1804 words on Haldern
Finally it happened – after a phantastic event last year, high levels of anticipation from myself and my friends and a fair bit of last minute weather fear, the Haldern Pop festival finally took place this weekend.
The bands we actually ended up seeing were on Friday:
And on Saturday
We left on Friday morning with three people and luggage and food for six in a little old Polo and made it to Haldern in time to have our tents put up before the music started. We also managed to put our tents up right with Richard and his friends again. In addition, we met our former flatmate Philipp who came along spontaneously and managed to buy some spare tickets (for the sold out festival off other people) and we got to know our neighbours who despite having quite a large area left, asked us to park the car a few metres further away as they were going to put up a huge tent. Nice people and a very useful tent as we should learn soon as all this happened before the rain started.
After sorting all this out, I went to pick up Dan, who had come over from England for the occasion, from the railway station. Just as the train was supposed to arrive, two things happened. The better one of them was that there was an announcement that the train was cancelled (a fact that Dan had also tried to communicate to me via a text message… which leads me to think that those ‘modern’ mobile phones don’t even have clocks that adjust themselves automagically nor that they deal with different time zones automatically or otherwise gracefully). The next train was only coming an hour later, so I had time to kill. And with the second thing happening being that it started raining, I went for a coffee – hoping not to get soaked before things even started.
While having that coffee and – without success – shopping for a newspaper to kill time in the supermarket next door, I met some more people who came for the festival and did some last minute shopping. Finally Dan arrived and we walked to the festival area without getting too wet. After a quick welcome with everybodyand putting on rain clothes and hearing that apparently Sportfreunde Stiller had just played as surprise gig in the afternoon – which was strange as I’d considered them too low-browly popular for Haldern, but a nice idea anyway, we went to exchange our tickets for those wristbands you need to get in, meeting a long queue. That gave us time to get used to standing in the rain – a ‘feature’ of the festival that didn’t stop but which – amazingly – didn’t put people off too much.
Unfortunately, the queueing took so long that we missed most of the Art Brut gig. While we could hear and recognise some of their songs from the outside as well, I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t see more of their gig as I had quite looked forward to that. We got to see them for the last two or three songs. But as these things go, when navigating a group of more than two people, needing to find your way around and needing to get used to the fact that is mud as well as losing any hope that your shoes or trousers will remain in a reasonable state, we only saw them from far away. And they seemed all right.
With the rain still falling and people’s mood still remaining good, The Robocop Kraus came on. While their music is a bit too eighties for my taste, they are cool to see and play well – as we had experienced just down the road in winter. So this one was a winner, the only unfortunate thing being that some of our group had to leave to pick more people up from the train station.
Next on were the Kaiser Chiefs. I think I first heard one of their songs on the music channel on the plane back from Cape Town in spring. And I was quite amused because their name sounds just like that of a famous South African football club. Their music seemed reasonably rocky and possibly to poppy to me. Particularly the latter aspect of that impression got stronger when I listened to their album later on. Their playing was all right and I heard several people say that their gig was the best of the whole festival.
But I think those people are wrong. ‘All right’ isn’t ‘great’ in my book. Their music remains too poppy for my taste and their whole show looked more like a show-off. A gig is a gig. And its stage is not a theatre stage. People don’t need to dress up to play some instruments. At least not in this genre of music. But they’re popular in the UK – and without doubt will be run through the music press here now or in the near future. I didn’t follow them close enough whether this is by good luck or by design but it’s certainly enough to make them look unnaturally dressed up and their website’s most important aspect being the selling of ringtones.
After this, we needed a small break. Meet the latest arrivals in our group. Start some serious drinking – if only to make the rain more tolerable. And not see Nada Surf, whom nobody was too keen on. I’ll use this period of idling to sneak in the remark that despite not being too impressed by the Kaiser Chiefs, I was tempted to get their Everything is brilliant in Leeds T-Shirt. Just because I thought it was funny. But they were out of the right size, so I just didn’t get it… and at the festival itself the good old waterproof look remained en vogue anyway.
And while at the topic of fashion, note, that of the three bands I’ve listed so far, Art Brut were mildly fashionable, with the singer wearing a tie and the bassist a dress – in a non-formal way. The Robocop Kraus were wearing very orderly black/grey shirt/tie uniforms. And the Kaiser Chiefs looked like the ‘fashion with attitude’ they stick the kids in just after leaving casting shows. So that might have annoyed me as well. But also with many of the other bands, dressing up was a topic. Many of them did.
I guess that it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll see two bands in exactly the same order live as they appear in the artists list on your iPod. But it does happen… I’ve known Kaizers Orchestra for a while thanks to Dan and – ultimately – Lars, who was always keen to introduce people to Norwegian music. And I’ve found they’re a strange band. Very folksy, using an instruments like an accordion, a stand up bass, or various wooden and metal percussion ‘tools’ for playing. Thus they’re a rather surprising sight in the world of pop music. Even more so as they’re singing in Norwegian – causing my flatmate to say
gee, at first I thought I just don’t understand their English at all.
But strangely, all this works out rather well. Their playing is solid. And even better and energetic live. This was a very good gig. Excellent to watch. And featuring more people who came onto stage in suits.
Next up was one of the headline bands, Franz Ferdinand. I already liked their gig at the Hurricane festival last year and thought they are a great live band back then. This time, my impression was that they didn’t play quite as energetically. However, with there being much less – and much friendlier – people at Haldern than there are at Hurricane, this gig was more enjoyable. We could stand much closer to the stage without too much effort.
I think their second album must be coming soon and they did play loads of songs that aren’t on the first one. Nice. And that British band members show off their good German on stage isn’t exactly common either – but not really a surprise for Franz Ferdinand.
We saw a bit of Saybia, but it’s not really my thing. So we left early so we could see Zita Swoon who played at 1:45 in the marquee they had set up again this year. I really liked that tent last year as it gives a perfect environment with a more intimate atmosphere for late night gigs. But even last year, we didn’t manage to see the Dresden Dolls because of the tent’s limited capacity. There was a queue and we couldn’t make it in.
This is a tricky one. And somehow a fault of the tent being nice and small (my guess would be a few hundred people, less than 10% of the visitors) and the Haldern audience being quite open minded or at least willing to stay up late to see bands rather than being knocked out. While both of these are good things, together they make the tent a disappointment for all those who remain outside. To leave a short story short: we didn’t get in for Zita Swoon because of the queue. But at least it had stopped raining at that time, so the wait wasn’t all that bad. And it left us in a position to get into the tent for the night’s last gig.
I remain a bit indifferent towards British Sea Power. I liked their first album when I got it but found that it’s mostly been sitting on my shelf unused since. And their current record, Open Season almost made it among the records you don’t need. Music you can listen to but don’t have to.
But often seeing a band live can help you make up your mind. And I know I’ve been entertained well by British Sea Power. The expressions ‘borderline insane’ or ‘riot’ may be too harsh for them, but they definitely passed my mind while seeing them on stage. The guy with the helmet and a drum walking through the audience. The audience being bombarded with tulip bulbs by the band and good amounts of noise made this a gloriously worthwhile way to end the day.