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In June 2014, the Traumzeit festival took place for the 17th time at the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. Cross the border – close the gap was the motto of this year´s festival and for 3 days, it brought over 30 artists and bands to four stages. They came from the genres Pop, (Indie)Rock, Electro, Jazz and Experimental.
On the first day of Traumzeit, the audience were treated to the happy sounding Spacemann Spiff as a warm up, piano melodies to make you dream played by Lambert, the surprisingly intoxicating MIA., a disappointing Judith Holofernes and at the end of the day, Nils Frahm, who made crazy, wonderful music and sweating all over his pianos in the process. It was a good day.
On the “free concerts” stage in front of the Gasometer, Singer/Songwriter Spacemann Spiff and band started the entire festival. The band came across really likeable, the music rocked and sounded quite cheerful and soon a curious audience gathered in front of the stage. The band was having fun, joked around in-between songs and played songs that quickly wormed their way into my ears. The lyrics had depth and were worth listening to. They quickly connected with the audience and they went along with it. Some of them seemed to know the band already, some were just curious. Spacemann Spiff seemed relaxed and were all-round entertaining. I would have liked to listen to them for longer but the next concert was calling to me.
At the Gebläsehalle Lambert set the piano tone for 45 minutes. Wearing a mask, he played his songs with lightness and ease, alternating between piano and grand piano. The melodies were flowing from his fingertips, beautiful and dreamy. The colorful, horned mask completely hid his face and made things interesting optically. He introduced some of his songs in an odd way by saying things like “the following song is about a schnitzel I once had. It was on a day in March and it was warm enough to sit outside. In April it snowed again.” This made the audience laugh. He played well too, skillfully switching between instruments, sometimes even during songs. If I had to put his music in a box I´d label it “something classical”. No matter how to classify the music, it was very listenable and left me wanting more of it.
After that I took a little break before heading over to the Kraftzentrale to see Electro-Pop/Electro-Punk band MIA.. Actually, Electro is not really my thing but I felt I didn´t want to miss the evening´s headliner. Curiosity was a big part of checking them out; successful bands always make me want to see what they are about. As a warm up of sorts the Knappenchor Homburg was playing. Seeing a choir of men of retirement age singing miners´ songs was not what I had expected but it only proved that Traumzeit is not your “garden-variety” festival. The men had fun singing their songs and their joy spread to the audience. The people watching were friendly, clapped along and helped to make the 15 minutes of choir songs enjoyable for everyone. At the end, everyone in the choir was given a shot of liquor, toasted and cleared the stage for MIA..
Meanwhile, the venue had filled nicely and the audience started cheering when the band walked on stage one by one. Singer Mieze Katz put on a great show, singing well and everyone in her band knew how to play. She was moving around for the entire concert – Mieze Katz sang, danced and gestured, always in tune with the music and with lots of punk attitude. Her hair was flying in rhythm; she posed for the photographers, threw sheets of paper with the printed word “no” in the air and even played Theremin. In addition to all this, she wore a few different costumes that were as varied as the music, from a captain´s outfit to red and white barrier tape. The guitar player and the bassist were always on the move as well and thanks to a turning stage, not even the drummer stayed in the same place. It was a pleasure to watch and listen to in front of a great audience that knew every song and didn´t only sing along but jumped, waved and danced, too. There was no escaping the band´s energy, the only choice was participating. Each and every song was presented enthusiastically and skillfully, singing and instrumentation always perfectly done. Lights and sound could not have been better. Overall, a great atmosphere and an all-round successful concert.
To be on time for seeing Wir sind Helden singer Judith Holofernes at the Gießhalle, I had left MIA. a little early. It turned out to be a mistake. Not only did she keep us waiting for 15 minutes, she had also, as someone noted while walking out “first forgotten the lights and then her voice”. I really like Wir sind Helden and had been looking forward to hearing her solo material but this was anything but convincing. The stage was only dimly lit and covered in artificial fog that made it impossible to see, let alone take pictures. In addition to that, her voice was much weaker than I had remembered. Listening to this was no fun at all so I left after four songs, terribly disappointed. To be fair I should add that the fans liked it and it sounded a little better from outside, so maybe the acoustics of the venue are not the best. However, after this concert I do not want to see her live again.
I used the break to check out Jonathan Park´s lighting production. The lights create a special atmosphere at the Landschaftspark.
At the end of the night, I found myself back at the Gebläsehalle to see pianist Nils Frahm, who expertly mixes solo piano with electronic sounds. At the beginning, he told us that the first song only came into existence because he had bought a new drum machine that he wanted to try out. I´m not sure how to describe what followed after – for over an hour he worked his piano like I´ve never seen anyone do it before – this was art for sure. It was crazy and I mean that in the most positive sense. He played the grand piano and two other pianos, at times two of them at the same time, while turning and pushing buttons to adjust electro effects. The sound, Nils Frahm created that way were nothing short of terrific. He was totally lost in his music and put so much effort into it that he started dripping sweat on the pianos already with the first song.
There was nothing to do but feeling one´s jaw drop to the floor and letting the sounds take over. In the front row, one woman sat with her eyes closed, completely lost in the music. The peacefully-happy expression on her face mirrored what everyone in the room felt: this was something special. Nils Frahm proved the music does not need any words to be magical – sounds alone can create worlds and move them. When he stopped playing after 45 minutes, the standing ovations were well deserved. The audience would not let him go and he played one encore song. He is not only extremely talented but also very likeable. After this highlight, I didn´t feel like listening to anything else and happily made my way home.
So far, Traumzeit is a small but nice festival for people to see and hear interesting music without too much stress. The artists are not the ones that are played on the radio on a regular basis. Everything is well-organized, the distances between venues are not too far and the catering offered something for every taste. Together with the good selection of music, this added to the overall good atmosphere.
Musically, day one was a good day. Nils Frahm deserves 10 deers and MIA. deserves 9. For Lambert and Spacemann Spiff I´d give a solid 7.5. Unfortunately, Judith Holofernes drags down the average. She does not get more than 5 deers – overall that leaves day one just short of 8.
Day two of the Traumzeit festival had some punkish music to dance to by Pantheón Rococó, beautiful and no frills Folk Pop of Young Chinese Dogs, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis taking us back to the 50s, lots of piano by Hauschka, happy Ska by Los Placebos and in the end impressive lights and almost spherical sounds from The Notwist in store for us.
The Gebläsehalle was pretty much empty when I arrived but it filled up shortly before the concert started. Pantheón Rococó hit the stage in a great mood and first played punkish and most of all loud music. The Mexican Latin Ska/Mestizo Rock band brought great energy to the stage and immediately had the audience dancing. Soon after the first person dared to go in front of the stage to dance, many others followed and the concert turned into a party. The band liked it – they were dancing and jumping on stage as well. Their music was a colorful mixture of different instruments. They played guitars, bass, drums and keyboards (decorated with a St. Pauli flag) and also percussion, trumpet, saxophone and trombone. The 11-man band was received enthusiastically and urged the audience to participate all the time. They didn´t have to do much though – it was almost impossible to stand still while they were playing.
Afterwards I had planned to see Kat Frankie at the Gießhalle. Unfortunately, her concert started so late that I gave up on waiting and rather moved on.
YOUNG CHINESE DOGS
I had been looking forward to the Folk Pop sounds of Young Chinese Dogs and was not disappointed. With beautiful melodies, harmony singing and lots of charm they made us feel as if we were at an intimate club gig even though the huge Kraftzentrale was somewhat empty. They took everyone´s hearts by storm. Part of the audience had kept their distance to stage at first but soon came closer and allowed the music to enchant them. Everywhere people were swaying to the music or dancing and clapping along to the faster songs. With accordion, guitars, bass, percussion, ukulele, toy piano and their voices, the band created magical music that immediately felt familiar. Skillfully they switched between softer, more emotional pieces and faster, more stirring ones.
In-between, when they told something about the songs or the band, everyone in the audience was listening attentively and then cheered or laughed when they had finished. Young Chinese Dogs didn´t need a big show or special effects to win over the audience. Their beautiful voices, the instrumentation that changed from soft to full and back again, always fitting the songs and most of all the fact that they had fun and showed love and passion for their music, was more than enough to convince everyone, who was there. This showed in the CD sales after the gig when I even overheard one listener declaring them her “new favorite band”. For me personally this band was the highlight of the day and I´m sure this was not the last time I have seen them.
KITTY, DAISY & LEWIS
Shortly after, the Kraftzentrale was taken over by Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. Unfortunately, the place wasn´t very well filled due to Germany playing in that night´s football world cup match. The English siblings revived the 1940s and 50s in their music as well as their outfits. Their parents on bass and acoustic guitar joined the siblings, who sang and switched between guitars, drums and piano. Without a doubt, these are good musicians, who played and sang flawlessly. Anyone willing to let themselves be drawn in soon felt as if they were time traveling, even though the music might have been better suited for a smoke-filled club instead of a large hall. The audience liked it and some were even dressed accordingly so they would not have stood out had they indeed been traveling in time. The music was diverse and became even more varied when they introduced a guest on the trumpet. It took a little while but eventually Kitty, Daisy and Lewis won over the audience and they loved it. Some people were dancing along, some were just listening. I found them very listenable but have to admit that I was not in the right mood for their music.
Back at the Gebläsehalle, pianist Hauschka was next on the schedule. On and around the grand piano was chaos of plastic bags – during the concert we learned they contained wooden sticks and other elements, Hauschka used to stick them between the strings of the grand piano in order to change the sound. He´s well known for this so called preparations and he filmed the insides of the grand piano and projected it onto the wall behind him. Thus, everyone could watch the movements of the strings. At the start of the concert, he joked about the world cup game between Germany and Ghana being on at the same time and wondered if he should not have projected that onto the wall instead. The audience thought it was funny and clearly preferred music to football. His compositions were exciting but I found them a bit cumbersome and could not really relate to them. They were long pieces, well played as far as I can judge, but they did not touch me. Pity.
MEANWHILE AT THE GASOMETER
Like the previous day, I didn´t see all that many of the free concerts. Between Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, I heard a few songs of Dorothee Klaeukens. She presented her simple but good songs in a calm manner. Like any good Singer/songwriter, she sang without much ado and was convincing to me.
After Hauschka, the show of “Ruhrareastyle” Ska band Los Placebos was just the opposite. There was a party going on and people were dancing happily in front of the stage. The band was in a great mood, managed to transfer it to the audience and told us all the world needs to be happier is just a bit of Ska. At that very moment, I wanted to believe them because the music immediately made me smile and want to dance. Exactly the right music to forget about your worries and just go along with it.
At the end of the night, I dared to enter the Gebläsehalle to see The Notwist. When I had briefly checked them out on youtube, I hadn´t particularly cared about them but after the course the festival had taken so far, I was ready to be surprised. Everything started with bass sounds that were so low, I could feel the pressure in the pit of my stomach while standing close to the subwoofer, and rather dramatic lights. It took me some time to find my way into the world of sounds The Notwist created but eventually I felt right at home in it. The electro sounds and the lights created an almost mystical atmosphere that soon won over the audience. Surprised I allowed myself to get lost in this strange world. It was an interesting experience for eyes and ears. The music worked well as a whole and divided into its parts. When I looked at the audience, I noticed that it was even possible to dance to it. For me, it was music to listen to. Either way, the band was well received and a good last band of the day for me.
Day two of the Traumzeit festival was full of good discoveries and managed to amaze the audience despite the ongoing football world cup. Almost everything went smoothly and I was looking forward to another day.
The ranking overview: Young Chinese Dogs get 9 deer, The Notwist get 8 for their show and Los Placebos get 8 for the fun factor. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis as well as Pantheón Rococó earned 7.5 deer, Hauschka and Dorothee Kaeukens 7 each. Overall, that´s roughly 8 deer.
On day three of the Traumzeit festival, I heard and saw David Lemaitre creating unusual sounds with guitar, cello and wine-bottle synthesizer, listened to Jesper Munk singing the Blues, straightforward Independent Rock by The War On Drugs and in the end enchanting music played by the energetic Zaz with her band. Only the free concerts on the Gasometer stage went on without my attendance.
The schedule still announced Broken Twin for the Gebläsehalle but they could not make it and therefore David Lemaitre was asked to appear short notice. I had heard about him a few times and was curious to finally see him live. The instruments on stage looked promising for sure, especially the wine-bottle synthesizer looked as if it was going to make sounds I had not heard before. At first there were “only” guitar, cello and singing to be heard. This combination alone already sounded wonderful. It only got better from there, because the aforementioned synthesizer, a violin and various props made the music anything but ordinary. Of all the songs they played, I liked the one best that was introduced as a tribute to Jacques Cousteau – it sounded like a day by the sea. The crashing of the waves on the shore could almost be felt. David and fellow musician, Sebastian, easily created different moods and made pictures appear inside our minds. For one hour, they led the audience into a dream world from which nobody wanted to return. This was a beautiful start of the day.
Next up at the Gebläsehalle was Jesper Munk. He played the Blues convincingly, had fun and visibly enjoyed being at the unusual venue. His voice was surprisingly strong and had more depth than I had expected – just right for this type of music. He had two musicians supporting him on bass and drum and they played skillfully. Despite all of them being good at their job or maybe because they were, I felt the music was a bit too polished – it all sounded great but it did not reach me emotionally. A pity.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
While we were waiting to be allowed into the Gießhalle, The War On Drugs were already clearly audible and they sounded pretty good. The concert started just a little late and the band kept all promises made during their soundcheck. They played straightforward and honest Indie Rock without frills. Unfortunately, the sound was not as good inside as it was outside but still OK. The band was in a good mood and made a lot of jokes, the audience liked it. The music was diversified, including rocking songs as well as ballads and soon some of the audience was dancing in front of the stage. It was a solid show and exactly what I had expected
The evening ended at the almost packed Krafthalle with Zaz. The audience loved the lively French woman from the first minute on. At this concert everything fit: Singing, music and appearance. Listening to her and her band was pure joy. Not only did Zaz show a great abundance of talent but she was extremely likeable and managed to appeal to everyone and take us along on a musical journey. Assuming that not everyone in the room might speak French, she even introduced a few songs in German and seeing her read those off large pieces of paper was utterly adorable. Her songs ranged from soft to quicker and pop to jazz, always spiced up with lots of charm. She was on the move one moment, jumped, danced and gestured only to stand completely still and sing the next moment. She was full of energy and it was difficult to resist her, no matter if she was asking people to clap along or appeared to be completely lost in her music. The dreamy, excited and just happy faces in the audience said more than a thousand words. Zaz held everyone in the palm of her hand, even though she presented her songs in a language that at least I cannot understand – some music simply works without words. The stage setup that was presented for the second half of the concert should not go unmentioned either. It opened like a book, looked like a small music club and made the large venue seem almost small and intimate. This concert was the terrific end point to an overall great festival.
Despite the ongoing Football World Cup, the Traumzeit festival had many visitors. Sure, one could have wished for a larger audience but especially on the third day there was a large number of people. Apart from a few delays and some uncoordinated instructions to photographers, especially on the third day, everything was well organized. Such minor things should not mislead anyone into thinking that the festival was not well done overall. It was and every visitor should be happy to have been there. And I am already looking forward to the next Traumzeit festival.
Last but not least the deer: 10 for Zaz, 9 for David Lemaitre, 8 for The War On Drugs and 7 for Jesper Munk. Overall 8,5.