Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Voice of Music.............. Southside

Finishing University for the summer, I was very aware of all the thousand of festivals that were being planned- none of which I had managed to get a ticket to. However, I was planning a trip to Munich to visit a good friend studying there and she marvelously stumbled across a festival held in Germany, near Tuttlingen, called “Southside” that was on the weekend I was visiting. My euphoria at seeing the line up was indescribable- Lykke Li, Chemical Brothers, Artic Monkeys and oh, wait, could I be dreaming? Incubus?! I’ve been in love with their music (and not to mention beautiful Brandon Boyd) for many many years and I had resigned to the notion of never seeing them tour. However, here they were. If that wasn’t enough, I then saw that the Foo Fighters were playing- finally, a chance to see Dave Ghrol in action.
Tickets were bought, flights were arranged and the family tent was shoved into a suitcase. Packing for a festival is like the night before Christmas for me- even with the prospect of rain, mud and sweaty crowds, I eagerly found my trusty wellies, carex gel, loo roll and any girls saviour, dry shampoo. Oh, and lets not forget some colourful face paints. Forget 'festivals' with its VIP tents and fluffy-mud-repellent pillows, this was going to be a real festival, with a tent, in all weathers.   
Munich is too beautiful and energetic to explore in a day- with intricate architecture, zigzag streets like Prague, bustling beer taverns and steeped in history from the Second World War, I felt like I had only just scratched its surface. After last minute packing with my friend, we went to sleep with a deep thunderstorm, excited for the next day.  
Travelling on the U bahn the next morning, we stood out like a sore thumb dressed  for the festival. Never before have I taken so much food- people must have thought we were feeding the whole campsite! Arriving at the station (with seriously painful hands already from the food bag) we met many over festival goers, all with luggage and an eagerness to get going. Many a time I’ve had to sit in the corridor of a train, but this was beyond the definition of “packed” with each passenger having another person worth of bags latched to them. After various stops (where we bundled out, ran down the platform to another carriage, and bundled back in) we finally came to Ulm, where we had to change to Tuttlingen.
Here we were met with even more people carrying rucksacks, sleeping bags and in some cases wheelie bins or home made crates of German beer. I was starting to gain that familiar sense of pilgrimage you find at festivals- people from various nationalities were appearing but we were all headed in the same direction. Boarding the train for Tuttlingen every backpacker was jamming into each other in desperation to get onto the train, least of all to find a seat. For the last part of the journey to the site, we found ourselves on the floor amongst bags, people, flags and an old radio that was blasting out various tunes from samba to Hendrix.
Someone we met in the Conga Line...
The journey from here to Tuttlingen was surrounded by stunning scenery- Germany really is beautiful. Finally we reached our destination and everyone clambered off the train, where we waited in the rain for the shuttle bus- Andy's face summed up the collective "we just want to get there" feeling. Arriving at the festival I suddenly appreciated the British for their queues- we might complain, but they work and trust me, after waiting for hours in chaotic crowds, in the rain,  you will long for one! I got my Southside band tightly clamped around my wrist, and went off gladly in search for a pitch. Our tent was soon snuggled between our fellow campers and once everyone had found a jumper and a beer we went off to explore like kids in a big play park. Unlike English festivals that I’ve been to, this was on an old airfield and without the usual fairy lights, flags and trees that I was used to, it felt very open and wide. Something that was also different was the “man stands” dotted about the place- guys could easily go to the loo in the middle of the pathways. Nice.
As we walked along I saw the usual food stalls, merchandise tents, bars and ahead, the main arena with its magnificent circus tents and stages. However, as it was the first night, the main arena was closed off to us festival folks and so we decided to reside the night outside the disco tent, dancing, drinking and talking with excitement for the music that was only a day away. 

Lucy and Emma-Bee
I should have started charging....

Nicola and his butterfly...

The next day we said good morning to Friday, and  putting on our war paint (consisting of a lot of flowers, bumble bees, a lion and a butterfly which left Nic with a sunburn imprint) we went to see the dynamic Flogging Molly, led by the crazy wonderful Dave King. Having a little jig together in the mud, the bands rhythmic beat increased and so did our dancing. Suddenly the heavens opened and we took shelter at Mario’s- a soon to be favourite food stall with the boys. With the vast array of acts that were on over the festival, we parted our ways, with plans to meet up later for the headline acts of Artic Monkeys and Foo Fighters. Venturing to the red tent, we gratefully moved our way between the dry and remarkably warm atmosphere of bodies. Although I was only going to be here for a half an hour, I was desperate to see Lykke Li perform. We settled at the front of the crowd, the empty stage smoldering in the dark. With similar stage presence as Florence, the Swedish singer song writer is a gem in the music scene. Her stark performances and music that blends all elements of instruments, she creates a memorable unique identity. Entering the stage space in a black veil, she created a storm of cries and true to her style held the audience in an intense glare. Although I only saw a few tracks, she was one of my highlights, making her way around the stage with attitude and charisma in abundance.
Making myself an enemy of nearly everyone in the crowd (even more so when people realised I was a blundering English tourist) I made my way uncomfortably through to the edge of the tent and back into the arena. Meeting my friends, we ran around the side of the main stage and snuck into a decent space near the front. Just as the Glastonbury style rain started, Artic Monkeys graced the audience. Although they gave us great tracks such as “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”, “When the Sun Goes Down” and “Dancing Shoes”, which got the audience ignited like dynamite, Alex Turner disappointed many with his bulshy, uninterested attitude that made him look more sour than sexy. Either way, we were dancing with the rain and the party watch (a highly technical, coloured flashing light watch all the way from Thailand) made an appearance. As Artic Monkeys left the stage, the rain pounded even more onto us- what really is the point in a waterproof eh? 

Grohl's hair is his source of genius
The man himself!

Looking around at the sodden coats and caked wellies, there was a mutual understanding- everyone in the crowd was freezing, soaked and shivering but we were happy in the united thought of the Foo Fighters being ten minutes away. Soon enough the lights on the stage went down and the screams and shouts waved through the crowd- mine being one of the loudest. I’ve wanted to see Foo’s for ages. On came Grohl, his shaggy hair and wide grin making him unmistakable to see. After seeing the recent documentary on the band, I was delighted to see the line up- Grohl, Shiflett, Mendel, Smear and the mighty drummer, Taylor Hawkins. A band that has been with me since my teens, the Foo’s music resonates such presence and importance. They started with a track from their new album and then one of my favourites, My Hero. Hearing the starting notes, I screamed along with the crowd in sheer delight- I love the strong drum beat that begins that song and the lyrics are some of the best I've heard. They then went on to play the famous track The Pretender which gained even more acclaim from the now drowned audience. Giving a good balance of old and new, the band assured the audience they would try and play everyone’s favourite’s. However, as Grohl stated, they had “ a lot of fucking songs to get done.” We ignored the rain and danced along, singing until our throats were sore- Grohl was running about the stage, madly shaking the rain out of his dark mane, grinning like a Cheshire cat that had certainly got the cream. At one stage he ran over to our side and of course we went mental, like our lives depended on it. Cloking eyes with him, he reached out a hand making the sign of the horns. What a dude. However, I couldn’t ignore the rain anymore. Just as the Foo’s were finishing with their beautiful song “Disenchanted Lullaby”, my friend voiced what I had been thinking- “I can see my breath and its June!” One look at each other and we turned in the mud and headed straight to the hot chocolate stand. Arriving back, we found a small puddle in the tent ( the boys had been flooded) and I genuinely felt like was going to die- I love camping but never before have I been so bloody freezing and falling asleep I couldn’t help but picture my gravestone “Meg Burrows, death by pneumonia”
Beautiful bin bags- thanks claire!

Thankfully, I woke to see the next day- and to hear more rain. However, by the afternoon it passed and with the new found sunshine came the make-shift wellies, bin bag coats and cellotape drink holders. Rustling as we walked, we made our way to the red tent to see the awesome, memorable Darwin Deez, who I think I can say, are one of the most entertaining bands I’ve ever seen. Playing music of a layered indie, funk, disco, the band’s trademark are the dances they perform between songs, alongside musical genius such as Enya or Simon and Garfunkel.    

what a voice!
They sang em's favourite song- daddy's gone?

They had a good beat and the audience involvement and support was incredible. Another band that was unheard of to me was Blood Red Shoes, who were another pleasant surprise. Going back to camp briefly, we were engaged to watch the boys of our camp play “flunkball” which was very entertaining. But, if anything to learn for the next festival, don’t play this game near the toilets or man stands where lovely pee is draining out over the pathway- bottles get rolled through it too many times. The next act we saw was Glasvegas, a band that’s singers voice (James Allan) is iconic and just pure loveliness. Forgetting about the swamp of mud and rain, he actually jumped off the stage and waded through the dirt to greet fans. My friend was ecstatic at this and ran through the crowd to try and get a glimpse of him. 
the wobbly man!

After that we high tailed it to the main stage for the magnificent Elbow- who were beautiful. Half way through their set, the sky cleared to reveal blue skies and a bright sun which was welcomed gladly from cheering crowds. Guy Garvey exclaimed that it was the "power of music" and the crowd’s good will that encouraged the good weather. He added that if anyone in the audience could realistically copy the floating man dance then they’d win a prize- his jacket. I have to congratulate Emma Bonshor here- for our section of the crowd, she was 110% the winner. The rest of the night gave us Jimmy Eat World- I felt like I was in an episode of the OC but either way they had a good style to their music. It was there that we met some of the Jagermister salespersons who gave us lots of free goodies- I forgot to mention that there was a “crane jagermister bar” which raised people a certain height to enjoy a drink.
We then saw the atmospheric Portishead with their haunting melodies similar to Zero Seven and Massive Attack, followed by the acclaimed Arcade Fire. Although not a personal favourite of mine, friends were ecstatic to see them. I must admit I was impressed by  their stage design of old American cinema and the dynamic energy they held as an ensemble- in this day and age of commercialized music, its good to see a group that can actually play their instruments, and well to that matter. Following that was the Klaxons which were great as always and finally The Chemical Brothers. I hadn’t seen the arena so crowded as it was for the Brothers- although the music was fantastic with strong bass lines, techno blurred edges and strong addictive beats, the graphic design on the screens were amazingly colourful- they looked like something from Tron or Banksy but distorted as to make an impressionable image. With tracks such as “Hey Boy Hey Girl” and “Galvanize” the crowd was pleased, moving along with the beat as their conductor. However, just as they were coming to an end we decided to leave, as again, Germany proved very cold at night. 
Balls to festival fashion!

Sunday morning we woke to b-e-a-utiful weather (although strong wind in the night had meant a lot of lost gazebos) and we reveled in the sunshine. The first act we saw was on recommendation from Lucy, a band called Friendly Fires- wow. What a funky moving lead singer! We were certainly dancing along, trying our own funky moves. The Band itself, a dance punk band from Hertfordshire, was really in tune with each other and has a truly distinctive sound. Moving on we saw Two Door Cinema Club play the end of their set and then the enigmatic, mad, but awesome Gogol Bordello! As we were pirate dancing around in the mud, Claire summed up the lead singer, Eugene Hutz perfectly –“ He’s someone you’d meet in a Mexican bar and you’d want to drink tequila with!” What I love about the band is their abundance of energy and their punky, rock, even folkish sound- they really are a breath of fresh air. After them, we went to see Kasabian rock up on the other stage. It was unfortunate that the levels of speakers were horribly off and with the added factor of the wind; it was pretty hard to hear anything of the singer. You would have thought in our technical era that this would be fixed pretty easily but it wasn’t.
The time had come for Incubus and I couldn’t contain my excitement. The skyline was beautiful and although a small patter of rain had started, I was ready to see one of my favourite bands serenade the evening to a close. I could go on forever about Incubus, they were simply amazing. The band walked on stage looking as young as ever; Mike Einziger, a genius, looked ready to show the audience the new sounds they had to offer, Chris Kilmore appeared with a look of quiet confidence, his dredded hair silhouetted against the stage lighting, Ben Kenney and Jose Pasillas taking to their thrones of music and of course, there appeared Brandon Boyd. Taking away the fact that I love their music and generally him, I admire Boyd, as, like many musicians, he lacks the ability to read music and therefore gives a style more layered, unique (and in my eyes) emotionally and artistically driven. They started with the awesome track “Pardon Me”- as soon as I heard the lulling chords, I immediately pictured a wave roll and knew instantly what was coming- along with many others I screamed, loudly. Boyd was singing into the wind, the band strumming out poignant attitude. The equally great track “Nice to Know You” followed, beginning erringly with floating notes and edgy scratches from Kilmore and then a sudden plunge into beat. Floppy haired Boyd was in his element, weaving around the stage in some sort of psychedelic state to the rhythm of the music. A lot of their new music from the up and coming album “If not now, When?” followed, which sounded very promising. Then came “Circles” with its heavy off beat, funky, charismatic rifts and Boyd’s voice echoing over, once again philosophizing to the crowd via his lyrics. The lights went low and Boyd went to collect something at the back of the stage. As soon as I saw the small percussion shaker I knew what was coming, my favourite Incubus song, Wish you were Here- a song that is as familiar as my own skin. I’m not sure how to describe what noise I made, but I was on cloud nine. What a beautiful song. This particular one is extremely personal to me and I found myself, like in Foo’s, taking a second to soak in the atmosphere around me- it’s a credit to a band that makes you feel like this, to the core of you. Both I and Claire, for our own reasons, have such a personal meaning to Incubus’s music and I was so glad that it was played. The crowd's dynamics nicely lead into the aggressive track “Pistola”. We then heard another new track   “Adolescents”- there’s been some debate over the new album trying too hard to find a new sound but this track, I feel, stays close to the Incubus attributes. Then came the famous “Drive” but Boyd layered vocals and beat as to change it slightly, which worked really well. Again, just as the set was coming to a close, I suddenly realised how cold I was- I had been so distracted it hadn’t registered but now, I couldn’t help but chatter my teeth alongside the music. Although part of me was desperate to stay until the very end, I and Claire left just as they finished the track “A Kiss to send us off”- another great one. This treachery to Incubus was justified, not only for the cold, but for the fact that Sum 41 was playing at the same time in the red tent. Another band that saw me through my teens, it only felt right to go and see them. We managed to sneek into the crowded tent on their last song “In Too Deep” and I automatically felt like I was fifteen again- cheesy rock never fails!  
Going back to our tents, I noticed the festival had the feeling of Reading, a sense of potential anarchy. However, unlike Reading, there weren’t any toilets being dismantled or tents being thrown, just lots of merriment and bad singing. Now that I hadn’t got music to distract me, I realised that I wasn’t actually feeling my best, so alas, I went to bed early. The next day saw us getting up early to catch our shuttle bus, train and U bahn. Leaving the campsite at 7:30am, I could see some people had already left. One thing that we were encouraged to do was to collect a bag full of rubbish each and return we were given five euro’s. With the amount rubbish Britain festivals must accumulate, I think this would be great to see at every festival. After a long journey, we found ourselves back into Munich- if we had felt odd to begin with, it was even worse now, turning up in such a clean city in such a typical post festival state.
 Although it felt different to any British festival I’ve been too in the sense of layout, Southside was one of the best for music, friends and fun. I would greatly recommend for anyone to go abroad more for festivals- you experience different cultures and people but the feeling of unity in music is just the same. Just always remember your wellies, especially if you’re passing the 'man stands'.

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