E-tropolis 2010, Berlin: Viva Music review

July 1, 2010 in International Events (Reviews)

My review of the first edition of E-tropolis festival (Columbiahalle, Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2010) is a festival log and a source of information for people who have not attended an electro festival before (consequently need to know what they are missing), or some other electro fans who did not make it to Berlin, and would like to have a rough idea of what happened there. This review (photos included) reflects my enthusiasm of both participating as an accredited reporter (thanks to the organizer) and seeing some bands for the first time. I strongly encourage every person who likes electro music to take a weekend off from other activities and go to festivals in Germany. The next one I am going to is Amphi Festival in Cologne, July 24-25, 2010.

General remarks about E-tropolis festival: 13 bands, enthusiastic and fun audience, eager for this almost exclusively electro event, 2 perfectly sized halls (capacity approx 4,000 in the C-Hall and 1,000 in the smaller C-Club), both never really crowded but always decently full, good coordination of performance and changeover, long performances (considering it was a festival), 2 cozy beer terraces (although the high temperature killed some enthusiasm and sent some of the beer fans to shady areas), a nice meeting/food court that we all needed to wade through in order to get from a hall to the other, that made it easier to meet people. I met a lot of friends and that was nice, as I traveled from Romania to Germany alone. The participants were mainly German, but I also met Swedish, Polish (a large group), Lithuanian (3 gorgeous ladies) and British people. Only one shortcoming: the lack vegetarian food. I had 3 large glasses of sparkling water on the rocks between 2 pm and 3 am, and I chose to skip the large pretzels, the only option I had. But I enjoyed my time there so much that hunger was not an issue. I was hungrier for music.

Patenbrigade:Wolff (C-Hall)

The “reverse headliner”, Patenbrigade:Wolff started their show at the E-tropolis festival at 3 pm sharp, as they had previously mentioned on their official website. “This is a German thing”, they stated, so they were punctual. The band was founded in Berlin, in 1998, by Lance Murdock and S. Wolff, who make no secret of their obsession with heavy machinery and construction sites.

My info about Patenbrigade:Wolff was limited to previously listening to their albums and knowing that Antje Schultz (In Strict Confidence) collaborated with them.

The show was quite a pleasant surprise, and I would catalogue it as the most seriously thematic I have ever seen. The Brigade sealed the stage with yellow tape, worked hard on the construction site that the stage was turned into – accompanying all activities by hard beer drinking, like any regular construction worker would do! The rhythm blew the audience away quickly, and unlike other festivals, people started dancing from the first performance. Patenbrigade:Wolff was 2 ladies and 5 gents on stage. Antje Dieckmann, the lead singer, played the role of the supervisor, while Lance Murdock and S. Wolff kept the music and beer pouring! The costumes, builder impersonations, electric beat and the grinding machine sparks blowing from the two sides of the stage at the end of the show were the perfect start for the fest.

Patenbrigade:Wolff, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


KMFDM (C-Hall)

Spawned in Germany during 1984, the self-proclaimed fathers of industrial-rock, KMFDMpioneered the crossover between techno/dance and heavy metal with their signature industrial sound”, reads the band’s official website.

KMFDM stands for “Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid”, which literally translates as “no majority for the pity” but is typically given the loose translation of “no mercy for the masses”. Still, there is a lot of debate about the correct meaning of the German expression, whilst the band have tried to explain the meaning of their name in various songs such as: “Megalomaniac”, “Moron”, “Light” and “What we do for you/so good for you”. Since the release of their “UAIOE album, KMFDM have followed a pattern of naming their albums and certain songs with a 5-letter word. They have even misspelled words in order to get them to fit into 5 letters, for example “Xtort” and “Attak”.

KMFDM’s “Blitz” album was released in 2009, so I expected to witness interest from the audience at the E-tropolis festival. And right I was! The crowd was very receptive and danced away all performance long. From the first song I realized that Lucia Cifarelli (the lead singer) is a memory that would stay with me long after the show. She is definitely a skilled sexy dancer, as well as a good looking and well endowed singer. I recognized the value of the performance, and the energy that was passed directly to the audience who kept dancing all along!

KMFDM, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


She’s All That (C-Club)

At 16:45, the first band to give the start in the C-Club made their appearance: She’s All That (SueShi, Bastard, Nik and Dirty J). The band’s official website offers good information, and is worth checking in case you are interested in following them on Twitter, Facebook, etc. The band has released one album so far, “Extra Fruity Disgusting” and their music is best described by themselves: “…electronics fed in with tight drums, merciless guitars and a soft sound of the 80s. Complex, ultragroovy and with a gigantic value of recognition.

Their show at E-tropolis was not new, but unexpected to me in terms of costumes: the 3 guys who seemed to have somehow naturally continued the Patenbrigade:Wolff tradition wore overalls and rubber masks. The effect was interesting, as in the dim light, at least for a few seconds, I did not know whether the guys were wearing masks, or they were just plain ugly as hell!  Their moves and music made me think of a Daft Punk video shot on a spaceship. Definitely a must see in the future if I have the occasion, as I missed the female singer’s performance, SueShi.

She’s All That, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Leæther Strip (C-Hall)

It is with greatest pleasure that I write about Leæther Strip (Claus Larsen) performance at E-tropolis. I have been listening to his music for a long time now, and I knew a few details both about his professional and personal life. The Danish artist officially started his career in 1989, and later, he took a 5 year break from 2000. He came back, and we can only be grateful to him for deciding to do so. I never expected such a totally overwhelming, brilliant, breathtaking performance from a man and his keyboards! Claus Larsen is an industrial music master who sings with his heart, not with his voice.

My Shadow Is Your Home”, my favorite song from Leæther Strip, has a circular, obsessive structure that resembles the sound of a barrel organ processed and pushed to the limit until the instrument itself explodes at the end of the song, barely completing the last loop of the circle. Live, it was heart melting and I could tell genuine emotion in Mr. Larsen’s voice.

Claus Larsen wore a pair of black pants with red side stripes, comfy shoes, a black vest and a blue shirt that he took off later during the show. Nothing fancy, but it suited him perfectly. He is very tall and massive, and adding the fact that he moved a lot covering the entire stage, it was very hard not to like his sincere and moving performance. I also liked a lot “Japanese bodies” and “Don’t Tame Your Soul”, but I guess they stood out just because they hit the crowd at the right time either to pump up some energy of to end the excellent show. I liked the entire show and I hope to see him again soon.

Leæther Strip, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Cyborg Attack (C-Club)

Cyborg Attack was totally unknown to me before E-tropolis. The 4 guys: Punisher, Zerindi, Eucha and Eno have released 3 albums so far, and have as motto the phrase “Resistance is futile”.

<Cyborg Attack has earned an extremely faithful fanbase of EBM followers, being uncompromising in their pursuit of old-school EBM sounds, even when the musical style was out of vogue on underground dance floors worldwide. Finally returning after 4 long years since their last album “Blutgeld” and the “Toxic” EP, the new “Stoerf***tor” CD is loud, solid, straight forward and uncompromising EBM that takes no prisoners and cuts no corners.> More info about the band on their website.

The lead singer and the 2 keyboardists offered a lively show that gave me the feeling that I was witnessing a hard rock concert. I guess that effect is given mostly by the frontman, Punisher, whose voice and moves are merciless and harsh.

Cyborg Attack, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


DAF (C-Hall)

Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft is a major German electropunk/NDW band from Düsseldorf, formed in 1978, today featuring only Gabriel Delgado-López (vocals) and Robert Görl (drums, percussion, electronic instruments) after starting with 6 members. They are a legend in the electro scene, definitely having their proselytes among the EBM bands, I could name a few but I think it’s better if you listen to their music and discover yourselves.

Gabi Delgado kept pouring water on his head and throwing the plastic bottles with artistic moves, making some of the audience very excited. He is a very charismatic lead singer, and although DAF are only 2 people on stage, the show was complete and very eye catching.

Their music sounds like marches/anthems, and the songs can be labeled better as electro incantations, especially due to the fact that most of the lyrics are partly recited in a very convincing manner by Mr. Delgado.

DAF, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Mergel Kratzer (C-Club)

The Mergel Kratzer show at E-tropolis had a pleasant impact both visually and acoustically. Joel Nygren (vocals, music, lyrics, production) and his female companions – Angelica Klüft (vocals, drums, visuals, design) and Julia Meller (synthesizer, Russian interpreter) are exciting to see and hear.

Mr. Nygren is really tall and very well built, and the choice of outfit for that night was excellent. The white contacts contributed to the out of space young warrior effect. The performance was convincing, the music had an attractive beat and the sound was good. All in all, I would see them again to witness their growth and new material. As I have always said, there is something about Swedish synth and electro bands that blows your mind.

Mergel Kratzer, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Feindflug (C-Hall)

I have tried repeatedly to listen to Feindflug (translated “air raid”) and never managed to get to the end of their CD’s for various reasons, one of them being the fact that their music is entirely instrumental except for some passages taken from Adolf Hitler’s speeches. The band was founded in 1995 and they have released 3 albums since.

I missed their entire show last year at WGT. So, I had to wait until June 2010 to finally get to witness one of the most energetic shows ever. First and foremost, in case you decide to go to one of their future shows, prepare yourselves for a lot of noise!

Feindflug is a German aggrotech band whose live performance stands out because of the drums and very lively (read wild) band members (6 of them at E-tropolis on stage, but the official members are DJ Felix and DJ Banane). This time, the stage was decorated with camouflage nets, so we all expected a war coming! And it did. If you are into heavy march like tunes, Feindflug is the best choice. The various size drums seemed to get louder with every song. At moments, I felt like I had to duck and cover as the enemy pilots were going to drop the bombs! Dark stage against flash lights, apocalyptic sounds, hell rising rhythms, gas masks and uniforms blended all with the war scenes projected on the screen behind the stage, transformed the C-Hall into a hell pit for an hour and something. Aggressive and wild are probably the best adjectives to use for this show.

Feindflug, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


mind.in.a.box (C-Club)

One of the most popular electronic bands with my Facebook and Twitter fellows is the Austrian duo mind.in.a.box. Their music style is very eclectic, and they managed to add a very personal touch to the either bare or extremely processed electronic sounds. I was very curious to see them live, as they have just started giving live concerts not long ago and, so far, you can count their live performances on the fingers of one hand.

Otherworldly metaphors about imprisoned minds – that’s the tagline of the performance by mind.in.a.box. Can a mind be free, and how, is one of the core questions that prompts the rhythm of the 4-piece Austrian group. mind.in.a.box live at E-tropolis was: Stefan Poiss (vocals, synths), Roman Stift (bass), Gerhard Höffler (drums) and Adam Wehsely-Swiczinsky (guitar). The living proof techno-pop is a conquest technique that reminds at the same time of strategy computer games and a well cadenced historical past, their orchestrated endeavor to please an avid audience being a win-win situation.

“Amnesia”, “Remember” and “Dead End” – the latter being a very lyrical and heartfelt test for Mr. Poiss’ voice – were amazing pieces. The guitar was profound, the drum sounded differently, and the band tackled a new dimension of their music during their E-tropolis live performance.

The atmosphere they engendered spoke about passion, patience and delusion – very precise emotions that find on rare occasions, such as mind.in.a.box‘s performance, their true melody.

A nice thing that happened during soundcheck was that Stefan Poiss blasted a full fragment of a song a capella to test the mic. At the end of the short performance, the participants started applauding and cheering. The start of the show was great already!

I have to make 2 remarks though: the lights did no justice to the guys. I wish I saw more of what was going on stage and that takes me to my second remark: for the time being there is no show attached to their amazing music. I certainly hope that the band will work on that in the future.

mind.in.a.box, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Combichrist (C-Hall)

Combichrist was formed in 2003 by Norwegian Andy LaPlegua (the man behind Icon of Coil and Panzer AG, the latter being one of my favorite music projects). Combichrist is: Andy LaPlegua (vocals, lyrics, production), Joe Letz (live drums), Trevor Friedrich (live percussions) and z_marr (live keys, synths). Since 2003, the hard working band released no less than 7 EP’s and 4 studio albums. If there is a definition of professionalism blended with very carefully staged surprises (in my opinion) that is Combichrist in the industrial scene.

The 4 guys on stage not only blow your mind away by blasting the most revolutionary and bombastic sounds, but they play with your eyes like wizards. Andy LaPlegua made me take 500 pics during the first 3 songs from the photographers’ pitch. I had the feeling that there was not enough time, and I felt the urge to capture all his gestures on camera. Unfortunately, my camera did not help very much this time, but I am planning to give my equipment an upgrade very soon.

The image on the back screen said simply: Combichrist. The songs they played were not new to me at all. And still, the spell of violent, brutal and sarcastic Combichrist worked for me. The tempo of the show increased with every song, although their songs are all fast paced, terribly energetic and madly blunt industrial waves. The sound was perfect, loud enough to give me goose bumps and help me enjoy the distorted sounds that go hand in hand with Joe Letz’s madness and Andy LaPlegua’s dark evil grins, faces and bold body moves. During the entire show (I was bouche bee all the time, I have to admit) I found it hard to concentrate solely on Mr. LaPlegua, although I felt I was sort of betraying him while not doing it. He is a hard worker, a showman, an industry, a genius and an absolutely terrific performer who enjoys what he does galore! Consequently, I tried to visually capture as much as I could watching the stage like a participant to a tennis match, following mostly the ball that rolled from side to side (that description would fit Mr. LaPlegua). There was so much happening on that stage: from violent outbursts of rage against the drums and keyboards from everyone, to Joe’s rage against the others, who started dismantling and throwing at this colleagues pieces of this drum kit!

Bad language found a comfy nest in Combichrist lyrics. I can’t recall a band with more f***s per song! However, the language is part of the conglomerate: the rage, violence, ugliness, hate, contempt, sex, drugs, booze and other dirty, filthy, disgusting or totally revolting things have to be expressed via appropriate language, which turned out not to be proper at all! To use a phrase that goes with their lyrics: Combichrist f*** your brains out!

Combichrist, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Xotox (C-Club)

Xotox was founded as a solo-project by Andreas Davids in 1998. The Xotox sound is adequately described by him as “industrial for hyperactive people”. After numerous releases along the years, Xotox has managed to attract both the German media and audience’s attention. Once Xotox was selected by the industrial label Pronoize, the project got a much higher profile in part through their contributions to high profile compilations put together by the German scene magazine Orkus. In 2009 the split-EP “We are deaf” with Detune-X was released in September on the Italian label Rustblade as a guest appearance and by courtesy of Pronoize. Mr. Davids is also a sought after dj on the electro, industrial and noise scene.

The E-tropolis performance of the duo on stage was pretty simple and decent, the choice of outfits being orchestrated by the mandatory masks. Watching the artists dj, I noticed with great delight that the good communication between people was easily turned into an energetic music dialogue that lead to the audience move along the electric beats.

Xotox, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Covenant (C-Hall)

Covenant is today Eskil Simonsson (vocals, songwriter), Joakim Montelius (keyboards, songwriter) and Daniel Myer (keyboards, synths, production). The band went through losing a member and a lawsuit, as another band took the same name, and managed both situations successfully.

Covenant is one of the few bands I know (and like for that reason) who managed to keep their identity and initial commitment to quality electro sound and also evolve throughout the years. There aren’t many songs I cannot enjoy and sing along with Covenant. They are well known for the suit and tie appearances and very elegant frontman, Mr. Simonsson, who puts a lot of energy into his performances.

It was very nice to meet Covenant again, after only 2 months (Viva Music organized their Bucharest gig on April 8, 2010). I certainly look forward to their next album, “Modern Ruin” and more live performances. I have to confess that their new song “If I would give my soul” moves me every time I hear it, although I am more used to club hits from Covenant! I will skip the details of the actual performance at E-tropolis and move on to the next bands. Covenant are one of my favorite bands, and a very well known band in the scene, so I am sure that most of the readers have already had the pleasure to see them live at least once.

Covenant, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


Hocico (C-Hall)

Hocico was founded in 1993, but the 2 Mexican cousins, Erk Aicrag (vocals, lyrics) and Racso Agroyam (programming) had been doing music long before that. “We try to rouse the demon inside of every listener. They should recognize their dark side and they should develop their own hate. We won’t take to self destruction, but to an intelligent art of creativity” state Hocico.

The correct pronunciation of the band’s name is: “Osziko”. That means “jaws”. “Hocico” is an aggressive word. In Mexico it is offending, and I guess it’s onomatopoeic, as it expresses violence even before you know the meaning! Well chosen name, then.

I had 3 reasons to be biased watching Hocico live at E-tropolis: I saw Rabia Sorda (Mr. Aicrag’s side project) in Prague on May 8 and I loved them, Hocico’s came after Combichrist’s and, also, I was tired after taking pics of twelve other bands earlier.

It was late in the night when Hocico started their performance. The band was preceded on stage by a woman and a man who were carrying TV sets as big as China and heavy as hell, I could tell by the position of their bearers. Both were wearing masks, hit imaginary enemies with sticks and basically tried hard to create a horror atmosphere. The massive mic was decorated with skulls, while crucified death mannequins/Voodoo dolls guarded the sides of the stage.

I found Hocico’s performance interesting especially because of the visible efforts the lead singer was putting into getting the people’s attention. The familiar by now routine of grinning, making faces, posing and shouting from the bottom of his lungs made me think that I was clearly witnessing the second band that falls in the same category as Combichrist: harsh sounds, sex, abuse, violence, attitude. Hocico took the visuals seriously by comparison, and showed a very dirty video for one of their songs. After an exhausting show (Mr. Aircrag’s costume was so heavy and the boots, oh) Hocico closed the night with an encore comprising 2 songs.

Hocico, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


I could not miss the opportunity to listen to AndyK’s dj set (Andy Krueger is the lead singer of Melotron, whose show in Bucharest was also produced by Viva Music). I enjoyed a few songs and then I said good bye to Columbiahalle. By that time, the weather was cold, and I saw people freezing outside. Funny how we all complained about both extremes in temperature in one day!

AndyK, E-tropolis 2010, VivaMusic Photos


E-tropolis festival was worth being there. Every moment was a delight, from meeting friends to seeing the amazing bands on the lineup! Viva Music will make every effort to organize similar festivals in Romania in the future!

vivi, Viva Music


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