Deichband festival is a festival with a bit of a twist. Located just a few km from the coast of the North Sea, Deichbrand has branded itself as the festival ‘on the North Sea’. And while this is not completely true, it does do hourly trips to the sea, where punters are offered the chance to try paddle boarding and surfing. In previous years there’ also been the opportunity to fly over the festival in a helicopter, though they’ve had to cancel it this year for various reasons. Though a lot of people were upset, most of the punters I spoke to say they were glad they weren’t going to have to deal with a helicopter over their campsite every twenty minutes.
There’s a huge variety of food a drink across the main site and throughout the fields with the smaller stages. The food ranges from typical German fast food dönner (similar to our donner kebabs) through to a Pakistani company serving tradition food, the noodle place and of course the German favourites of ‘pommes & wurst’ (sausage and chips), burgers (including wild boar and rib burgers) and ‘pommes am stiel’ – chips on a stick. There’s also vegetarian options, and what’s more, there’s variety in that as well. There’s your standard pasta – in this case gnocci – but there’s also vegetarian kebab wraps with halloumi or vegan ones with falafel.
As with every German festival, Deichbrand supports ¡Viva Con Auga! A charity that improves the drinking water and supply in developing counties such as Cuba, Kenya and Nepal. To help with this almost all German festivals have a ‘pfand’ (deposit) of €2 for all the cups bought at the bars onsite. You then have a choice to return the cups to the bar and get your ‘pfand’ back – in which case, well done on cutting down on waste – or, you can give it to one of the many volunteers onsite who will then recycle it for you and get the ‘pfand’ for their charity. So it’s really a win – win for the environment and the charity. It’s an excellent idea, and though I’ve said it before it’s worth mentioning again, it should be implemented at UK festival in order to cut down on the waste that festivals always cause.
As well as the music, Deichbrand offers a number of workshops, which though common in UK festivals isn’t something I’ve seen much of abroad. There’s the classics, masseuse training, morning yoga and circus school, as well as a few more unusual act ivies like beer yoga (like normal yoga but you’ve got a cold beer in your hands and you can’t spill it) rock-climbing and parkour sessions.
Deichbrand is a small festival, with four stages, two big ones (fire and water). The first act of the afternoon is double act the 257ers. And when I say double act I mean it in the comedic sense. The band have produced five albums, which pretty solidly consist of comedy songs. Their last album ‘Mikrokosmos’ (Micro-cosmos) reach number one in the German charts, with songs such as ‘holz’ – an entire song dedicated to how much they love wood. Not the kind of wood you’re thinking off right now, just normal wood. From trees. I know, they are a bit weird. But that’s why we love them. Their performance is littered with costume changes, including going from their Adidas shirts into their captain kit for their Pirate song (a weird sea-shanty type song) and into orange (Dutch) football tops. The costume changes do take a minute or two, and while they get changed we were entertained by their DJ who played an interesting mix of songs, from Whitney Huston to Crazy Frog back to Papa Roach back through to Beyoncé. He then got out from behind his decks and gave one end of a massive tube to the crowd, while he poured beer down his end, creating a kind of oversized beer straw for the people in the crowd. During the next song, the 257ers got down from the stage and sprayed a foam cannon out to the crowd, who were going wild and feeding off the energy that was being thrown from the stage. During one of the mosh pits they’d encouraged the audience to create they spotted a man in a knitted octopus mask, and shouted ‘Zoidberg! Three years!’ – Apparently this guy always goes to festivals with this mask on, and it’s paid off. 257ers noticed him, and they’ve even made note of how many times they’ve seen him. I think it was pretty cool that not only did they notice him but they also made a point of pointing him out. They’ve also got songs like ‘Holland’ which is an ode to the country of its namesake, with lines like ‘Nobody's aggro, everyone's tripping, Holland is the boss, I think windmills are cool’ which, I mean. They’re just such good fun, both to listen to and to watch up on stage.
Friday evening was officially started by Scottish singer Amy Macdonald, who played a fantastic set. Though many of her songs are sung with an American accent, as soon as she spoke to the audience it was clear that she is Scottish through and through. The audience knew this, which was evident from the amount of St. Andrews’ crosses strewn across the crowd. Macdonald commented on the weather (and the dust) and how she couldn’t cope Scottish skin. During her set she tried to read a few signs in the audience, a classic ‘we love you’ sign that she comment on and thanked the people that wrote it, saying it ‘looked like it’d taken them ages to make’ and she saw a sign further back that she commented on but couldn’t read. Later in her set she spotted someone holding a sign and asked them ‘you’re asking to sing someone else’s song on stage? What would I get out of it? It’s not in my setlist’ – someone in the crowd had made a sign asking if they could sing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in The Dark’. Macdonald then conceded, saying ‘alright then, get up here’ and this guy was brought up onto the stage. He was completely star struck, as you would be, Macdonald kept asking him his name and all he could do was gasp. Eventually, with some whispered encouragement from the guitarist, this guy manage to speak into the mic and tell us his name was Patrick. Macdonald then said they couldn’t do the whole song, but they could do a verse and a chorus. So, they started singing as Macdonald played along with her guitar, and it turned out that Patrick could sing. And I mean *sing*. He had an absolutely amazing voice, and what’s more is that it harmonised perfectly with MacDonald’s. It’s not hard to imagine how WILD the crowd were going as soon they realised he could sing. It was evident he was still star struck, but the fact that he managed to not only sing, but sing well in front of an audience easily 5,000 strong. After they sang together Patrick was quickly ushered off the stage beaming and passed onto security backstage, where he was greeted with high-fives. Macdonald resumed the show and finished off her set with her chart topping single ‘This is the Life’.
Casper headlined on Friday night, and, unusually for him he came on stage full of colour. He was wearing a yellow jacket and seemed a bit livelier than in previous times. Whether this is a move away from his generally darker rap or just a blip, is still undecided. The amazing light show was the perfect ending for the energetic day that had been Friday.
Saturday afternoon started off with London shanty punk band Skinny Lister jumping on to the stage and immediately energising everyone in the area. Skinny Lister have the ability to turn a gig, no matter the size, into a party where it feels like everyone’s been invited. A lot of the crowd clapped and swayed along in time to the music, but part of the crowd (arguably the better part) started dancing, jigging and stomping along to their hearts content. The jumping/dancing/jigging caused all the dust in on the ground (which I have decided is probably at least half of the entire world’s supply of dust) went up into the air, obscuring the band and pretty much everything else. They did comment on it, vocalist/guitarist/stomp-boxist Dan Heptinstall saying ‘we’re in the Deichbrand Dustbowl’ and vocalist Lorna Thomas later commented that they’ll be touring (though probably not until the new year when the next album is due to be released) and we could go and see them in a less dusty setting. As always, Skinny Lister provided the audience with refreshments in the form of a jug with a mysterious mixture of what one can only assume is just alcohol. The Jug (affectionately referred to as the 7th member of Skinny Lister) was passed around the audience as everyone took a sip on it, before being passed back up to the stage – now empty. The free alcohol is one of the bonuses of seeing Skinny Lister live, though the main draw is the amount of positive energy that comes pouring off the stage when the play. It’s also worth going just to watch double bassist Scott Milsom lift his double bass over his WHILE playing it. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch.
The next act of the afternoon are indie pop band Von Wegen Lisbeth from Berlin. Von Wegen Lisbeth are a quirky pop act, using steel drums and xylophones in their music as well as the standard keyboards, guitars bass’ and drums. They had the stage covered in greenery, plastic leaves, vines and branches littered the set. Behind them they had the letters ‘V’ ‘W’ and ‘L’ lit up on big squares – you’ve got to admit that’s a lot easier than spelling out their lengthy name.
As we wander towards the end of the evening the Fire Stage is hosting Brummie indie-rockers, The Editors. Their dark, synth-y sound and ambiguous lyrics do feel slightly out of place in the afternoon sun, it’s still 24℃. What’s more, is that they came on stage to Abba’s ‘gimme gimme gimme (a man after midnight)’ – again, a stark contrast from the broody and moody set they are known for. They opened their set with the first track of their new album ‘cold’. In fact, a lot of their set was taken from their new album, ‘violence’ as was the back-drop for the show, three naked and dirty people wrapped around each other. It’s very…Hannibal-esque, actually. But I guess that does fit with their image. They did of course play crowd favourites, including ‘Sugar’, ‘Munich’ and ‘Papillion’. They ended their set with Magazine, another one from their new album. It was a really good set, overall. It would have been nice to have a little bit more interaction with the crowd, but apart from that it was a nice, standard Editors show.
As the sun had finally set the crowd gathered around the fire stage for the final act of the night. The Killers. The band coming towards the end of their European tour – which this time around has included the festival circuit, playing at the Isle of Wight Festival as well as TRNSMT in Glasgow and Summer in the City in Dublin.
They opened with their newest track ‘The Man’ and the crowd due fully danced along, but once they’d finished, lead singer Brandon Flowers asked the audience if they were ready to party with the killers – all in German, which was pretty impressive. After the resounding ‘JA’ from the audience they went straight into ‘Somebody told me’ which had the entire crowd going absolutely mad. They followed it with ‘Space man’ and Flowers’ was dancing across the stage, in full glory with his gold and black shiny jacket. Clean shaven and boy-faced, he looks decades younger than his bandmates, all of whom are bearded and looking somewhat grizzled. As he danced around the stage the dust had been blown onto the stage and by the third song – – Midnight Show – (a throwback from the 2004 album Hot Fuss) Flowers’ had a facemask made entirely of dust and dirt. The set list was a good mix from all their albums, though after his attempt at German Flowers’ was lacking on the audience interaction. However, this was probably because he didn’t have much breath left what with all the singing and jumping and running the entire length of the stage for each song. Something should also be said for the visuals, the lights were great, as most big production shows are, with enough lasers and strobes to fill a boat. But what was really nice was the attention to detail. The confetti shot out of the cannons the second time round was in the German colours, which I thought was a nice touch. The first lot of confetti was pink, and I think it surprised everyone when it came out at the start of ‘somebody told me’. I don’t know what it is, but we in the crowd never seem to expect confetti at the start of a show. In the middle of the set they played ‘Runaways’ which bled seamlessly into ‘Read my mind’ which then again blended into ‘All these things that I’ve done’ which was not only incredibly interesting and pleasing to listen to, but also really quite impressive.
As well as the band on stage, they had three women doing the backing vocals, all of whom had absolutely stunning voices and really gave some depth to the whole show. They finished their set with ‘When you were young’ to 50,000 voices singing along, and fireworks coming down from the top of the stage. They thanked the audience as they walked off stage. No one left the arena, we all knew what we were waiting for. We couldn’t see The Killers and have them NOT play it. We waited, anticipation building, cries of ‘encore’ and ‘one more song’ erupting now and again from various pockets in the crowd. The screen on the stage went black. The large, orange words appeared on it. Three words. Are. We. Human? They came back on to cries and cheers and woops, as we knew they would. The first few notes were played, and though it wasn’t the song we’d waited for, the crowd still went mad, dancing and moshing and singing along. Once it was over there was barely a pause before Flowers’ started singing – with heavy auto-tune – ‘coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine…’ and the this was it. This is what almost everyone there had come to see. The first verse was done with heavy auto-tune – it was a remix, what this effectively meant was that we got an extra verse. Once the auto-tune verse had finished, Flowers’ started singing without it, and ended the night in a spectacular way.
I wasn’t sure why Alligatoah was playing early on the Sunday morning. Well, early in the festival bubble, he was onstage at 12pm, and the first act of the day. I knew a couple of songs from him, and though he was performing an acoustic set, I still wasn’t convinced that he was the right person to start off Sunday afternoon. However, any doubts I had were quickly put to rest. He had an extensive set for an early afternoon act. The stage was set up like a building site and Alligatoah was wearing blue overalls and a builder’s hat. Throughout his set he clambered up and down the ladders and across his ‘building site’ and when he started singing ‘Willst Du’ – one of his more famous songs – he was singing it to a traffic cone in a very loving manner. His set was full of character in a very gentle way. He was friendly to the audience throughout his set, and the lazy Sunday morning vibe was helped by the fact the crowd in the first wave were all sitting on chairs that had been set up for them – presumably by the festival rather than the artist. Alligatoah also explained that he should have had a red balloon at the top of his building site set so it looked like something out of Stephen King’s IT, but it had blown away. Halfway through the set Alligatoah revealed that one of the bin bags that had been put on the stage around the building site set had been hiding a piano, which was actually a pretty cool reveal. I was impressed with the set and thought it was the perfect kick-off for the last day of the festival.
Not knowing any songs from Bosse, I was unsure what to expect from the singer. I’d heard that he was really good and was surprised at the range of people in the audience that came to see him. It seemed as if Bosse ws something that everyone was excited for. The crowd was a mixture of all ages and people from all walk of life. The sizable band came on stage, followed shortly by Axel Bosse, running onto stage. Wearing a ‘Refugee’s Welcome’ Shirt, he danced around on stage like a man possessed. He didn’t seem phased by the heat which I can only imagine was even more intense on the stage that it was off it, he ran from each side of the stage and onto the catwalk, all the time dancing and singing and not pausing to take a breath.
SDP are a two-man band (not including the drummer and a dj of course) who have an astounding amount of energy on stage. The lyrics to the songs range from the heartfelt (Candlelight dönner) to the ridiculous (deine freundin) to the absurd (ne leiche). And of course no SDP set would be complete without stage antics, blow up sex dolls and fireworks and pyrotechnics. Honestly, it’s like giving over-grown children full control over their own birthday party. Halfway through the set they brought out their sex doll (see what I mean) and tried (and failed) to perform CPR on it, before launching in to ‘Ne Leiche’ (literally – ‘a corpse’).
Final act of the evening – and the weekend – were German super band – Die Toten Hosen. Everyone in Germany (and Argentina for some reason) knows about Die Toten Hosen. Toten Hosen have been around for over 36 years, one of the bands that started the punk movement in Germany in the 80s during the latter years of the cold war. The band have been prolific since their creation in Düsseldorf, releasing albums every few years which means their back catalogue is impressively huge. Their set included the best songs from their discography, including old favourites like ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, ‘Pushed Again’ and ‘Paradies’ as well as classics from their early, un-polished days, like the show opener ‘Opel Gang’ and of course songs from their new album. They also played a number of covers that are new for this tour, most notably ACDC’s ‘T.N.T’ as well as Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’. Toten Hosen frontman Campino has boundless energy – especially for a man his age – and routinely got up close and personal with the crowd. As you would expect with a band that size there was of course two encores, and the night was ended with two classic Toten Hosen songs, ‘Tage wie deise’ (this is the day) and a cover of the Liverpool FC anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which might seem a bit odd to people not familiar with band, but there is a reason for this strange choice of song to finish off a weekend in Germany. Campino is and has always been a big fan of Liverpool FC, and they’ve been including it in their set for at least the last 20 years. It was a perfect ending to the festival, the entire crowd was singing along and we all got swept up in the moment as they finished the show and the festival.
Deichbrand is a great little festival that’s had a solid line up since it was founded in 2005, and this year didn’t disappoint. Everyone is so friendly during the festival and it is a festival that holds itself to an extremely high standard. I would recommend anyone that’s into rock, rap and pop should go and experience the only festival on the North Sea.