AMPHI FESTIVAL in Cologne, Germany is the smartest and most convenient festival I have ever attended. It was obvious on July 24 and 25, 2010 that the organizer had definitely worked very hard to make all the 16,000 participants feel entertained and satisfied.
The clout of this festival was made of: the participants (amazing crowd of amazing dancers and party people, donning wonderful outfits – sometimes the audience were better dressed than the band members), the organization, the venue (amazing view of the Rhine, beach bar and lounge, small and large places to sit down, terraces and benches, in the shade or in the sun, vegetation everywhere). The location gives you the feeling of an all inclusive holiday club with another 16,000 people who are also enjoying themselves to the max.
This time the audience was mostly German, but I also met some friends from Romania (Ella and Andreea) Belgium, France, Russia and Great Britain.
Out of the 33 bands that played AMPHI FESTIVAL, I took pics of 30 of them (I missed FUNKER VOGT, SAMSAS TRAUM and ASP because of the overlaps).
I saw only the first few songs – at least 4 – of every performance, but I saw the entire show of SKINNY PUPPY, LETZTE INSTANZ and EISBRECHER. I had to shoot during the third and fourth song of each band (my editor/photo pass stipulated that clearly). I also enjoyed some last songs of a few bands. Consequently, my review is just a general overview and impression log of some parts of every live show I saw.
The new discoveries for me thanks to AMPHI FESTIVAL are: ESCAPE WITH ROMEO, SKINNY PUPPY and LETZTE INSTANZ. ESCAPE WITH ROMEO reminded me of Martin Gore’s sensibility, moved me to tears and determined me to buy all their albums! SKINNY PUPPY are a better live act than my favorite band, and that says it all. LETZTE INSTANZ, in my opinion, should be appointed ambassadors of Germany. These people, who feel and live every sound and beat on stage, were probably the only band that had a viral national influence on the public: everyone sang along, cheered, jumped and yelled together with 7 men who left an unforgettable memory to me and my 9 year old.
During the shows, I saw DESTROID’s Daniel Myer and EISBRECHER’s Alexander Wesselsky drop the microphone. Alexander said “Danke Schoen” when someone handed it back to him, and crooned on. That moment of the festival could earn him an Oscar for best self possessed male actor! Not a surprise to find out that Alexx hosts a TV show!
I also remember being sprayed with an impressive amount of liquid from the stage: from water to pure vodka (the one coming in transparent bottles with blue letters on it)! EISBRECHER’s Alexx came on stage with a full bottle of whisky, while Faderhead was carrying (and using) a bottle of vodka. I guess the cutest throwing liquid at the public moment belongs to Asbury Heights’ Kari. She took her time before throwing the bottle to the audience, asked them if they wanted water first, and her big smile, graceful gestures and joyful eyes were a delight.
The weather was fine until it started raining and it looked like COMBICHRIST really wanted to put their fandom to the test! The rain was getting all the Electroheads wet, but hell they weren’t ducking!
I always tend to think of the downsides of every event. Well, this time I find it extremely hard to discover even one thing that really bothered me. Maybe the sound in the indoor hall (Staatenhaus) was not great for all bands, but most of the time the hard partying and dancing were going on in there! The overlaps of band performances made my photographer’s work pretty hard, as I had to literally rush from one location to the other (meaning from the Mainstage to the Staatenhaus and back), so I barely had time to eat a little every day. No complaints about the quality of the food this time, as the choice was large.
I highly recommend AMPHI FESTIVAL to electro/industrial/synth/Gothic music fans who want to spend their money wisely and have a full 2-day continuous blast in summer!
Congratulations to the organizers for an awesome festival, and for sure, we will be there next year!
A few words and photos of the bands that played AMPHI FESTIVAL:
Day 1 – July 24, 2010
Photo gallery – participants, venue
The German band ZIN was the winner of the “Talent” section of AMPHI FESTIVAL. Consequently, ZIN opened the 2010 edition, and managed to do that in a wonderful manner. ZIN are: Iven Cole, Vincent Oley, Markus Estbourg and Mika. More info about ZIN on http://www.zin-music.de/http://www.myspace.com/zinworld. and
The concert was a wonderful display of high quality alternative music, incredible vocal skills, a lot of energy and some cool poses, such as wearing sun glasses the whole time and lighting a cigarette on stage. ZIN reminded me of TRAVIS live, and so did another band at AMPHI: ESCAPE WITH ROMEO. As the first performance at AMPHI FESTIVAL was so cool, I expected nothing but nice surprises after that! And my expectations were not only met, but highly exceeded.
ZIN at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
The electro/Gothic band DIN[A]TOD was founded in 2003, and according to some sources, except Claudia Fasold and Sven Claussen, we find that the band has a third member. Anyway, he was not present at AMPHI.
The band’s name comes partially from the paper pulp industry, with “DIN” specifying the German standard for page format. Their music combines JOY DIVISION and SISTERS OF MERCY and hard as I try, I did not find anything visually attractive about this band. I am used to a lot of action on stage from electro bands (spoiled brat already) and DIN[A]TOD did not put a lot of effort into that. Maybe I missed the entire point of the show, but I guess the striking dichotomy between the shorts worn by Sven and Claudia’s Gothic look was off-color if you ask me. More info about DIN[A]TOD can be found on http://dinatod.suicide-apartment.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/dinatod.
DIN[A]TOD at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
END OF GREEN (Mainstage)
The band was founded in 1992, and incidentally, in 1993, Irish band KERBDOG released a single named “End of Green”. Their latest album, “The Sick’s Sense” entered the charts (first album to do so) with their hit “Dead End Dreaming”. On August 20, a new album is scheduled to be released: “High hopes in low places”, the title echoing PINK FLOYD’s “High Hopes”. END OF GREEN are extremely communicative on their website, http://www.endofgreen.de/eog/, where they use mock names for themselves and their fans (the fans are the green army, while they are the cellarboys, their next concert is their next failure, etc). Hampez, Lusiffer, Darkness, Sad Sir and Kirk Kerker call their music Depressed Subcore, while generally they are a Gothic metal band.
I saw END OF GREEN at BLACKFIELD FESTIVAL in 2009, and I remembered them very well as, what I considered at the time, the most outstandingly different, yet fine band in an electro festival. They look and play like rockers, and they look and play the same every time I see them! The same energetic guitarists, the same cool and immobile lead singer. His voice was so great that it really seemed prerecorded! “Drink myself to sleep” was again well received by the audience who, as I also noticed during the LEAVES’ EYES show, are more into electronic music than rock at AMPHI FESTIVAL.
END OF GREEN at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
ASHBURY HEIGHTS (Mainstage)
ASHBURY HEIGHTS was born when Anders Hagström asked now former vocalist and former girlfriend Yasmine if she wanted to sing on his demos. Their story is quite interesting, and you can read more on http://www.myspace.com/ashburyheightsmusic. Various demos, singles and one album were released by ASHBURY HEIGHTS before Kari joined the band to replace Yasmine. Kari Berg focused mostly on singing opera before joining the band even though the music she listened to was mainly 80’s Goth.
Now Kari is a ”Karismatic” presence on stage, probably the sexiest female vocalist at AMPHI. Her ingenuous and still lavishing Japanese robe and wildish hair made her look like the Madame Butterfly that could bring joy to you for the rest of your life. The female and male voices blend wonderfully or alternate with solo parts, fine-tuned by an incomparable Swedish synth sound (as I always say, there is something special about Swedish synth pop bands).
ASHBURY HEIGHTS at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
WELLE:ERDBALL, often considered the pioneers of bitpop are quite impressive on stage, and they reminded me of PATENDBRIGADE:WOLFF, not only because of their name (the colon between 2 words), but because of the theatrical show, many people on stage (Honey, A.L.F., Frl. Venus, Plastique, C=64) and drama-like interpretation of their music. A lot of posing from the female members who looked like Dutch dolls, the playful atmosphere and a lot of stage motion, paper planes, balloons and confetti made this show complete. Honey had a penetrating voice and a seriously difficult singing part in most of the songs. I can understand why WELLE:ERDBALL, who have released 7 albums so far, are very popular in Germany. More info about WELLE:ERDBALL on http://www.welle-erdball.info/ and http://www.myspace.com/funkbereit.
WELLE:ERDBALL at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
The Dark pop band BLUTENGEL offered another extremely elaborated and highly choreographed performance at AMPHI FESTIVAL. The stage was populated by gracious angels and fairies who revolved around Chris Pohl during the show. The moves and composure of the dancers were impressive, while Mr. Pohl’s voice and stage presence overwhelmed the audience. BLUTENGEL is an icon of the scene, and the audience seemed to enjoy the entire show. MISS CONSTRUCTION, Chris Pohl’s side project was also present at AMPHI, on the Staatenhaus stage. More info on BLUTENGEL on http://www.blutengel.de/ and http://www.myspace.com/vampireromance.
BLUTENGEL at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
ANNE CLARK (Mainstage)
ANNE CLARK is a poetess and songwriter, and a constant presence on the music scene since 1984 with an atypical New Wave voice. Her first stage appearance was in Richard Strange’s Cabaret Futura with DEPECHE MODE. More info about her and the 5-10 members who accompany her, here: http://www.anneclarkofficial.com/. Her music is traditionally labeled as New Wave, Dark Wave, electronic or avant-garde.
Her concert (a real concert) at AMPHI FESTIVAL was more of a mind blowing incantation and poetry performance than a live act per se. I was moved by the lyrics (deeply emotional and profoundly philosophical), and carried away by the increasing waves of energy both Anne Clark and her band would send out to the audience. People were holding each other’s hands and moving slowly from side to side as in a pleasant trance, abducted by the high tide of Ms. Clark’s voice. Her penetrating, electric blue eyes looked at/above/through the public, letting all of us know that both her talent and experience are there to lead us by the hand to the unknown territories of beauty and energy. And that against the sun that kept getting into her eyes! Thank you, Anne Clark!
ANNE CLARK at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
AND ONE (Mainstage)
AND ONE were very well received at AMPHI FESTIVAL, and they rewarded the participants with a great show! The songs were almost all known by everyone, so the crowd sang along and felt the simple yet sharp AND ONE sound to the bone! The band chose not to wear the regular suits and ties, instead they chose to show up wearing camouflage uniforms and sun glasses. Mr. Naghavi lost the glasses on the way, so he did not hide his joyful devilish glare. AND ONE are the definition of cool. They are so professional and dedicated, playful yet balanced, communicative yet enigmatic that you cannot take your eyes off of the stage, although you also feel like jumping up and down non stop. AND ONE’s music is raw, still so refined and sweet (I remember the wonderful “High” at AMPHI), blended with military (fashion show) marches and DEPECHE MODE like dark passages, so well emphasized by the German language. Steve Naghavi, Chris Ruiz and Gio van Oli rocked the Mainstage with their own songs and 3 covers: “The sun always shines on TV”(A-HA), “Timekiller” (PROJECT PITCHFORK) and “The Walk” (THE CURE).
AND ONE at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
MISS CONSTRUCTION (Staatenhaus)
The first act of the day on the Staatenhaus stage was Chris Pohl’s MISS CONSTRUCTION, a project in which he teamed up with Gordon Mocznay (vocals) since 2008. Just like the following NACHTMAHR and FADERHEAD, MISS CONSTRUCTION addressed mainly the young cyber-goth danceheads. They moved non stop making the hall look like a glittering motherboard with colored buttons everywhere. The neon lights, metallic sounds and harsh moves turned the stage and audience into a grinding machine assembled under one umbrella: industrial music. MISS CONSTRUCTION have a large number of fans who eagerly arrived to see their idols rock the hall. Gordon Mocznay, exactly like Alexx of EISBRECHER and Holly of LETZTE INSTANZ talked a lot and coordinated the crowd like a magician! More info on the project on http://www.blutengel.de/missconstruction/home.htm and http://www.myspace.com/missconstruction.
MISS CONSTRUCTION at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
Daniel Myer, the mastermind behind ARCHITECT and HAUJOBB is the soul of DESTROID. DESTROID have released 3 albums since 2004 and, to my surprise, added a set of drums to their live performance! As I was accompanied by my 9 year old to AMPHI FESTIVAL, I think it is the time I mentioned one of her favorite performances here: DESTROID! Like mother, like daughter. DESTROID destroyed me! I listened (and photographed) in awe one of my favorite bands. DESTROID is deep, sensual, strong, emotional, mind blowing and blood boiling. I think Daniel Myer’s energy deserves the “most expressive male singer” prize at AMPHI!
DESTROID’s music is safely described as electronic industrial, but if there were a category that comprised real intelligent hard rock electronic bands that would be fit for them!
DESTROID at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
The self-entitled “known worldwide for infectious beats and catchy club hits” FADERHEAD followed the “rock the cyber-goths” pattern at Amphi. The younger audience enjoyed the thumping beat and danced along for as long as the show lasted, showing no low energy in the process. Thumbs up for their vicious and well-studied beats and their energetic live performance at AMPHI FESTIVAL (from the 4 men playing keyboards behind him and Faderhead himself). Also, according to their website “FADERHEAD‘s high energy live shows are currently supported by Marco ViscontiXP8/GRENDEL) on keyboards and backing vocals. The Hamburg producer/vocalist uses different musicians for live backings and so far has played with Alex Montana (drums) and Christine LaGivrée, Dr. T, Shaolyn and Shawn Mierez.” Faderhead’s official website: http://www.faderhead.com/index.html is worth all your clicks if you want to learn more about this band.
FADERHEAD at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS (Staatenhaus)
Since 1994, SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS (electronic, futurepop) have released 8 studio albums and have constantly toiled to build a solid image and entertain the fans. More info on http://www.solitaryexperiments.de/ and http://www.myspace.com/solitaryexperiments.
I looked forward to their show at AMPHI. Last time I saw them live, at WAVE GOTIK TREFFEN in 2009, I was not happy with what I heard, and as I like their albums so much, I was ready to accept that the previous show was just a misunderstanding. And right I was! The atmosphere was electric, Dennis kept the audience captive with his spellbinding voice, while the electro sounds were pouring harder and harder over the enthralled crowd. To my personal delight, “Delight” was more than delightful and I had the living proof that SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS’ studio recordings do no justice to their live performances, which need no tuning to sound right! SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS are: Dennis Schober, Michael Thielemann and Steve Graeber.
SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
NACHTMAHR (hellectro, techno) is an outburst of energy from the mastermind behind L’ÂME IMMORTELLE, Thomas Rainer. His latest album is entitled “Mädchen in Uniform”, and in an interview he stated he only later found out that it is entitled the same as the first pro-lesbian German film from 1931. Rainer’s hobby is cooking (“not collecting WW2 memorabilia as some would think”). NACHTMAHR was another hard industrial band that rocked the Staatenhaus. I guess they represented the cyberapocalypse in that hall, driving the dancers to an unprecedented enthusiasm.
NACHTMAHR at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
THE CRÜXSHADOWS (Staatenhaus)
THE CRÜXSHADOWS (dark electro/synthpop/darkwave) come from Florida, and since 1992 have released 8 studio albums. They are a globally popular band, centered around vocalist and songwriter Rogue. They blend the music of the ’80s with modern rock and unique lyrics. Their motto is “Live Love Be Believe”. Their music dwells a lot on Greek and Egyptian mythology, dreams and history.
Despite a large number of major setbacks in early 2010 including a crippling theft of money and equipment, legal issues, and the loss of several members, the band returned to Europe to play some festivals including the AMPHI FESTIVAL. THE CRÜXSHADOWS are: Rogue, Jen “Pyromantic” Jawidzik, Jessica Lackey, JoHanna Moresco, David Russell Wood, Mike Perez and Jennelia Vermes. More info on http://www.cruxshadows.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/cruxshadows.
THE CRÜXSHADOWS’ live performance is full of energy and transmits the right mysterious and untamed vibes poetically intertwined with their lyrics. The connection between the members is very good, and the female dancers are quite a sight: from devious witches to sexy dancers they are everything and beyond. I was also impressed by the continuous “crossing the safety line” Rogue was doing, so obviously testing the security boys’ skills and patience! He literally sang standing on the separation fence between the audience and the photo pitch. Imagine he was held by the security people and the crowd at the same time, and he never missed a line from the songs! Rogue has massive pointy hair and he holds lights in his hands, playing with them to obtain incredibly scary effects. Great show, although there was something wrong with the sound.
PROJECT PITCHFORK (Staatenhaus)
My second PROJECT PITCHFORK experience was equally rewarding. After seeing them at BLACKFIELD FESTIVAL in 2009, I was very quickly taken in by the industrial noise produced by the PROJECT PITCHFORK sound grinding machine.
PROJECT PITCHFORK live sound like a terrible hell machine that melts the heat of music paradise into the tenebrous shadows of human existence. They mix the pain and beauty of life into the most extraordinary pot of industrial music.
Since 1989, these legends have created no less than 15 albums, and something notable about this band is that during their 1995 tour they were supported by Rammstein. Their “Timekiller” is heavily played in German clubs, as an anthem of the electro scene in general. More info about them on http://www.pitchfork.de/ and http://www.myspace.com/projectpitchfork. PROJECT PITCHFORK are: Peter Spilles, Dirk Scheuber, Jürgen Jansen, Achim Färber and Carsten Klatte. Peter Spilles is, also, the mastermind behind two other projects: SANTA HATES YOU and IMATEM. The AMPHI FESTIVAL performance was very energetic, and as expected, they played a few tracks from their new album, released the day before AMPHI started. At that time in the evening, the Staatenhaus was beginning to feel a little too hot, so the audience had to make a little effort to move to the incredible beat.
PROJECT PITCHFORK at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
SKINNY PUPPY (Staatenhaus)
SKINNY PUPPY is a Canadian Los Angeles based band, with an almost 30 year long career. The group is widely considered to be the founders of the electro-industrial subgenre. SKINNY PUPPY are: cEvin Key, Nivek Ogre, Mark Walk and Justin Bennett. The title of their ongoing tour: “In Solvent See” references the delay of the album due to insolvency issues by their label. In 1998, NINE INCH NAILS opened for SKINNY PUPPY on their tour. More info about them on http://skinnypuppy.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/skinnypuppy.
In the dark scene, there is a tradition for bands to go the extra mile when it comes to their live performances: some choose the role playing, some wear thematic costumes, some are fierce warriors or soldiers, some fight against the forces of nature or human weakness, some are Draculas, monsters, dark angels or creatures from paradise, some are immobile, some or lively, some use wonderful projections and stage props, but no band I have seen so far gave me the horror movie impression more than SKINNY PUPPY. The entire Staatenhaus was deepened into a horrific atmosphere in which Ogre, wearing a huge Oblio hat, a scary mask and a straight jacket with long sleeves, all splashed with blood, was moving like a maniac, while the incredible projections were covering half of the concert hall. Ogre lost his mask during the show, but still impersonated a very seriously raged and concentrated character. His voice covers both human melodic sounds and animal screams, all during an unimaginable tour de force for any artist. The show is complete, the lights and sound blend into a mad symphony that stays with you for the rest of your life.
SKINNY PUPPY at AMPHI FESTIVAL 2010 photos – Viva Music
Day 2 – July 25, 2010