Amazing piano work, folkish tales and French charme

Traumzeit-Festival – Ruhrpark-Nord, Duisbiurg; June 20th to 22nd, 2014

I’ve lived in Dortmund for over eight years now, but to my shame I have to admit that until recently I didn’t know anything about Traumzeit-Festival or its location the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. I stumbled upon both while researching for music events that had happened in Phoenix West, a similar location in Dortmund. Either way, the festival as well as the location sounded intriguing, so I figured I’d give it a try. the festival’s motto “Cross the border – bridge the gap” sounded especially interesting to me, because with so many festivals dedicated only to one genre of music it is refreshing to find one that seeks out different musical styles and bands that wander between worlds. It didn’t bother me that I had heard of only few of the artists prior to the festival – you never know just what gems you’ll discover if you dare to check out someone you don’t know.

The festival organizers were nice enough to grant me a photopass so I had three days to explore and check out all sorts of different artists and bands at three different indoor venues and an open air stage. The music on that stage was free for any visitor of the park – only for the concerts at the indoor venues a ticket was needed. Generally speaking the Gebläsehalle was home to more classical oriented music and artists in the Pop / Rock / Indie category mostly played at the Gießhalle, while the larger Kraftzentrale was reserved for the main act of each night. Not only the music, but also the surroundings were quite amazing and apart from great bands and the cool location the festival also offered a good selection of food and refreshments and was nicely organized overall. It was easy to get there and back, those who wanted to stay had the option of camping and the relaxed atmosphere guaranteed a good time.

DAY 1

On the first day I arrived roughly an hour before the first band started so I had enough time to check out the location before the concerts started. Based on quickly checking their youTube videos, I had a rough plan of who I wanted to see. After getting some food and taking a walk around, there was still more than enough time to get to the Open Air stage at the Gasometer.

SPACEMAN SPIFF had been on the list of bands I wanted to see and started the festival that day. Their music was quite nice and quickly drew an audience towards the stage. The lyrics weren’t bad either and I would have liked to hear more of them. Singer/Songwriters almost always work for me and this was certainly a good beginning. However, I didn’t get a chance to stay as long as I would have liked to, because the first concert at the Gebläsehalle was calling. LAMBERT, a pianist, whose trade mark it is to wear a mask on stage. I liked his playing, felt reminded of a few lines in Reinhard Mey’s song ‘Gib mir Musik’ where he talks about melodies flowing from a piano. It was beautiful music and he seemed a funny guy who made all song introductions tongue-in-cheek. The mask neither hindered nor supported his performance in my opinion, but more power to him it it’s his thing. It sure made for some interesting pictures. 😉

MIA. were the main act that night and I was a bit in doubt regarding their music. Electro is not really my cup of tea so I wondered if it would work for me. Surprisingly it did, but before talking about Mia. the support act has to be mentioned. The Knappenchor Homberg sang a few choir songs before the show, mainly miner’s songs. Most of the man were at retirement age and obviously enjoyed being on the big stage at the Kraftzentrale. The audience nicely played along and cheered them on. It was all good fun for 15 minutes, each of the singers got a shot of liquor the end and left the stage to everyone’s applause. It was awesome to even hear music like this at a festival.
Mia. entered the stage to blinding lights and sounds that were surprisingly Pop to me. I instantly loved their energy and the attitude of singer Mietze Katz. She clearly ruled the stage and the audience, always on the move and urging everyone on to participate. It sure was fun photographing them, but the show was also awesome. The music was an amazing mixture of Pop, Punk and Electro. The audience clearly loved it, jumping, dancing and singing along. Mietze got close and played to them. For one song she even played a Theremin, for another she had signs with the words “Nein” (no) that she threw in the air. It was surely entertaining, everyone knew how to play too. Still not the music I’d listen to at home, but a highlight of the evening for me. Their powerful sound just picked me up and carried me along. Very cool music and as if that wasn’t enough, some cool costumes too. I loved it and felt sorry about leaving early to be on time for the next concert at the Giesshalle.

I soon regretted that decision, because JUDITH HOLOFERNES not only made us wait half an hour before she started, she also clearly wasn’t worth it. The first factor that bothered me as a photographer was the lack of light on stage. It seemed as if they just didn’t want anyone to see them. It would have been OK though if the music had been any good. It wasn’t though. Judith’s voice wasn’t at all like I remembered it from her band Wir Sind Helden. She may not be the world’s greatest singer, but that night her voice had no power at all. It was just flat and the songs were pretty boring. I didn’t even feel like listening to the lyrics and left soon. The fans liked it, but I doubt I’ll ever be one of them. Outside it sounded a bit better. The venue is open so it may be complicated to control the sound, but that’s what soundcheck should be for.

During the break I had not planned for I walked around the park and took some nice location pictures before returning to the Gebläsehalle to see NILS FRAHM. He was the artist I had been most curious about, since I’d heard that he’s pretty amazing. I still didn’t know what to expect, but was blown away within seconds. I sat there with my mouth hanging open, utterly fascinated. He played an amazing combination of piano tunes and electronic effects, always turning nobs and pushing buttons or pedals while he was playing. It was interesting to watch him, but even more so to hear him play. Now I’m the first to admit I don’t know all that much about classical music, but I had no idea such music could even be made with a piano. He didn’t only play the piano though, he switched between that and the grand piano, sometimes even playing both at the same time. It was truly amazing and absolutely my highlight of the day. I could have listened for hours. When he was done, people would not let him leave and clapped until he came back. He told a funny story about playing at a festival in Finland where he had just started and was told that he had only three minutes to play (due to everything being delayed). He did give us an encore too. After that I did not want to hear anything else and happily went home. It was a great first day for sure.

pictures of day one

DAY 2

The second day officially started at 1 pm on the open air stage at the Gasometer, but I decided that was too early and got there around 5 pm, going straight to the Giesshalle for PANTHEÓN ROCOCÓ. The Mexican band brought a mixture of Ska and Rock to the stage – fun and powerful music to dance to. Soon the space in front of the stage filled with dancing people and this was absolutely the best thing to do – just go along with the music. These guys were fun and they had fun. 🙂

Afterwards I spent some time waiting for Kat Frankie, but when she was over 30 minutes late already, I decided to skip her and head to the Kraftzentrale for YOUNG CHINESE DOGS, the one band I absolutely wanted to see that day. Not that I knew anything about them, but their folkish Pop sounds had already spoken to me when I’d checked them out. The band instantly won me over and with the first song I was smiling broadly. There was just something in their music that made me happy.
The band members came across really friendly too, chatting away about their songs and how to their surprise they gained a spot in the country charts at Amazon, even though they are not “country at all”. It was clear they enjoyed what they were doing and the songs were quite beautiful with great instrumentation and harmonies. I could have listened to them for hours, but of course they were not allowed to play that long. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough money to buy their CD, but did so when I got home. Young Chinese dogs are now on my long list of Bands to go and see again.

After a break it was time for KITTY, DAISY & LEWIS. The British siblings make music in the style of the 40ies and 50ies while dressing accordingly. They did not sound as Rockabilly as I had expected, but all of them were amazingly talented in playing multiple instruments and they didn’t sing badly either. Supporting them on bass and guitar were their mother and father respectively. I enjoyed watching them play and felt sorry for the smallish audience. Thanks to Germany playing in the football world cup that evening it was rather empty. Still, the audience had fun, some were dressed to match the musical era and there as even some dancing going on. Not really my cup of tea, but a good band nonetheless.

On the way back to the Gebläsehalle I dropped by the open air stage and caught a few songs of DOROTHEE KLAEUKENS. It was classic singer/songwriter music, very listenable. I liked it and thought it might have been interesting to listen for longer, but once again it was time to move on to the next concert.

HAUSCHKA was next for me, the third pianist I saw at this festival. He was quite relaxed, opening the show with telling us he had just been to his mom’s birthday party. Many plastic bags cluttered the floor and the grand piano around him. I wondered what they were doing there, until he used the contents (wooden sticks and such) to put them between the piano strings to change the sound. All the while a camera was projecting the piano’s insides onto the back wall – it was quite interesting to see what happened there. The music, however, didn’t speak to me. It was surely interesting stuff, long compositions far from the regular piano sound. It wasn’t for me though and I left after 30 minutes.

Back at the open air stage I had much fun watching and listening to the German Ska band LOS PLACEBOS. Their music was happy-go-lucky and got everyone to dance. They told us all the world needed was a little more Ska and I was almost ready to believe it. The band surely made me laugh a lot, they were very entertaining.

Last band of the night for me was THE NOTWIST. Their music hadn’t impressed me much on my short youTube check, but I figured I had nothing to lose and was pleasantly surprised. The sound and their light show were amazing. Not sure how to define their music, as it had elements of Electro, Rock and Pop, but it was a sound to get lost in. Amazingly cool stuff, watching them was pure joy and I was happy I had gone to see them. Left a little early to catch the bus, only to realize that it wasn’t going at the time I thought it was. Went back, but only listened from the outside, chatting to one of the other photographers. He was nice enough to offer me a ride home. Thank you! THus ended the second great festival day.

pictures of day two

DAY 3

Day three started in the afternoon again. The bands on the open air stage didn’t interest me so I got there in time for the first concert I wanted to see at one of the venues.

DAVID LEMAITRE was not originally planned for this festival, but due to some other band getting ill, he was invited short notice. I’d heard good things about him from friends and was curious about checking him out, not really knowing what to expect. It was David on guitar and vocals and Sebastian on cello, violin and wine-bottle synthesizer. The combination was just as cool as it sounds. Together they created beautiful sounds, forming melodies with or without words, creating landscapes out of music. I especially recall a song they dedicated to Jacques Cousteau that sounded like the sea whispering and waves rolling in to the shore. It was music to dream to and get lost in, quite unusual and at times breathtaking. I absolutely loved the concert.
He told us why he spoke German so well, made jokes about the football world cup and let us know that Sebastian had bought the cello only a year ago and built the synthesizer. He seemed an all-round nice fellow who loved playing for us and had just about as much fun as the audience did. When he was done there were standing ovations too. Would have loved to buy a CD, but he told us he had almost sold out at the last concert and there were only 9 left. When I got out there was already a long line so I gave up and vowed to get it some time later.

With JESPER MUNK I felt his appearance was a bit at odds with the music he played. He looked pretty much like a kid just out of high school, but he played and sang the Blues as I he’d been doing it for ages. For me Blues is somehow associated with old men wearing hats and telling stories of dark times and I had trouble bringing that image in my head to terms with what I was seeing on stage. The kid was good though, he played well, supported by a bassist and drummer. His voice was strong and a little rough, very fitting for this type of music. Apparently they enjoyed being on stage and skillfully showed what they could do. The audience was quite happy, but for me it was not a day to hear the Blues so I left after about 30 minutes. That gave me a little break before the next concert at the Giesshalle.

When I had checked out this day’s bands, THE WAR ON DRUGS was the one that seemed most up my alley, playing straightforward Indie-rock. While waiting outside I heard some of their soundcheck and really liked what I heard. When they let us in there was some confusion regarding when the photographers were allowed to take pictures. The paper we had gotten the first day said “song 2-4”, but there had been changes at other concerts so we asked security. One of the guys left to check and came back telling us it was the usual (i.e. songs 1-3). As the band started we started taking picture sonly to be told by the singer “Hey it’s the first song. No pictures during the first song. Didn’t you read the thing?” We all looked at each other like “wtf???”, but then he added “just kidding, I don’t care!” Still, that was weird and I wondered who the security guy asked about this.
Anyway, the band was pretty cool, playing some solid music. I liked their sound, but noticed once again that it had been just a little better from the outside. Especially the faster songs somehow got a  little lost in the big venue, didn’t have as much drive as I would have expected. The ballads worked well though and overall it was good. The singer talked a lot about football and which German players he liked. He also joked around from time to time. Less than that it was just what I had expected: straightforward music, no frills, no big show, but fun to listen to. A few people where even dancing. It was enjoyable enough, but I didn’t feel the need to stay until the end. Instead I got some food before heading to the Kraftzentrale for the last concert of the night.

ZAZ was the second surprise of the day for me. After checking out her music online I had thought it was OK, but it didn’t really interest me. I had even thought about staying with The War On Drugs and not seeing her at all. It would have been a big mistake though. Not only is she a great singer, surrounded by great musicians, she also seemed to have put a spell on everyone, making people smile from the front row to the very last.
Arriving shortly before the concert started I had to make my way from the back of the packed venue all the way to the front between barrier and stage in order to take pictures – it took some time, but I made it. For about 15 minutes I got to see Zaz up close before I had to leave and retreated to the back. Her tunes were Pop laced with a little bit of Jazz and some more traditional Chanson elements. This mixture of sounds worked perfectly well to draw in the audience. The band played well and she was irresistibly charming. 🙂 At the beginning she asked if everyone understood French and many cheered in reply. Still, she read made some of her announcements in German, reading them from a piece of paper. It was a nice thing to do. I especially liked her story about the tooth fairy, who brought her a book after the first tooth went missing and how she tried to knock out more teeth to get more books. 😀 It wasn’t all funny though, she has some more serious songs as well, but they were all entertaining. The audience was mesmerized and cheering her on. It was a wonderful concert overall with great sound and interesting stage decoration as well. I totally loved it and was happy to have given it a try.

All in all Traumzeit was an enjoyable festival – I certainly hope I can go again next year!

pictures of days three

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