With Fever Ray, Gang of Four, Amiina...

Berlin Festival was an indeed very promising affair. On the one hand the unique and imposing location of the – now defunct – historical Tempelhof airport, and on the other hand an impressive line-up boasting names like LCD Soundsystem, Editors, Fatboy Slim, Fever Ray, Tricky Caribou and Gang of Four, but also indie favourites like Amiina, Neon Indian, and Junip.

It all started off smoothly on the Friday with festival-goers mingling with the remaining delegates from the Popkomm trade fair that was also taking place the same week at Tempelhof. Adding up to the nice atmosphere were the gorgeous Berlin weather and a joyful festival crowd that had gathered around the main stage and the two massive hangars that were turned into concert halls.

But the mood changed entirely towards the end of the evening with queues outside the main entrance - and especially outside Hangar 4 – getting endlessly long whilst making it impossible for many to access some of the gigs and causing widespread disappointment. In the early hours of the morning the organisers along with the police took the bold decision to shut everything down and to evacuate the site before two of the headlining DJ acts – Fatboy Slim and 2manydjs – could even get on stage.

Recent memories of the tragic accident that happened in Duisburg during Love Parade and caused the death of 21 people and more than five hundred injuries have made German authorities nervous about large crowd gatherings. As a result one third of the Saturday gigs were cancelled and the festival was shut earlier at about 11pm.

Problems aside, Berlin Festival was still a great experience, and Clash did manage to squeeze in to some of the gigs. Here are my favourites:

Amiina (Friday, main stage)

A big festival stage is not the right setting to experience Amiina’s beautifully-textured ethereal artpop. And yet, with new material up their sleeves the Icelandic female quartet (that has now expanded into sextet) mesmerised the crowd with the simplicity and immediacy of their graceful compositions. Amiina are thankfully very different from everything that’s out there right now.

Fever Ray (Friday, Hangar 4)

Mrs Karin Dreijer Andersson is still pretty much on top of her game. Her trademark effected voice and enigmatic presence combined with dim lighting and low-key tempos resulted to a stunning conceptual show. On the downside, it’s admittedly too hard to keep up the interest with such difficult material throughout a whole hour, but she gave it her best shot.

Lali Puna (Saturday, Hangar 4)

Hangar 4 was too large for poor Lali Puna who in the reshuffle were allocated a much larger stage. Moreover, doing a line-check doesn’t help things either. Having said that, I was chuffed to listen to their bittersweet minimalistic electropop. And a great comeback album they have too… Hopefully next time in a venue that does them more justice.

Gang of Four (Saturday, main stage)

A performance by post-punk legends Gang of Four is always good news. Jon King's gang is in remarkably good shape and very energetic. One could argue that they haven’t got anything new to offer, but just being able to experience these classic tracks from their Entertainment and Damaged Goods albums years is a treat.

Words and photo by Vasilis Panagiotopoulos

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