Welcome to our late summer / early fall festival guide. This lil’ ditty goes out to the droves of tourists dipping their toes in the soothing (cess)pools of Berlin’s summer months. If you’ve been out exploring, surely you’ve already encountered some of our famous hospitality in the form of a, “verpiss dich Scheiß Touri!” or maybe, “weg vom Fahrradweg!” Don’t mind them. While some Negative Nancys fail to see past the overcrowded club lines and flakey Tinder matches, we here at Schmutz welcome you. It’s not your fault that you think Club der Visionaere and Berghain are the only places to hang out. You probably just don’t know any better! To your credit, this city is notoriously difficult to penetrate without someone on the inside. This is where we come in. Please take into consideration all of these other nice things that we think are worth your time and parents’ money. Behold: our festival-listicle (AKA Festicle).
Sound the A l’arme! and brace yourself for one of Berlin’s most innovative and boundary-pushing festivals. This year’s iteration has chosen two themes for the participating artists to focus on: noise and feedback (a festival after Schmutz’ own heart). The lineup features artists that span generations, genres, and will appeal to more than just the nerdy noise buffs. Creating intimate listening experiences with both legendary artists and fresh innovators isn’t an easy task in the often oh-so-serious world of noise, classical, and ambient music, but A L’arme seems to have cracked the code. All that said, some of the music is abrasive, dissonant, and can be a tough listen, but the effect on the listener will be vast and the return great. We’re excited for the whole of this musical outing but we have a few recommendations that shan’t be missed: the Stockholm-based composer Ellen Arkbro, the afrofutursim-informed jazz of Michael Zerang & The Blue Light, the dronescapes of Wanda Group, and the angular noise constructed by
Radian & Billy Roisz. Communicator. Message. Medium. Receiver. Effect.
Pack List: vuvuzella, crossed arms, circular sunglasses
A small festival set on the lake in Weißensee, we can’t think of a more picturesque setting for the artists featured at this year’s By The Lake festival. The lineup this year has been curated by Scandi heartthrobs, Efterklang, and their other pals at their affiliated online radio station The Lake. The small but eclectic “festival” tests the limits of the word (there are only four bands in total), but we’re giving it a pass because it’s by a lake. That said, each of the four acts come highly recommended. Ghana’s Ata Kak is a hero of electronics, rap, high life and funk, and have recently been picked up by Awesome Tapes from Africa. We double-dog-dare you not to groove when he’s on. The legendary kings of kraut, Faust, will be present with a children’s choir (‘nuff said). At the forefront of the “New Wave of Tuareg Music,” Imarhan are a collective with a message reminding us “we are all connected and that only through the acceptance and uptake of this union will we be able to overcome the separation of cultures and societies.” Last but not least comes A Hawk and a Hacksaw, who has grown their largely Balkan sound around the idea of traveling to find music and inspiration, thus reflecting that philosophy in the construction of their own musical worlds.
PACK LIST: water wings, snacks, lizard pal
Taking the award for the most varied festival lineup in the feature, Pop-Kultur is continuing its tradition of featuring doom-folk, pop, harsh noise, experimental jazz, German language hip-hop, dance, post-punk, and somehow making it all work. Exceptional curation across genres aside, what also has us looking forward to PK each year is the high concentration of up-and-coming German-language artists, something that is unfortunately rare on mainstream festivals despite there being ample talent. There are the obvious Deutschrap heroes like Ace Tee & Kwam.e, Ebow, and Haiyti, but the bill also boasts the likes of Die Nerven and Drangsal. Beyond Germany’s finest, notable international acts include the doom-folk/noise-drone of Anna von Hauswolff and Chelsea Wolfe, the feminist post-Witch House of Islamiq Grrrls & oOoOO, the filthy wordplay of Ms. Banks, and the absolute post-punk legend, Vivien Goldman. Same as last year, Pop-Kultur will be taking over the full Kulturbrauerei complex.
Pack List: cutoff shorts, shutter shades, Aperol spritz
(photo cred: Camille Blake)
A festival that needs no introduction, yet here we are. Berlin Atonal is once again nearly upon us, here to test our perception of music, art, and space. Part of the festival’s appeal is how succinctly it encapsulates our favorite stereotypes of Berlin’s subcultures: throngs of attractive, leather-clad, and likely vampiric audiophiles writhing in a brutalist mausoleum. It’s a convergence of discomfort and ecstatic excess; a celebration of darkness that is pierced only by synchronized displays. If nothing else, Atonal is your passport to experience the depressingly underutilized and humbling interior of Kraftwerk, the former East German power station. Though they have only made their first lineup announcement, there is plenty to look forward to: Copenhagen-based composer Astrid Sonne, Bristol techno punks, Giant Swan, the collaboration of Japanese noise duo group A with mind-fuck visual artist Dead Slow Ahead, the world premiere of Iona Fortune’s Chaotic Profusion, Berlin-based dream weaver, Lucrecia Dalt, and Minimal Tapes label head, Veronica Vasicka. When the main productions finish, the writhing continues into the wee hours in the building’s more familiar spaces, OHM and techno dungeon of lore,Tresor.
PACK LIST: black activewear, nihilism, party favors
Magnificent Music is a German booking agency with a keen ear for contemporary acts that are strongly influenced by vintage rock. Their gigs will typically cover a range of psychedelic, proto 60s/70s, and mild stoner rock. Lucky for us, they’ve put their curation talents to work with this two-day freak out fest that will serve as the perfect soundtrack for the feels of late summer. A Schmutz favorite, UK’s Swedish Death Candy adds a fresh veneer to the psych of generations past, resulting in something akin to the marriage of the garage rock of Ty Segall and the groovier bits of Electric Wizard. If you know what’s good, you’ll be checking out Causa Sui from Denmark. They utilize the relentless drive of classic kraut and heavier stoner riffs to build long-game desert rock film scores. Also worth your attention is MaidaVale, touring on the heels of their recently released a album, Madness is too pure. The vocals of the band’s front woman, Matilda Roth, soar over the shamanic-psych riffs and conjure vivid recollections of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. The final jammer on our must-see list for MMR is Welcome Inside the Brain. These guys are for fans of Can, King Crimson, and Magma with a dash of Bowie. Not for the faint of heart, but not reserved only for the real prog-heads. Remember that these are just our picks, so we recommend you go and see for yourself. The head-banging and body-swaying is to go down in Prenzlauer berg’s famed Roadrunner’s Paradise Club. Check out the weekend’s full lineup below.
PACK LIST: sideburns, devil’s lettuce, tattered Sabbath shirt
Part the cobwebs and let the stale must of death fill your nostrils as you enter the Morbid Catacombs. The bowels of the earth are conveniently located near Ostkreuz, and there you’ll find a veritable smorgasbord of Europe’s best black, death, doom, and thrash metal. Little else needs to be said for such an event. If you have even the slightest appreciation for underground metal, this where you should go. There’s plenty to be stoked about, but we’re mostly going to see the old school, funeral doom lords, Incantation.
PACK LIST: battle vest, tissue for inevitable nosebleeds, illegible t-shirt
Just two weeks after you’ve finished collecting your macerated brains from the walls of Zukunft, you’ll be forced to come back and have them splattered all over again. Swamp Fest is close to what would happen if you combined the two previous festivals. Stoner, death, doom, and psych are all well-represented here, plus the added bonus of some hardcore and punk sprinkled throughout. Bands of note include Beesus, whose sound we refuse to fail at describing, Confusion Master who will be ticking the ever important stoner doom box, and Incarceration, whose brand of death metal will trigger your next manic episode (or your money back).
PACK LIST: bong, Neurosis t-shirt, earplugs
(Feature photo: Roland Owsnitzki for Pop-Kultur)