MS Dockville Festival: Three days of happiness in the harbor of Wilhelmsburg

J.N. August 29, 2018

Three days walking around in the harbor of Hamburg didn’t instantly spring to mind thoughts of fun and escapism. However the curators of MS Dockville Festival had a vision to create just that, in the much milder summer heat than we have been used to this summer (thank someone for that). Messed!Up relocated their office desks to the harbor of Wilhelmsburg in Hamburg for three amazing festival days.

The fully-fledged harbor affair, boasting a happy diverse crowd with an open mentality and attracting the Loiners’ finest heavyweights, Alt-J, and the sublime trip hoppy and nu jazzy Bonobo, topping the bill of this year’s festival edition in the district of Wilhelmsburg; the line-up promised a good selection of new music, indie bands, old and new, and a few interesting additions thrown in for variety, and we loved that smaller local bands got their time on stage.

The first day’s use of the festival bus to get to the entrance was quite unnecessary; walking from the station to the festival area was not a massive undertaking and you didn’t need to squeeze yourself in between different generations of hipsters – because this is nothing but a hipster festival, and we love our hipsters – drinking wine in plastic bottles.

Since we didn’t arrive until late – yes, some people need to do paid work as well – we just caught up with Everything Everything. I’ve seen them a handful times at this point and have always found singer Jonathan Higgins’ voice to be fascinating. The problem is that the band don’t really break through the crowd or get a real breakthrough in terms of popularity. I can’t point out what is the problem because I always leave their shows a bit impressed but with a feeling that something is missing. And I will probably have to attend a few more before I understand.

One of my fave bands were about to enter the Butterland Stage ten minutes after Everything Everything ended their show and I had to run a bit in advance. The eerie shoegaze coated in modern post-punk rhythms created by Luis Vasquez’ alter ego The Soft Moon is perfect after a few beers when you enter a dreamlike state. His set is very much focused on this year’s album “Criminal” and although you can understand why artists want to try out their new songs I would at least like to hear a few of my favorites – but nothing. No “Breathe the Fire”, no “Black”, only “Far”. Compared to his show at Hafenklang earlier this year this was a bit disappointing but I also know that a festival setting isn’t perfect for his music or shows. 

Friday night saw Cigarettes After Sex shower a grinning audience, blurting out their adoration to the quartet. Watching their final few songs, walking around at distance of the Grossschot Stage, a beer in hand and looking at the light show, felt like an extravagance I would thoroughly recommend to all; I suddenly realized that summer is soon to be over and the views across the illuminated and animated throngs rippling across a dreamy night sky was surreal. Sure, Bonobo made a blasting grande finale of the night but by then I hanged out in one of the nice corners – and there were loads of those – at the festival ground, talking to some new acquaintances from the UK.

A very long day – up at 6 AM to work – had to end just after midnight to catch some sleep before Saturday’s massive line-up. First Aid Kit, Nick Murphy, Oscar And The Wolf and, in particular, Alt-J. In bed at 2 AM (yeah, almost 24h awake).


Day two and the last day for me – the photographer continued relentlessly – started fairly early at the festival ground. And we arrived just to grab a snack; next to music, the food on festival is another reason for hanging around all day at the festival ground. It’s also the reason why I gain a few pounds per festival.

While getting a taste of other music scenes is a great aspect of traveling for festivals, it’s a real treat to spin through a mini-food festival in the midst of all that face-melting-shrill-shrieking rock out. There’s no sweeter break between sets than one that includes boundless fluffy doughnuts-looking things, some salty lupini beans, or fried potato chips. There was probably loads of meat – Germans love their meat – but for the first time I didn’t focus on the stuff that always bothers me (eating meat).

If you’re a vegan you were in for a treat. I’m starting to get used to that festivals actually accept that some people don’t eat meat and for once adapted the food trucks to a wider range of consumers. However, the range of vegetarian and vegan food offered at this year’s MS Dockville is unrivaled. Did I say a gained double as much pounds as usual?

First Aid Kit seized control of the stage somewhere after 7 PM, a perfect start when we’re having our first beer of the day. That kind of americana is soothing and should not be played after dark because there’s a huge risk of falling asleep, not because it’s bad but because of the cozyness of it.

Again, I ran across the area before the concert was over to catch Yungblud with two full beer in hands and not spilling a drop (usually I just poor ‘em over my shirt). It was a stupid run though since it was quite boring. I should have understood already when my friend with the “crappiest taste in music in the world” told me to go there. We left way before the show was over to get a good spot at Nick Murphy’s show.

Much has already been said about the change in Murphy’s moniker, but from the opening moments of his show, he shattered any doubts that people expressed about his evolving style, entering to a brilliant sonic boom of noise. From there, Murphy launched directly into his Chet Faker catalogue, lulling the audience into a sense of familiarity. Supported by an absolutely stellar lightshow, Murphy’s performance was, in a word, otherworldly. A variety of strobes, spotlights and overhead lasers were used to create a unique vibe for the Grossschot Stage, and a plethora of visual delights to behold.

The balance struck between the new and old of Murphy’s catalogue worked well, and despite a fairly lacklustre crowd, the performance of “The Trouble With Us” nearly forced people to their feet with the sheer enthusiasm and power with which it was performed. We stood silent for a while after the show to grasp what just happened but suddenly from nowhere a dude with homemade gin and tonic snapped us back to reality, just before the closing show by Alt-J.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Alt-J, maybe not a fan at all but the only time I’ve seen them, at Reading Festival 2013, they made a really great show. And our photographer that has some kind of unhealthy relationship to the band, grabbed me by the arm like your mom did when you didn’t want to go to school in first grade because it was raining and dragged me in front of the stage. It should be said I have a few fave’s though; “Breezeblocks” (like everyone else), “Tessellate”, “Fitzpleasure” and “Something Good” can for sure be found in my playlist at times.

Their almost robotic stances and minimal interaction made it feel like less of a show, and more like listening to their record in a live venue. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the set was purely their music, which is what most fans likely wanted – rather than constant interruptions. Planted in position amid a shower of lights, and often disappearing under their brilliance, the three lads from Leeds opened slowly, but my own favorites – “Fitzpleasure” and “Something Good” – blasted out already quite early and my initial reluctance to stay turned into “Why not stay the full show and then go to the Britney Spears club later?”.

The show ended with their biggest hit “Breezeblocks, which were delivered with enough panache to lift them above the perfunctory, making the crowd to bop along and get bouncing on the spot. It was good enough although it was far from being a great show, but who cares when there’s time enough to go back to the nineties and the Britney Spears “One More Time!” event at the Tentakel Stage.

It’s better to leave the rest of the night in the Messed!Up archives but it was a hell of a night that didn’t end after a very late döner at Reeperbahn before we found our way home around 6 AM. Fun!

So, what’s the verdict of our MS Dockville Festival debut? A great festival with an interesting line-up (we didn’t even review half of the bands we saw at the festival) and even greater food stalls. Someone couldn’t get enough smoothies, the other ate salted beans until they literally came out through the nose.

And the festival setting is amazing! Walking around the harbor area having the huge freighter ships as backdrops was massive. And we loved all those secret corners where you could sit down and have a beer with yet unknown friends from other countries, people you will only meet on Instagram in the future.

We promise you one thing – we’ll be back for MS Dockville Festival 2019!

Photographer: ©Teresa Enhiak Nanni


About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.