Published: September 25, 2013
By: Gracie Roberts
This year's Berlin Festival took place in Germany's capital city September 6-7. The two-day festival brought over 20,000 international festivalgoers to Berlin's Tempelhof Airport, a former airport that ceased its operations in 2008 and now serves as a popular music venue and convention center.
Tempelhof provided a flat, wide-open space for attendees to walk around and enjoy the many attractions that were present at the festival, including four stages, an art village, and a hookah and tea bar.
Friday afternoon kicked off with names such as Bastille, Big Black Delta, Mia., and OK KID performing at the Tempelhof Airport. Then, at 8:30 p.m., Pet Shop Boys entered onto the main stage to begin the evening's music.
The undisputed UK kings of pop, Berlin Festival welcomed Pet Shop Boys as one of the festival's headliners. Since the early 80s, the duo, comprised of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, have shaped the sound of electro pop substantially. At the beginning of this month, the pair celebrated the release of their eleventh studio album, Elysium. This time around, they were able to perform tracks from their newest release in front of the massive crowd that was present at the airport's main stage. Pet Shop Boys supplemented their performance with a visual show that included beams of lights that rained down on the audience throughout the set.
The later portion of Berlin Festival took place at Club Xberg, otherwise known as Arena Club, in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. The festival staff had organized a free shuttle to transport festivalgoers from Tempelhof to the second venue, which in theory, was quite a convenient idea. However, it took nearly forty-five minutes to get from one place to the other, and some fans became frustrated with the wait. Once everyone made it to the club, though, they were able to explore the many rooms and stages that Arena had to offer. Those looking for an open space where they could dance found a spot at the main stage, while those who preferred a smaller, more intimate venue took refuge at the tucked-away Club stage.
One of the most noteworthy performances at the Club stage was given by Pilo, an up-and-coming name in the Berlin EDM scene. This young DJ delivered a set filled with jungle music and deep bass that had the crowd grooving along in the cozy venue. Pilo's claim to fame was his Ubstraktion EP as well as the track "Forte Inductance", which has a thunderous beat and a handful of vocal samples weaved into it. This newcomer's sounds have been pulsing through the Los Angeles for the last few months, and they're bound to reach many more ears from here on out.
Siriusmo joined Berlin Festival's lineup quite late in the game, replacing Royksopp's DJ set only a handful of days before the festival was set to take place. Born Moritz Friedrich in Greensboro, Alabama, Siriusmo is known and loved for his electronic sound that is (to put it lightly) experimental and outside the box. The now-Berlin-based producer has come out with a slew of albums and EPs during his years active as an artist, sharing a label with Modeselektor and Moderat at Monkeytown Records. These days, he's producing for Exploited Label and Boys Noize Records. Performing at Arena's main stage, Mo delivered a set that was filled with mechanical noise, minimal melodies and a dark overall sound that was haunting in its nature. Many die-hard fans of Friedrich's were overjoyed to see this influential artist in the flesh, while those hearing his music for the first time were able to experience the unique sound that Siriusmo has to offer.
Caroline Hervé, better known as Miss Kittin, is a singer and DJ who hails from Grenoble, France. Hervé rose to prominence in 1998 with her hit "Frank Sinatra" and has been making a wave with her experimental, catchy music ever since. Her voice was also featured in Felix Da Housecat's "Silver Screen Shower Scene", which has kept Miss Kittin's name in the loop during all these years. At Arena, Miss Kittin came out wearing a white cape and a cat mask, slinking out onto stage while a recorded intro track played in the background. In a low, monotone voice, she spoke the lyrics "There is a lightning in the sky..." during the track "Flash Forward", the opening track from her current album that was released in April of this year. Miss Kittin provided both live vocals and mixing for her music, manipulating her voice on her turntables as she went.
After Miss Kittin's set, fans who were ready for more music stayed around at Arena Club to watch Boys Noize, Strip Steve, and Maxim (The Prodigy) tear up the stages until the wee hours of the morning. Friday ended on a high note, and there was still so much to look forward to the next day.
Saturday at Tempelhof proved to be a lovely day, with artists Ellie Goulding, White Lies, Turbostaat, and Klaxons entertaining the crowds at the airport's various stages. This led up to the evening, when none other than Björk got things going at 9 p.m.
Nearly glowing onstage, the Icelandic singer-songwriter sported a neon yellow dress and a sea urchin-like headpiece that completely hid her face from clear view. Behind Björk stood a choir comprised of a group of girls who backed up her vocals, singing flawless harmonies with ethereal voices. Björk could not have given a more well-balanced performance, making sure to include upbeat tracks such as "Crystalline" and "Joga" as well as more relaxed songs like "One Day" and "Hyperballad". As she wailed into the mic, images of the moon waxing and waning played on the screen behind her, only adding to the magic that she brought to Berlin during her performance. Giving a cheerful "Danke schön!" to the audience, she and her choir ran off stage after 90 minutes, only to be welcomed back on stage by the audience who couldn't get enough of her amazing sound. She closed her set with the song "Declare Independence", even setting down her microphone mid-song so she could dance along with her choir onstage.
After the crowd was given a few minutes to gather themselves, Fritz Kalkbrenner took the stage, giving a warm welcome to the audience in German. Kalkbrenner has been active since 2008, when he produced the soundtrack for the movie Berlin Calling together with his brother Paul. Fritz's musical style pairs soulful vocals with warm electro beats, resulting in a bright, positive sound that can put a smile on any music lover's face. Alone on stage with his turntables and a microphone, Kalkbrenner performed crowd favorites including "Little By Little", "Right In The Dark" and "Sky and Sand".
Over at Club Xberg, Saturday was the night to celebrate French artists signed to the Ed Banger Records label. Fans looked forward to watching performances by French artists like Justice and SebAstian, as well as other producers including Busy P, Round Table Knights and Shir Khan.
Breakbot was the first up to bat, who appeared on stage behind the infamous pair of large, red lips that have become an icon for this artist over the years. Breakbot was born Thibaut Berland, a producer who truly has a style of his own and who is also part of the Ed Banger roster. Berland opened up his set with some slow, relaxed beats, playing the electric piano as he swayed back and forth. Mirroring the funky style of his music, Breakbot sported a white tux and a pair of white Reeboks as he grooved along to his own beats onstage. After a few bass guitar-filled tracks, vocalist and frequent collaborator Irfane joined Breakbot on the stage. Together, the two performed hits "A Mile Away", "Baby I'm Yours" and "One Out of Two", to which fans lovingly sang along.
Berlin Festival was an incredible experience for everyone present. Amazingly enough, things are already in the works for next year - it goes to show how much Berlin truly loves their music. The Tempelhof Airport will be happy to welcome back thousands of smiling faces in September of 2014!