot of sound bleeding over from the Blue stage, so unless the Red stage was really going for it, there was a bit of a muddle sound wise. The British band introduced themselves as being European in German, which still feels like a statement worth making. One song was accompanied by a slow build-up of lines across the screen representing temperatures alongside the year number ticking up. It was a solid start to a set, but unfortunately the schedule meant we had to rush off to Billy Talent on the Green stage.

Billy Talent was delayed coming on stage, so we could have stayed longer for Enter Shikari, but sadly I lacked the gift of premonition to know that at the time. While stage crew was rushing around with tape, the crowd was being entertained by having the cameras pointed at them. People were starting to leave by the time the set started, but it was definitely worth the wait. The band was on top form, the sound was fantastic, and the crowd bought the energy. Loved the church aesthetics of the opener Devil in a Midnight Mass. There was a little exodus after Rusted from the Rain as the Blue Stage headliner loomed. Unfortunately, we had to head off as well, as much as it hurt to hear the rest of the set from afar as we waited for the final act of the night.

The thing is though, it was worth it. Kraftklub are one of the best live bands Germany has to offer. It was high energy from the start, streamers flying with the first chorus. The stage was initially split in half by a grid of lights, being reminiscent of the side off a cargo train carriage. For a later song, the guitarist was standing on the platform while the singer was below, the blue and red light respectively gave the whole thing a heaven/hell vibe. The grid moved throughout the show which made for a cool visual. Right near the beginning the band made a clear statement about moshing rules: pick each other up, everyone should feel welcome (not just massive dudes) and zero tolerance towards any sort of harassment. Later in show there were clear statements against racism, homophobia and transphobia along with massive pride flags being waved. The mosh pits, while a great vibe, were incredibly dusty, so much so that I couldn’t stay there for long. A few others had thought ahead and given left over COVID masks a new lease of life. The band played a few songs in the middle of the crowd, instruments and all, parting the audience like the red sea. One song in the set is often decided by a wheel of fortune spun by a fan. This time someone was holding a sign asking to be chosen, he came up, spun, and then asked to perform the song with the band. There was obvious apprehension both by the band and the crowd, as these things can often be a little cringey. Luckily the band agreed, and the palpable reservations evaporated as soon as the song started. This dude nailed it. Perfectly duetting with the lead singer, mannerisms down to a T, great stage presence. The crowd went wild and you could see the amazement on the bands face. This felt like one of those concert moments to remember. Incredible show start to finish.


Sunday was expected to be the hottest day of the weekend, so first stop was refilling all the water bottles at the free taps in the arena. Others had the same idea, filling up water pistols and soaking hats and shirts. Today’s headliners Muse had bought a walkway to the Green stage, so the area in front was split in half, meaning both sides became entrances and exits simultaneously. That meant the logistics of the day had to be adjusted slightly to account for the fact the front area might fill up quicker.

Two Door Cinema Club attracted a full crowd to the blue stage for this time of day. The stage consisted of a large screen behind the band and all microphone stands were bright red, clashing a little with e lead singers light mauve suit. The band clearly really enjoyed playing in the sunshine and the crowd had a great time dancing along. A water fight broke out next to me as the band started, pulling in the surrounding crowd. The clouds overhead briefly became denser and bought a refreshing breeze which left behind a muggy feeling as they passed.

Bukahara was wonderful in the afternoon sun with their folky indie pop with violin, brass and double bass. The drummer was simultaneously singing, playing guitar and playing the bass drum for some of the songs, which he did in such a chill manner it felt strangely intimate. Like a living room even though we were in a field with thousands of people. The crowd were swaying along and joined in with the Arabic part of one of the songs that the band taught them. They finished ahead of time, so played a genuine encore, decided on by the calls of the audience.

Chvrches came out with fantastic metallic blue eye makeup with gems. I was just thinking how cool her outfit was, a long black shirt that revealed silver sparkly shorts whenever she lifted her arms, when she revealed that the dress she was actually planning to wear got stolen as it was drying backstage. If true, that’s a real douche move. She assured us that her planned dress would have had way more ruffles and petticoats. Her powerful voice rang out across the field, and you could tell she was really feeling it. The performance was really nice, great to watch while resting our feet for the evening ahead.

Kaffkiez was over on the Red Stage and way busier than I expected. They jumped in for a band at Highfield festival last year and clearly proved themselves to have moved into an evening slot this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them work their way up the stages in coming years. The stage was set up like a provincial bus stop, complete with bench, bin, cigarette dispenser and picket fence. Having to cut their set short at Hurricane festival the day before due to thunderstorms it was great to see the crowd welcoming them with tons of enthusiasm. Three mosh pits grew and grew until they joined into one huge one, one group achieved a triple shoulder stack and during one of the odes to friendships, groups and couples were singing along arm in arm. It was one of those shows where you felt like the band was sharing genuine and relatable emotions through their songs and performance and they crowd shared the experience with them.

In order to make sure we got good positions for Muse, we had to give The Lumineers a miss on the Blue Stage as we headed over to the Green Stage, but we heard Ho Hey on the way past. Madsen were up next on the Green stage but were running a little late. The soundcheck guy was entertaining crowds by playing little snippets of famous songs until he came out, grabbed a guitar and straight up said “I’ve been told to entertain you guys a little longer, so here’s some songs from my own band”. The songs were good fun and the crowd even cheered for an encore. Madsen’s show was great, they really enjoyed the walkway Muse had bought, saying it made them feel like proper rock stars. They also called for Ladies only circle pits, which was great and the women around me were super psyched to party together. One song was announced with “this song was never in the charts”, to which a guy behind me shouted “doesn’t matter!”. While Madsen songs are fun, they do have a habit of dragging them out a bit live, having an instrumental interval and then playing the chorus over and over again. I imagine it’s great if you’re REALLY into them, sadly I don’t share that.

While waiting for Marteria, the front row got some medical attention in the form of asking the securities for a plaster which resulted in the summoning of two paramedics with their extensive supplies. Plaster applied, a spare one given just in case, and we were ready for Marteria. For the first time this weekend I could feel the bass vibrate my skull (through earplugs of course, protect your ears kids). The stage filled with smoke and Materia slowly emerged. The set contained songs from across his discography, all enthralling the crowd. The song about street riots covered the stage in smoke and lights as he held a red flare aloft. His alter ego Marsimoto made an appearance on the screens, announcing his last album but not performing any songs. The rain finally came towards the end of the set, but the hype and energy in the crowd and the pyrotechnics on stage negated any drops that actually reached us. We were hoping that Casper would come on stage to perform some of their joint material together as he was due on the Blue Stage afterwards, sadly that didn’t happen. Having not seen Marteria since before the pandemic it was great to see he was on as good a form as ever. Highly recommend.

Finally, it was time for Muse to take to the stage. Wearing silver masks and revealing a huge burning logo from the new album the show started with theatrics that accurately set the vibe for the whole show. The opener Will of the People went straight into Hysteria, the bassist walking out along the walkway with a lit-up bass, with the expected response from the crowd. The show was interspersed with clips on the screen telling the story of the invasion by and subsequence resistance against demonic aliens. Later, a giant version of the silver masked men took over the back of the stage, rotating round to look at the crowd. For You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween, lead singer Matt Belamy came on stage in a sparkly silver jacket played Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the organ as an intro. The intro to Uprising was played on a cyber glove by Matt wearing a light up jacket with swirling lights on it. It was a non-stop show of set-pieces and dramatic performances. All the classics were played and still went as hard as they did when I first heard them in middle school. A fantastic way to close out this weekend.

The weather held solid for the weekend, last years water issues were resolved, and the line-up had a great combination of international and German acts. The venue on an airfield meant that half the area is on solid ground, so less susceptible to dust or rain. Southside is a great festival that doesn’t overwhelm with too much with endless stages and a really solid line up on all of them. Can’t wait for next year.

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