Southside Festival 2022

Finally, festivals again. First time since 2019, first time at Southside for us. Quick wiki summary: Southside Festival is a medium size festival in the south of Germany, and the sister festival of Hurricane Festival in the north. Blazing sun and 28 °C welcomed us and the forecast was solid. We travelled by coach this year, rather than driving, and enjoyed free transport by train both to and from the festival with our festival ticket. In terms of encouraging environmentally conscious travelling and reducing the traffic, pretty good going.

Friday

To pass the time between setting up camp and the arena opening, we took a walk around the campsite. Enough campers were armed with super soakers that the walk was actually quite refreshing. The ally along the tarmac in the main camping area had everything you could need for the weekend: food, merch, ATMs and air brush tattoos.

Welsh metal band Skindred opened up the Green Stage, arguably the main stage. Managing to tease an impressive amount of energy and participation out of an already overheating crowd. Heat warnings went out via app, advising to wear sun cream and keep hydrated. The latter required more effort than it reasonable should have done; we were only aware of one drinking water station for the majority of the day meaning every water bottle refill turned into a mini odyssey across the site. Compared to previous festivals, the water supply was limited and poorly signposted, not great for a weekend expect up to 30°C. As the weekend went on, more were put up so people weren’t relying on hand washing sinks as much.

Provinz opened the Blue Stage with a short (only 30 min) and sweet set. The band is local and grew up going to Southside, so understandably they were quite emotional about standing on the stage this year rather than in front of it. They drew a massive crowd for a Friday afternoon slot. The crowd that was singing along from the first song, taking over entire choruses. A fun set of carefree dancing in the sun.

Getting to the Blue Stage for Tones and I’s German festival debut, the obvious thing that stood out was the purple-green crooked house that took up the entire stage. The band were neatly contained in the front garden, behind purple picket fences. Equally cute and unsettling, definitely a unique stage design, and more than you would ever expect from a Friday afternoon slot. Tones and I switched between walking up around the stage and playing keyboard on the balcony of her house. The set included covers of Forever Young by Alphaville and Diamonds by Rhianna, keeping her hit Dance Monkey for second to last.

Switching from sunshine dancing to good ol’ fashioned rock, Royal Blood’s fierce riffs rang out from the Blue Stage. The guitarist of the duo, Mike Kerr, introduced his “gbass”, a bass with guitar strings, responsible for the distinct Royal Blood sound. The drummer, Ben Thatcher, was set up on a raised platform with a massive gong behind him, which he satisfyingly hit after an impressive drum solo with crowd countdown.

Alice Merton’s set, played in front a pink sky backdrop with boulders across the front of the stage took us back from head banging to dancing in the sun. The set had several new songs including Vertigo, a song she wrote as part of getting over the anxiety she developed around performing during the pandemic. Her hit Roots got everybody moving.

My personal Friday Highlight, Kummer, played his first festival show accompanied by a massive cube made from halogen ceiling lights. Normally the lead singer of popular band Kraftklub, Kummer released a solo album in 2019 with the intention to tour in 2020 and then return to the band. The pandemic threw a big old spanner into those works, so now the project is being finished along side his work with the band. Chaotic for him, great for us, as we were treated to the live debut of the new Krafklub song Ein song reicht. A fantastic set, with guest performances from Blond and the singer from Provinz.

Trying to get across the arena to Kings of Leon turned out to be harder than expected. Crowds coming away from rapper Kontra K’s show completely congested the middle of the site, meaning I missed the start of the set. Normally the one-way system commonly used at German festivals works quite well, but the fact the arena is quite narrow meant there was no way to walk around the back of the dense crowd. Your best hope was to join one of the many conga lines snaking through the crowd as they passed.

Although sounding great, the long day and heat eventually got to us, and we had to bail from Kings of Leon about halfway through. We enjoyed Use somebody from our tent, including the crowd singing along, but were asleep before Sex on Fire. Maybe we’re out of practise after three festival-free years, maybe we’re getting old, who’s to say.

Saturday


Saturday morning was a race to get out of the sauna-like tent and into the shade. While we fully woke up, Bilbao was opening the Green Stage including a cover of The Killers’ Mr Brightside. After grabbing a smoothie-coffee-bakery breakfast at the camp site stall, we headed into the arena for day two.

Matching the desert level temperature, The Dead South gave us southern cowboy vibes on the Green Stage.  With songs about bar fights and their love of whiskey along with catchy banjo tunes, the set had people linking arms and dancing in circles. Also, the bassist/celloist wore his cello like a bass guitar, so Jack Black was right.

OK Kid played on the Blue Stage, stepping in for Gayle at short notice. Being regulars at Southside, they had been hoping for a holiday, but were more than happy to jump in the van and come over.

Giant Rooks played their first Southside festival this year. Lead singer, Frederik Rabe, thanked the crowd for choosing this stage to be at. Which was cute considering there was a queue of people wanting to get into the area in front of the stage.  The set included new songs, which the crowd loved, and a cover of Tom’s Diner by Susanne Vega previously recorded by Giant Rooks and AnnenMayKantereit. After the standard “everybody good?”, the lead singer asked if everyone’s neighbour was good, and instead of just shouting “yeah”, everybody actually turned to their neighbour to check which was very sweet. The most impressive thing about this wonderful set was the fact the lead singer kept throwing his guitar halfway across the stage to the roadie and there were no broken guitars by the end.

Surprise highlight for me was LP, who’s crowd was quite thin, likely because everyone was over at Giant Rooks. She was exceptionally cool, and the band were clearly having a great time on stage. A girl in the crowd was holding a sign asking for a kiss, LP invited her on stage to get one, saying “you gotta to ask for sh*t”.

Expecting there to be queue for The Killers, we headed over during the act before, Dermot Kennedy. The gates were only opened between acts which was a bit of a shame considering people leaving meant that the crowd could get pretty sparse in front of the stage at times. The Killers opened with Mr Brightsidewhich I would have expected to be near the end of the set. The set was a run through the classics with one song from the new album (Dying Breed) and a cover of Shadowplay by Joy Division. It was a little odd to see a band like The Killers not in a headlining slot, with only 1hr 15min to play and missing all their usual confetti and fireworks. I guess even with the large crowd, they don’t quite hold the sway in Germany that they do in the UK.

SDP played the Blue Stage, bringing their usual party chaos with pyrotechnics and giant inflatables. Their last album tour was cancelled due to COVID, and they’d just released another album, so the set contained two albums worth of new music alongside the classics and a cover of Die Ärtzte’s Schrei Nach Liebe. It was a great, fun, juvenile time.

Green Stage headliners SEEED packed the arena right to the very back with their reggae hip-hop set. Playing a combination of their own songs, front man Peter Fox’s solo songs and covers including Paper Planes by MIA and SexyBack by Justin Timerlake, the set also included long instrumental sections, perfect for dancing.

This time we made it to the last act of the night, Martin Garrix, headlining the Blue Stage. As you would expect from a DJ set, the whole stage was made of screens, with a big plus hanging behind him. The set went pretty heavy from the start with pyro and smoke alongside glitchy graphics and soul vibrating bass.

Sunday

Sunday morning was much like Saturday morning: wake up, recover from the sweltering temperature of the tent outside in the (scarce) shade, get breakfast and head into the arena. Walking over to Nothing but Thieves, all available shade was completely filled with people, every bin, fence, and shade throwing object fully utilised. Despite the heat, Nothing but Thieves, drew a pretty big crowd, more than capable of singing the choruses to Trip Switch, Sorry and Amsterdam.

Over on the Blue stage, German rapper Juju was absolutely dominating, the front duo hyping up the crowd to no end. A fan joined them on stage for Intro and she undeniably nailed the entire song, the crowd celebrating her accordingly. The set included a couple SXTN songs, JuJu’s former band. A ridiculous amount of energy all round for a Sunday early afternoon.

Bristolian punk rock band Idles treated the us to a rowdy performance on the Blue stage. Half the crowd ending up embroiled in a part mosh pit, part dust bath for a solid chunk of the set. Moving from punk to punk-rap, Antilopen Gang played over on the Red stage, the smallest of the main stages.

K.I.Z. can safely be described as not politically correct in the slightest. Coming on stage in matching psychiatric clinic outfits and a provocative song to match, it was a set of very dark humour, pyro and smoke. The trio were surprisingly silly in between songs, clearly having a great time, waving at the people in the Ferris wheel at the back of the field. Very high energy, a lot of fun, not for the easily offended.

As a light-hearted pallet cleanser compared to K.I.Z., Von Wegen Lisbeth took to the Green stage as second to last band. The set had a long panel of black and white squares that switched between colours in various patterns. Their well-known marimba sound and glockenspiel solos were the perfect sound for the setting sun and the singer was grinning the whole time. The set included everything from the oldest to the newest songs as well as a cover of Believe by Cher.

Blue stage headliners, Twenty One Pilots, came on stage wearing ski masks and kicked their set of with Heathens. Shortly after, the masks came off as the drummer, Josh Dun, back flipped off the piano. The band started towards the back of the stage behind low screens but came forward during various songs and solos. The set included a cover of Benny and the Jets by Elton John in the middle of Mulberry Street. At one point there was suddenly a little bonfire on stage which the band sat around with acoustic instruments to play a medley of covers including I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, My Girl by The Temptations, Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Careless Whispers by George Michael. The campfire session finished with House of Gold and We Don’t Believe What’s on TV. There was a brief intermission in which the trumpeter played 99 Luftballons by Nena, which of course the crowd got on board with straight away, and the Halo theme, for which the band came back on stage and transitioned into Jumpsuit. I got a little emotional at Level of Concern considering it was one of my lockdown associated songs, it felt good to sing it in a crowd. Singer Tyler Joseph was no stranger to the crowd, standing on them at one point and crowd surfing back from the central tower in the most nonchalant way I have ever seen, just flopping on to the crowd and jokingly complaining his legs are too tired and that he’s like to go back to stage please. A fantastic and very varied set.

Final headliner, Deichkind, gave a show that more closely resembled a performance art piece than a live gig. It included everything from giant moving set pieces through countless costume changes to mini trampolines and office chair races. Several songs were performed in their famous triangle head masks and one in a giant barrel being rolled through the crowd. The final song bought complete chaos both to the stage and the crowd: the curtains drew back to reveal something akin to a Harlem Shake video with inflatables, balloons, even more random costumes and a cut out of Inauguration Bernie Sanders. One band member was surfing over the crowd in a huge inflatable ring, covering the crowd in feathers. It was a perfect finale to the weekend.

With the free trains and shuttles to and from the festival, it’s a great one to stop off at if you’re travelling in the area on the summer. The arena is relatively small, smaller than Hurricane, which has the same line-up. The timings mean you can move between acts as the alternate between the two biggest stages, so you can easily fill your timetable to see a huge number of bands as long as you’re happy to occasionally miss the first and last songs. As the day goes on the overlaps get a little bigger but unless you’re a diehard fan you can enjoy the vibes of each performance and then move on. By moving while acts are still playing you also avoid the large traffic of everyone leaving a stage in one direction at once.

From previous experience of other festivals run by the same company, the amount of water stations has been higher in the past, so you didn’t have to walk far out of your way at any given point to fill up. Maybe this year the organisers were a little out of practise or didn’t expect the heat, but I’d say that was the weakest point this year.

Leaving on Monday morning, we had to be at the shuttle bus to the train station at 6 am to get our connections back to the UK, and there was already a queue of people waiting. I feel like that’s very German, at a UK festival people may have slowly started leaving in the late morning. The shuttles ran until very late/early in the night Sunday to Monday, so most traveling plans would have been accommodated.

Overall, it was wonderful to be back at festivals given the past few years and Southside was a perfect one to start with. Big enough to offer a range of both German and international bands, small enough not to get overwhelmed with what’s on offer. Perfect, if not a little too hot, weather. Great vibes, good food. A good, fun time.

Charlotte de Witte celebrates her new “Universal Consciousness” EP with exciting ‘New Form’ V: live stream 

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Charlotte de Witte takes charge of her KNTXT label’s 15th release with the new Universal Consciousness EP. It comes after Amazingblaze – Venture EP and features four more powerful and psychedelic techno cuts.
A day before release on Wednesday 27th of April at 19:00 CEST and in collaboration with Beatport, Charlotte heads up ’New Form’ V: Universal Consciousness stream. It was recorded in the empty Flanders Expo venue with the epic production that was set up for the hugely successful event on 16th April.

Charlotte is fresh off the back of her biggest ever KNTXT party in mid April. It took place in her hometown of Ghent and saw her play a historic 10 hour set to a vast crowd of people who were taken on a real sonic journey. Also in April, Charlotte returned to London’s iconic Printworks for the first time in five years, this time with her KNTXT concept and once again raised the roof. While staying busy on the road, she continues to curate the Apple Music x KNTXT page while cooking up ever fresh sounds in the studio. This latest EP is another subtle evolution in her signature style.

Says Charlotte of the EP, “following up on my latest Asura EP in September, I decided to delve a bit deeper in the world of psychedelia. All the tracks of the EP are psy inspired, some more than others. I’ve been playing these tracks for a while now in the clubs. It’s been a real
pleasure to see the crowd’s reaction and see the amount of track ID requests online. This one is from me to you, I hope you enjoy my Universal Consciousness EP!”

Opener ‘Satori’ is dark and heavy. The chunky, raw drums hit hard and flat, as the squelchy acid synths pan about the mix. An enchanting middle eastern vocal wail brings an extra trance-inducing element that is sure to lock in the hearts and minds of the crowd.

The super ‘Kali’ is a slick and high speed piece that shows the love relation between psy trance and techno. The video game style synths peel off the groove next to alien sound effects, and the subtly evolving acid line burrows deep into your brain.

Then comes the dynamic, bouncy and acid laced-title cut ‘Universal Consciousness’. It’s a fulsome tune with rubbery kicks and visceral 303 loops that will melt the mind, as dancers fall under its hypnotic and tripped out spell.

Last of all is ‘Ahimsa’ with its bright, lashing acid synths and hammering kick drums. It’s the perfect mix of physical groove and psyched-out synth work, and is perfect for both sweaty basements and vast main rooms alike. When the mystical flutes come in, it takes things to another level entirely.

This is another all consuming EP of innovative techno from Charlotte de Witte.

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

Electronic Sound Summit 2020 announces first wave of acts

The Electronic Sound Summit was founded in 2018 by the Liverpool Audio Network (LAN), a values-driven organisation devoted to the growth and development of the electronic music scene in Liverpool and beyond. With this event, we will host a range of sessions in venues across the city centre with the aim of keeping education, inspiration, and connectivity at the heart of what we do.
ESS 2020 will be the culmination of our work so far and a celebration of the city’s electronic music community. We are committed to our aim of making Liverpool a world capital of Dance Music by empowering the many talented emerging artists who call the city home. This summit will be an important opportunity for new and upcoming artists to learn from and build relationships with established members of Liverpool’s already thriving scene.
In keeping with our guiding principles of artist enrichment and positive social impact, we have worked to develop sessions focused on sustainability meeting the demands of the modern music industry.
The Electronic Sound Summit is the North West’s foremost celebration of the Electronic Music Industry, with a goal of introducing emerging creatives to the global Dance Music community through artist development focused on education, access, and opportunity. We aim to become a permanent fixture on the calendar for Dance Music professionals worldwide.
Dates: 28/02, 29/02, 01/03/2020 
 
Electronic Sound Summit Links
Liverpool Audio Network Links Website: www.Liverpoolaudio.net 

Wilkestock Festival In Photos

Our photographer Kane Howie popped down to Wilkestock just outside of Stevenage and took some photos. The weekend was headlined by We Are Scientists, Slaves and The Dutty Moonshine Band. The three day event had a variety of different genres of music for everyones taste. There were bands, solo artists, DJ sets and more. The main stage had recycled sofas for people to chill out on. In the food court there were burgers, hot dogs, curly fries, pizza, Malaysian curry, toasties, ice creams, waffles and pancakes. A huge thanks to everyone who was involved in making the festival great. Roll on next year!!

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

 

Wilkestock Festival 2018

Wilkestock is one of the best annual events in the small festival scene. Returning for it’s 11th year, the festival provided possibly the best line up that it has ever had.  For those who aren’t aware, Wilkestock is situated at Frogmore Hill just on the outskirts of Stevenage in Hertfordshire.  The tiny  festival consists of a main arena scattered with recycled sofas, two bars, and also several other stages around the outline of the main arena, all constructed from straw bales. No bricks and mortar needed! Wilkestock even introduced a brand new addition for 2018, the “Home Grown” stage.

This years’ event basked in glorious British sunshine for the whole weekend which was perfect to lie back, relax and enjoy a cold brew to watch the huge array of bands on the multiple stages. On arrival to the site and after picking up my press passes for the weekend, security had ensured to do a full bag search to ensure everyone’s safety.  Wilkestock, unfortunately have had security problems in the past, although for this year’s fun filled weekend, they appeared to have stepped up their game.

Of course aside from the stage points, the festival also provided appropriate bathroom facitlies, a camping area- with a fancy shower block making it’s debut this year, a childrens area including crazy golf and inflatables to play on, also stalls including sales of traditional festival attire and accessories and also a glitter tent where everyone could treat themselves to a sparkly makeover (this small tent was run by some very jolly people and artists). Surprisingly this small sparkle filled tent often filled with men. It was great to see them walking around with crystals on their faces and glitter filled beards. One thing that stood out for the glitter stall was that all the glitter that was used was biodegradable and is made from plant sources.  Very eco friendly. And I can’t leave out the food court! Oh my goodness, there were some simple, yet amazing food on offer at this festival.  I sampled many, many seasoned sweet potato fries, a pizza (which in my opinion was a little over priced at £8 for a simple cheese and tomato stone baked pizza so there isn’t much to them, although still tasty), and also noodles. The Chinese/oriental cuisine vender served some delicious meals and even though I opted for the simplest most plain option on the menu – I think it was even called plain and simple noodles (which was also a vegan option), but it was big in flavour! So Wilkestock provides ticket holders with three days of great live music variety.  The whole weekend just kept giving, with brilliant performances from all.  Although I have chosen to highlight my top acts for each day of the event.

Friday 31st August 

Day one of Wilkestock 2018 was opened by grunge/rock band Tigress.  The five piece from Chelmsford took to the Main Stage to perform their edgy tracks including, “Paranoid”, “Hangman” and more. Unfortunately during their set, they were faced with a few techicnal difficulties so there were occasionally left in silent pauses while not much happened on stage to fill the silence.  Although the band did make light of the teething problems and were able to continue with their set fully, with no further hiccups.

Continuing with a heavier style of rock music, Defences put on an unusual performance. I can kind of liken their music to a combination of Evanescence meets Linkin Park perhaps.  Roaring male vocals and softer female vocals to assist.  The band released their debut album last year and appear to be doing well in the music scene.

Later in the afternoon the Bella stage opened and also had a great variety of artists. One I particularly enjoyed was Bedfordshire based all male pop/punk band Behind The Lines. Not only did they perform some awesome tracks, they also packed out the tent for the duration of their entire set!  If you like music from acts such as Bowling For Soup, Sum 41 or maybe even Blink 182, then this band will probably be one for you to check out.

Later in the day, I also got to see a great set performed by Radio 1 favourite, Fizzy Blood. A rock/alternative band who are currently making their way up into the music world. They also actually sound far better live than recorded in my opinion.  So if you get the chance to see them live, then I reccomend you buy a ticket.

The most stand out act for me on friday was Glasgow based rockers The Lafontaines.  Taking to the Main Stage, their set included mostly upbeat feel good catchy music, which got many people up off of their rather comfortable sofas.  At one point the band’s front man even leapt down from the stage to take a walk around the main arena.  He also decided to literally couch surf before leaping off of one of the recycled furniture pieces. Thanks to our photographer, there is an epic jump shot of this exact moment.  We managed to catch up with band after their set backstage and their singer was rather impressed with this photo that we had managed to capture.

Friday evening also saw another big techincal problem. Unfortunately the festival was left in darkness and almost silent as the main generator had failed (rumour had it).  This had affected almost the entire site, including the food vendors appliances. In total this issue lasted for around half an hour, although during this time the Bella Stage at the back of the site was still able to generate power. So even though the poor Main Stage was hung out to dry, the feel good party vibes continued in the Bella Stage.  Despite the rather large technical hitch, people really weren’t too bothered.  Everyone was still in high spirits and were happy to chug down their drinks from their refillable plastic cups.

Thankfully with the efforts of the organisers, volunteers and production teams, the generator was back up and running.  The site was once again lit up with light and a buzzing electric energy. Everyone was more than ready to welcome the evening’s headline act, Mallory Knox.

The Cambridge based alternative rock band were anticipated by many.  I for one, was very much looking forward to seeing them perform live.  They have had a lot of airplay over the years, particularly from the very popular BBC Radio 1.  As expected, they put on a brilliant show for us all to see, although there wasn’t too much movement on stage from the band, there was an array impressive laser light shows accompanied by smoke machines and performances of all of their well known hits including, “Black Holes”, “Ghost In The Mirror” and personal favourite of mine “Shout At The Moon”. 

Saturday 1st September

Although a little tired from Friday night’s frivolities, myself and our photographer headed back for day two of Wilkestock!  Saturday was opened by this year’s local Battle Of The Bands winners Slap.

Slap were shortly followed by the band Fiende Fatale.  Their set was just a tad eccentric and I won’t lie, the singer’s appearance was somewhat different to say the least.  With smeared bright red lipstick (putting The Joker to shame) and a vest covered in hot dogs, the vocalist dominated the space he had with his on stage antics and interesting lyrics in the band’s music including a song titled “Vegan Cocaine”. An unusual act, but it totally works, they seemed to be quite popular there that day.

Another act worth mentioning is Wilkestock veterans The Scruff.  The band have been very well recieved in previous years while performing at the festival.  The band’s lead singer Adam, opened their set with probably the most amusing statement of the weekend “I’ve had a stella for breakfast and a hash in the van on the way here, but who cares? The sun’s out!”. The Scruff have returned to the festival fresh from playing at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival. During their set we heard songs including the band’s current single “White Flag” and the very emotional “Her”.  They ended their set with a brilliant instrumental piece before exiting the stage.

There is one act that cannot be forgotten wherever they go.  They always leave their mark. The act I’m talking about is the very bonkers Strange Bones.  There is no other place to be for this band except on the main stage.  The band, from Blackpool, brought in some impressive crowds to surround the main stage as they performed.  Before this band had even entered the arena to perform, our photographer had said to me “The singer is known for jumping into the crowds”.  Low and behold, he was spot on!  The singer leapt from the stage numerous times, not only to perform and just be part of the crowds of people but also to just lie back and crowd surf too.  As their segment went on they were still pulling in new onlookers to join the masses in the main arena.  There is only one way to describe a live music set from Strange Bones, and that is loud, lary, madness!

All female rock band PINS brought a different vibe to the day. It was a performance to showcase girl power. I heard many people infront of me using that phrase over and over again. With two band members looking like love children of Sia and Lady Gaga, they certainly brought something different with their style of music, including heavy guitar riffs. Halfway through their set the bands drummer gave us an impressive intrumental solo. The main vocalist had great onstage presence and was often seen standing up on the drumkit platform to perform.

After a fantastic performance just two short years ago, the festival welcome back Eliza And The Bear. They have just finished a tour to promote their newest album “Group Therapy” which is due for realease in October this year. As anticipated just as they did two years ago they proved to be a very popluar act within the Wilkestock community. As far as the eye could see people could be seen up on their feet dancing, even on platforms and props scattered around the grounds. We got to hear performances of their singles “Lions Heart”, “It Gets Cold”, the almighty anthem that is “Friends” and not forgetting an awesome cover of Earth Wind and Fire’s well known hit “September”.

Saturday evening was brought to a close after a performance from headline act The Fratellis.

Sunday 2nd September

Althought their was a variety of performances on the Sunday the atmostphere was far quieter and much more relaxed. Performances included sets from Minnie Birch, Didi, Zoe Phillips, Crystal Tides and more. The final act on main stage came from Oh My God! It,s the Church! What a way to end an awesome weekend!

Throughout the entire weekend inbetween each act there were also DJ sets from DJ Adam O and Matt Crawley which encouraged giant, not necessarily pitch perfect sing-a-longs.

Wilkestock Festival is an event that you will unlikely be dissapointed by, with affordable ticket prices and alot to offer as there is something there for everyone, no matter what your taste in music may be.

Don’t forget to check out the Wilkestock site for more information and next years tickets here!

For more photos by Kane Howie check out our flickr page here!

 

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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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.

Bedford Park Concerts 2018!

The first weekend of August 2018 saw the return of the brilliant Bedford Park Concerts. I had an absolute blast last year, so I was excited to attend
again. For those of you who are not already award, this is a three day event that begins on the Friday evening and comes to a close on the Sunday. The
organisers have never failed to provide a fantastic line up. Previously they have given us performances from Jason Donavon, Tom Jones, UB40, Dizzee
Rascal, Kaiser Chiefs and more. Once more for 2018, ticketholders were able to make memories with friends and family whilst watching yet another
handful of brilliant acts.

Upon entering the site at Bedford Park, I could see a wide variety of food vendors, ranging from fish and chips and pizza to vegan street food and
sweets. Also there was an abundance of bathroom facilities and access to a couple of different bars serving everyones favourite beverages. Also importantly, the teams from the brilliant St Johns Ambulance were placed in their own gazebo at the back of the park and also stationed on patrol at various locations around the site. As previous
years the event was sponsored by BMW Barons Bedford, so there was also an array of automotive beauties on display and test drive booking options.

Friday

Friday 3rd August i had the weekend kicking off to a great start. The entier evening was filled with chilled reggae and soulful vibes. At times I even
felt like I was being transported to a beautiful  beach covered in white sand with crystal clear waters in my mind. It was one of the most chilled out gigs I have ever been to.
Which was really quite nice and very enjoyable. During this relaxed segment of the evening we got to see performances from British Reggae band ASWAD,
who are best known for their infectious hit singles ‘Don’t Turn Around’ and ‘Shine’. To which were the final two songs of their set.

Also Friday evening brought us a brilliant segment from The Christians, the band had celebrated the achievement of 30 years together just last year. The band from
Liverpool have also seen huge success in their debut album which sold over a million copies. Their set included  their first single ‘Forgotten Town’
which turned out to be quite apt as they had to ask the audience exactly where they were performing which was quite amusing.  We also got to see them
perform their cover of ‘Here Comes The Sun’ which was originally performed by The Beatles after the song was written by George Harrison.

The next act certainly took it up a notch as she ramped up the energy while she dominated the stage.That lady was the sensational Jaki Graham. She
stood out in her eyecatching fringed attire while wowing us with her vocals. It was clear to see she could not wait for her turn to be on the stage.
Graham appeared to be so genuinely happy to perform, she even stated “I came out feeling like Jaki no mates,but here you all are, I love you” which was
followed by plenty of air kisses to the crowds of people before her. From Jaki, we heard hits including ‘Could It Be Im Falling In Love?’,  ‘Ain’t
Nobody’
  and even new music including the title track of her new album, ‘When A Woman Loves‘.

Of course, this night belonged to one man, the legend that is Mr Billy Ocean. The Trinidadian-English recording artist is  well known for his catchy
R&B pop hits, predomintally in the 1970s and 1980s. I was born in the late 1980s but even I can appreciate his amazing talent and infamous hits.
People of all ages were so excited to see this man perform live.  Billy’s set was clean cut while he showcased his smooth moves as he dazzled in a
brilliant white suit.  Billy Ocean may not be as young as he once was, but this performance proved that age certainly is just a number.  His
performance was one of nostalgia and high emotion as he serenaded us with singles including ‘Caribbean Queen’, ‘When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough
Gets Going’, ‘Suddenly’ 
and the huge ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’.

Saturday

On Saturday 4th August, we got to see a very different line up compared to the previous evening.  The evening was filled with pop and dance tunes.  We
saw performances from up and coming solo act Hannah Jane Lewis, DJ sets in between main acts, male solo artist Sam Willis, who was sat for most of his
set behind a keyboard playing beautiful music and gracing us with vocals that could closely be likened to international pop star Bruno Mars.  So if
you’re looking for musical “Treasure” be sure to check out Sam’s music.  Also there was a very lively set from the band that gave birth to Harry Styles’
music career.  White Eskimo.  The quartet rock-pop band were all smartly dressed in fitted black suits and slim ties around their necks as they gave us
quite the show.  They certainly knew how to work their magic on the audience, especially impressionable girls within their teenage years.  Although,
some did try to cause a stir by chanting “Harry!, Harry!, Harry!”, the lads remained focused and professional as they were seen laughing off the little
stunt and carried on with a brilliant display of musical genuis.  The down to earth band members clearly loved to play up to the cameras and also took
time out after their set for a meet and greet with their fans at the VW Campervan style photobooth on site.

What impressed me most about these performances weren’t actually anything to do with the acts at all. I can’t continue with this review without mentioning some of the best talent that I saw all weekend.  Just to the leftof the stage as the acts were live, also live were some people communicating in British Sign Language.  These talented people were performing songs along with the acts on stage. What a phenominal idea! I’ve been to a lot of gigs and festivals since becoming a writer for such events and never once had I seen this at any other event before.  Bedford Park Concerts are one of the small handful of events that actually include this thoughtful feature to their line up.

Shortly after 8pm, hundreds of people were seen moving as close to the front of the stage as they could possibly get, as something exciting was about
to take place in the park.  All over the site I could hear chanting demanding “We want Jess!, We Want Jess!” Everyone was stood waiting in ancitipation
for female solo artist Jess Glynne. The music scene first intriduced us to the female soloist back in 2014 upon the UK release of Clean Bandit’s
mammoth single ‘Rather Be’.  Jess‘ vocals shone on the track.

Although a little later than expected, Jess walked out onto the stage, gave everyone a quick “hello” and got straight down to business to perform the
first song of her set, ‘Ain’t Got Far To Go’. The chart topper also included her well known string of hits such as ‘Right Here’, ‘Don’t Be So Hard On
Yourself’ 
and ‘Hold My Hand’ before then slowing things down to what I can only state was a very emotional segment of her time on stage at Bedford
Park
.  Glynne stood quietly at the front of the stage to introduce her next song of the evening and then dedicated it to a young girl and her mother.
She continued to say “before I came on stage tonight, I got to meet a very special young girl, she’s so special and deserves some love”.  The singer
then continued to sing her balled ‘Home’.  Many sang along as they swayed their hands gently through the air.  It was rather difficult to hold back the
tears during this stage to be honest.  It wasa beautiful and heartfelt few moments.  Jess Glynne is well known for her upbeat pop
tracks, so the pace was picked up once again, getting everyone into the party mood they came to experience.  This performance brought so much to the
weekend’s event. Fun, emotion and pure pop brilliance!

To close saturday night, the organisers of the concerts had the perfect plan.  To end the night on a huge party! Woo Hoo! Bring on Felix Buxton and
Simon Ratcliffe, aka Basement Jaxx! The duo hit the stage and took their place behind a huge DJ deck as they pumped out some ravetastic tunes.  As they
played remixed of their own hits including the mighty ‘Red Alert‘, crowds of people were jumping around like hyper school children without a care in
the world.  All under a fantastic laser light show.  What a way to end the night!

Sunday 

As with previous years, the final day of frivolities at Bedford Park brought the most pompous yet patriotic day of my festival season calendar. The
Bedford Park Proms. Proms day has always been known to feature performances showcasing a variety of renditions of songs from musicals and film
soundtracks.  Before attending the event that day, I had said to my partner (to quote myself) “I guaruntee that we will hear music probably the biggest
film sountrack of the last year, The Greatest Showman”.  Yes,I was pleasantly 100% right! It’s a soundtrack that I personally love to listen to very
regularly, so I was excited to witness the children of the Pilgrims School Choir sing ‘A Million Dreams’ followed by the Bedford Girls School Choir
singing their version of  ‘The Greatest Show’ – which had a brilliant foot tapping routine to go with it.  Parents, teachers and pupils from both school choirs should
feel incredibly proud of their efforts during their performances.

What was fresh to see was a a brilliant set from the very talented Joe Bygraves.  It was like watching a protege of Ed Sheeran’s standing on stage with
an acoustic guitar and soft vocals.  He and his music were definitely a bighighlight of the day in my opinion.  Not only did he perform his own
versions of songs including Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ and Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, he also had a great range of original songs to offer too, including ‘Childhood Sweetheart‘ and another, which was inspired by the fiesty fictitious character Daenarys Targaryen from the popular TV series Game Of Thrones.  Joe’s music can currently be found on both Spotify and itunes.  I highly recommend you check him out – especially if you’re a big fan of a certain red headed guitar playing male
solo artist.

The official start to the Proms begins now! The Bedford Town Band kicked things off with a pretty impressive feature.  All of their music was taken
from the 1996 film ‘Brassed Off’ which starred Ewan McGregor.

Of course, the Bedford Park Proms wouldn’t be the same without the return of the mesmerising talents that make up the London Gala Orchestra.  I’m no
classical music buff, but I didn’t need to be to appreciate just how magical their symphonies can be. They even had me singing rather loudly “Just One
Cornetto!”
(Some of you will know what I am referring to there) haha. During some performances the orchestra were also joined by other guests including
the Bedford Choral Society and of course the evening’s operatic soloists. Tenor Jeff Stewart and the nation’s musical sweetheart Lesley Garrett.  Both
were intruguing and enchanting to watch as they performed both alone and together.  The pair even at one point sang a beautiful duet while drinking a
glass of tipple and dancing as if they were ready for the wow at the ballroom.

 

Lastly in true proms style to end the evening and the weekend long event, the site was filled with sea of red, white and blue flags and costumes during
a very british and patriotic segment before the big finale! A very spectacular firework display that filled the air with colour and sparkle and
contentment in our hearts.

There is no doubt about it that the organisers of this annual event deserve a huge round of applause and a pat on the back for yet another job well
done and a successful 2018 weekend event.  I loved every minute of last year, I had so much fun this year, and preparations for next year’s weekend are
already underway.  I only hope I will be lucky enough to attend as a reviewer for a third time in 2019.

For more photos click below

Friday    Saturday   Sunday

All photos by  Kane Howie www.kanehowiephotography.co.uk