By Lucy Ruthnum
The last of the dust and glitter has settled and stepping back into real life has been a shock to the system after a weekend of fun in the sun at MS Dockville Festival. This festival of music and arts was the perfect way to spend what could be one of the few good weather weekends we have left of the summer here in Hamburg. South of the river, and just two stops away by S-Bahn, it was a perfect festival for the Williamsburg crowd, many of whom have been attending for several years. Set against a backdrop of Europe’s largest river island, the special location means that festival organisers place great importance on protecting the area and creating a sustainable event with limited campgrounds and a lack of vehicles on site.
With a unique focus on art, the festival grounds were awash with creativity and vibrant colours in a culmination of the talent that has been on show at the site as part of MS Artville. This two week-long art exhibition put the focus on visual arts from around the world. The exhibition was described by organisers as „an open-air gallery in the field of tension between the port industry, cultural diversity and artistic underground.“ Set alongside the three-day festival, MS Artville provided the perfect setting for international talent to exhibit their work in front of 25,000 people. Before three days of more than 100 bands and musicians, from the chart-toppers to the up-and-coming talent, took to the stage.
With a choice of 12 stages and countless art spaces, it was easy to lose yourself in the festival atmosphere as you soaked up the sunshine. The Nest quickly drew us in with some great disco beats and standout sets for the weekend definitely came from Camelphat and Technofrühstück who definitely brightened up everyone’s afternoon with some serious anthems. Machinenenraum was another favourite, located right at the end of the festival overlooking the water and providing the perfect sunset spot. Over here we caught acts including Superorganism, Princess Nokia and Drunken Masters, before fantastic sets by George Fitzgerald and Maribou State on the Sunday night.
I lost count of the amount of talented musicians we saw throughout the three days, but definitely won’t forget the main stage performances at Grossschot. On the Friday night, we found a fantastic line-up with British talent, Everything Everything, who have returned to their roots with a more electronic sound and blew the crowd away. This was followed by ambient Brooklyn group, Cigarettes After Sex, a perfect melancholy warm-up to Bonobo who headlined the stage that night. Great to see such a range of fine English and particularly more indie/electronic talent on show, and musical phenomenon Bonobo AKA Simon Green, was a highlight as his unique sound brought the crowd together.
The entertainment continued the following night with Nick Murphy, AKA Chet Faker, who warmed up the crowd ahead of headliners, Alt-J, the act we had all been waiting for. Their choral compositions and haunting voices brought chills to the audience, who eagerly sang along to huge hits like Matilda and Breezeblocks. Without doubt one of the most magical festival performances I have ever seen. The stage rounded off on the Sunday with Olli Schulz whose own brand of music, politics and comedy was a great way to wind down the stage.
Particular standout art installations included the works of Jana Fux, Metamorphat raised questions of identity and the way we reinvent ourselves through images. Maria Gideon thinks of herself as a choreographer of creativity and relishes in charismatic chaos in her work, Palace for the Moment. Marshal Arts made poignant comments on the state of society and the effects of communication, change and human contact through the medium of Newspeak and social media. The irony of the piece was not lost on those who found entertainment in everyone quickly getting out their phones to capture the moment.
After a good walk around the festival grounds, it was definitely time to check out the more relaxed areas and the food stalls. A pleasant surprise to find a great range of vegetarian and vegan food options available and a refreshing change from the greasy, fried options you often get at more commercial events. However, the service at the bars left a little to be desired. Despite always taking care to approach the less busy bars, often we found ourselves waiting a long time or even having staff forget to bring our drinks over after we paid. The service was very slow and perhaps something for the organisers to work on for next year’s event, as otherwise it was a fantastic festival and one that will stay in the minds of all who attended. Bring on next year’s event!
Lucy is our Come to Hamburg author. Originally from the UK she is now based in Hamburg and knows both angles – the touristy one and the one of a Hamburg citizen.