The Hu @ Electric Ballroom 11/02/2020

A few years ago, one evening I started browsing through music videos on YouTube and came across Mongolian rock band The Hu. I remember thinking how different these guys were and that I doubt they would ever tour the UK, but i was proven quite wrong. In 2019 they played in the UK and then announced a Spring European and UK tour for 2020. All the shows had sold out.
I was lucky enough to attend their show at the legendary Electric Ballroom in Camden, London on Tuesday 11th February. It was a cold evening in which I was warmed up when entering the venue to a packed out room with eager fans awaiting for the music to start.

Up first was support act , the American heavy metal band, Fire From The Gods who put on a great performance full of energy and built up the crowds anticipation for The Hu. Fire From The Gods will be performing Download festival this year on The Dogtooth Stage so make sure you check them out.

During the interval the crowd were mingling, drinking and loudly chanting ‘HU! HU! HU!’ When the time had come for The Hu to enter the stage the four main band members stood along the front of the stage with a backing band behind. The band had initially formed back in 2016 and have since gained a huge following online with 624k subscibers on Youtube alone! The members are Jaya, Gala, Temka and Enkush. The band were dressed in Mongolian attire with leather and top knots.

The traditional Mongolian instruments were amazing to see with the horsehead fiddle, Mongolian guitar, Jaw Harp and the Monglian flute. The craftsmanship on the instruments were quite incredible. The band bring together traditional Mongolian music with their throat singing and combine it with heavy metal.

The opening song is Shoog Shoog followed by other songs off their debut album The Gereg. The band also performed Black Thunder which has become widely recognisable after being featured on the hugely successful 2019 Star Wars game Jedi: Fallen Order.

The members didn’t appear to have a good grasp of the English language knowledge apart from “Thank You”, but honestly it really didn’t matter as the audience could still relate to the band during their set.

They are one of the most intriguing bands I had ever seen as they have created such an unusual yet enjoyable style of music based on throat singing. They put on a great show and I can highly recommend checking them out if you have not already.

Review and Photos by Kane Howie

Highfield Festival – 2019!

Friday

Most people’s “home festival” is the one near their city. Ours is a modest (30,000 guest) festival in the east of Germany. The weather was warm and muggy as we arrived. It was Friday afternoon, so most people had already arrived and pitched camp. Luckily, we spotted a spot in the corner of the campsite, introduced ourselves to our neighbours and erected our abode for the next three days.

As we headed to the arena for the first time, three-piece punk rock band Montreal was already warming up the crowds. All the way from the security queue to the front of the stage, people were singing along. A solid block of moshers and dancers were enjoying themselves in the first wave while many people sat further back, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. My personal favourite was a cover of “Katharine” by new wave band Steinwolke. Yonas, Montreal’s lead singer, admitted that they had previously got in trouble with the band for covering their song, but figured that a) the crowd wouldn’t tell on them and b) if the crowd sang loud enough the band couldn’t be identified on the tv coverage anyway, so we’re all good to go. The audience upheld their end of the bargain and belted out the chorus with all their might.  The band invited two members of the audience on to the stage to hold a large digital clock to time the song “2 minuten”. They searched specifically for a woman and a man, you know, for fairness. However, they did not consider choosing based on height as the chosen man was much taller, leading to a somewhat wonky clock. Despite the diagonal timepiece, they performed the song in two minutes on the dot. The performance was the perfect icebreaker, getting us in the mood for the weekend to come.

The evening program started with the Swedish funk-rock band Royal Republic. The large neon lightning bolt and general Miami casino vibe were promising. What it did not prepare us for was the fact the band would walk on stage in red dinner jackets, white collared shirts and pearl necklaces. The lead singer’s impressive moustache completed the ensemble perfectly. Definitely an up and coming look. It took a single bar to get the whole crowd dancing. Lead singer Adam Grahn moved across the stage with fantastic flamboyance, directing the crowd with a drumstick he stole from the drummer. For the first part of the set, one song chased the other, leaving no chance of recovery. The continued dancing combined with the dry weather meant huge clouds of dust were kicked up, especially when the intro to “Full Steam Space Machine” played and everyone went crazy. In the run-up to the festival, Grahn had given decided on a record we could break together: most circle pits. According to his logic, three is the minimum number of people required for a circle pit. So theoretically, 30,000 people can make 10,000 circle pits. After telling everyone to get acquainted with their neighbours the band was off into “Stop Movin’”. Chaos ensued. Whether we really did break any records I don’t know, but we had a damn good time.

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Over on the Blue Stage Von Wegen Lisbeth were getting ready to play. Two years ago, their stage décor could be described as kitsch suburban garden, complete with fake grass everywhere and plastic flamingo. This year, they started off with a dark canvas covering the whole stage. After a few bars of the first song, “Wieso”, the canvas dropped, revealing the band and their more standard tech and lighting set up. Having just released their second full album the set was a split between old and new songs. The older songs were greeted with a chorus from the crowd, almost taking over from the band. The lead singer was clearly overwhelmed by the response, recalling their last time here at two in the afternoon.

In complete contrast to the fun, bouncy, xylophone accompanied Von Wegen Lisbeth Feine Sahne Fischfilet kicked off on the Green Stage. Feine Sahne Fischfilet performances are always a dirty, high energy experience. Today’s show was no exception. The immediate, crowd-wide mosh pit made getting to the second row very easy. Within two songs, the band and various locations in the crowd had erupted with smoke flares, making the field look like an ongoing riot. Throughout the set, signal flares were set off in the crowd, keeping the high-octane atmosphere going. Lead singer Monchi had a crate of beer bottles with him at the edge of the walkway and frequently distributed these amongst fans. Famous for passing around a large bottle of peppermint liquor, this year they upgraded to pump dispensers they could spray straight at open mouths. There were two opposing reactions to this. Half the crowd wanted in and rushed forwards, because, you know, free alcohol. The other half backed off due to the combination of very sticky alcohol and the very low accuracy of the pumps. I was part of the latter. The band dedicated many songs to people working for political causes including sea rescue in the Mediterranean and people standing up to far-right groups.

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Punters had two styles to pick from for their headliners on Friday night. The chilled rapper Cro, famous for always wearing a panda mask and the jazz-funk-reggae Jan Delay & Disko No.1. On the Blue Stage, Cro started off with the relaxed summer anthem “easy”. The spotlight casting his shadow on the huge, white, low poly version of his panda mask on stage behind him. The majority of the set had a laid-back feeling, with Cro sitting or kneeling on the edge of the stage, bathed in blue light as the full moon rose over the arena. The energy picked up for “Traum” and “Meine Gang”, with people dancing from the front row right back to the food stalls. The set ended with Cro standing on the giant panda head singing “Bye Bye” with galaxies projected behind him.

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Straight afterwards, Jan Delay & Disko No.1 were starting on the Green Stage. The stage was covered in leopard print with pink outlines, somewhat reminiscent of Hamburg’s famed red-light district. The band played as Jan Delay introduced them from offstage before finally appearing himself. Dressed in a suit, sunglasses and a trilby, Jan Delay spent the show dance-walking across the stage, firing up the crowd. The band included a brass section and backing singers and worked various riffs into their jazz-funk songs including Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mackelmore’s “Thriftshop”. At one point he taught the crowd a “classic disco move”, two claps, two jumps to the right and the same again to the left. It worked surprisingly well, the crowd moved as one, like an oversized cha cha slide. The whole set was great, people dancing all over the arena, with some impressive moves on show.

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As we walked back to our tent the gazebo-rave we had walked past 8 hours earlier was still going, or perhaps going again. We could hear the beach stage playing favourite after favourite and so we drifted to sleep accompanied by the soothing sound of Backstreet BoysEverybody”.


Saturday

The overcast Saturday morning sky was threatening rain, but it was still very warm. After a decent breakfast of eggs and bacon, we threw ourselves back into the fray.  Walking around the arena, the lively trumpet riff of Talco caught my attention. The Italian Ska-punk band had everyone dancing clapping and chanting. They won me over, so I stayed. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one as more and more people danced up and into the crowd during the set. A fun and loud way to start the festival day.

Monsters of Liedermaching provided a new take on the traditional “man with guitar” by going in the “6 men with guitars” direction. The band sat in a row of two benches, any number of them playing acoustic guitar and singing at any given time. What the crowd lacked in physical volume they made up for with vocal volume, singing along with everything. The band encouraged and celebrated audience participation, handing out cups of beer and promptly turning an audience thrown toilet roll into a fashionable scarf.

As we got lunch and sat to watch the Green Stage, Skindred played “Out of Space” as a tribute to The Prodigy who were meant to headline Highfield this year before the tragic passing of Keith Flint.

Die Orsons bought their hyperactive rap to the Blue stage accompanied by a giant inflatable moth-squid (?). The four frontmen had outfits matching the eccentricity of the show: one in a suit jacket, purple leggings and a green open-faced ski mask, one in a red suit and white shirt, one in matching, brightly patterned shorts and shirt and one in a bright pink jumper and tracksuits. The crowd jumped and moshed, fired up by the contagious energy of the band.

All members of Enter Shikari came on stage wearing matching grey-beige shirts and trousers. Within a few songs, lead singer Rou Reynolds was on a small platform at the first crowd dividers. After sitting on the bar while singing “Anaesthetist”, he ran into the crowd to dance with his fans.

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On the green stage everyone’s dad, Thees Uhlmann & Band, played a homely, down to earth set peppered with new songs. Wine glass in hand, insisting we all text him when we get home safe, Thees Uhlman put his best Dad moves on show. He dedicated a song to Avicii, for whom he had a lot of love, and was overcome with emotion when the crowd started an impromptu chorus after “Zum Laichen und Sterben ziehen die Lachse den Fluss hinauf”. He even stopped the drummer, who had started paying the next song, to conduct the crowd.

The clouds darkened as we headed over to Bones MC & RAF Camora. The slow countdown on the screens interspersed with images of fast cars, pet alligators, guns and bling neatly summarised the theme of the show going forward. The 60 minutes of gangster rap culminated in fireworks and a giant animatronic alligator with glowing eyes taking up half the stage.

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The penultimate band on the Green Stage today were AnnenMayKantertereit. Baby-faced with a voice like 60 years of whisky and cigarettes, lead singer Henning May’s soulful ballads were not what you would expect from the main stage at 9 pm. However, the band had paid their dues, working their way up the line up over the past years. The arena was packed for this mellow, laid-back set. A great warm-up for Thirty Seconds to Mars.

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My personal highlight were the headliners of the blue stage, the hip-hop/pop duo SDP. Starting off behind a canvas, a remix of their new album opener (“Übertreiba”) playing, the band gave 110% from the moment the canvas dropped. Running and jumping across the stage, they teased out every last ounce of the crowd’s energy. Giant beach balls were released into the crowd for “Leider Wieder Da” and the set was accompanied by flames and fireworks. Things slowed down for a couple of ballads in the second half, both singers coming down into the crowd to sing “So Schön Kaputt”. The final song finished with sparks flying over the crowd and the band took their customary photo with the audience.

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Jared Leto, frontman of Thirty Seconds to Mars came on stage for their headlining slot dressed in sparkly white robes with a long cape. I was expecting a costume change at some point, but he stayed with this “Glam-Jesus” look for the duration of the show. The first wave of the crowd was covered with flags, an unusual sight for a German festival. This was all well and good until a load of large balloons were released during “This Is War”. These promptly got stuck between the flag poles. It was amusing to watch, though probably not the intended effect. The same happened again with the myriad of animal pool inflatables that were thrown into the crowd a short while later during “Rescue Me”. There was a certain dissonance between the vibe of the music and the flamingos, unicorns and dolphins bobbing around in the crowd. At one point, Jared Leto was picking fans from the crowd to join him on stage before getting distracted by a red balloon hovering behind him on stage, presumably caught in the airflows on stage. Leto stood there mesmerised for a moment before returning to picking fans to join him. The show finished with a large group of fans running on to the stage behind him while he sang “Closer To The Edge”.

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Sunday

Temperatures reached 30°C on Sunday, so we took a break at the festival beach, complete with ice cream and a swim in the lake.

Up bright and early, Schmutzki played a wake-up gig on the campsite at 11 am, which is as good as 6 am by festival standards. There were no amps but the gathered crowd sang everything, including the guitar riffs. They even managed to get a crowd surfer all the way around the little platform the band was on. That afternoon, Schmutzki returned to the Blue Stage, as did the crowd, which had now doubled in size. I did not expect to see the biggest circle pit of the weekend in the last 20 seconds of a show at four in the afternoon on a Sunday, but there you go. The backdrop was a small, red banner with the band logo, hanging at a jaunty angle behind the stage, perfectly encapsulating the band’s scrappy attitude.

After a brief afternoon downpour, the sun was back for Frank Turner & Sleeping Souls. The smartly dressed British folk-punk band addressed the crowd in near-perfect German and encouraged them to join in by jumping and clapping along. Turner explained that at past festivals he had the issue of explaining what mandolins were to punk crowds and what circle pits were to folk crowds. Luckily, the Highfield crowd were familiar with both and duly formed the latter. As per Turner’s instructions, everyone walked slowly at first before speeding up as the song got going. Very Fun.

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Old punk favourites The Offspring attracted a huge crowd as the weather darkened. They played a couple of new songs including “It Won’t Get Better” and turned the arena into a field of stars during “Gone Away” as fans held up lighters and phones. As the set moved on to fan favourites such as “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, lightning forked in the distance. The organisers declared a weather warning, but the party went on. Due to the slight overlap between acts on the two stages, a large section of the crowd started moving towards the Blue Stage during “You’re Gonna Go Far Kid”, dancing and singing along the whole way.

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Just as Blue Stage headliners Fettes Brot began playing the thunderstorm arrived and the heavens opened. The performance was temporarily suspended, and the arena evacuated. The storm passed and the show was back on the row within 45 minutes. Fettes Brot put on a fun, high-energy hip-hop show backdropped by a selection of large neon signs. Like many other performers of the weekend, the band encouraged everyone to vote in the upcoming state election as well as join the upcoming Friday’s for Future event. In general, the festival had a very pro-democracy message, with large banners encouraging punters to vote and get involved with politics.

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Sunday night headliner Steve Aoki’s stage design was simply a screen across the whole stage, continued across the front his decks. After the intro, he popped up in the centre of the stage and kicked off with “Bella Ciao”. Thanking everyone for staying through the rain he set off into a visually intense set including streamers and pyrotechnics. The screens created a seamless image across the whole stage with him in the middle and showed a concoction of weird and wonderful video clips. Alongside various 3d rendered visuals, he also sampled clips from Game of Thrones, Pokemon and Lion King. For the latter, he used the circle of life scene but with his face on Simba’s face. Aoki was visibly having a great time on stage, climbing on his decks and inciting a lot of audience hand waving. The show was a rollercoaster of emotions, with moving tributes to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Avicii as well as Aoki throwing giant cakes into the audiences face during “Cakeface”. The rave EDM style was unusual for the Highfield festival, and the crowd was a little thinner than you would expect for a headliner. But those that stayed were treated to a psychedelic party to see off the weekend in exuberant style.

Highfield Festival is a perfect little festival with a huge range of acts. The lakeside setting and the international mix of bands make it a gem in the festival calendar, and one not to be missed.

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Teleman @ Cambridge Junction 23/04/2019 Review

There is nothing better than a show at an old school music venue on a school night. We were looking forward to catching the second date in the short Teleman Tour. Kane and myself turned up early to grab an interview with the charismatic four piece, while the support act, Uh, were performing their soundcheck. We were surprised that the usual queues at The Junction were not forming, but put it down to people getting a bite to eat before the show.

The Junction is a great venue for getting close up to the action. It is purpose built on the old cattle market site and holds a capacity of 850 people. The acoustics are always good and it is basically a square space with a small stage against one wall, the mixing desk normally against the opposing wall, and the rest of the dark space for the crowd. Small bars either side mean you can get cold drinks without missing the action. It’s also very well set up for people with disabilities with helpful staff on hand, so it is pretty much all that a music venue should be.

The venue was slowly filling up when the support band, Uh, took to the stage. A male and female duo, Uh announced that they were going to start with meditation. They then went on to play a hypnotic electronica song with spoken lyrics. Their set contained various songs of a similar ilk, which at least got the crowd swaying. It was all in all very ‘Cambridge’.

Once they had completed the stage was bathed in blue with the customary smoke slowly filling the area. We noticed that the venue was now full, and our first fears that it was going to be a quiet night were unfounded. The very eclectic crowd waited patiently until the appearance of the main act was signalled by the stage plunging into darkness and silence from the amps. A heavy bassline signalled a start to the proceedings and the stage was engulfed in a red hue as Teleman took to their positions on the stage. The unmistakable synth intro of ‘Fun Destruction’ rang out as the cheers from the crowd were dying down. The crowd really started grooving to ‘Family Of Aliens’, the title track of Teleman’s new album.

The setlist was always going to have a fair share of numbers from their new album, but Teleman mixed it up a bit with tracks from their previous two albums and some from their EPs. As Tom had told us in our interview, they also had some fun with the live numbers, with more instrumental interludes, where all the members of the band could show off their musical skills. They like to keep their shows simple, to let the music do its talking. The lights were subtle and fairly static, except for some elements of strobing during songs like ‘Cactus’ and the interaction with the audience was fairly minimal. In fact it was not until the end of ‘Repeater’, five songs in that Tom said ‘It’s nice to be back in Cambridge.’

It was obvious that the band like to jam in a live environment and like to play with sound. ‘Submarine Life’ was full of distortion, but also had Tom playing a tambourine and the band clearly enjoyed this number, as did the crowd. Pete Cattermole put down his bass at one stage and swapped places with Jonny Saunders. Tom proclaimed that if they were swapping over they were trying something new and said ‘That’s exciting isn’t it?’ The crowd responded with a ‘WOOHOO’. Now Pete and Jonny were on synths, accompanied with Hiro’s simple percussion as they preformed ‘Sea Of Wine’, a song that really showcases Tom’s vocals.

It was after this that we were treated to an insight into the Rock N Roll lifestyle of Teleman on tour. They had, had a nice day at the Botanical Gardens, but being the Rock N Roll Rebels they are they had broken in! Well when I say broken in they said they had just walked in really! This drew a lone ‘Good on Ya’ from one of the fans.

We were treated to a lot of numbers from ‘Family of Aliens’ in the first two thirds of the set, but then Teleman ramped things up with songs from their first album and EPs such as ‘Strange Combination’, ‘Not In Control’ and ‘Cristina’, the latter two being a surprise as they tend to be songs in the encore. The crowd had been moving more and more and by the end of ‘Song For A Seagull’ it was a writhing organic mass from the front of the stage to the back of the venue. This ramped up to a fenzy during the crowd pleasing ‘Not In Control’. This is normally a good time to exit stage left and leave the crowd wanting more, which is exactly what the band did. A drum machine played like the ticking of some unseen clock, and simple white lighting shone on the, now, empty stage.

Tom came onto the stage on his own for the first song of the encore. With a simple spot on him he performed a delightfully stripped down version of ‘Nights On Earth’. The show had seemed to flash by and there was only one song that could now finish off the night. Jonny, Pete and Hiro joined Tom on stage and ‘Dusseldorf’ capped the night. With a heavy drumbeat, hand clapping, everyone signing in unison and the whole place jumping, that is the perfect way to end a cheeky show on a school night.

Review by Tony Creek

Photos by Kane Howie

 

Highfield 2018 – Full Review!

Highfield festival takes place yearly by the Strömthaler Lake near Leipzig, in East Germany. It’s small (35,000 guests) with two stages (Green and Blue). Most notably, Highfield has a beach that is open to guests throughout the day. There’s a DJ stage on the beach along with drinks stands, so the festival vibe is guaranteed

As with most German festivals, the area in front of the stage is divided into waves by barriers. Only a limited number of people can be in the first wave as a measure against injuries from overcrowding. There is a one-way system in place, in one side, out the other so that numbers can be monitored. While this can be frustrating if you miss out on a spot for your favourite band, it does make it easier to move within the crowd.

Another difference that sets this festival apart is the German culture of “Pfand” which is a deposit you pay on bottles, cans and, at festivals, cups. This means every plastic cup is worth 2 euros that you get back when you return the cup, which helps make Highfield a green festival.

Friday

Arriving on Friday, the weather was very hot and very dry. Across the campsite, heated matches of flunkyball (Germany’s second national sport) were in full swing. It’s a classic game of ‘do well, get drunk’. Two teams stand across from each other, each with cans of beer at their feet. A ball is thrown at a half full bottle of water in the centre. If you hit, your team drinks as long as it takes the opposing team to rectify the bottle. First team to finish their drinks, wins.

Once a camping spot was found there was only time for rudimentary peg work, just enough to mark our camping territory. Before we headed straight to the lake. A good swim provided a much needed cool down and relaxed us, ready for the weekend ahead.

The tent was fastened down properl, the “HighViech” – a fish-like creature – and festival mascot welcomed us to the main site.

Appearing for the third time at Highfield, Gogol Bordello kicked things off with their trademark gypsy punk. It was early evening and the crowd still small. However, what they lacked in volume they made up for in enthusiasm; dancing, jumping, jigging. Lead singer Eugene Hütz, sporting the classic punk look “shirtless with blazer”, directed the crowd with his energy. Mixing it up from the usual beer on stage, Hütz opted for a classier bottle of red wine. That didn’t stop him pouring it all over stage and crowd throughout his set.  As the set went on, the New Yorker band drew a bigger and bigger crowd with their infectious tunes that you couldn’t help but dance to.

Infectious but in a different, more hip-hop way, the 257ers took the blue stage by storm. The queue for the first wave was mounting as fans were eager to get up close and personal in the mosh pits. The band, named after their home postcode, started off with a three horror clowns accompanied by whimsical circus music, setting the tone for the one-hour set. Notorious for their costume changes, the duo dressed as pirates, Dutch football shirts and Hawaiian shirts, each outfit referencing a different song in the set. They were also accompanied by at least three extras on stage, dressed up and firing up the crowd. Costume changes take time, so to keep the crowd entertained the DJ played everything from nursery rhymes to crazy frog. At one point he got the whole crowd to crouch down but instead of the anticipated beat drop, Whitney Houston’s I will always love you rang out, much to the amusement of everyone. Refreshments were kindly provided in the form of a giant tube pouring beer into the crowd and several foam cannons. The set was light-hearted and fun, asking the important in Warum (Why) including “why can’t we ride bears to work?” and an entire song about the benefits and uses of wood, which in German is entirely free of innuendo. After their performance last year got cut short due to extreme weather, they vowed that this time we would party to the absolute limit. And we did.

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As we headed to the Green Stage we were greeted with the complete opposite of the 257ers,with Clueso on the stage. As a much-needed calm after 257ers, the mix of pop, hip-hop and reggae got crowds singing and swaying. His performance of Zusammen (Together) was a surprise as it appears on the new album by Die Fantastischen Vier featuring Clueso. Considering that the former are due to play on Sunday I would have expected it in the headliners set. But Clueso made it a loving tribute by including verses from some of their best songs, and the crowd loved it.

A weather warning for the approaching storm had been in place from the start of the set. As the first notes of the final song –Verlierer (Loosers) – sounded, the stage and crowds were bathed in blue light, and the heavens opened.

The crowd, undeterred, turned into a sea of complementary, red ponchos and carried on. The Ferris wheel and giant wooden Jägermeister Stag with flaming antlers made an impressive backdrop for the Dropkick Murphys, made even more dramatic by the lightning storm in the background. Much in the vein of Gogol Bordello, the bands Celtic punk moved to crowds to dance the rain away.

In an ambitious attempt to pull off a semi-acoustic set at 22:30, Alligatoah invited us down into the sewers with him via an impressive stage design. Sporting the appropriate blue overalls, flatcap and yellow wellies and accompanied by an electric organ he worked his way through funky versions of his discography. His songs dripping in irony about society including beauty standards (Du bist schön  (You are beautiful)), throw away culture (Lass liegen (Leave it)) and most ironic of all, the music industry Musik ist keine Lösung (Musik isn’t a solution). Being an acoustic set, he relied on the crowd to sing the electric guitar part of Willst du (Do you want to), and they were more than happy to comply. Help was again required for a verse of Trostpreis (Consolation Prize), sung by Timi Hendrix on the record, and the audience performed flawlessly.

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Rounding off the first night, the Canadian Billy Talent took to the Green stage. A staple of the Festival circuit and currently touring their fifth studio album “Afraid of Heights”, the band returns to Highfield for a second year running as their set was cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms last year. Lead singer Benjamin Kowalewicz worked the crowd, who responded singing back at him. Finishing with Red Flag and Fallen leaves, the set was worth the one year wait for sure.

Saturday

The plan for Saturday morning was obvious. Get out of the boiling hot tent and go swim. By no means the first with the good idea, the beach was already filled at 9:30 in the morning. The air was a little cooler, but the water no less refreshing than yesterday. Some people were playing beach volleyball, some lying on beach towels playing cards. Crepes for breakfast (what else?) and we headed down to the main site.

We dipped into Swiss und die Anderen, heavy Antifa punk rap. Not our cup of tea, although the crowd was absolutely loving it. Mosh. Pits. Everywhere. Next up on our timetable was Sondaschule, the punk-ska band from the so called Ruhrgebiet, an area famous for its former coal industry. Whether it was the band itself or the following headliners was uncertain, but the crowd had definitely become more punk heavy. From colourful mohawks the leather jackets, the tone of the evening program of the Green stage was set. When the band dedicated a song to what they considered the most beautiful city in the world, the girls near the front holding a “Mühlheim Ruhr”, the home city of the band, sign got excited. But instead of the song of the same name, the chilled reggae beat of Amsterdam began to play. Showers of confetti exploded from the crowd. It’s quite common for German festival guests to bring bags of paper confetti. It makes for great atmosphere and is 100% biodegradable. A win – win. The band thanked everyone for the warm welcome for their first time here at Highfield. Towards the end of the set the band introduced a song from their new acoustic album, the song RIP Audio, which they recoded together with Ingo from the Donots, who had not arrived on site yet. Once again, the crowd stepped up and took over the guest vocals.

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Lunchtime came around and it was finally time for the burger we had travelled over 700 miles for. The wild boar burger from the Hirsch&Eber stall. With onions cooked in port and a cranberry mayonnaise it is without a doubt one of the best burgers I have had to date. If you want to argue with me on that, you can come to Highfield next year and try one for yourself.

Bad Religion were meant to play Saturday afternoon but had to cancel at short notice due to a family emergency. Instead, German festival veterans the Donots stepped up and filled the slot. Undoubtedly leading to one of my personal highlights. The crowd welcomed them with open arms, chanting their name at every opportunity. Lead singer, Ingo Donot, told us they had struggled to get a bus in time and almost didn’t find a dog sitter in time leading to Wake the Dogs.

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sat - donots - watermark-11

Highfield festival had been working with Viva con Agua, a charity providing clean water across the world, for many years. Besides a stand where you can donate there are also people around the site with bins where you can donate your cups and corresponding Pfand. The band got circle pits forming around the bins encouraged everyone to donate their cups while playing Do what you want, a cover to console the Bad Religion fans in the crowd.

Ingo is everybody’s hype-man, excitedly announcing all their friends who were still to play this weekend. This included Flogging Molly whose bassist, Nathen Maxwell, joined them on stage for Kein Problem (No Problem). Finishing the set with So long, the crowds chanted the chorus long after the song had finished, moving the band to tears. It’s fair to say that no one regretted the substitution.

Later, the Swedish garage rock band The Hives took to the Green Stage. The most strikingly dressed of the weekend, everything was black and white. The suits, the guitars, the backdrop. They also had a crew of ninjas doing all the cable management and guitar swaps. The securities in the pit did their best to keep the crowds cool, throwing and handing out water. Lead singer, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, went straight into the crowd, wasting no time to get acquainted. The music was fantastic, raw guitar riffs and hoarse vocals. Everything between became a little tedious. Coming across somewhat arrogant, Howlin’ Pelle constantly demanded the crowds cheer, even starting his own encore chant. At some point the audience had had enough, not really responding anymore. A shame, since everyone still had a great time with the music.

This year’s Saturday headliners, the Broilers, can in many ways be considered the descendants of last year’s Saturday headliners Die Toten Hosen. They started out as their support act, being mentored by them and signed to the DTHs own record label. They had big boots to fill, with many people questioning if they were ready for the headline slot. But once they got started, all doubts subsided, and they stepped up flawlessly. Their horn section giving them their trademark ska-punk sound, the crowd was loving it from the get go. When you have a horn section, clearly the natural thing to do is cover the Ghostbuster theme tune. The Broilers are a band where dancing and moshing are equally valid ways to celebrate their music. Small moshpits here and there, but also a paramedic on a break dancing with his girlfriend. It felt like everyone was welcomed into the Broiler family that night. The mood then got more serious with the more recent song Keine Hymnen Heute (No hymns today), a song describing the prohibition of a lot of art during the second world war. The backdrop showed videos of Nazi soldiers burning books as a grim warning against populism and rising right wing sentiments. The pyrotechnics sounding like gunshots. What followed was undeniably one of the most emotional parts of the festival. During Ihr da oben (You up there) the screen showed a collage of photos the band had asked fans to send in for the music video. It showed loved ones that had passed away. The range of photos was particularly striking, as it included young children and babies alongside grandparents. It really drove home the momentous amount of loss and grief contained in all those images.

The tempo picked up again with Held in unserer Mitte (Hero in our midst), with circle pits forming around the bands handpicked audience members. The show finished with fireworks and I think everyone agreed, the Broilers are headliner material.

As is tradition at German festivals there was a general protest against the far right and populism. Whether its moshing against (and on) Nazis, the antifascist charity “Kein Bock auf Nazis” or anti-nazi chants. Many bands had banners saying “Refugees Welcome”. As people were chanting “Nazis out”, the Donots quite rightly pointed out that people needed to go shout these things at counter demonstrations, not just here, where there were no neo-nazis.

Sunday

Sunday started the way all festival Sundays start, the long arduous trek back to the car, laden with bags. The weather was even hotter than the past few days, making this by far the worst part of the experience. Oh the price you pay for camping close to the site and far away from the car park. Once that was over we could get back to the good bit.

Sunday afternoon was Brit indie-pop time on the Blue Stage. Maximo Park’s Paul Smith overdressed, as always, in a blue suit, hat and shades. Dancing enthusiastically through a set spanning all six studio albums, the band started on Girls who play guitar and finished with Apply some pressure. The crowd favourite was definitely Books from boxes. Throughout the set Smith addressed the crowd in broken but endearing German, making sure everyone drank enough water and were having a good time.

A black backdrop with a hypnotising wombat with rainbow eyes marked the next band. The Wombats started out with the lively Cheetah Tongue. The audience had a surprising knowledge of all the songs, singing along and dancing. The award for most crowd confetti thrown definitely goes to The Wombats, with the stuff flying left right and centre. We learnt intimate details, like the argument score between lead singer, Matthew Murphy, and his wife stands at roughly zero to three million. The band also introduced Steve, “The hardest working squirrel in Europe”, who was a plush sitting on the drum kit. Naturally met with chants of “STEVE, STEVE, STEVE”. The next album will be consisting of elevator music, the demo of which promptly turned into Moving to New York. The set peaked with Let’s Dance to Joy Division, causing the biggest explosion of crowd confetti yet. It was a perfect summer afternoon dance party.

By the time Madsen came onto the Green stage, everything was bathed in golden light from the setting sun. Their backdrop a space shuttle from their new album “Lichtjahre (Light years)”, the band celebrated the bassists birthday and started the first ever ladies only circle pit I’ve seen.

By the side of the first wave, two little girls in giant fluorescent headphones were dancing away when a security guard called them over to give them each a carton of water. They repaid him with a handful of confetti. A fair trade I’d say.

Halfway through the Madsen set on the Green stage, the Editors took to the Blue stage. Seeing the meager crowd they were about to go on stage for almost made you feel sorry for them. The backdrop, taken from the cover from their latest album “Violence”, was a dark picture of contorted bodies. Although mildly distressing, it does fit the general vibe of the band. They walked on in silence and started to play their first song. Afterwards the lead singer Tim Smith said a shy “dankeschön, guten abend” and carried on. As the set progressed he seemed to warm up to the crowd, addressing them more freely and encouraging them to put their hands up for songs. His motions across the stage were creeping and primal, almost mesmerising. The crowd had gathered as the set went on, so by the time Papillon started, there was enough of a crowd to properly welcome their favourite. Jumping, singing and waving hands in a butterfly like fashion as the sun set on the final festival day.

Which of the two stages hosted the true headliner is up for debate. The Blue Stage, pioneers of German rap, Die Fantastischen Vier were scheduled to play right up until the point that one of the biggest German rappers right now, Materia, was to take to the Green stage and give the festival the finale it deserves. It was clear the crowds were torn. Get a good spot for Materia and miss out on the band without which he wouldn’t even exist? See the undisputed bedrock of the genre and miss out on a spot in the midst of what promised to be the craziest party of the weekend?

Enough people decided on the latter, the first wave being packed like never before. A huge banner of the new album, “Captain Fantastic”, covered the stage. As the first beats of Tunnel boomed across the grounds, the banner came down to reveal the band, already hyping the crowd. The crowd were with them from the first song with more energy than I’d seen for anyone else this weekend. The backdrop was a rectangle of screens with a fabric banner in the middle, an unusual set up. The hype kept up for about ten songs, the group behind me insisting to express their excitement through five-man moshpit. The set slowed down in the middle with Tag am Meer (Day at the Seaside) which was a shame following the energetic start. Normally, a calm song or two gives to audience a chance to catch their breath. In this case, people started leaving to go to the other stage. As the show went on, the tempo picked up again. Zusammen (Together) was performed for the second time this weekend, this time with Clueso singing his part via video on the screens on stage.

The band left the stage before the three-song encore, at which point they started hemorrhaging audience members. At this point they were clearly going to run over and into the set time of Materia. The proximity of the sets split the audience and to me that was the biggest failure of the organisers. The remaining crowd went mental for the encore, more than making up for their decreased numbers with their energy. The set finished, and everyone rushed to the Green stage to hear the last lines of Materia’s Endboss.

 Even though only two songs had passed, the crowd was already warmed up and ready to riot. Bengalische Tiger (Bengal Tigers) caused red flares to erupt in the crowd and on stage, making for a spectacular view. The melancholic Tauchstation, which is an an idiom meaning secluding yourself, bringing everyone back down with its hypnotic, submarine-like sounds, followed by the ode to the Blue Marlin. The deep bass vibrating everything in reach.

At this point, Materia took a moment to thank Viva con Agua for their work and encouraged everyone to through their cups on stage on the count of three. This led to the bizzare spectacle of plastic cups flying through the crowd, rarely reaching the stage, instead being picked up and thrown further forwards. It looked like hundreds of tiny plastic dolphins, making their way to the stage. Given the value of 2 euros per cup it was likely 1000 euros worth of donations flying about. Talk about making it rain.

Materia is currently promoting his joint album with Casper, “1982”. Both were on site together earlier in the day giving autographs and taking selfies with fans. It therefore came as no surprise to suddenly see the two on stage together performing the first joint single Champion. None the less the crowd flipped, making it clear that this collaboration is hotly anticipated. The mood remained ecstatic as the duo performed their second single Supernova. As a crowning finale to the joint performance, they premiered their third song Adrenalin. On top of the first reveal, the two also announced they were filming the music video at the festival. Naturally, the crowd pulled out all the stops, no doubt providing a sensational backdrop.

From there on, the set escalated from song to song. One hit after another, culminating in Feuer – Fire, obvious pyrotechnics included. Materia’s alter ego Marsimoto made an appearance for a verse. Cloaked in bright green smoke and wearing his metallic green mask his arrival caused a brief change of pace before returning to the high-octane finale of Feuer.

Finally, Materia teased every last ounce of energy out of the crowd with his Letzte 20 Sekunden (Last 20 seconds). The audience jumped, waved and threw shirts, moshed and tore the place apart. At one point the show master himself descended from the stage to party with his fans, right in the centre of the first wave. It seemed neither crowd nor band wanted it to be over. Materia dancing with his band on stage, waving a Rostock football flag and hugging everyone. It was a night that no one wanted to end.

The Highfield festival is too small to draw an array of big international names, maybe getting one per year. Personally, I think the appeal lies in the atmosphere. The beach makes it feel more like a holiday and the line-up is one you can dip in and out of without the notorious fear of missing out that plagues big festivals. If you’re into German music then you’re guaranteed to find something, including high caliber performance. It’s a niche for international visitors, but definitely worth checking out if you fancy a chilled weekend by a lake with mostly great weather.

Deichbrand Festival 2018 – Full Review!

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.

fri - 257ers - watermark-13_1

fri - 257ers - watermark-13_1

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

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.

sat - skinny lister - watermark-10

sat - skinny lister - watermark-10

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.  

Sunday

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.

sun - alligatoah - watermark-27

sun - alligatoah - watermark-27

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.

Coasts at Club 85-Hitchin-9th October 2017

On Monday evening (9th October 2017) the small town of Hitchin saw the anticipated return of the band, Coasts.  A band that is well known to the local area as they also headlined the BBC Introducing stage at the town's own Rhythms of the World Festival a few years ago. The band were very well recieved  by the locals at the time so it was awesome to have the band back once again.  The band were hosted this time by the small, but awesome venue Club 85 with colourful neon decor within the all black loft sized room.  The venue also has a small bar and merchendise stalls at either side of the stage.   Something else to be excited about was the evening's warm up act, Misfires

 Misfires are a young, all male indie rock band from Swindon, UK. The band formed in February 2016 and began their musical journey playing for house parties which then led onto sell out gigs in local venues.  In other media the four lads have often been compared to the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Libertines. Some have even called the band the lovechild of the two big names mentioned. Misfires are currently on a month long tour with this being their first time visiting the town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. They have also recently supported The Sherlocks on their tour playing at three of their tour venues which they admitted they had a great time performing to the larger crowds.  In the short time on stage at Club 85 the band members who were all dressed in black casual clothing totally nailed it! The four guys performed their singles '22', most recent release 'Do You Wanna?' and 'Indie Kid' which the band themselves said is likely to be their next single. During the performance of their song '22' there even appeared to be a tiny mosh pit of adolescent fans jumping around. Throughout their set the band were often interacting with a group of teens at the front of the room, just laughing and joking which was great to see.  They were definitly well liked by ticketholders.  

I also briefly managed to chat to the four lads just after their performance to congratulate them on a great set, along with our phototographer. These lads are so down to earth and fun. They even mentioned that for them its not all about the stereotypical "rock and roll" lifestyle when it comes to being part of a band. They had also expressed how much they enjoyed being on tour and stated that they've performed alongside other bands who don't necessarily prioritise interaction with their fans which is why they expressed how important it is to them to remember that it's always good to make time for fans of their music.  I would highly recommend that you see Misfires live if you should get the chance. I would be very surprised if they didn't make it big in the music industry.  

After a short break to make some changes to the stage set up the main band of the night walked in and introduced themselves. Of course this band was Coasts.

Indie pop band Coasts oringinally formed in Bristol back in 2011 and have had great success ever since.  Over the years they have recieved a lot of airplay especially via BBC Radio 1 with the support from well known DJs Greg James, Huw Stevens and Fearne Cotton. Due to the support from Radio 1, the band also performed for the radio stations 'Big Weekend' festival like event in Glasgow back in 2014.  They also played at Reading and Leeds festival in the following year. The guy's self titled album was released back in January 2016. 

During their time on stage at the Hitchin venue we saw them perform singles "Rush Of Blood", "Modern Love" as well as other album tracks including "Paradise" and "White Noise".  The room may not have been large but an electric atmosphere filled the room and flooded out of the doors. Almost everyone was up on their feet dancing to the satisfying sounds. 
The five piece group also sampled some music from their new album that they are working on. "Heart Starts Beating" is just one of the tracks from their upcoming release and if it all sounds like that we should expect more great things from them. 
After an energetic set leaving what looked like an exhausted drummer as he leant back onto the screens at the back of the stage we were treated to a great performance to see the evening out. The band played their biggest hit to date "Oceans" which was great to leave us all reeling with excitement from a great evening.  The performers asked people to meet them afterwards at the merch stall for a chat and some photo opportunities. It was great to see two acts this evening that were very happy to chat to fans of their music.  

Keep your eyes peeled for more from both of these brilliant artists! Coasts have announced that they will be back on tour in April 2018 which will be in a London venue.  

 

All photos by Kane Howie

For more photos click here!

 

The XX at Bestival 2017 – Reviewed!

Well here we are, Friday night at Bestival’s new home of Lulworth Castle in Dorset. The arena is packed out, there’s a chill of anticipation in the air and we’re all praying the rain holds off for tonight’s main stage headliners – The XX. The band take to the stage to a huge roar from the crowd and it’s pretty much straight down to business with ‘Crystallised’ and ‘Say Something Loving’. The bands’ ear-drum thumping percussive and electronic sounds come courtesy of Jamie Smith, stood atop a platform filled with every imaginable thing you can hit, prod and poke to make noise, and he’s currently bathed in sea of smoke and warm orange light.

Meanwhile, at the back of the stage giant floor to ceiling mirror panels rotate to show colour changing LED strips along the sides and the light is reflected back onto the upturned faces in the crowd. Despite a small hiccup with the sound and a quick re-set – “er… Jamie? Where are we going from…?” asks guitarist Romy Madley Croft – they go from strength to strength with her ethereal breathy vocals and their laid back almost hypnotic style.

Calling out “I’ll tell you what, we’ve been looking forward to this show for such a long time… nothing makes me more excited or more nervous than being back home… it’s been five years since we played Bestival” bassist Oliver Sim reaps an arena-wide reply of approval for their efforts. It’s certainly something that is often remarked on by UK bands – as a country we always seem to be rooting for the underdog, but everyone knows Brits are natural moaners, if we didn’t like it, they’d probably know about it quick.

Instrumental ‘Islands’ has everyone swaying along and with the warm stage lights and the rising breaths of the crowd there’s something so… Bestival, about this moment. It’s like floating and the temptation to close your eyes and get lost in it is strong. Making light comment on current world affairs – “We can be unified… forgetting all the bullshit in the world… enjoy yourselves this weekend” it’s clear the feeling is translated. How powerful it is that music can flow from creator to listener and invoke a mutual understanding, even without words.

As huge nets of lasers criss-cross the sky, illuminating the flickering flags and polka-dotting the brightly lit castle behind, The XX play through with the likes of ‘I Dare You’, ‘Infinity’ and ‘Brave For You’ but it’s the trio of hits ‘Loud Places’, ‘On Hold’ and ‘Angels’ that sees the arena erupt in wild applause, so much so that it seems to overwhelm Croft entirely, and spurs her into screaming “I fucking love you Bestival!”. Following up with “I’m gonna say something that might sound a bit cringe but it comes from the heart… we’ve been all around the world… but to be back in the UK, and for you to show us this much love, it’s amazing.” along with a shout out to Rob Da Bank for having them back, it’s pretty obvious The XX have enjoyed tonight as much as we have.

All photographs © A. McHardy – Do not use without permission

Sundown Festival 2014 Review

Now in its fourth year, Sundown festival has played host to many of the biggest names in music, and this year was no exception. Returning as headliners for the second time, Chase & Status closed the Saturday night, while Ellie Goulding closed the festival on Sunday.

FRIDAY

But all the fun actually begun on Friday night. After waiting nearly 2 hours in the queue for my friends to get their wristbands, we eventually made it to the campsite, with aching bodies from carrying everything for so long.

We weren’t going to let that stop us though, as the Big Top opening party proved to be one of the highlights of Sundown. New to 2014, the action kicked off at 5pm, but after a few drinking games, we joined the growing crowd of energetic teenage ravers a few hours later. Commercial house tracks and big room EDM bass drops were the soundtrack to the party, consisting of ‘Backstreet’s Back’ being mixed into Martin Garrix ‘Tremor’ – certainly not something you hear every day, a dubious Nirvana remix and some old classics in ‘You’ve Got The Love’. It all made for a great night, with an impressive laser light show shining up the packed tent.

We also checked out some of the stools selling funky sunglasses, hipster shirts, bum-bags galore and the festivals best-seller, judging from all the lads wearing them, – black printed bandanna’s.

SATURDAY

The morning after, the campsite looked like a bomb had hit it – especially the far from sanitary toilets located at the bottom of the campsite. But that’s all to be expected, in fairness there was the option to pay an extra £25 to get some brilliantly titled and much cleaner VIPee toilets for the weekend if you wished.

Entering Sundown’s main site just in time to see Disclosure and Tinie Tempah collaborator Sasha Keable perform on the main stage, it was a nice ease back into the party spirit to cure our near-hangovers. Sasha Keable’s sound is mainly synth led electronica with an impressive vocal laid over the top of each track. Performing tracks from her debut ‘Lemongrass and Limeleaves’ E.P, ‘Living Without You’ showcases her powerful vocal range and ‘Sweetest Talk’ takes influence from Jessie Ware’s soulful R&B sound. ‘Careless Over You’ creates the first sing-a-long moment with Sasha’s voice climbing over the rolling drum and synth beats. It’s the collaborations with Zinc and Disclosure which get the biggest cheers and sing-alongs. ‘Only For Tonight’ pumps up the party atmosphere with air-horn sounds just in time for set closer ‘Voices’, with the crowd jumping and singing back every word. Already signed to Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London label, a few more releases and Sasha Keable will soon be a household name.

Also on Tinie’s label are All About She, who perform next. The London based UK garage three-piece are made up of record producers James Tadgell and Jon Clare and singer Vanya Taylor. It’s Vanya who grabs everyone’s attention though, with a similar stylish appearance and voice to Estelle, she wastes no time in showing off her vocals. ‘I Can’t Wait’ is a highlight, while new feel good track ‘Beyond Heaven’ hears Vanya work the crowd singing “Sundown you take me there” before asking “where are all the lovers at, put your hands in the air.” ‘Like That’ sees Vanya dedicate the track to a birthday girl on the front row before the trio end their set with the song everyone’s been waiting for. ‘Higher (Free)’ still sounds as fresh as when it was released last November and reached the top 20 in the UK. Sung a capella for the first chorus, it’s given an emotive re-work before the garage beats kick in which return ‘Higher’ to its original club-ready state.

Before Foxes takes to the stage, there is an unwilling yet entertaining twerk off to Nicki Minaj’s new single ‘Anaconda’ between Kiss FM DJ’s Michael and Tania, who introduce each act and deserve praise for building the hype effortlessly. Foxes bounces onstage, looking ever the pop star, in a dress and massive sunglasses. Aside from the music, Louisa is loved by, females who want to be her, and males who want to be with her. The whole set is a highlight. Performing the main singles from her debut album ‘Glorious’, including ‘Youth’, ‘Let Go For Tonight’ and ‘Holding On To Heaven’, each song receives mass sing-a-longs with fans arms waving in the air. She’s not bothered by the worsening weather either, which she has experienced the worst of after a storm engulfed her set at Nottingham’s Splendour festival in July. Instead she shouts to the crowd, “fuck the rain”, and they oblige, continuing to jump with her. ‘Clarity’, her massive Grammy award winning collaboration with Zedd goes down a treat and proves one of the weekend’s biggest sing-a-longs.

Meanwhile, over at the Big Top tent, house music lovers are being treated to the best in the business, with the whole day hosted by Defected Records! Earlier in the day Copyright and Cristoph have bass heavy sets before Food music label boss Shadow Child. But it was Second City and Mark Kinchen who provided the best sets of the day. Second City aka 27-year-old producer Rowan Harrington took the crowd on a journey of commercial to more underground house hits including a remix of Breach’s ‘Jack’ (who would play the same stage later), his collaboration with Route 94 ‘Freak’ and his own track ‘I Enter’, but sadly his brilliant new collaboration with Ali Love ‘What Can I Do’ doesn’t get played. Ending with his recent number one piano-house smash ‘I Wanna Feel’, everyone’s hands wave while their lungs are given a full workout much to Harrington’s happiness.

Later, Marc Kinchen, whose set is swapped with Sam Devine’s, draws a massive crowd to the tent. Opening with a dub of ‘My Head Is a Jungle’ before recent single ‘Always’, MK is joined by four less than covered dancers waving fans in front of their face, creating the Ibiza atmosphere, when in reality we’re inside a sweaty tent.

Chase and Status, who headlined Sundown festival back in 2011 returned to close proceedings on Saturday night. And what a show it was. An intense laser light show, a number of unexpected special guests and some insanely heavy drum & bass, dubstep and everything in between made it the show-stealer of the weekend. Performing tracks from all three of their albums and some older material, it was a career spanning set with each track sending the crowd absolutely crazy. I’ve actually never seen more mosh pits throughout a set. And it just gets even more out of control when Tempa T pounces onstage to rap his part in ‘Hypest Hype.’ Later, British singer Jacob Banks is welcomed onstage to provide his soulful sing-a-long vocals to ‘Alive’. Moko appears large as life in the background video appearing to jump out of the screen during ‘Count On Me’, similarly with Plan B seeming to smash the screen during ‘End Credits’ and ‘Pieces’. Set closer ‘Smash TV’ from the duo’s 2008 debut album ‘More Than Alot’ made for the perfect end to their genre defying set!

SUNDAY

Sunday hosted a far more pop orientated line up on the main stage while well respected drum & bass label Ram Records took over the Big Top. On the main stage, three-piece M.O, who are receiving regular plays on Radio One from the likes of Mistajam, are bringing the 90’s girl band back! They’ve toured with Little Mix and recently signed with Universal in the US – and it’s not hard to understand why. Arriving just in time to catch the last two songs of their set, the first is an impressive cover of Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’, made completely their own. The second is new single ‘Dance On My Own’ with a garage beat which samples Sweet Female Attitudes ‘Flowers’ – one of the biggest UK garage hits from the 90’s.

Ex-The Voice contestant, Becky Hill, bounces onstage in a white crop top and sparkling Aztec skirt, making the most of the British sunshine. She described her sound recently as “leftfield, alternative, cool pop” and that seems fitting. Two Inch Punch-produced opener ‘Caution to the Wind’ is the perfect solo introduction to the world for Becky who I have been a fan of ever since she appeared on The Voice. Since then, she has achieved two number one singles in the form of drum & bass Wilkinson collaboration ‘Afterglow’ and recent house hit with Oliver Heldens ‘Gecko (Overdrive)’ – both of which receive mass sing-a-longs during her set. You can’t help but love how down to earth she is, there are no airs and graces as she admits “my onstage chat is rubbish” after she cracks a joke about the sun being up for Sundown. She later tells the crowd “I’ve got a bottle of vodka in my room so I’m going to the RAM tent to rave it up” – she comes across as a typical partying teenager. Becky’s rise to the top has been stratospheric but she’s still the same loveable singer, as she tells the crowd, “I was recently working in LA and I got a call from my manager and he said, ‘Becky you’re number one”. She proves that she’s a real pop-star in the making during her next disco infused single, the MNEK-produced ‘Losing’ which she says is out in a few weeks. It’s safe to say that she gave the best live vocal performance of the weekend and I’ve already bought tickets to see her again!

Looking like Annie Mac and sounding similar to Katy B, Jess Glynne is the next rising female vocalist to perform. With two backing singers, a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist, Jess performs a set full of catchy pop hits in waiting. She asks the crowd, “did you enjoy my fellow husky, Becky?” much to the crowd’s applause. Jess gets straight into her recent number one with Route 94 in ‘My Love’ before it’s mixed into her second worldwide number one with Clean Bandit ‘Rather Be’, with both attracting mass sing-a-longs and smiling faces. “This is the last festival for us, so let’s go out with a bang”, exclaims Jess. Gorgon City-produced Set closer ‘Right Here’ which reached the top-ten saw the crowd swaying their arms and dancing along to the house beat.

John Newman appears like a young Elvis with slicked back hair and perfected dance routines from the start of his penultimate set of the weekend. Backed by a seven piece band made up including three female singers. The longtime Rudimental collaborator performs the majority of his debut number one album ‘Tribute’, taking the ever-growing crowd on a journey of soulful pop. Each track comes complete with John showcasing his beyond impressive footwork throughout set opener ‘All For You’, ‘Try’, and ‘Cheating’. It’s obvious that he’s a real showman with plenty of onstage confidence, treating the gig like a real show, saying “welcome to this evening’s entertainment”. During ‘Losing Sleep’ he throws himself and the mic around the stage before he pauses the song to shame a member of the crowd. “This guy’s trying to start a fight during my set. We’re not here to start a fight, we’re here to enjoy the music. Let’s put our middle finger up to him” – and everybody does. Back to proceedings and John gushes about his girlfriend, asking, “Did anyone see Ella Eyre earlier? That’s my other half” – of course everybody cheers. Later, John thanks the crowd for getting him where he is now, “We’ve done 38 festivals this season. It all started for me with Rudimental and it’s taught us that we’re ‘Not Givin In’”. The Rudimental collaboration sees John and the backing vocalists sing their heart out with John running along the front row of the audience to the lucky fans delight. Set closer, and number one single, ‘Love Me Again’, sees him fall to his knees at the end. John’s energy and showmanship far exceeded my expectations and I’d definitely recommend anyone to go and see him.

Ending the weekend was Ellie Goulding, who barraged through tracks from both albums ‘Lights’ and ‘Halycon’. Songs like ‘Figure 8’ and recent single ‘Goodness Gracious’ showcase Ellie’s unique breathy vocals. ‘Starry Eyed’ is dedicated to all of Ellie’s fans who have been with her from the beginning. Madeon-produced track ‘Stay Awake’ pushes Ellie’s vocal range to its highest and most impressive point. After a quick costume change, Ellie performs a chilled electronic cover of Alt J’s ‘Tesselate’ before switching to James Blake’s ‘Life Round Here’ – two breathtaking, somewhat haunting renditions. Picking up the guitar for an acoustic version of ‘Guns and Horses’, Ellie shows off her unmistakable vocal capabilities. Laughing she says, “It’s about the time where I like to do some voluntary movements which some people may call dancing” before pop hit ‘Anything Can Happen’. Teasing the crowd she jumps down to run across the front like John Newman did during ‘I Need Your Love’. Then comes the sad news, “This is my last show for quite a while and I’m not sure when I’m going to be back on tour”, Ellie genuinely seems upset but powers on through ‘Lights’ which sees everyone light up their camera phones, creating a special memory for everyone there. Finishing with ‘Burn’, Ellie signs off hinting at a return for the following year.

Ellie certainly won’t be the only one coming back to Sundown festival if this year’s brilliant event is anything to go by!

Electric Daisy Carnival 2014 Review

Originating from the USA, Electric Daisy Carnival, or EDC as it is more widely known, made its second trip across the pond to the UK this weekend, transforming Milton Keynes outdoor National Bowl into an entertainment spectacle.

Riding on the success of last years London based event, EDC 2014 offered a who's who of chart-topping EDM, (electronic dance music) producers, best known for their knob-twiddling skills and dance music know how.

Aside from the music, one of EDC's unique selling points (persistently featured in the promo videos) was the scale of special effects on offer. Promising the UK's largest ever 360 degree LED light display, pyrotechnics and hundreds of weird and wonderful performers, the organisers clearly aimed to make their event just as visually appealing as the music itself.

Musically, this years EDC boasted a diverse line up of British and European producers, with EDM duo Bassjackers opening the main stage at midday before Avicii's headline set in the late evening, with chart hits 'You Make Me' and 'Wake Me Up' lighting up the bowl.

Earlier in the day, Calvin Harris played a mid-afternoon set, including recent number ones 'Summer' and 'Under Control', with the majority of the crowd on each other's shoulders early on. It was a busy day for Harris, who hurried off to play a main stage set at T in the Park where he was joined and introduced by Will Smith! Not a bad day for Calvin, who achieved eight top-ten hits from his 2012 album, '18 Months'.

Meanwhile, over on the Cosmic Meadow stage, house music was the order of the day if EDM drops became too much for some. Route 94, who scored a number one earlier this year with his piano house track 'My Love' featuring vocals from Jess Glynne, opened the stage at 1pm with a well received set. Later on, Leeds success story Hot Since 82, real name Daley Padley, performed an evening set of deep house drawing on tracks from his album 'Little Black Book'.

Back at the Kinetic Field main stage, 19-year-old Dutch producer Martin Garrix, who topped the chart with the inescapably catchy 'Animals', which is given an outing today, as well as follow-up top-ten track 'Wizard and a remix of Empire of the Sun's 'Alive' drew a large crowd. Mixing Naughty Boy and Sam Smith's number one 'La La La' with his own new single 'Tremor', the chorus bass drops team with confetti and smoke machines going off in unison.

Next up was Steve Aoki, who is currently hosting his Aoki Play House residency in Ibiza, here making a rare UK appearance, dropping bass heavy tracks, 'Boneless' and a new collaboration with Afrojack, before scaling the grand DJ podium set up. While stood high, he threw numerous cakes at the crowd, something which has become synonymous with the 'Beat Down' producers energetic sets.

For only it's second visit to the UK, it's safe to say that Electric Daisy Carnival is here to stay, fulfilling a gap in the British festival market and offering a world class line-up! Next year's event can't come quicker!