Avocado Johnson goes to that thing you’re curious about to answer the question: Are you missing out? This time: Immergut Festival.
It felt like a bizarre social experiment. Take a few thousand Germans, bus them out to a field in the middle of nowhere and deprive them of internet, phone reception and finally electricity. What happens next?
The offer of a last-minute guest spot had persuaded me to finally check out Immergut, a long-running music festival in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that caters almost exclusively to German indie fans with a lineup of old fogies (Tocotronic, Die Sterne and The Notwist have all played thrice), their modern-day successors (Gurr, Isolation Berlin) and a few out-of-town ringers – this year it was Ty Segall. If you’re looking to escape the Berlin English bubble for a weekend, this isn’t a bad place to do it. As long as the generator’s functioning, that is.
During a tent set by Berlin 1980s throwback Drangsal, the amps and mics suddenly cut off, leaving the drummer playing furiously for a few moments before he picked up on what was happening. Peering out of the tent, I realised the whole festival grounds had gone dark and silent, and seemed likely to stay that way for a while.
Mild-mannered indie kids, drunk festival bros and Neustrelitz locals who’d been offered discount tickets stumbled around not knowing what the hell was happening. Some of them retreated to their tents where, being Germans who pack for a two-day music festival an hour and a half outside Berlin as if they’re headed off for a month in the wilds of Siberia, they were perfectly prepared for just this scenario. Others loitered by the main stage until a guy came out with the world’s weakest megaphone and tried to shout an update, of which the only word anyone could understand was “Freibier!”
Yes, they’d decided to make all beer free until the new generator arrived. With mine in hand, I surveyed the situation and found it… weirdly comforting. This is the kind of situation that could lead to riots, looting and Mad Max-style roving scavenger societies. Instead, people were chilling out, talking, even singing. Despite the crushing demand for Freibier, the bartenders were in a good mood, pounding shots of Pfeffi in between pours. The worst thing that happened was a spontaneous a cappella cover of “Wonderwall” (admittedly, that’s pretty bad).
After two hours, they’d managed to restore power… but only to the “Birkenhain” stage, built for the festival’s smallest acts. Lo and behold, that’s where Ty Segall, who’s always game for this kind of thing, ended up playing an eardrum-shattering set to a massively grateful crowd. We’d skipped two acts, but nobody seemed that pissed off.
Why do we go to these festivals in the first place? Not for the chance to run around catching bits of incomplete sets from our favourite artists. Not for the drugs – well, not only for the drugs. No, I think it’s about the temporary sense of community, the feeling of bonding with these fellow Berliners who’ve made the trip to Neustrelitz and paid €60 to share the same experience. And this outage certainly strengthened that – as exemplified in the very first few minutes, when Drangsal (aka 24-year-old Max Gruber) jumped from the stage into the center of the crowd for a 100 percent acoustic singalong version of his hit “Turmbau zu Babel”.
“Alles in ordnung, denn ich lieb dich so, ich lieb dich so,” we chanted together as we sat on the wooden tent floor and used our smartphones as impromptu spotlights, and it truly did feel like everything was all right.
And then I got like three hours of sleep and woke up in a superheated tent that I suddenly became aware I’d built on a huge anthill, and I vowed never to go to a music festival again.
FOMO Factor (How bad should you feel about missing out on this, from a scale of 1-5?): 2.5.