It’s the Haldern Pop time of the year again - and off I was for a weekend to the far west of Germany doing one of the things I loathe most (camping - or ‘tenting’ as I am always tempted to literally translate the German word) and one of the things I enjoy most (good bands and meeting people who enjoy them).
For some reason the festival had an extra day this year and started on Thursday already. Not the most convenient thing - but what can you do? There was also a fair share of bad weather announced which made me pack the rubber boots along with all sorts of other junk to take on the camp site where we stayed in our traditional favourite spot and managed to put up the tent before any rain happened.
The rain would come later but - unlike in other years it was reasonably moderate in both its intensity and duration. Which - along with everybody being well equipped with boots and raincoats as well as the critical parts of the festival grounds having been covered with plastic tiles - meant that luckily the bad weather wasn’t all that critical and didn’t affect things too much.
Starting things off in the pretty Spiegelzelt were finn (who apparently stepped in for Noah and the Whale on short notice). We just saw the very end of their gig, so I can’t really say much. Afterwards Norman Palm played. Not too exciting, but doing well for a guy with his guitar.
We skipped a few lessons then and went back to the tent to get to know the neighbours as well as eat a little. As usual that dragged on a little but we made it in time to see the two remaining gigs on the main stage.
Foals reminded me of the Bravery in their sound. The same kind of poppy blandness and perhaps a bit less cheesy. All right to watch but not exactly my cup of tea.
To top off the first night, what may be considered the festival’s highlight happened. Certainly The Flaming Lips playing there would have been reason enough to visit in its own. Particularly for those of us who loved their music for ages and hadn’t seen one of their not particularly frequent gigs before. I was really looking forward to that.
Even before they started playing the band left an impression. They seemed to bring along their own staff for the equipment which did their work in bright orange street construction workers’ overalls and in addition to that the band members actually took part in setting up and checking the equipment brought up on stage. The band also seemed to be responsible for bringing along giant disco mirror balls to decorate the stage, a screen to put behind it and a bunch of people dressed as Teletubbies to decorate the sides of the stage in silliness.
The gig started with what seems to be the typical move of Wayne Coyne being in a huge transparent rubber ball and rolling on top of the audience a little as a warm-up. Additional confetti and balloons were added later (as well as over and over again throughout the gig) which made the whole thing look fantastic and photogenic.
However, my impression was that the sound wasn’t very good with the vocals being too quiet and a lot of the magic in the songs which is familiar from the albums not making it across to us from the stage. While that improved a little through their gig, I kept having the impression that the band never quite ‘connected’ with the audience. - Which in the end left us with a nice performance but not one restoring a sense of childlike wonder or being quite as life changing as people usually say Flaming Lips gigs are.
And that was that. The festival’s first day passed in what seemed no time at all.