Summer in Berlin may be winding down, but this weekend promises the opportunity to cap things off in style, with the eighth edition of Berlin Festival taking place this Friday and Saturday across both the disused Tempelhof Airport and ARENA Club. The forecast is for clear, sunny skies, in keeping with this summer’s run of good weather (at least by Berlin standards), but that’s far from the only thing to look forward to: with over 80 acts spread across nine stages, ranging from pop pioneers to reclusive shoegazers to local electro legends to upstart postpunk revivalists, along with poetry saloons, an art market, a ‘Church of Phonk’, and even a sauna, there’s something for everyone.
Things actually get started a bit earlier in the week, on Wednesday and Thursday, with First We Take Berlin. A brand new feature of Berlin Music Week, the umbrella event for music professionals which encompasses the main festival as well as a host of industry-related events, FWTB is spread across 10 clubs in the district of Kreuzberg, and features the likes of Braids, London Grammar, MC Fitti, Matias Aguayo, Seams and Parquet Courts, along with scores of other up-and-coming acts looking to make themselves heard. Entrance to all FWTB concerts is free with a Berlin Festival pass, so be sure to take advantage if you’re in Berlin ahead of the main event! More info about the line-up and locations can be found at www.firstwetakeberlin.de/en/.
On Friday 6th, however, things get taken up a few notches, with the festival proper kicking off at Tempelhof from 2pm. Across the four main stages, the likes of Bastille, Mia., Bosnian Rainbows and Villagers will warm up the crowd through the afternoon before glam-pop veterans The Pet Shop Boys take the main stage at 8.30pm, returning to Berlin on the back of Electric, their euphoric 12th studio album that many have hailed as a return to form. Across at the Pitchfork Stage, alt-rock supergroup Tomahawk look set to bring the weird with the not-to-be-missed combination of Mike Patton’s inimitable vocals and drumming god John Stanier’s unmatchable chops. Come 10.30pm, though, and it’s all about Blur, who promise to make up for their nine-year absence from Germany with a career-spanning 90-minute set. Woo hoo, indeed. Not feeling the Britpop? Barcelona-based John Talabot is locked in to close things out with a live reworking of his wonderfully smooth debut record ƒIN.
Noise restrictions mean that come midnight, that’s it for outdoor proceedings, but fear not! There’s still a solid six hours of partying to be had at the ARENA BERLIN complex over in Friedrichshain, which is easily reached via the festival’s free shuttle buses. From the homegrown Monkeytown vibes of Siriusmo to the playful Vjuan Allure, from festival mainstay Boys Noize to what promises to be a cathartic closing set by The Prodigy‘s Maxim, with the first of a two-night White Room residency by Picknick Club’s Arena of Love going on all night alongside, all booty-shaking bases are covered.
Come Saturday 7th, and while you may be reluctant to pick yourself off the floor and get vertical again, the festival continues on with boundless energy and in fine fettle. As on Friday, outdoor music is a go from 2pm onwards at the airport. Dreamy Electro pop anthems your thing? Ellie Goulding has you sorted on the Mainstage. Moody postpunk revival more your bag? Check out Savages on the Pitchfork stage for meaty, physical renditions of tracks from their head-turning debut Silence Yourself. Up for some percussive, irrepressibly energetic ‘body music’ topped off with slinky South American suggestiveness? Matias Aguayo and the District Union will be daring you not to move over at the Encore stage. It’s probably worthwhile at this point to note that earplugs will be available from the Festival Guide stand, as from 8pm things stand to get a lot louder with the triumphant return of My Bloody Valentine. Coming back to the city in which they recorded their debut EP in 1985, having last year released their first album in 22 years, the Kevin Shields-led kings of shoegaze will challenge your previously held conceptions of aural pain and beauty.
Until recently, festivalgoers were going to have to contemplate the worst of clashes: MBV or Björk? Thankfully, considering it’s the Icelandic icon’s final stop on the Biophilia tour and only concert in Germany, organisers have somehow managed to move things around and now there’s only going to be 15 minutes of overlap between the two sets. Thank God. There’s nothing to say that hasn’t already been said about the truly unique Björk live experience. Just make sure you’re there. Seriously.
Immediately post-Björk, punk-rockers Turbostaat and nu-rave noisemakers Klaxons will be vying for your attention on the Pitchfork and Encore stages, respectively. To close things off on the Mainstage, local legend and cult film star Fritz Kalkbrenner will be spinning his tastiest deep house cuts, while minimal techno wunderkind Pantha du Prince meticulously builds his twinkling soundscapes next door. Then, over at ARENA, Ed Banger Records are set to celebrate 10 years of, well, bangers, via Para One, Breakbot (live), Busy P and a DJ set from maximalist duo Justice. If you fancy something a little different, there’s also Disko Chinesisch, an all-night hodgepodge game of round-the-decks with 15 DJs in constant clockwise rotation, playing whatever tracks take their fancy.
Sound good? Tickets are available online at http://www.berlinfestival.de/en/tickets.html as well as ticket outlets in most German cities. Can’t make it? Data Transmission will have a full review of the festival next week. Hopefully see you there!
What: Berlin Festival
Where: Tempelhof Airport and ARENA BERLIN
When: 6 + 7 September 2013
How much: Single-day ticket – €59
Single-night CLUB XBERG ticket – €29
Two-day festival pass – €79
Two-day festival pass + CLUB XBERG – €99