72 Sleepless Hours At Berlin Festival

Written By Donna Arendse on 06/10/2015

Over the weekend of the 29th – 31st May, the interns' export to Berlin, Germany covered Berlin festival – a good way to jump in and learn about the music and art scenes of which Berlin is so famous for. The festival went from Friday afternoon Sunday, and didn’t finish 'til 6am every day. 


Berlin Export: Donna Arendse


Friday started out with the ‘band’-centric stage “White Trash”. I just missed Banfi, but stayed for the The Griswolds who played on the same stage. Unfortunately the crowd was not vibing at all, which took away from their performance.



It was then onto the main Arena stage, where London based producer Tourist proved to be a firm favourite with a large audience despite a relatively early slot on the main stage (10pm is dinner time in this city, man). His set was flawless but one couldn’t help wishing he had gotten a singer up to do a feature (Lianne La Havas played a show the night before in Berlin – she definitely could have appeared to sing Patterns, at least!).



One of the more enjoyable DJs was 23-year-old Berlin native Bluestaeb. Playing on the smaller Glashaus stage, his ability to keep the crowd interested throughout his two hour set was impressive for a DJ set.



Another lovely surprise was Belgium’s BRNS, with a great live set which surpassed their studio recordings. The crowd loved it (with the guy in front of me loving it so much he kept offering random strangers a drag of his joint). BRNS definitely commanded the stage much better than The Griswolds did on that same stage just a couple of hours before. 


I Am Nobodi

Soulections’ I Am Nobodi brought a good selection of hip-hop and RnB to the table at Glashaus, which was also decorated with some particularly arresting art pieces.



There was also lots of prettiness, with this walkway connecting the 2 different sections of the festival, complete with speakers emitting birdsong. 




Saturday’s lineup was excellent, with there being absolutely no reason to move away from the main stage. AT ALL.

After missing Panama’s 6pm set (there was some good food around!), Sylvan Esso was next to take the stage. Coffee was the only song we knew but it was appropriately met with cheers and whistles from the crowds. The whole set, however, impressed. Amelia Meath mesmerised with her confident vocals and interpretative dance moves as the duo performed their relatively small but potent tracklist.  With a debut album released only a year ago, the duo definitely commanded a sizeable audience, keeping them dancing throughout the set. A highlight was a live acapella loop that graced the latter part of the set. 


Sylvan Esso

Howling. Honestly. Wow. Their majestically dark and moody set, coupled with throbbing bass and drums, evoked a feeling of being totally uninhibited. The live set was a perfect, all-encompassing auditory and visual experience - RY X’s superb voice and heartfelt lyrics were so excellent, we could well have been listening to a studio recording rather than a live show. A gloomy and smokey light show complemented the dark atmospheric music.



They even topped it all off with a ridiculously good, and intrinsically Howling-like cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was the cherry on the cake in a set that would have to go down as one of the best from the weekend. Of course, a mention needs to be made about Signs which was an excellently executed, slow burner of melodic madness that lasted a good 5 or 6 minutes. Dem feels man. Here’s a video of their entire show.

Later on, on that same stage, Frank Wiedemann from the band also performed as part of his other project Âme

Before Chet Faker, there was an acrobatic trapeze routine at 3 points in the middle of the audience.

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People stayed the entire break with many-a “there comes my boyfriend” when ol’ mate Chetty eventually took the stage. As someone who has never seen Chet Faker live, I was wildly impressed by his live set – a mix of DJ-ing, live instrumentation and um, dancing (10/10 for the swaggy hip-hop dance moves!).


Chet Faker

Faker effortlessly moved from the slower, more introspective tracks to club anthem versions of his own songs. His No Diggity cover was obviously well received (cue sing alongs), and indeed, every song he sang was met with delighted applause. A personal favourite was I’m Into You (you never forget why you first fell in love with an artist), which he did a more hyped up version of. Overall, Chet Faker delivered a certified banger of a set.


James Blake

Opening his set with a beautiful version of I Never Learnt To Share, James Blake dazzled for the entire set. Although it was downtempo, Blake held the crowd with heavily emotional lyrics and dense, considered instrumentation. With a repertoire spanning years and years, he had no trouble pumping out one favourite after another.


London-based, Portuguese mystery man Purple’s dark, slow brand of electronic music set the tone for Sunday’s Glashaus . His arresting voice came as somewhat of a shock, and despite that fact that the music wasn’t “dance-able”, it was enjoyable. 



Tei Shi was lovely at the Glashaus stage, with the US based songstress well suited to the chilled out Sunday vibe. Her vocal range was as impressive live as in her recordings, with breathy vocals over poppy RnB beats. 


Tei Shei

Kelela’s set was equally as great, with the lady effortlessly commanding the stage. After her set, everyone streamed in for Shlohmo, so much so that the venue doors were shut as it had reached capacity. This marked the end of my music experience, as the festival encountered minor disruptions due to a “small fire”. 



Aside from the music there was plenty more to enjoy at the festival. There was a Beach Party at Badeschiff - a public pool area with beach sand, a bar, DJs and deck chairs, overlooking a massive lake and boasting a view of the city and skyline. It wasn’t a far leap to imagine you were at a beach party in LA.




There was also Art Village with various artistic acts, such as graffiti and other performance and visual artists. There were also markets, a busker diaries stage and the Berlin ‘A’ Screen film festival which was inclusive of a porn and fetish film festival.

There were lots of “lost in translation” and “why is this art” moments too, but that is the draw of Berlin as a city. 

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Another “lost in translation” moment...


Throughout the festival I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Australia. The police presence was not half as heavy as an Australian festival and the festival boasted a refreshingly wide variety of entertainment, for all age groups and tastes. There was a distinct sense of casual-ness about this festival. There were only a handful of try-hard, bindi wearing festival wannabees with most people just there to have fun.

There was not one shirtless, roided-up dude spotted and not a single fight witnessed with good vibes permeating the festival. The festival was there for people to enjoy themselves. There were full strength drinks, shots allowed, multiple restaurants as well as food stalls, a tattoo parlour on site, and world-class DJs on every night until the festival closed at 6am. I think I’ll stay here for a while...