With The Drums, The Rapture, Aloe Blacc
Berlin Festival 2011

After a prolonged, very early-morning and entirely sleepless journey from A to B, it rather feels as though we have just come out the opposite end of an untamed and brazen two-night indie/electro festival when we finally arrive at Tempelhof Airport. Still, our determined and music-hungry spirits aren’t to be stifled as we actually break into a sprint to ensure we do not miss the opening number of The Rapture, who begin proceedings with perfect back-to-back versions of ‘In The Grace Of Your Love’ and ‘Pieces of the People we love’, before going on to perform hits ‘Get Myself Into It’ and ‘House of Jealous Lovers’, still very early on in the set- a statement that essentially underlines the confidence of a band who have dared to explore so boldly beyond a pre-existing winning formula with their superb new album. More soaring harmonies and wonderfully composed pieces follow and our previously fatigued state has disappeared completely.

We wade further into the bustling crowd in anticipation of more fun-filled frolicking courtesy of The Drums, who provide us with what we had more or less expected in way of their melodious and carefully crafted Cure-like sound. There does, however, seem to be something reticent in frontman Jonathan Pierce’s crowd rapport, summed up rather fittingly by an extraordinarily hairy bloke stood to my right, who insists in slurring the words ‘no f*cking stage presence’ into my ear every five minutes. Can’t argue with him tho’. Largely inspired performances from legends Primal Scream and Suede, who show with effortless and fervent style why they are still headlining events like this today, brings Friday to a close. Next day, we begin our afternoon wandering round the smaller ‘hangar’ stages in the hope of stumbling upon some other talents unbeknown to us, though after an hour or so passes it is actually the festival’s quirky and contemporary Art Village that wins over our curiosity.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, this little area comprises of unique and original artists battling it out for a €1000 prize, the most notable of which we agree are UK and Berlin based ‘Gobsquad’, who are in the process of assembling a large scale portrait of Amy Winehouse using hundreds of slices of plane, medium and burnt toast. With the image almost complete it really does look amazing.

Next we head back towards the main stage to see American soul artist Aloe Blacc put in a top-notch performance which has the crowd eating out of his palm, most evidently during big hitter ‘You Make Me Smile’, in which he commands the crowd to hug a friend and shout out their name. Realising that I am standing next to a person I have known for only a matter of hours, I awkwardly turn and embrace him, feeling instant regret as I then realise that he has returned neither gesture. But it nevertheless provokes a flurry of goofy-toothed grins among the people around me, so I suppose that’s a good thing.

Solid performances from New Zealand outfit The Naked and Famous and Zach Condon’s Beirut follow but nothing prepares us for what ultimately turns out to be the performance of the weekend. Make way for Boys Noize, now arguably Germany’s most popular and globally renowned DJ, after having released a hoard of ingeniously engineered material produced entirely on his own label, Boys Noize Records. He is awesome. Seamless transitions into tracks old and new, insane remixes of this, epic remixes of that, mind-blowing visual effects and eardrum-shattering basslines have the crowd wild with excitement throughout his stupefying set. We enjoy it so much that German hip-hoppers Beginner and Glasgow’s Mogwai, who to their credit deliver with ambience and style, are rendered more of an afterthought.

As the festivities at Tempelhof come to an end, it’s time for us to join in the post-arena madness on offer at Club Xberg for an ample helping of what promises to be a masterclass in electronic and dubstep music. On arrival, however, we are met by Public Enemy, who evidently prefer to let their talking do the...well, talking. A five-minute rant on prison rioting prompts us to explore the rest of the club for musical talent before we return to the main room to have our brains deep-fried at the hands of Skrillex, delivering his lurid and almighty dubstep sound through an incessant barrage of wobbly and really quite deafening bass notes.

Upon stumbling into the back of a waiting taxi, exhausted, dishevelled and eardrums utterly ruined, I ask myself how I feel despite all this. And then, glimpsing into the rear-view mirror to see another one of those goofy-toothed grins staring back at me, I have my answer. See you next year Berlin ;)

Words by Joshua Taylor

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