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‘This is not a festival for Berliners. No self respecting Berliner would pay five Euro for a beer!’ We had met this particular uber-hipster specimen of Berliner at the U Bahn station on the way to the final day of Berlin Festival. Having been asked his opinion of the festival, he was now swaying and gesticulating wildly, spilling froth from his two euro supermarket beer on us as he talked.
It’s hard to please everybody, and yes it was a little much to pay a fiver for a glass (not even a pint) of beer. Having said that, people were free to come and go from the festival as they pleased, meaning that the local off license had a bumper weekend. Berlin is a great city to spend a few days exploring and the Berlin Festival is a great excuse to come do so. The people are fantastic, the festival tickets and the city itself are very reasonably priced, but do come ready to pay painful Irish festival rates once inside the venues.
The day and evening part of Berlin Festival took place at Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof, a former Nazi airport in the south central area of the city. In true Berlin effortlessly cool style, this abandoned shell was transformed into a maze of stages, art installations, trippy lights and little surprises around every corner. Those wanting to continue past midnight hopped on a free shuttle to Club Xberg @ Arena Club to rave until the early hours to top electronic acts such as Metronomy, Simian Mobile Disco and local heroes Modeselektor.
The attendees were a mix of Berliners (every one of whom we met claimed to be there with some band, as if it would be deemed uncool to have been seen to have bought a ticket) other Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and a decent smattering of Irish. Here are my thoughts on five choice acts from the weekend at large.
Of Monsters And Men (Main Stage, Friday) ★★★★★
It was 3pm on a Friday afternoon and the festival was just coming to life. I was delighted to see the main stage packed out for one of my favorite bands of 2012. Nanna and co opened with a beautiful, pitch perfect rendition of Dirty Paws, which I may have shed a man tear or two during. They got through most of their album ‘My Head Is An Animal’ and even found time for a fabulous cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Skeletons. Being Icelandic with seemingly no German, they talked and joked with the crowd in English and there seemed to be no language barrier issue as the audience clapped and sang along when prompted. Sometimes when a band sound exactly like they do on their record in a live setting, it can be disappointing. In this case it really showed that sometimes, there’s just no need to mess with perfection. If you missed their set at Electric Picnic, try to catch them at the Olympia next February 21st.
Franz Ferdinand (Main Stage, Saturday) ★★★
Alex Kapranos’ voice was shot during this set. I really hope it was due to tiredness after a long tour and nothing permanent. He shouted his way through as best he could but really struggled. The rest of the band are superb musicians, with drummer Paul Thompson stealing the limelight at times. Highlights included Ulysses, This Fire and Take Me Out as well as a cheeky nod to Donna Summer’s disco hit I Feel Love during Can’t Stop Feeling.
I couldn’t help but cringe every time Alex croaked words of encouragement to the crowd as I felt like he was doing even more damage to his throat. The set sort of fizzled out with minor hit Outsiders and there was no encore. Get well soon Alex!
Orbital (Hangar 5, Friday) ★★★★★
Having attended Orbital’s highly emotional ‘last ever’ gig in 2004, I felt personally wronged when I heard that they were reforming. How dare they sully such a beautiful memory?! Then, I listened to their new album Wonky and all was forgiven. I don’t know how they do it, but having seen them live at least 10 times in the past 12 years or so, they have never once let me down. They always manage to perfectly pull off an amazing and highly complicated sound, light and visual show without seeming at all robotic or disinterested. Their Berlin Festival set proved that they are still one of the most entertaining live dance bands around.
Le Galaxie (Berlin Music Week Stage, Saturday) ★★★★★
As the old Irish saying goes, if you want to have a good time, go to a Le Galaxie gig. The crowd was mostly made up of Germans dragged away from the other stages by their Irish mates promising them just that. These electro-pop-techno wizards have never let me down on an Irish stage and they shone just as brightly in Berlin as at home. This may have been partly due to the mirrors on frontman Mick’s discoball hoodie blinding the front five rows as he rolled across the stage mercilessly battering his cowbell, but if the post gig banter was anything to go by, they gained many new German fans from their performance nonetheless. The first of their Christmas shows in The Workmans Club sold out in record time, so be quick if you want to grab a ticket for the second one they’ve just added.
This was Claire’s experience of Berlin Festival 2012. Were you there? Did any acts stand out for you? let us know below!