Reeperbahn Festival day 1: Best festival start in years

J.N. October 17, 2018

I was finally back at the Reeperbahn Festival to celebrate the 2018 edition – and this year I had lots of bands on my “must see” list. Last year I just happened to end up in Hamburg by chance (and love) and since I was on location and, at the time worked, for our Swedish partner magazine Drefvet I thought it could be nice to cover the festival. However, I basically didn’t know anything about Hamburg and probably missed all those great up-and-coming acts that had their major breakthroughs during 2018.

This year’s edition started out in completely different conditions; I’ve lived in Hamburg a full year, started Messed!Up together with photographer and Sis Julia, have made Hafenklang and Molotow our secondary living rooms (yeah, we’ve had somewhere around 47 interviews since mid-March and that’s where we usually end up – thanks for putting up with us guys), have been fortunate enough to find eight additional co-workers making Messed!Up a ten-dude/dudess strong crew (and with guest photographers on top of that), and learned how to geographically transport myself as quick and efficient as possible between venues by u-bahn, bike, taxi, horse, car and, at times, walking.

What was also different this year was that prior to the festival the Messed!Up crew listened through all bands performing at the festival to discuss which interviews and concerts to attend. And since we work together with our Swedish compadres at Drefvet we were a four-piece strong crew running around at clubs doing interviews.

During this year’s edition of the festival we actually managed to get us through eight interviews, two awesome afterparties including a fun night out with Digitalism at their release party DJ set at The Golden Pudel, and one morning trying to find the editor’s pants which had mysteriously disappeared the night before.

However, let’s start with the first day of happenings at Reeperbahn Festival 2018 because this was also the day that would become the best concert day by far with impressive and spectacular shows by The Blue Stones, The Ninth Wave, Bad Nerves and the punch in the face heavy indierock act, with Frank Carter attitude, Strange Bones.


As always there’s no Reeperbahn Festival if you haven’t had a beer and a bratwurst at Spielbudenplatz, the main plaza just in front of the venue Docks and St. Pauli Klubhaus with its many small clubs. Since most of our staff is vegetarian or vegan I just passed by to try out my yearly bratwurst and have a few beers just to get it off the checklist before any show were about to start. After picking up the photographer being with our second journalist Mr. Schmitz to do interview with two punk bands (not playing the festival), we set forth and walked to Molotow to meet up with Strange Bones, one of the most interesting newcomers on the music scene in years – and they’re already well-known for their completely crazy and rowdy shows.

Four wonderful Blackpool lads met up with us together with an even sweeter tour manager, Sophie, whom later, during the concert, would have to take a hard punch in the face by singer Bobby Bentham. This is not the time and place to reveal its contents, you have to read it later, but the atmosphere behind the scene of Molotow was different from how it used to be, a festival feeling where Fenja, one of the Molotow team running the shows, relaxed with the boys in a game of Foosball while Sophie ran around covering everything for potential social media use – it was an electric festival feeling! Molotow were also where we stayed for a full evening of concerts. There was no point in running to another club – I had the idea to see MNNQNS at headCRASH around the corner – and risk not getting in again, because Molotow filled up quickly.

First band on stage was The Blue Stones, an American two-piece playing garage blues-rock according to their website. Actually, the only reason I stayed at Molotow was because Messed!Up’s photographer insisted on it. But I didn’t need to regret anything, not at all. The Blue Stones as a start of the festival on the Molotow stage was just perfect! Sure, there were some bluesy guitar riffs but when singer Tarek Jafar finds that heavy seventies rock sound on “Black Holes (Solid Ground)” you get smashed to the wall – it was amazing and Molotow started to become rowdy already at 8PM.

I know I have pointed it out several times how important it is to embody your music as an artist. Basically it means that you need a body language, a performance, clothes, visuals and everything else on stage that fits perfect to the music and make an impression on the crowd. It’s as important today as it was back in the seventies, or the eighties, or in the nineties. Sometimes I think that’s an element that got lost in time since many bands seem to not give a damn about it anymore, but those who do will make an impression – I promise you.

It’s an art to succeed though, and it’s even a very difficult art to find that perfect combination of things, but it’s an art that The Blue Stones already master before they even released a debut album (on October 26th you should go to your local record store and buy their album). Jafar’s personality is amazing! I haven’t seen anyone that focused on stage, like being possessed by demons – the dude hardly closed his eyes and just stared at everyone. You probably haven’t heard anything of these guys but just take a few minutes and listen through the three (!) songs there is on Spotify.

With just twenty minutes between shows you can hardly run away and tonight you even had to decide whether you wanted to spend fifteen minutes to line up to the toilet or having an extra beer, thus having to leave for the toilet during the show, and we choosed wisely and had a beer.

While having a few – or many – beer sips we ended up in Molotow’s backyard to watch The Ninth Wave, a band that we interviewed earlier this year just after they’d released their EP “Never Crave Attention”. It was already a good show back then but they certainly climbed the performance ladder a few steps more in just three months; and they certainly have the kind of indie rock hit potential that many bands have really difficult to find. Just listen to “Collapsible People”, “Reformation” or “New Kind of Ego” and you must hear the potential for something bigger.

Above all, The Ninth Wave have frontman Haydn Park that by his cheer visual appearance makes it a good show. A modern take on Boy George but with a good taste in music and that amazing voice you’ll find on many eighties records. The combination of his and Millie Kidd’s vocals – Millie is the bassist – just add to that impression. And they have one of the best drummers we’ve heard in such a young band; keep it up Lewis.

Just ten minutes later we end up in front of the club stage again to see Bad Nerves. Although I listened through all bands prior to the festival I really didn’t remember them at all but since Messed!Up’s punk dude Mr. Schmitz insisted on it I just hooked along. And they started in 150 bpm and just increased it.

There’s much to say about punk-induced rock but most bands are not that good performers, the music speaks for itself. That’s not really true for Bad Nerves though, not at all. This is Ramones combined with The New York Dolls coated in a modern garage rock sound, and with frontman Bobby Bird we saw Mick Jagger being reborn on the garage punk scene – amazing on stage personality! The dude next to me even asked his friend if this was Mick Jagger’s unknown son. Who knows!?

Much of what they do sound the same though just because there’s no change in tempo at all between songs, but songs like “Can’t Be Mine” and “Dreaming” will stay in your frontal lobe for a very long time. “Can’t Be Mine” must end up as a national anthem for God’s sake!

Yet another thirty-minute break before Strange Bones would hit the stage with full power, something we’ve been looking forward to for a while, but first staying in a twenty-minute line to the toilet just to be sure that I didn’t need to leave before the show was over (beers are always a huge problems at concerts and you need to plan both how to drink them and get them out of the system).

We have been pushing for these Blackpool lads for a while and their Frank Carter-like attitude on stage; that’s a personality much appreciated by the crowd. And this was no exception. Bobby Bentham is hardly on stage from the second guitar riff and prefers to be in, under or on top of the crowd for the rest of the concert. I don’t have the right terminology to describe what happened but the performance is amazing with four great musicians on stage that already have several heavy rock hits. “We the Rats”, “Snakepit”, “Big Sister Is Watching” and the amazing sing along song, which frontman Bobby urged the crowd to do, “God Save the Teen”. There’s really nothing you can write that can do justice to how awesome their show was and we can only refer to our photo gallery from the interview and concert for you to create your own impression; but never ever miss an opportunity to participate in the wild circus of Strange Bones!

The clock is a few minutes past midnight when Strange Bones leave the stage and for most people the night is over, Thursday is a work day, but some of us were invited to Digitalism’s release party at The Golden Pudel and we found our way there around 01.00. This is however not part of Reeperbahn Festival and this review but let’s just say that it was a crazy night and our photographer needed some assistance to get home. I was back in my bed at 06.10, five minutes before the alarm clock sounded and the next generation of punk artists had to get up for school.

It was about to be a tough second day of Reeperbahn Festival.

Strange Bones interview and live pics by ©Julia Schwendner (the rest by sloppy non photographer staff members)


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.