Reeperbahn Festival 2015

Carlo Wittek

Having friends around you is a great thing. There’s no one better to share joy, anger, happiness, sadness or any other feeling with than with people who like you, who you can talk to, complain about things or gossip with. Music and sports are great topics, ex lovers or future ones are great too, but sometimes it can just be a person in an awful colored jacket or with an awful hairstyle. Your friends will be there with you.

The problem with friends is that sometimes they live too far away or everyone is too busy with their jobs, projects and so on. Moments when you can spend ‚quality time’ with your friends are way too often rare. But for four or five days a year the whole music industry gathers in Hamburg for Reeperbahn Festival and literally everyone is there. You can say about the industry whatever you like – yes, it is superficial. Yes, there’s too many people who think too much of themselves. Yes, there’s shitloads of buddy business. Yes, it’s an elite inner circle and if you’re not part of it, you won’t really understand it. Yes, most people have an agenda. But I don’t give a fuck about all of that because I have plenty of people that I can call friends. And we had a blast during these days in Hamburg.

Beer with friends is what makes Reeperbahn Festival so special
Kid Wave at Molotow Garden, during PIAS/FKP Skorpio BBQ
Shot of the crowd during James Morrison’s performance at Große Freiheit 36, Hamburg
Golf playing at Molotow during Reeperbahn Festival 2015
Låpsley performing a stripped down set at N-Joy Reeperbus, Reeperbahn Festival, 2015

Reeperbahn Festival turned 10 this year. And since I’ve been there for the first time, it has gotten bigger with every new installment. There is so much stuff going on at the same time, that some decent planning is required prior to the event. Reeperbahn has managed to compile everything in an app that allows you to plan ahead. A great thing this year was, that it told you when a venue was too packed to get in. Thumbs up.
The days were packed with conferences (yes, there were around three or four conferences during the festival) while the nights were filled with way too many bands to see. If you weren’t at the conferences during the day, you went to one of the endless receptions (most invite only or with your delegates pass) from the Finnish music export bureau, the Swiss music bla bla, a booking agency or a label. Last year I made the mistake of setting up plenty of meetings during the mornings. This time round I ditched that idea and just went to the receptions and gigs. Reeperbahn let’s you bump into everyone anyway. Every venue is within walking distance and the sheer amount of people attending will have you meet everyone more than once throughout the festival.

Planning is all well and good, but as soon as the mayhem of the festival starts, you pretty much lose your plot. If you’re going as a music fan, it’s great. You can see well known artists, catch up on the next big thing, or stumble in a venue and discover some band you had never heard before. If you’re there for business, you’re swamped and I’m pretty sure almost everyone will have had to change their schedule around numerous times during these four days. I love doing that, running with the flow of things and just see where you end up in the end. But it’s also quite stressful.

Let’s talk about music for a little bit though. Golf from Cologne were really good. There sound is somewhere between early Foals dancyness with German vocals that call for the one album greatness of Beat! Beat! Beat!. Romano gave proof that he’s not just a Berlin hype act during a completely packed gig at Moondoo (the worst venue for live music of the whole festival!). The N-Joy Reeperbus was the pick of the venues during the day for all things pop with great stripped down performances by Josef Salvat, Låpsley, L’Aupaire, Kid Astray amongst others. Hats off to Spotify for their Trendsetter Club venue with a really good line-up throughout the whole festival with Honne and especially Palace my picks! Tall Ships delivered a great powerful set and surprised me as much as Kid Wave.

My music fan heart is crying and will be for the next days as I missed so much music. Abramowicz, Frank Turners apparently brilliant set he spent most of his time in the crowd, Trümmer, U3000, Vierkanttretlager (only missed them twice last year…), Torres, Metz, Låpsley’s full band set (Moondoo was too packed to get in), Pauw, Fatherson and just too many others to mention. But that’s not what makes Reeperbahn so special and brilliant to me. It’s all those moments with my friends. The atmosphere of the seedy Reeperbahn with all the prostitutes, left winged activists, hustlers and drug dealers merging with music people from all around the world (and then later all the tourists and stag-/hen-dos). Reeperbahn is standing on the street at 2 am when two friends come out of nowhere and start dancing around you before leaving in a taxi a few seconds later. It’s grabbing a few drinks with people you like before forgetting the time and not being able to leave for a band you wanted to see because you were talking for too long. It’s going to the Millerntor stadium to watch a game of St. Pauli before taking off to a gig. It’s having to step over two junkies who are just getting their gear ready in you house entrance. It’s staying up far too long, drinking way too much, smoking like a chimney. It’s stumbling into your former boss who you haven’t spoken to in months by accident on the way from your apartment to breakfast and having an unexpected catch up. It’s handing out shots to people you’ve met through a friend half an hour before because that’s what you do. And it is taking 20 minutes from point a to point b when you could have done it in less than a minute really, but you just met ten people you hadn’t seen in months. It’s taking a walk down to the docks with a friend because you have a little time to kill. It’s the little moments you will remember and take back with you. That’s why I love Reeperbahn festival and that’s why I’ll come back. Even though right now, I’m completely drained, tired, bloated and probably caught at least three colds. I’ll know in a few days.

Thank you Reeperbahn Festival, thanks to all the bands and thanks to all my friends. You’ve made this a blast again!