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Reeperbahn Festival 2018 – The Debrief

What a time to be alive. Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival just keeps growing and getting ever more diverse and multi-faceted. This year’s edition saw more than 45.000 people trying to get into big and small venues around the former (mostly) red light district on and around Reeperbahn street. Venues ranging from your average concert halls to centuries old churches, coffee shops, travel agencies, and river boats. And it was all a labour of love, after all, with France being partner country this year, sending well over 50 bands and musicians over to Hamburg.

One of the French exhibits particularly stood out. The multi-talented Voyou, above, effortlessly combining guitar, drum pads and trumpet for a modern poppy spin of French chansons. Très grand, très good and his latest piece Papillon attached below.

More general Frenchness came in the form of Praa. Backed by the force of a full band and sporting an aura and presence on stage that is hard to resist, she played a vicious mix of soul and pop. Try her latest single Y, be advised. Another anticipated French act in jelly-like duo Agar Agar cancelled their gig, but nevertheless have a rather fantastic debut album in The Dog and The Future coming out at the end of the week, Sept. 28. Something to pencil down in your calendars.

What is most beautiful about Reeperbahn Festival are the odd locations you will find yourself in, listening to concerts. From main street night clubs, to the aforementioned boats and churches. Hamburg’s major St. Michaelis church then played host to composer Konstantin Gropper’s world premiere of his Nightmares works, not only supported by a full orchestra, but also featuring his old man playing one of the church’s six historic pipe organs. Truly breathtaking.

A more indie poppy spin of the tunes was put on offer by Norway’s own Great News. The group came fully equipped with a simple yet effective light show, which can do so much to a live set, giving the cozy Prinzenbar, below, a good beating. The trio has had a great, no pun intended, debut album out in spring, titled Wonderfault.

Pop music can only get you so far, though. The innovative and genre-bending master mind that is Nicola Mauskovic, of Bruxas fame among others, played with his band of brothers down at the holy house of Grüner Jäger, pictured below. The Mauskovic Dance Band combines Afro-Colombian styles such as champeta and cumbia with 80s No-Wave drum machines and synths into a unique space disco experience, and all that straight from Amsterdam. See their infectious Analog Fruit, here, from last summer. They have a mad EP out in Down In The Basement, and are currently touring most parts of Europe. Get behind that.

It’s not just the music though. Dozens of work shops during the day, more than a handful of awards given out, and a temporary festival village with more stages, art installations and a gallery, this year showing the works of artist, writer and designer Klaus Voormann, exhibiting his musical works around Hamburg. From the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen. It will be curious to see what the organizers are going to come up next year when Australia will be partner country.

For 51 weeks of the year the old Reeperbahn street is being downgraded to a mere tourist attraction, with more and more places closing down and investors coming in, looking for a quick bang on the buck. But for the days of Reeperbahn Festival it is the music and arts and culture taking back its turf in St. Pauli, emphasizing why the district became what it was in the first place. That said, early bird tickets to Reeperbahn Festival 2019 are on sale right now. If you will have us, Reeperbahn, we will be back next year.