Hurricane Festival is in the north of Germany, set in some fields in Scheeβel between Hamburg and Bremen. The current version of Hurricane Festival has been going since 1997, though there were two previous attempts of festivals in the area in 1973 and 1977. Hurricane sells itself as a mainstream/alternative festival, however, in recent years there has been more emphasis on the mainstream and less on the alternative. This year’s line-up is what I would describe as mainstream, however there are a few acts here and there that are showing the alternative past of Hurricane.
Friday started off wet and windy, as is the trend with most festivals at the moment, and was opened by the Hurricane Swim Team on the Green Stage early afternoon. The Hurricane Swim Team was created in 2016 when the festival was a total wash out, and is essentially a hype team that get the crowd grooving in even the most abysmal weather. Luckily, by the time they’d left the stage the weather had in fact improved and we were able to enjoy the sun for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening.
We got to the second stage – blue stage – to see George Ezra perform in the afternoon light. Ezra has a stunning voice and it he proved that it was not just the studio doing all the work in post processing. He was chatty onstage, and (like a lot of the British and American bands) tried his hand a bit of German, to the glee of the audience. The cherry on the Ezra-shaped cake was definitely the small brass section he’d brought with him, it really added that extra depth to the performance.
Experienced punk rock band The Offspring took centre stage on the Green stage (main stage) on Saturday evening. They know how to keep tantalise the audience, saving their three most well-known songs until the end, including Pretty Fly for a White Guy and ending on Self-Esteemed to an audience that was easily two decades younger than them, if not more, which is a pretty good achievement for four shouty guys from California.
The blue stage was again graced with a talented vocalist, this time in the form of Hannah Reid of London Grammar. A far cry away from The Offspring, London Grammar definitely calmed the audience down rather than psyched them up. The mosh pits of Green Stage were replaced with gentle arm waving and head nodding.
Keeping in the UK-indie theme that the blue stage seemingly has had all day, the following band are none other than Two Door Cinema Club, who arrive onstage to a rambunctious welcome. Two Door Cinema Club are the first band that have brought an impressive set on stage, a set of LED squares with bright strobing lights behind, all of which is made more impressive in the dying light of the evening. The crowd happily bopped along to the music, enjoying the show in the dying light.
The green stage was again keeping its theme of emo-punk and rock, with the headline of the night Billy Talent. The band appeared on stage as the audience cheered and wooped, bassist Jonathan Gallant and guitarist Ian D’Sa started playing the introduction to ‘This is how it goes’ as Benjamin Kowalewicz burst on to stage to rapturous applause and started singing. He had so much energy on stage, dressed like an emo from the late noughties with his skinny tie, skinny black jeans and his converses. In fact, the whole band looked as if they were 15 year olds trapped in the bodies of middle aged men. They acted like it too. Jumping up and down and across the stage, swearing jovially at the audience ‘Welcome to Hurricane 2018 motherfuckers!’ shouted Benjamin after the first song, before launching in to ‘Devil in Midnight Mass’. The whole performance took me back to those angst filled days in high school, where we felt the world was ending and beginning at the same time, and that every song ever written about and specifically for, us. The nostalgia that came with watching Billy Talent was only amplified by the crowd, singing (and in some cases, screaming) along with the songs, as the band ricocheted from one song to the next. About halfway through the set Benjamin mentioned that their drummer – Aaron Solowoniuk – had been struggling with MS, and has been on hiatus since 2016. While Benjamin was telling the crowd this, he also mentioned that the band have been together for 25 years this summer, which is unbelievable. Arron was then introduced onstage as he made his way to the drums, and played with the band for the rest of the show. It was really great to see him playing again, and so obvious that he was thoroughly enjoying being back on stage after two years away. Aaron coming back on stage really gave the band more energy, and they turned it up to 100 for the rest of the show.
After Billy Talent’s finale, it seemed as if the entire crowd moved to Blue Stage, for final act of the night, German hip-hop artist Marteria. Now, I know those words don’t run together naturally, but stick with me here. My level of German is extremely basic (as I found out during a press-pass mix up that caused no end of trouble) but Marteria’s catchy lyrics and playful beats. As well as his skills on the mic he also brought to stage some of the most impressive and playful visuals of the evening. Later in the show he brought on his alter-ego Marismoto who delighted the audience with his high-pitch voiced and his more experimental music, straying from hip-hop and entering the realms of dubstep, reggae and EDM. With the first night of the festival finished everyone headed back to their tents ready to do the same thing all over again.
The campsite was up and bustling by about ten on Saturday, helped by the festival workers driving around on quadbikes using their megaphones to shout ‘time to wake up’ across the campsite. I’m not sure if it was part of their job description but it certainly worked in getting the campsite awake and running. Pretty soon there were queues to the toilet and every other tent was playing flunkyball across the pathways. The campsite radio (provided by Delta Radio) was on blast throughout the campsite, via speakers and radios campers had brought with them, meaning wherever we went we had a surround sound experience of the camp radio. There seemed to be an endless game put on the by the radio hosts, which was to play the Cantina Theme from Star Wars, (or at least an excerpt of it) and, once it had finished someone – either one of the hosts or a punter who had been accosted somewhere on the campsite – would say ‘play that same song again’ and so on and so on. So much so it became the unofficial anthem of the campsite, and probably the weekend.
Hurricane festival is a lot smaller than most medium UK festivals, with only three stages all relatively close to each other. It means minimal walking between stages and the way that the stages have been positioned has been done with great care, as there is no overlap of sound when each stage has an artist.
Indie-pop act The Kooks took to the Green Stage on Saturday evening for a fun set. They’re still fresh from their ‘Best Of’ album tour, with Hurricane being their first festival of the season. Though they’re no strangers playing to big crowds – they’ve been around since 2004 – they have recently been touring as a warm-up act for The Rolling Stones. This hasn’t diminished their ability to get the crowd dancing, whatever the size. Though I was impressed that even a relatively light band such as The Kooks could get the crowd moshing. Lead singer Luke Pritchard danced around on stage with his tan-and-checked blazer and his skinny scarf, the embodiment of indie-brit-pop. The crowd were loving it and singing along to almost every track, which was pretty magical to listen to. The Kooks do have a new album out but didn’t fall into the age old pitfall of playing only their new stuff, they littered the set with classics as well as slipping the odd new song in now and then. They ended with two classics, Seaside and Naïve to the absolute delight of the audience.
Next up was Hamburg rapper Dendemann, who had a beat-filled set and had the whole crowd moshing along to his music. His music was good, though I’m sure I would have got more enjoyment out of it had I understood the lyrics – he uses a lot of wordplay so for a non-native speaker of German it can be a bit of a struggle to understand. I did understand when he said hello to the crowd and called them a town that certainly wasn’t Hurricane or Scheeβel. His drummer corrected him though and the crowd didn’t seem to care.
Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro have a solid fan-base in Germany and started off their European tour in Berlin early last month. Having last played Hurricane in 2010 they were due for a comeback. And the crowd were ready for it. Mosh pits left right and centre, the whole crowd was there for them. As per usual, all three members were shirtless, though frontman Simon Neil has got rid of the Jesus locks and gone for a cleaner, shorter cut, which if it wasn’t for the mass of tattoos and his roaring vocals he could be mistaken for a graphic designer, or someone equally ordinary. As always with Biffy, the show was intense and the hard rockers had all come out of the woodwork to head-bang their way through the set, as well as all the casual fans that sang along to their hits and mumbled along to the songs that had less radio-play.
Saturday was the first day we ventured to the Red Stage, to see Portugal. The Man. Now, I’m not sure what we expected but it certainly wasn’t what happened. They had a seven minute guitar heavy intro song played before they even came on stage. Once they were on stage the show really began. There had a projector projecting some spacey shapes and colours on the screen behind them. However, unlike most bands, Portugal. The Man had decided to put the projector in front of the stage, so each band member cast shadows throughout the set, changing shape and size as they moved around the stage. They started by playing a cover of ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ by Pink Floyd, which was an odd one to start with, however it really set the stage for the rest of their show, a spacey, guitar heavy extravaganza. After their first song some huge lettering came down on the screen behind them, declaring “We are not very good at stage banter so please enjoy these messages from the management, thank you for understanding”. Now, they certainly get points for ingenuity here, although it would have been nice to have a little bit of crowd interaction. As promised, periodically through the show more writing would appear behind them, such as “that is some bad-ass guitar playing” through a particularly gnarly piece. One thing I particularly enjoyed from Portugal. The Man was the fact that they had a very varied set-list. Starting with that Pink Floyd cover to get the crowd in the mood, before playing and older, spacey track that was guitar heavy and a wee bit light on the lyrics going straight through to ‘Purple Yellow Red and Blue’ (2013) and ‘Live in the Moment’ (2017), two more recent songs that have had more radio play. The audience were a bit muted compared to the other acts of the night, I mean, it is hard to mosh to electro-guitar solos played over light keys and drums.
Going from the Portugal. The Man to The Prodigy was a bit of a jolt. As ever, the Prodigy had a stunning set, fantastic lasers, the crowd was already hopping by the time we got there. The band has been touring for almost three decades and know their stuff. They haven’t played in Germany since 2015, so it was high-time they came back. The set was littered with classics and the crowd went absolutely wild during voodoo people. I mean, it’s The Prodigy, it’s hard not to dance like a maniac with those beats and the amount of pure, raw energy coming off the stage. After the show most people were danced-out and made their way to their tents, the younger and drunker punters also went back to the campsite, but only to enjoy the Motorbooty rave that was going on until 4am the next morning.
Security has been amped up to 130%, we were frisked each time we entered the main field, and no bags were allowed unless they were see-through and all pockets had to be emptied and checked. This meant more than anything that there were queues caused by this bottle neck. The crowd spent most of the time in the queues singing various songs which either went in rounds or sped up as they went along. It was amusing the first few times, but when someone in the crowd yelled the first line for the sixth time in a row I did groan inwardly. Fortunately, by that point I was almost through the gates, so didn’t have to listen to a half-hearted rendition of eisgekühlter bommerlunder again.
Once through we headed to the blue stage to kick off the afternoon with a bit of Mighty Oaks. Their folk rock was forgetting everyone off to the right start, despite the persistent cold and rain. Lead-singer Ian Hooper switched from German and English throughout the set, which is unsurprising as the very international band – members from US, UK and Italy – are currently based in Berlin. They had the whole crowd swaying in unison, and at one point encouraged everyone to get on someone’s shoulders and the crowd suddenly got half as wide and twice as tall, as almost everyone in the crowd was on someone’s shoulders or holding someone and singing along. It was such a nice, inclusive atmosphere and a great start to the third and final day of the festival.
Late noughties indie-rock Franz Ferdinand bounced onto the main stage as the afternoon was slowly becoming the evening. Full of energy and full of hits, frontman Alex Kapranos jumped cross the stage as he belted out the lyrics. The audience were bouncy along happily, and singing along, smiling in spite of the rain.
One of the most lively shows of the evening was brought by second to last act on Sunday – Kraftklub. In the last five years Kraftklub have risen from unknown band to the next chart-topping must-see band throughout Germany. The show starts with four red smoke //bombs// going off within the crowd. We can’t see exactly how they’ve been planted but they’ve been concealed for who knows how long. Kraftklub then appear on stage as the banner that has been covering the stage has been pulled down, and as they start their opening number (Karl-Mark-Straβe) the crowd goes absolutely wild. Now, I knew it was going to kick off. Sometimes you can just feel it. Through the first half of the show I was stuck between two mosh pits, by the second half I had decided I was fighting a losing battle, and joined them full force. The moshing continued for the full show, and Kraftklub left to cries of ‘one more song’ as they left the stage. They had twenty minutes left of their set, so we naturally all expected them to come back on stage. They did come back. Just not on stage. They had what can only be describe as a mobile stage, about two meters wide and four meters long, on wheels and being pushed through the crowd. They sang ‘ich will nicht nach Berlin’ before telling the audience they needed to get back to the main stage. The most sensible way to do this was obviously to crowd surf. On top of this, it had to be a race. They prepped the crowd in front of them, and after the third blast from the airhorn, they dived in. They were all scrambling to get to the stage as fast as possible and one of the stage hands was waving a giant checked racing flag as they got to the stage and he announced the winner.
Headliners of the evening, Arctic Monkeys took to the stage under dark, moody lighting. Alex Turner’s slick-backed hair shining in the lights paired with the leather jackets gave the band a 50s vibe. The beat came in as ‘four stars out of five’ started playing and the start of the end of the festival had begun.
The set was dotted with shout outs to the audience, mainly ‘vielen danke’ (thanks very much – for the non-German speakers) and the dulcet tones of Tuner briefly introducing the odd song. However, audience interaction was minimal, this grown-up band a far cry from their ‘crying lighting’ and ‘fluorescent adolescent’ days. The set-list was a good mix of songs, but focused heavily on AM and Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino. Which makes sense, especially if they’re trying to move away from their young, almost post-punk rock of the early days and centre their attention on the more polished sound that the more recent albums have encompassed. If I was to sum up their performance I would have to use that word again, polished. Technically, it was a fantastic set, the sound was amazing, the band were in-sync with each other, though I felt like there could have been a bit more (one-sided, as ever) conversation from the band, but this performance, like the two most recent albums seems to have matured from cocky rock to sophisticated, interesting space-pop, but keeping some of that same cheekiness the Monkeys are famed for.
This year Hurricane had an eclectic mix of bands, which, in a weird way seemed to complement each other. If you were not into the headliners you would always find something that would satisfy your wants. However, it would have been nice to see a few more female artists on the mainstages over the three days, though this is something that all festivals could work on, and not just an issue with Hurricane. Personally, I am looking forward to the announcements for the bands next year, and I, like most of the punters, am ready to do the whole thing again next year.