I'm supposed to be getting on with stuff but I can't concentrate so I may as well write up my weekend at Sat 18 Jul – V. Amphi Festival 2009
We flew out on Thursday, got picked up at the airport by the wife's aunt and uncle. They're great, they have an amazing flat stacked wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with books and music. And they were good enough to put us up over the weekend. Thurs evening was lovely and chilled, we went grocery shopping (!) before coming home and having tons of cheese and wine. And then an earlyish night brought on by all the soporific food and drink...
Friday day was spent quietly pottering around Köln, checking out some of my old haunts and looking in random shops. Reen and I had a lovely long and boozy lunch at Päffgen, a brewery just outside the city centre. It's fantastic; the waiters are all surly middle-aged men who chainsmoke and drink kölsch while working. The food isn't particularly veggie friendly but is very fried. My fried eggs with fried potatoes was perfect, and the frequent glasses of ice-cold kölsch are exactly how beer should come. We toddled home after lunch to meet Reen's cousin's 4 1/2 year-old son who was also staying the weekend. He speaks Russian at home (as does all of Reen's family) but his ability with German was about on par with mine so we managed to converse in a limited way! Anyway after a while Reen and I snuck out for some more drinkin. But the bar we'd been looking forward to re-visiting - a tiny little jazz
bar that played skronk
y old vinyl, just about strange enough for me and plenty jazztastic enough for the wife - was closed, with the owners on holiday. So we ended up scouting the neighbourhood for something approaching tolerable and ended up in some classic-rock bar, which did the trick nicely.
On the way home Reen and I were mistaken (I think) for necrophiliac sex tourists
of some kind. Some guy sitting near us on the tram approached us as we got off and said "By ze vay, ze cemetery iz zat vay..." (the last stop on the tram line is near a cemetery, he wasn't making it up) We asked what he meant and he said that "our kind of people" or somesuch didn't come out that way late at night... I've been called some things in my time but that's certainly a new one!
Saturday was finally festival day! After a nice breakfast of Russian pancakes and Turkish coffee I headed off. I don't know what it is about me but sitting anywhere, minding my own business, somebody *always* tries to engage me in conversation. This time a completely normal middle-aged guy with three kids in tow chatted away about Throbbing Gristle
(i was wearing a TG shirt) and was surprised to hear they had just been touring again. He then gave me some bum directions to the festival site. I ended up having to ash a bunch of random goths in the U-Bahn, and it turned out that they were also following a bunch of people up ahead. This turned into a goth pied-piper kind of deal as we picked our way through the back streets of Deutz trying to spot what direction the other goths seemed to be going in. Anyway we finally made it to the site and it was time for some bands!
I spent most of the morning in the Rheinparkhalle, avoiding the dreadful gothness of the main stage. Jäger 90
were really good fun, old-school DAF
done properly by two fat drunken german
builders. They were followed by xotox
, who I'd never heard of before. They come on like a softer version of Winterkälte
, which was a pleasant surprise, as was the very cool smoke-ring-firing drum used during one of the tracks. Sadly having since listened to their tracks here on last.fm left me unimpressed; none of the energy and hardly any of the noise of the live show seemes to be present on their recorded stuff.
I went out to get some food and unluckily caught a bit of The Birthday Massacre
on the way past. They were the musical version of Hot Topic or Camden High St off-the-peg goth
... They sounded like everything I dislike in goth rock, and looked like everything I can't stand about goth clubs (as did 90% of the crowd, to be fair). They also seemed to be covering 'I Think We're Alone Now' by Tiffany
... Yeck. Also sucky was Scandy
who was on at the time indoors. Apparently he's in Combichrist
, who are also utter crap
. It was boring bleep
with no bite and no stompiness. And it was extra irritating because I was waiting for Absolute Body Control
to come on. They were bloody good, sounding a lot more like their older material than the new stuff they've put out since reforming. They played all the songs I would have wanted to hear, so I left a happy bunny to skip outside for my only main-stage band of the day Leæther Strip
. Claus was clearly enjoying himself onstage, stomping around and singing, occasionally twiddling with something on his laptop setup to one side of the stage or playing something on the keyboard out front. Particular highlights for me were 'Strap Me Down' and the excellent 'Japanese Bodies'.
Then came a lull in bands I wanted to see - Covenant
whom I've seen live before and usually find very dull, or Agonoise
whom I don't know but could guess what kind of thing they would be. In the end I went CD shopping, got some more beer and found a quiet corner to chill out for a bit. I passed by Agonoise playing a harsh elektro
cover version of The Beastie Boys
, which was enough to make me run for cover. All that elektro/harsh ebm stuff sounds the same to me, with the hard-trance
synth pads and the shouty over-processed vocals. Change your fecking keyboard presets!
Ooh, and then came Feindflug
who I was very excited about seeing, having been a fan for quite a few years now. They didn't disappoint in stage presence, theatrics or sound - indeed it was bloody ace. Uniforms, helmets, gas masks, drummers prowling the stage, the whole shebang. And then the ceiling fell in on them. Their bass
was apparently too loud and - well - einstürzende Rheinparkhalle! Luckily nobody was hurt, but their set was cut short by over 20 minutes while safety people checked the situation out. It was looking a bit like Laibach
might not have been able to play... Anyway they super-quickly built another stage in a building across the festival site and Laibach got to go on after all, only a couple of hours later than they were supposed to. I was pretty trollyed by this point but still managed to recognize one of my last.fm chums randomly passing me by and we passed the insanely long wait with incredibly tasteless jokes and canadian
-bashing. Sadly I have to say I was left feeling a bit let down by Laibach, although they sounded and looked as good as ever, I've now seen the exact same show 3 times... At least they did a stompy version of 'Brat Moj' in the second half of their set.
By now it was about 2.30am. My phone battery had died a death earlier in the day and I'd lost all track of time what with kölsch and ebm and kollaps and all, so when I got an angry phonecall from the mrs saying she was waiting up for me I had to scarper. Jumped in a taxi over the river and scurried home. Turned out that the plug adapter we'd brought had broken in the suitcase too so I couldn't even charge my phone.
Anyway we had a bit of a lie-in on Sunday morning and then went to another brewery in town for a nice stomach-lining lunch. Unfortunately we skipped Päffgen and went to the touristy Früh brauerei, right by the Dom. Actually you'd think that being more tourist-oriented, the waiters would know their shit, but apparently asking for fried eggs without bacon doesn't mean that your potatoes should also be bacon free! Bloody sausage-munchers. Anyway I got some ballast and a couple kölsches in and headed over to the festival.
I was a bit worried about the sunday lineup; there were only 2 or 3 bands listed all day I gave much of a crap about. Therefore I only turned up around 5pm hoping to catch Qntal
for a bit of electro-medieval
. As it happens they came onstage about 50 mins late (something about a traffic jam on the way from Berlin?) and turned out to be incredibly dull. I only really know the first album, which is half flouncy-ethereal and half nice beats and electronics. Their live show seemed to eschew electronics entirely, and only one of the songs they played in the 20 minutes or so I hung around had any kind of beat to it. flouncy
goth is not great festival music, so I headed out to see if Hocico
were any good. All I can say is... not a fan. Unheilig
came on next, and were kinda entertaining in a bouncy goth metal
kind of a way. Apparently in Germany they've got a huge huge following. They were ok but nothing I'd write home about.
Anyway I had to stick around through their set because I wanted to be down the front for Front 242
... I was incredibly excited to see them, probably the main reason I bought the ticket. Having just seen Throbbing Gristle - "the band that invented industrial music"™ the other month, it was now time for "the band that invented ebm"™! And they were completely brilliant. A good mix of tracks from their catalogue, nice bouncy 'welcome to paradise' and 'headhunter', plus personal faves 'in rhythmus bleiben' and 'quite unusual'. Sadly though, no 'U-Men' or 'Funkhadafi'... Anyway I was right down in the moshpit (an ebm moshpit!) for the whole set and left feeling battered and exhilarated.
Then more waiting... waiting through the dreadful goth-rock-by-numbers of The Gathering
, germany's answer to Depeche Mode
. Actually they weren't too bad, I vaguely remember a song or two of theirs, indeed I might have a 7" or two stashed away somewhere. But they couldn't beat 242, and I was still all jumped-up from bouncing around like a loon. I slunk off into the night to grab another taxi and to get loads of russian home-cooking back at base.
We couldn't resist it. Having packed and all that pretty quickly on monday morning we jumped on the tram into town for a couple last kölsches and more lovely fried goodness ad Päffgen. And then to the airport...