The evening stroll along the Reeperbahn, which is particularly colorful when the air humidity is high, the nocturnal stroll along the lively Spielbudenplatz to live music, the way along the Waterkant to the Elbphilharmonie or past Otto von Bismarck into the Michel, the leisurely stroll with a view of hundreds of record covers of the Art Exhibition over the Heiligengeistfeld: Finally, the short walks from event to event at the Reeperbahn Festival felt as relaxed and stimulating as before Corona, not to say: even better. Almost 400 performances by artists from 38 nations took place this time without restrictions due to the pandemic. Without annoying masks, long queues and yet with a comfortable distance at many venues, this time there was a unique feeling of restart among 41,000 visitors.
Not only the unprecedented mix of bands and word artists fascinated in the clubs, but also the audience, which is nowhere else in the world to be found in this mix. The range covers almost that of Hamburg society: from curious young punks and rappers to hardcore fans of retirement age, who rhythmically toss their gray hair in the audience or enthusiastically teeter along in the most beautiful wool sweater and pearl necklace. It could hardly be more diverse: Every scene, every community is at home here somewhere. Then there are the trade visitors and music tourists from all over the world, the international artists themselves and the usual Reeperbahn visitor groups at the weekend, who listen to drag queens or night watchmen and who have to be circled or walked through more or less elegantly. A multicultural dream, enriched with one or the other enjoyable cultural appropriation, ensures lively musical progress.
For Rob Ellis (vocals/guitar), Lou Cotterill (bass) and Jake Leff (drums) from Macclesfield in northern England – the small town lies south of Manchester between Liverpool and Sheffield – Saturday night at the Reeperbahn Festival could not have ended better. In 2016, the young Brits founded the band Cassia, and as such won the Anchor Award 2022 for the best international newcomers with their pop rock songs. This time, not only did the top-class jury of internationally successful musicians, by their own admission, quickly agree which of the six nominated bands had that special something, Cassia was also the clear favorite in the hall of the St. Pauli Theater, where the award ceremony took place. It's just fun to hear and see the guys live.
The direct comparison at the award show with one song each is quite helpful for the audience. But the jury, chaired by US producer Tony Visconti, listens to a concert by the newcomers in Nochtspeicher for two evenings each - a club name that makes almost every Englishman and American despair of speaking - and then decides with a majority, this time even unanimously. In addition to Visconti, the current jury includes: US singer-songwriter Tayla Parx, Bill Kaulitz from Tokio Hotel, the singer and composer Joy Denalane, who speaks German and English, the Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar and The Hives singer Pelle Almqvist. Some presented their favorite record covers in conversation with the humorous moderators Aminata Belli and Steven Gätjen.
That's not to say that the other five nominated bands didn't have anything to offer. In particular, the four friends from Brighton, who appear as a band under the name Lime Garden and, as Cassia can be described as an advanced beginner's band, put on a strong performance. The decisive question, the answer to which is not immediately apparent to the visitor, is: Why are there so many concerts by great young artists who have not been nominated for the award? Well, some didn't even apply for the award. And the expert board, which selects the six nominees from over 200 applicants, obviously attaches great importance to the fact that the young artists are really still at the very beginning of their careers.
As a result, every year, alongside the nominees, dozens of great artists also appear at the festival, which most viewers should discover just as much as the nominees for the award. Not to mention the great concerts in the Elbphilharmonie and the Michel. More established musicians perform there, bringing their own fan base with them. This time, among other things, the concert by the Canadian singer/songwriter Billy Raffoul, who performed together with a drummer and a congenial co-guitarist, was an outstanding success at the Michel. Especially Raffoul's acoustic ballads and love songs, sung with the unmistakable, at the same time fragile and changeable voice, aimed and hit the listener's heart. Like his brother Peter, the 28-year-old singer/songwriter is following in the footsteps of his father Jody, who is also a successful guitar-playing songwriter. Slightly electronically amplified songs on the e-guitar no longer work quite as well in the Michel - either loud or not at all is the motto here. After all, applause is allowed here when trampling is forbidden, because otherwise there is a risk that the plaster will crumble from the ceiling.
In addition to the bigger names, the nominee concerts in the Nochtspeicher, various Canadian bands in the St. Pauli clubhouse and young Danish artists offered wonderful surprises on the Friday of the festival in the Nochtwache. The show by the American singer/songwriter Caroline Rose and her band at the Mojo Club on Friday was as captivating as it was captivating. Blessed with musical energy and a pleasantly borderline sense of humour, the artist interacts with her fellow performers, stage objects and the audience as if not only her guitar or keyboard were live, but herself too. This is pop that loves rock and punk influences and lets off steam.
At the end of the festival, before the after-show party at Moondoo, the American-Moroccan-Tunisian-French fun music group Al-Quasar brought great fun to Angie's Nightclub. Founded by Parisian guitarist and e-saz virtuoso Thomas Attar Bellier, who lived in Los Angeles for a long time and was involved in many bands, the 11-strong collective revives the "Arabian fuzz" of the 70s, but has it - in the seven-strong performance in Angie's it was obviously developed into “Arabian funk” a long time ago. The gifted bassist Guillaume Théoden with his elegant, imaginative, precise improvisations and the fantastically driving, soulful drummer Nicolas Derolin make listening, dancing and singing along an unforgettable musical journey - which must definitely be enjoyed live. It's to be hoped that the Parisian supergroup will stop in the Hanseatic city more often after their Hamburg debut at the Reeperbahn Festival.
The Reeperbahn Festival also sums up four successful days for around 4300 trade visitors, who were able to choose from more than 200 program items with sessions, networking events and showcases. The proportion of acts with female participation was 55 percent in the music program and around 50 percent in the conference program - the festival is committed to equal participation of the sexes. The next Reeperbahn Festival will take place from September 20th to 23rd, 2023. Advance ticket sales have started.