Hybridize Festival, a series of industrial/electronic festivals across four dates in Germany, embarked on their festival tour called “In Blood With Fire And Ice” in Hamburg last weekend, and entailed bands as Agonoize, Funker Vogt, Eisfabrik, INTENT:OUTTAKE and Vanguard. For those of you not familiar with the scene, this is a festival with harder industrial bands crossing over to EBM (not EDM! A hell of a difference) with the exception of Vanguard, the Swedish synthpop act opening the festival.
For the Messed!Up team it was a long festival day that started early when we interviewed Vanguard and EBM legends Funker Vogt – interviews are in the works – that have been on the scene since 1995; Messed!Up’s editor was at his first Funker gig at Arvika Festival already in 1999.
Vanguard were set to open the night, and what is interesting with this Swedish band is that they’ve been signed to German labels their whole career. The first two albums “Sanctuary” and “Retribution” were released on Conzoom Records before they were signed to Infacted Recordings when they released third album “Never Surrender”. At March 8th they are about to release their fourth album “Manifest” but brought with them a few records to the merch table already tonight.
Vanguard are musically balancing the fine line between synthpop and danceable futurepop, and as a synthpop nerd I can’t stop stomping a bit with my left foot. New single “Save Me” is pure synthpop though and, as the band point out themselves in the interview, the most poppy song on the new album. What strikes me is that frontman Patrik Hansson has improved his vocals a lot since I saw them for five or six years ago for the first time, but I also think that his vocals fit much better with their new musical direction.
Vanguard is a great opener of the night but the crowd was a disappointment; people hadn’t arrived to Markthalle yet and it could at most have been around a hundred at the venue. However, as an unknown band from Sweden that have yet to present themselves in Germany, it must have been rewarding to see that the “early birds” this night seemingly found the music good enough for some dancing. After a few songs people around me actually used more limbs than I did to show some appreciation of that they heard.
The crowd didn’t turn up to the second act of the night either and for a second I thought that the first out of four Hybridize Festivals would end up in a complete fiasco in terms of ticket sales.
INTENT:OUTTAKE, a dark electro act from Leipzig, didn’t make any impression on me at all when I listened through their albums on Spotify ahead of the festival and I didn’t expect anything, but hoped for a good show. I was smashed in the face!
With the exception of Funker Vogt the INTENT gig was by far the best this night. I even had to look up the names of the members, just fortifying the fact that I really didn’t know anything about them.
Frontman Bastian appeared on stage in military outfit and camo painted face and has that harsh voice that fits perfect with the genre. For me, a kind of picky dude concerning music quality on the dark electro scene, this was surprisingly good and refreshing, and I went straight home after the night and added their last two albums “Schmerzmaschine” and “About Halos” to my “Music I have to listen to” list on Spotify. To those of you who missed out on this, there’s a recommendation.
This is the moment I made one of those decisions that almost made me miss the third band. Festivals also mean that you meet lots of good friends and some of them you haven’t seen in a while, and it usually takes a few hours to catch up. You know the feeling, ey? Anyhow, I got back to the third act of the night, Eisfabrik, with less than four songs to go, and as a reader you shouldn’t read this as I was at the full show.
Eisfabrik take us temporarily away from the militaristic clothing concept that most bands at the festival have adopted, it’s basically a genre concept. Instead they embrace the meaning of the word “Eis” and are dressed in white and with white face paint just to simulate an icy feeling.
And they also brought some sort of theatrical elements on stage. A nearly two and a half meter tall dude, walking on some sort of modern stilts (I saw him walking around backstage) and dressed as a spaceman appeared on stage and interacted with the singer during the performance. “Why not”, I thought and after the show I couldn’t remember the songs, just the space man and René, the drummer, who probably served as drummer in the last three bands this night.
Well, electronic music in the eighties was much about theater as well and why not revive it in the 2010s? I wish I would be able to tell you more about the show but that wouldn’t make the band justice because of my “catching up with friends” moment during most of the gig. I like theatrical elements though – and frontmen with huge beards. Respect!
After a beer break and an obligatory bladder check – no one wants to leave a show just after five minutes because of the beer trap and get a lousy spot later – it was finally time to enjoy a Funker Vogt gig again, the first since 1999 and with and almost completely new set up; Chris and René wasn’t band members in the nineties.
Markthalle has started to get crowded by this time but was far from sold-out this night, something I find very strange considering the line-up of the festival.
Funker Vogt start in 140bpm and never drop the tempo after that. And it was much focus on the last two albums which involve Chris and René. The best song of the “Code of Conduct” album, “Phönix”, is first out this night and the crowd runs crazy on the dancefloor almost immediately. Chris is a remarkably good frontman and commands the people’s attention with no effort and leaves nothing to chance.
But maybe he’s not fully focused because it happens more than once that he forgets the lyrics, luckily René steps in to do some vocals at times, but it’s important to point out that Chris’ excellent metal-like vocals are a real key to the band’s sound and make it even rougher. “Gunman”, “Für Immer” and “Tragic Hero” are some of the favorites that blast out of the speakers way above recommended decibel levels.
Funker Vogt is the epitome of the genre no matter what other people might think and with the addition of René Dornbusch and Chris L. they again prove that they deserve a place among the top acts on the scene.
Chris is also frontman of the last act of the night, Agonoize, a band well-known for the splatter-like performances where blood is spraying the floor red, and the front line of the crowd usually drowns in theater blood. At this point I’m quite tired though (and may not like these types of performances although I know it’s fake blood, but I’ve always felt physically ill about blood) and after a few songs I find my way to the bar to have a beer and edit a few videos from the night.
The overall impression? Great organization (thanks for taking care of us Fischy), great bands and good shows. I’m just a bit sad – not disappointed – that Hybridize didn’t sell-out the night because they deserve it, but that’s probably something connected to the overall Hamburg dilemma with too many gigs every week.
See you next year again?
Photos by Mandy Privenau.