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Reeperbahn Festival: When music takes over a neighbourhood

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The perfect word to define the Reeperbahn Festival is ‘multi’.

Multiple activities (starting with their double program of concerts and conferences), multiple locations (up to 70 crossover venues), multicultural atmosphere, and you literally would need to multiply yourself to be able to attend all the performances that you would like to, around 400 concerts in total.

From 23-26 September, the festival changed the colour of Hamburg’s red-light district of Reeperbahn into a carnival of multiple colours and sounds.

Everyone is quite used to open air and club life music festivals, but Reeperbahn offers more than that; which other festival in the world gives the opportunity to enjoy performances in a church, a museum, a bunker, a bus, and a venue next to where the Beatles made their debut away from UK, within the same day?

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Trying to summarise everything from this cultural festival would feel empty; giving a list of names, artists and performances. But, after cycling from venue to venue during the four days of the event, here are Pandeia’s highlights of Hamburg’s biggest festival.

Just one week before releasing their new album ‘We the generation’, British drum-and-bass outfit Rudimental emphasise the ‘mental’ part of their performance at the Reeperbahn stage. If there is a definition of a great show it is a Rudimental performance. This band is the graphic description of having fun on stage. They don’t give a minute of calm, the floor vibrating, singers and musicians dancing and jumping, together with great vocals, and probably one of the best music arrangements that British music industry can offer. It doesn’t come as a surprise that big names as Emily Sande or Ed Sheeran have collaborated with these guys.

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Another artist that came to Hamburg with his album release just around the corner was James Morrison, the established British singer introduced some of the new songs from his upcoming fourth album ‘Higher than here’ to the German public; of course there was also place during the show for his big hits ‘Broken strings’ and ‘You give me something’ among others.

Danish band Lukas Graham and German group Wanda filled up the biggest venue of the Festival and their performances reminded everyone that Reeperbahn is the red-light district after all and t-shirtless shows are more than welcome. The Danish singer and his band show great timing skills when they took off their t-shirts just before singing their track ‘Strip no more’, Lukas even talked about how the song was based on a stripper they met at Reeperbahn called Destiny and how she stopped striping as she got to be a nurse.

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Every Festival needs a hero; so all the way from LA to Hamburg came Friends of the Family with their song ‘Hero’, biggest hit of the band and soundtrack of the Oscar nominated movie ‘Boyhood’, they literally sing ‘I don’t wanna be your hero, I don’t wanna be a big man, I just wanna fight like everyone else’, which sounds like a night at Reeperbahn.

Hamburg nightlife has a highlight location and that is the bunker, it couldn’t be missed on the Reeperbahn venue list. It is a concrete mogul that nowadays is full of parties, music and recreational activities. This bunker made the perfect venue for the the US band Soiree as both the place and the band could be defined as unique. They shared with the Hamburg crowd some insides of their music, ‘my last album was a lot about death and dark stuff, but I am fine now, I am in a happy place’, admitted the singer of the band, just to continue ‘the next song is not about death, its about killing, in case you need it’.

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If the Reeperbahn festival would have taken place 55 years ago the British singer Rhodes would have been singing next door to his compatriots ‘The Beatles’, who were making their debut in Hamburg at that same street in the club right next to the venue where Rhodes offered his show. Große Freiheit has been full of talent for over half a century, the street also hosted James Morrison’s concert.

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Singer songwriters paid a visit to the bus and the museum during the event. Josef Salvat played some of his most known songs like ‘Hustler’ in an acoustic performance at the Reeper-bus in the afternoon; the Australian singer then offered a full show later that night where the same songs sounded completely different.

Londoner Lucy Rose shared a similar situation, she played an intimate concert at the Hamburg School museum, just she with a guitar and a piano, to afterwards shake-it up a little at a different stage surrounded by her band that night.

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There was also place for the rock/punk music at Reeperbahn Festival, like the band Girlpool; the young duet from LA took the Hamburg crowd back to the 70’s revel music, just two girls with their guitar, bass and rock and roll to fulfill the stage.

Words by Aida Pelaez

Photos by Aida Pelaez

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