Southside

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It was a last minute call to jump onboard the minibus down to Bavaria, to a small-town called Tuttlingen. I had been sleeping in a warm bed for only 2 days before leaving on this epic journey to Southside festival. We pack the van early morning and head south through Deutschland where upon crossing the border we make our first pit-stop in Flensburg where I was lost my virginity to German cuisine.  It left a poor impression, an omen of things to come. As we’re speeding down the autobahn at an average of 135 km/h, the electronics in our mobile-craft began to malfunction. So, we pull-over for the night to sleep beside this lively high-speed vessel. Exhausted and frustrated, we’ve passed dozens of church villages, hillside vineyards, and ausfahrt‘s when finally we reach our goal and make it to the festival area with high hopes. The reward? A huge home-made non-german feast.

The first band to open up the festival is in your face Norwegian band Kvelertak (Norwegian for “stranglehold” or “chokehold”). I left after two songs. Call me a pussy but my vagina refused to be strangled and my ears weren’t up for the vocal chokehold. I wandered about and found The Family Rain performing with serious lack of enthusiasm… a band of three brothers that bored me with good music. Finally the third band turned out to be a charm, Peace, a young UK version of Nirvana under the influence of a rockin’ rhythmic spell. The spell kept me there for the whole performance, a natural way to measure the magic of a band. The bar was raised when the bearded men of Kashmir hit the main stage. These danish guys had a nice blend of youth and maturity with powerful vocal deliveries on top of beautiful chord shifts. I could sense an experience of knowing  their place in the music, where to stretch and when to hold it down. The danish translation of 90’s British wave/early Radiohead. The music was only getting better so I invited some co-workers to see Steven Wilson‘s band. It was the most interesting and musically intense set of the afternoon. A huge range of aural dynamics with exciting improv segments. It kept die-hard fans cheering for more and new fans trying to decipher what they are hearing. A killer rhythm section exploding from silences and stopping on dimes, soaring horn & woodwind solos, spicy keys and meaty guitar riffs maestro’d by Steve. Amateur ears could appreciate the non-mainstream talent, alternative song-structure and different sounds being produced by the unit. Turn the page 180 degrees and I’m at Johnossi where the girls are screaming and singing along to swedish popular hits. The tunes are feel good and the kids feel good so what’s the point? To get the job well done and the swedes do a good job with Pop by keeping it interesting and twisting the norms. A full day of music and the last band I had the pleasure of listening to was 2013 break-out band Alt-J. I grew tired of their songs very fast, each track too similar in motifs, it was interesting to see the performance but I was just exhausted from a whole day of events. So, I lay down in a patch of grass and closed my eyes. I enjoyed the sounds being produced and fell into a bit a daydream. Spacious vocal harmonies and simple dub-beats set them apart from other mainstream bands.

Exit daydream and enter morning. A couple of beer bongs and many intense rounds of flunkyball had me wasted by noon. I woke up laying in a field, shirtless, with a blue heart drawn on my chest. I head over to catch the final song of Gogol Bordello‘s party but I showed up fashionably too late. I head to the main stage and see Tegan and Sara for the 2nd time in a week and their momentum is riding high. Friends and lesbians are out n’ about shouting song lyrics and feeling empowered by the sisters of song. The 2nd bite of these girls was just as good as the first. I will rate the next 3 acts in amount of tears produced. It is a system put in place to embarrass the author. The National, Portishead, & Sigur Rós. Top class bands, like top shelf liquor, the first sip of their sound takes you by surprise and when you finish the drink you are drunk from the experience. The National’s frontman Matt Berninger had me looking up to the sky and crying tears of joy. He oozes charisma and bleeds sincerity into the performance. The liquor bottle could be labeled as Power-Indie. Portishead, classified as trip-hop, not sure what it means, had my limbs loose and my eyes wet… my body was a vessel acting and reacting to their sounds. Very infectious music with great rhythms that allows for participation in dance. The cream of the crop was the Sigur Rós midnight show. It had my heart crying, my head fixed to the stars and my mind somewhere beyond heaven. It was the climax of a festival experience. I was left speechless by the end of the performance, falling asleep in my tent knowing that I had lived today to the fullest. Frontman,Jón Þór Birgisson, is a master of soul music reaching channels that no other vocalist can turn on. It could be a symptom of Iceland. Side note: Rammstein happened sometime that night… it was everything I don’t like about music aka the German Kiss. You can’t go from a near-death experience to flash & lack of substance. It’s like going from Grey Goose to Georgi… know what I mean?

I had seen it all and could leave the festival happy but there was still one more day left. I was exhausted by this point from working and only caught the first few songs of Bloc Party before retreating to my tent for a power nap. The replacement chick drummer was pretty nice to look at, playing intense Bloc Party dance beats and of course a black frontman with a London accent is exotic to watch. After my siesta, I watched Ska-P from a far point and observed these older cats bouncing around with youthful energy and delivering a message of revolution. The crowd was really into it from start to finish. The message I got was to have a good time on stage, be on point with music, & Freedom for Palestine. All good things I think. The world was turned upside down when Deichkind hit the main stage. A cocktail of Beastie Boys, Daft Punk, and Lady Gaga. Garnished with party fuel and served with a good mood. The craziest stage production I’ve ever seen with giant blow ups, silly outfits, and lots of clowning around. It’s the party of the summer and these German guys brought it home with the DJ team pounding hard beats, rappers spitting fire, and hooks that kept them on stage for a solid two hours. I had fulfilled my party quota with lots of whip cream and a cherry on top.

There’s an intensity to the German kids, their humor is a mixture of seriousness and ridiculousness. Their festival outfits are more theatrical in character compared to the Danes or Swedes. I’ve picked up some useful phrases “Kamnst du englische sprechen?” and “Ice spreche kine deutsch.” Which is usually followed by “Oh that’s OK, I can do englische” in an awesome thick german accent. The 3 lessons I’ve learned, one, their cuisine really does suck, two, beer is cheap and awesome, and three, under the definition of Germans you’ll find efficiency. I did bring up World War 2 and everyone is open to talking about it and comparing how it’s taught in history classes around the world. For the youth, no topics are too taboo and everything is worth discussing! I can’t say the same applies for older generations but I think it’s great how open young people are at the music festivals I’ve been to. You meet some really great kids & I love that!

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