Monday 14 September 2015

Live: Amphi Festival - Köln, 25th – 26th July 2015


Köln, Germany 
25/07/2015 – 26/07/2015 


Its 2.00pm on an August afternoon. Glancing over gothic fashion in the pages of a financial Times supplement, I try gathering my thoughts of the gothic music calendar of this year.

Growing from a small festival that saw a few hundred patrons attend, Amphi festival transformed to a weekend that sees over 18,000 gather in black lace, rubber, cyber dreads and colours of all, not just from Europe, but the whole of the black globe, verifying the success and impact Amphi has had on the alternative scene. For it’s convenience in regards to transport & travel, family-friendly, as well as good quality has kept it in that stage for many years.

The weather looks dreary outside in Edinburgh, so no need for sun protection. With a quick shower, croissant and a strong black tar coffee it’s off to the airport. My charming Goth morning looks get me away with 3kg over the baggage limit (thank goodness for the tar coffee!). Now just past the x-ray to watch the security guard’s reaction to my New Rock’s and another festival is about to commence!

This year saw a change in the Amphi venue, from the legendary Tanzbunnen situated on the side of the Rhein; with its three stages and Goth patented Beach Club. Located nearby, the Laxness arena was chosen.

An impressive venue, when first glimpsed at online, maybe a bit too impressive in size for the Grufti culture to handle. However sometimes experiments must be made, in order to continue on improving the festival experience. Over the years the Tanzbunnen had become overcrowded, in certain situations, with issues such as rain creating problems for entry into certain stages, it could be seen that this was part of eliminating this issue.
So with a bit of ‘Aesthetische’s’ new promotional tracks blowing through the eardrum, the warm-up parties are under-way!

Call the Ship to port, was an impressive experiment of making use of the Rhein, as a floating warm-up venue, that has become a permanent add-on to the festival. Combine that with the new Alter Watersaal’s location in the Köln hafen complex, which hosts the official Amphi Festival warm-up party, improvements are being made every year. The Essig Fabrik was visited for the first time, breaking tradition and is a great warm-up substitute if wanting a change from the Depeche Mode Amphi Party.

Saturday – The Perfect Storm
The new venue did not get off to a flying start, literally… Köln that Saturday experienced seriously high storm winds, that led to the two outdoor stages including all the stalls being shut down until further notice. Mainly due to the possible capsizing disasters caused by triple platform boots!
The major issue created by the wind was a wave of disarray, which led to overcrowding within the laxness arena. There was really not enough clear signage in regards to the two outdoor stages and indoor stall area. However kudos must be given to Amphi management, for doing their utmost to tame the situation and create a solution to the health and safety hazard.

The end result led to the outdoor venues remaining closed, and having acts squeezed into the main Arena stage in order to get as many acts back on the list. There had been querying over the improvement of the vegetarian and vegan options available at Amphi this year. Either I was unaware to find them, though there seemed to be no change. It must be pointed out though, there was indeed a change in the variety of food available and I was happy with my Bratwurst and Met; and my personal EBM dance of joy was given to the introduction of Guinness!

The likes of D.A.F.’s Gabi Delgado brought down the drum to the beat with old skool EBM. The advantage of the Arena could already be seen, watching the Beer and body movements bring me back to Cold War, also reminding me I was missing out on fun in the pit!

Leaving Mussolini in the past, we travelled into dream world. Chibi let her pigtails go; drawing her audience to a place of cake, blood and wonderland dark swirls; as the Canadian project ‘The Birthday Massacre’ delivered a little slice of nightmare to the Arena. Flying around the stage, the band delivered purple and black romance of young splatter tales to the pit, and as an act to observe from the medium level was quite perfect. The songs covered the entirety of their work from the sewing up of ‘Pins & needles’ to the waltzing nightmare fairy-tale of ‘Lovers End’.

 Whatever was left of the bloodcake, got finished off with Agonoize. They walked onto the stage; transforming the Arena into a church and preached gospels to a crowd that rose into a blood-coagulated tornado. Having the masses gathered at the Arena stage; the Guinness and met stand looked like boats from afar, becoming engulfed in a alcoholic energetic black wave. Chris,L ramped up the volume and cut-throat bass. Using the rage of his voice and dark joy, he worked the blood-lust of the disciples to his advantage. By now the floor was dashed in salt and muscle juice.

Front 242 made it onto the Main stage, an anticipation after not playing last year due the sound issues that plagued not only the Tanzbunnen’s main stage but that also of the Stattenhaus.

Sunday - We shall rebuild!
From a festival goers perspective having acts such as [:SITD:] so early in the morning, was an unfortunate solution due to time as well as knowledge of the rescheduling being short. Carsten did his best to salvage the scrap metal and bring a beast out with Slow deep pulsing EBM reactor. With the help of Chris. L, the crowd got their morning stomp in the face.

If any of all the bands that can make an amusing drama, the building lords ‘Patenbrigade: Wolff’ are the Kings of construction electronica. A few sight levels, orange visibility vests and we have ourselves progress and beer! Taking the light movement with their own patented style of music and there movement through the ages, the festival awoke from the grave and found some new life.

The Arena played to ‘Combichrist’s’ Joy of Gunz, with heavy drums and blasting bass, with a combined dash of guitars. Andy La Plauega has taken his project’s act much more metal in his performances, in comparison to previous live acts, a great performance to show off his Rammstein touring experience, for the gigantic venue.

‘Henric de la Cour’ was an exceptional act for the orbit stage, producing a meteor of synthetic waves, combined with guitar strings that left a lasting impression. An interesting group of zombified keyboardists and a single guitarist gave an amusing touch to the fantastic vocals and performance of their lead singer. For the first time seen all weekend, they electrified the crowd and for me made the best new act of the festival.

The lasting thoughts were that the orbit stage had the best vibe of the overall Sunday. The dense energy from the nearby stalls and light chitty chatting of the back, and Guinness at arm’s length was perfect.

Down Hill

I am over critical of sound and atmosphere; as I believe it is the secret key to most spectators, that these conditions will create the best for any act, producing the feeling of nerves standing up upon the skin to the right resonance that cannot be beaten.
For Diary of Dreams, I have seen them on previous occasions outdoor and regardless of sunlight, I am aware it can still make the night-time crawl in. I left the vicinity of the green stage, as I believed that if I listened to Adrian Hates any longer on stage under these conditions, my thoughts and place in my head for the band would be tarnished. The sound was far from acceptable if you were to listen not that far away. As much as props and the movement of artists can catalyse the mood, the sound is the greatest multiplier and in this case , negative.

Oomph came alive, opening with ‘Alles Aus Liebe’ for a packed black Arena. It had a mixed proportion of alive Oomph maniacs at front of stage, and a representation on the upper floors of a few tired looking faces recovering from Saturday. However still able to enjoy the sound of the industrial Goth rockers. For the Laxness Arena, here I could definitely see an advantage for this point in time, but it recreated the feeling of being in a Museum?

The orbit stage saw the acoustics of Rome reign in and feel the Neofolk force of Jerome Reuter, producing his ballad of fury and desolation of society amongst the blades of grass. Rome bestowed a clean chill of melodic rituals, of death and power, that erased the earlier sounds.

VNV Nation closed the Amphi epilogue for 2015, and by far was the best choice. Watching Ronan Harris perform his act and use the sheer size of the Coliseum before him to its full potential was spectacle at its finest. Engaging the crowd from the pit to the rafters the sheer volume of spectators was horrifying; at the same time what a fantastic adrenaline rush! The highest moment was seeing the darkness of the laxness arena become illuminated. Phones and lighters, brought the whole of Amphi together at, before the curtain closed until the following summer... 

Epilogue aka The Post Morton 
Monday came and over a spot of lunch including a strong cup of black resurrection, in the inner city of Köln, I compiled my thoughts of the Gothic long weekend.

Having two outdoor venues reduced the atmosphere for a lot of bands, which would have been better suited to indoor acoustic environment. The sound quality was dire if listening in the vicinity of the green stage. The orbit stage however was a good size; it did create overcrowding, but was made up by the quality of sound and overall feeling of the acts and atmosphere by dark festival goers.

The Arena was a spectacle, but only for the bands that would see the space being filled and for the music artists that had developed the skills to channel the audience from the stage, to the metal sky. I think also a festival such as the laxness arena may have positives with such are large seating area, however overall you felt very disconnected from it all and I did not come to a festival to sit and watch bands.

The Tanzbunnen, was a much better location, I believe the towering size of the laxness arena, reduced the feeling of the festival and caused claustrophobia outside. The ability to see a great distance over the whole festival at the previous grounds was only brought to my significance this year, and I believe produced a better feeling of black community. There was too much feeling of disconnection for it to be a festival for me .

Experiments are there for taking risks and seeing if a better result came and as much as it can be said the negatives were far greater this year. I am happy Amphi attempted it, as it shows innovation and a management that is alive and trying to improve on a great festival.

So To Next Year!
End of communiqué 

Review by Dominic Lynch (DJ LX-E)
Photography: André M. Hünseler Thinking Pixels

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