The festival is quite special. Read the blurb on their website for the full story. Basically it's rather small (between 5000 and 10000 visitors is my guess) and less commercial than other festivals. There are a few sponsors but the commercial pitch seems a lot lower than elsewhere. Many things at the festival (like a little tunnel where water is sprinkled on you for cooling off or even a set of big ventilators to blow a little wind over the audience) look home-made. The whole effort seems to be driven mostly by the organisers' enthusiasm for music and has grown from very humble starts 20 years ago. They have a low-key motto each year. This year's being
The future is small.
The local community seems to be involved and many families seem to be attending as well. The atmosphere and the people are very relaxed – less rowdy than elsewhere – making this a very pleasant experience (except for the people staying next to us on the campground who brought their own generator – I accuse them of over-sophistication and noise). There were lots of people from neighbouring Holland and Belgium as well, owing to the location at the very west of Germany.
As the festival operates on a small scale, their lineup can't be as impressive as that of larger festivals. Lesser known or upcoming bands play there. Each band gets about an hour of time on the stage, which is a bit longer than usual, and many seem to enjoy the experience. The bands playing are a bit on the slow side. When I went there with Dan two years ago we saw Belle and Sebastian, The Notwist, for example.
While there was only one band playing at a time. They had a fancy tent as well this year where bands played late at night and in the morning. It was quite pretty with lots of velvet curtains, coloured stained glass windows and mirrors. Apparently these were used for dances early last century and were operated by travelling Belgians.
The weather was fine throughout the weekend. While it was overcast on Saturday morning, the sun burned all the clouds away and it was quite hot afterwards. So we did most of our Saturday daytime listening sitting in a shady spot. There was a thunderstorm forecast – either for Friday or for Saturday, depending on whom you trusted. It did happen (on Saturday in case you care) – but south of were we were; and according to the news it was quite heave, leaving some people flooded.
As most people I only knew a single dEUS song before, Suds and Soda which is quite cool, often played at discos and starts with a screeching violin. This shouldn't be the last violin we were to see at the festival. I didn't find their other songs too inspiring.
My general opinion about Starsailor isn't too favourable. My basic take on this starts back at the Beatles. Yeah, they were great, I suppose, but I'm more of a Rolling Stones person and not a very nice one at that. I am tempted to say something along the lines of
Oasis are the Beatles gone wrong, Travis are Oasis gone wrong, Coldplay are Travis gone wrong and Starsailor are Coldplay gone wrong.
After this has been sorted, I must admit that I was positively surprised. They played well, their songs are catchy and nice and they seemed to enjoy performing. I almost regretted my derogatory way of thinking about them.
Given my track record, it's clear that I had to see Adam Green. Although he's been touring around here a lot, I never made it to see him on his own, so this is the first time I saw him play since I saw The Moldy Peaches in early 2002.
It's generally known that Adam can't be accused of overwhelming showmanship. So expectations weren't too high for that – and we were there for the music anyway – or so. He did try to do a few silly dances and some microphone throwing. I am not sure he's really convinced of this himself, but I'll just appreciate the effort.
Most of the songs he played with his support band were from the Friends of Mine album (without the strings, though, those extra violins promised earlier will appear later). I would have loved to hear some more songs of the Garfield album, which remains my favourite. Its rough, ultra-lo-fi sound is quite cool. It's also more in the Moldy Peaches direction than Friends of Mine. Instead of the old songs he played quite a few songs which I completely didn't know – and thus suppose to be new. That was cool. I think bands should play more of their unreleased songs at gigs.
That said, I think Adam could have played for a bit longer. He was the last one to be on stage so there wasn't a problem schedule-wise. He did play an encore, starting to play his cover version of The Libertines' What a Waster, which I love... and then he blew it, apparently not knowing how to go on. That was disappointing, which he acknowledged right away.
The first band to play on Saturday were Gisli. They had a bit of a hard time getting there – getting up in the middle of the night and having their instruments lost by the airline. They still played, with borrowed instruments (I've been told it's important that bands can play their own instruments... thing were so much easier if they shared). Their music was friendly and not too exciting. I liked the last song they played but that doesn't seem to be published yet.
Patrick Wolf coming on stage looked a bit unlikely: A synthesizer, a violin (or viola perhaps), an iBook and a single person. He then entertained us on his for for 45 minutes. Some of the songs were quite cool, particularly at the beginning, I was getting a bit bored towards the end though.
+1 for bravery, more Patrick Wolf stuff around here,
These two bands stepped in for The Bees and The Zutons respectively. I wasn't too impressed by their performances.
Keane seem to be quite popular already in the UK. And they may be the next hype over here as well, having a video played on telly and all. Apparently they got signed for the festival when they were still affordable enough.
I'll still have to give this a little a little thought, but they may be the next step in the regression leading to Starsailor that I mentioned above. Their music is inoffensive and bit cheesy for my taste. Their keyboarder jumped around a lot considering that he was only pressing a few keys on a keyboard (I constantly fail to see why people do this, I'm more with Kraftwerk on that one). He had something suspiciously resembling a TiBook there as well – whatever it was for.
Someone passed the word
boygroup around in this context. And perhaps they are. Not in the classical 'synchronised dancing' sense but in a slightly more 'indie' sense of being a bunch of sleepy-looking young English blokes. Looking at the little girls while Keane were on stage suggested that the hypothesis isn't completely without merit.
Of course the label 'boygroup' isn't good for a band's credibility – perhaps we'll have to adjust a little bit here. Just because they make teenage girls scream doesn't mean a band needs to be bad (see The Libertines, for example). I'll have to try hard to keep that in mind.
They played fine but were playing it a bit too cool for my taste – playing their set and not interacting with the audience. That could've been better. They should've also played my favourite, Joe's Head.
Paul Weller has a lot of history going for him. And now he's singing, along with a guitar, a band and a grand piano on stage. This takes a long time to set up and is very elaborate. It's also a bit too sophisticated for my taste. I'm not too keen on all those ageing singer-songwriters (is that the right word? – I'm still not sure what it means...).
I also thought the grand piano sounded rather crappy (i.e. like an electric piano) through the sound system. Perhaps it wasn't up for that kind of job?
I got a free single of The Divine Comedy with a Sunday newspaper a few years back. I thought their music was OK, a bit too quiet perhaps. For the festival, they were the closing act. And a glamourous one at that.
The special fairy lights that we'd seen hanging at the side of the stage were unwrapped for the occasion and the stage was filled with the band and an orchestra of around twenty. They played pieces arranged for the orchestra which was quite cool, although I again thought that the sound system wasn't quite good enough for the job – things often sounded 'blurred' and it was hard to differentiate the instruments.
Their singer and mastermind, Neil Hannon, even came in a suit and charmingly entertained us. He seemed to enjoy performing with the orchestra, looking like this is something he wanted to do for a long time. He went out of sight to the side of the stage when they were playing a solo and gave due credit to them at the end. The orchestra was a local one and he pronounced them to be rock stars at the end of the performance. To our amusement they also played a cover version of the Queens of the Stone Age's No One Knows in this setup.
This won't be my new favourite band but it was a cool way to end the main stage lineup. At the time it was already 2:30 due to delays in setting up the stage for the last two bands. But it wasn't going to be the last band we saw. In the additional tent there were two more bands playing. We missed the Dresden Dolls because the tent only had limited capacity and we had to queue, but then made it inside in time to see
I bought Das Pop's album I ♥ (released on good old PIAS in 2002 and with silly "let's do 99 tracks" hidden tracks) a while ago. I mostly bought it because I heard of the band before, it was a special edition, it was on sale and because I didn't find anything else. It was a bit of a random buy to be honest. And one I didn't regret. I listened to the CD a lot at the time. Not only does it have quite a good and stylish booklet and design, it's also full of fresh poppy goodness and the occasional electronic sound. In fact, my memory was mostly of the electronic parts which is probably owed to the clicky and bleepy The Love Program. Thus, thanks to my poor memory, I was a little surprised to see a proper drumkit and the electronic toys in a subordinate role.
Despite the late time, the tent was quite full with almost 400 people and we got to see a very good show. The singer spoke to us in very good German, which was nice and even sung a German version of the song You. The performance he put on was solid, very energetic, sometimes at the verge of looking like a maniac. I'd say they rocked the tent and the audience joined them. It was a very cool show. The songs weren't bad either. I may have to get the new album. It's been out since last year – but not in Germany.
And that was the gratifying end to a relaxed weekend full of good music. We tried to get a few hours of sleep before leaving not too late on Sunday morning to get back home.
Unfortunately I didn't borrow my mum's digital camera and couldn't take any photos. Fortunately, Richard got a press ticket and was taking photos for a Dutch internet music magazine. He had a nice (and extremely heavy) analogue Nikon camera with good lenses. With the exception of the tent photo at the beginning, all the photos you see here were taken and scanned by him. He's got even more photos up on his photo page.
Other photos; reports in the media: Offical site press photos, photos by other visitors, WDR, WDR Rockpalast will broadcast footage in the night from the 4th to the 5th of September, FM4, stern; and in the blogging world: dis-connected, emptysound, dartogreen, highlights. Possibly more at Feedster.
More links popping up:
I haven’t found any photos of the Das Pop gig yet. Which is sad because I’d like to have some. Or perhaps even a recording… but chances for this seem to be pretty slim as it was very late at night.
Interested in what happened at Haldern Pop 2005?
Read it here.