Berlin Festival 2013
by James Glazebrook
What better way to close out another summer than with Berlin Festival 2013? Perfectly timed to coincide with (probably) the last warm days of the year, the city’s eponymous open-air marked the end of what turned out to be a busy, brilliant festival season in and around Berlin. With the ever-epic former Tempelhof airport transformed into a concrete playground – complete with four stages and an art village – ravers could enjoy all the fun of the festival without the nasty grass stains and toilet complications that come with titting about in the actual outdoors.
We busy bloggers could only manage a couple of fleeting visits to the site, but still managed to see some über-hyped new acts back-to-back with a clutch of absolute legends. The former included Savages, whose track “Flying to Berlin” has already landed them on überlin, and who I still can’t make up my mind about. I’ve yet to decide whether they are the Second Coming, or simply the second coming of Siouxsie and the Banshees – but their undeniably ferocious live show (and well-turned-out all-female line-up) drew a crush of curious would-be-fans to the Pitchfork hangar on Saturday evening.
On the same stage a day earlier, Faith No More frontman Mike Patton and his alt-metal supergroup Tomahawk entertained a far smaller crowd, which made up for its lack of numbers with sheer beardiness. The sound was a little shonky in parts, but it’s hard to complain that all you can hear are vocals and drums when they belong to Patton and Helmet/Battles beat machine John Stanier. Flying the freak flag again on Saturday, My Bloody Valentine displayed the sonic force and stock-still stage presence that we love them for. Churning out an impressive wall of sound, they nevertheless left photographers wondering what they were supposed to be capturing, had photography not been banned by Kevin Shields and co.
Over on the main stage, björk at least posted a polite notice requesting that the audience refrain from taking pics. It’s difficult to imagine how flash photography could distract anyone wearing a full head mask covered in hundreds of plastic spines, but we had to agree that this was a show to be experienced, rather than recorded. The last concert of the Biophilia world tour featured a surprising number of hits, sequenced in such a way as to make the more enthusiastic certain sections of the crowd lose more and more of their collective shit (Spotify playlist here). Not to take away from björk and her choir of Icelandic cuties, but it was the splicing of “Hyperballad” to “Freak” by long-time collaborator Mark Bell’s LFO that signalled Game Over for the headbangers we seemed to gather around us. The greatest live experience of my life, at least outside of the magical world of metal.