The area might be best known for its hedonism, but behind the glaring neon signs advertising sex shops and strip shows, Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is a thriving hub of creativity – a fact never more evident than during the annual Reeperbahn Festival. For four days artists and appreciators descend upon the city to dance, drink, and delight the weekend away.
With so many places to explore it’s almost impossible to know where to start. In a venue surrounded by the bright lights of the strip, Jeanne Added’s vocal driven performance weaves a spell of enchantment on a room futile to resist. It’s the dancier numbers that really stand out – the marching rhythms of and rallying cries of ‘A War Is Coming’ rousing the crowd into body-swaying, limb-flailing action.
Across the street, while Heck showcase their rambunctious rock down in the Molotow Karatekeller, up in the Sky Bar Pinegrove offer something decidedly sweeter. Part way through their first tour outside the US, the band are taking Europe in their stride. Drawing mostly from debut album ‘Cardinal’, their country-tinged emo-rock is as enchanting as they are endearing.
Inciting the same rambunctious energy they’re famed for, Yak stir up a ruckus the way only they can. Sliding across the stage and pushing into the crowd from the get go, taking a photographer’s camera mid-set, and screaming through the venue window to the crowd spilling onto the street outside, the trio are as engaged as their audience, who continue to scream, jump, dive, and mosh their way through the set even after a venue official signals the band are out of time.
“We’re all going to get pissed tonight, aren’t we?” Spring King ask, mid set. “That’s what we’re doing.” Bounding with a contagious energy, the whole performance is seeped in enthusiasm. Teaching the room their choruses, strolling around centre-stage during the slower numbers, the band’s performance explodes with the clean-cut vitality that’s become synonymous with their character.
The next night it’s up to The Lemon Twigs to energise the crowd – and the outfit don’t miss a beat. Singles ‘These Words’ and ‘As Long As We’re Together’ are reinvigorated. Larger and louder than on record, the group’s performance is as bold as their dynamic. Switching instruments with each other between songs, covering The Beatles in (self-confessed) “very badly pronounced” German, and scissor-kicking their way around the stage, the band infuse their 60s stylings with a ferocious energy that wins over any who encounter it.
A last-minute addition to the line up, Biffy Clyro’s intimate showcase at the 1900-capacity Docks draws out their fans with resounding force. Performing a seventy-five minute set, the trio navigate through their most celebrated hits, charting their progression into the stadium rock giants they are today. From latest album opener ‘Wolves Of Winter’, through long-favoured ‘Machines’, to recent single ‘Animal Style’, and storming classics like ‘The Captain’, the trio stomp and sail their way along tidal waves of energy as storming as they are engrossing.
Following a cancelled performance in the Molotow garden, Dilly Dally bring their resounding garage punk to the venue’s main room on Saturday night. Laced with an electric vitality, the Toronto outfit’s sound sharp and all consuming. Katie Monks’ gut-wrenching cries and shiver-inducing screams keep the music tethered on the edge of ferocity.
Several streets away from the main strip, fellow Torontonians PUP put on a performance that’s just as fierce. Tearing through favourites from both their albums, the band’s raw punk anthems are a breath of escapism from the shackles of day to day monotony. Ferociousness rising with the temperature of the room, their set is a storm of blistering liberation.
Back at Molotow, Deap Vally draw the festival to a close. The pair’s snarling lyrics and scathing feminist anthems have long proved a potent combination, but tonight they perform with a spark so vivid it practically sets ablaze. Addictive hooks and exhilarating instrumental breakdowns flood the venue, keeping people dancing all the way out the front door. The crowd might be tired and several days’ worth of intoxicated, but reinvigorated by the duo’s wild intensity, the sense of celebration is carried long out into the night. In the words of Deap Vally themselves, there really is “no time like the present” after all.
Photos: Emma Swann