Music & clubs

Festivals for the rest of y’all

There's no need to leave town to get the most out of festival season. Whether you're into antifolk, hardcore techno, feminist electro, or Italian-disco, we've rounded up the best of Berlin festivals this summer.

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Photo by Stephan Flad

There are two types of festival-goers in this world: those who spend their summers Easyjetting off to the UK, Spain and Iceland, collecting wristbands, forgoing showers and tossing and turning in tents besieged by rain and bass; and those of us who’d rather sleep comfortably in our own beds, take in a bevy of local and international acts in venues with proper plumbing and spend the airfare we’ve saved on beer ‘n’ drugs.

You can guess which camp we’re in, but if you insist, go on and join half the Hauptstadt out at megafest MELT! (Jul 17-18), taking place as always in Ferropolis, which apropos its Mad Max-sounding name is ruled this year by an Australian, Kylie Minogue, presiding over a line-up of Berlin-based and Berlin-friendly names from Marcel Dettman to Mogwai.

Otherwise, the hometown festivities kick off with lo-fi/antifolk gathering DOWN BY THE RIVER (Jul 4, About Blank) featuring as eclectic a lineup as ever, from new riot-cellists on the block Razor Cunts to Canadian indie heroine Julie Doiron. For a more traditional folkie experience – sing-alongs, wide-eyed earnestness and all – wait till the following weekend, when the return of the biannual MELODICA (Jul 11-12) brings more guitar-slinging troubadours to Urban Spree than you can shake a capo at.

A different kind of throwback, the third instalment of MAGIC WAVES (Jul 10-13, Grießmühle) is all vintage synths and summery Italo-disco grooves – don’t miss the return of 1980s Dutch electro pioneers Nine Circles. Like synths but appalled at the mostly-male lineup? If you don’t mind trading fresh air for feminist cred, head to Radialsystem, where electronic matriarch Gudrun Gut and a cabal of other HEROINES OF SOUND (Jul 10-12) pay tribute to early pioneers like Delia Derbyshire.

July 17 sees the start of HKW’s WASSERMUSIK festival (through Aug 8), which isn’t really a festival and, thanks to a relocation from the Pregnant Oyster’s fountained terrace to its front yard, doesn’t involve water. The world music series, this time themed around India, nonetheless curries favour with fusion maestro Talvin Singh and jazz pianist Zoe Rahman.

Neither sing about asses, though, so if that’s your thing, try electro/hip hop leaning queer fest YO! SISSY (Jul 24-26, various venues), which sees the usual Berlin suspects (Aerea Negrot, Alexander Geist, Joey Hansom) sharing the stage with like-minded out-of-towners like JD Samson and Cakes da Killa.

August trades summer jams for intellectual weirdness: now’s the time for adventurous techno and flappy black clothing, both of which will be in abundance at KRAKE (Aug 3-9, Urban Spree/Suicide Circus). For an adventure involving less ketamine, join the avant-jazz crowd at Radialsystem and Berghain for A L’ARME! (Aug 5-8), where those who swooned over sax- man Colin Stetson’s transcendent Berghain set two years ago can now witness him both solo and with bassist Bill Laswell.

Splitting the difference is BERLIN ATONAL (Aug 19-23, Kraftwerk) with all the experimental/noise/kraut/drone stuff you didn’t get to hear at CTM – krautrock nerds in particular will appreciate the one-off reunion of Tony Conrad and Faust, last seen as Outside the Dream Syndicate in 1973. Get your head nodding out of the way at that show so you can sit still for interpretations of Messaien at Ballhaus Ost’s seriously echtzeit-ing LABOR SONOR festival (Aug 28-30). 

Closing out the month, the much-anticipated (or at least much-advertised) POP-KULTUR BERLIN (Aug 26-28, Berghain), a brand-new event put on by the Music Board, replaces Berlin Music Week as a gathering point and showcase for industry wonks. Will Chuckamuck, Mary Ocher and Fenster finally break out of the Berlin ghetto, or will they be overshadowed by Owen Pallet, Neneh Cherry, Sophie Hunger and, presenting his new autobiography, professional weirdo Andreas Dorau?

If you don’t care, go spend one last summer Saturday BY THE LAKE (Aug 29, Weißensee), jamming out to a lineup presented by Danish band Efterklang including Syrian party starter Omar Souleyman.

Or save your energy for mid-September, when the very first Berlin Lollapalooza at Tempelhof – headlined by Muse and Macklemore – may necessitate you buying those Easyjet tickets out of town after all.

Originally published in issue #140, July/August 2015.