This year’s Berlin Festival had it’s flaws again – from over-commercialization to overpricing to buggy info tech to rude security personell – but it had a nice line-up, and the setting at the old Tempelhof airport, where the Berlin airlift took place 65 years ago, is always something special. Like the last time I was there two years ago, I said I “never again” afterwards, but I guess I will be there in the coming years if the music fits my taste. It is no festival to every become a legend, but it is alright if you want to hear some nice acts and sleep in a bed afterwards, not a mud soaked tent.
After being there early to listen to the fabulous Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, who I wrote about some days ago, there was the usual parade of indie newcomers I won’t bother to mention. For me, the festival really began with Grimes at around 7pm, which was late, but not late enough for her. Grimes depends on atmosphere and intimacy, and neither of those were possible at a daytime festival gig. She tried her best, bringing up mostly male dancers with glowsticks and a nice light show, and I danced to some of the tracks, but it was a bit underwhelming, all in all.
Nicolas Jaar after that was cruelly pitted against Sigur Ros, but of course he won with me, and played a great intense mellow set. Accompanied by guitar and saxophone, he used the bass carefully, building slowly and delaying drops whenever he could. It was a bit of a blue balls set though, dangling the goodies in front of you and taking them away again shortly after you had the chance to take a bite and to move your body.
So it was up to Major Lazer to give some release, and boy, did they do that. They were hitting the hits hard, and I mean not only their own, but mixed The Prodigy, Simon and Garfunkel and other insane combinations into their set, always on the lookout for the drop and the party. Diplo, the man behind Major Lazer, was accompanied by some MCs and some “entertainers”, for lack of a better word. There were crowd games, initiated from the stage or happening on their own, floating toys and men, undressing, handraising, jumping and more, and all of it in direct sequence.
The festival progam at the airport ended at midnight, due to noise pollution restrictions. But in Berlin, they go another night, oh yeah. So we followed Diplo and relocated to Club Gretchen, where he was putting on a sweaty UK bass and dub set in front of three hundred guests. Again not squeamish about his drops, he was the one that saved the day and turned it from simply being nice into something to remember. He can consider me a fan now.