After the two major German gothic festivals WGT and M’era Luna, the end of July marks the time fro the third and slightly smaller one: Amphi Festival in the centre of Cologne. Amphi did not have its own camping grounds this year, so we went down to the city a day before in order to get a spot on one of the campings closest to Tanzbrunnen. This turns out to be a very nice way to visit the festival: you can get a good night’s sleep, see part of the city on your way over to the festival and get the experience of the number of fellow amphi goers steadily increasing as you get closer to the festival area. Some funny sights guaranteed.
For yours truly it was the first time visiting Amphi Festival, so the first day was all about new impressions. To start off: Amphi is very leisurely. The people at harsher music festivals are often friendly, but here even more so than the metal festivals I visited. This was gonna be a good weekend!
The festival area, Tanzbrunnen, is located right in the centre of Cologne along the river Rhine. It features a Main Stage outdoors, the indoor Theater Stage and a third stage, Orbit, located on the MS Rheinenergie, a ship with a concert venue at its core that also hosted the pre-party the day before. Normally the Orbit stage is moored close to the main festival area, but the ongoing drought had lowered the water level in the river, forcing the ship to relocate to the other bank and a bit further away. Amphi had arranged for a shuttle service to get to the Orbit, but it nevertheless resulted in extra time required to get there. The mainly overlapping lineups of the 3 stages also forced more hard choices on anyone wanting to check out the bands there.
The Creepshow (***)
Does an EBM focused festival have to be all electronic? Amphi’s answer to that is clearly no. So they booked this Canadian horror themed rockabilly band for the second time. The band was both very enthusiastic and grateful to be there. Despite the early hour, they still managed to get part of the crowd grooving along too. In the second half of the show, the singer first climbed into the rigging for one song then jumped off stage to come dance with some very surprised kids for a couple of songs. Continuing to sing throughout. What an awesome moment. Then she returned to the stage and got on the double bass for the finale. Definitely recommend checking these folks out!
After The Creepshow we headed on over to the Theater stage to check out the venue and managed to catch the last few pieces by Kiew. With live guitars and a massive nest of cables connecting the electronics, this band created the most industrial, factory, sounding music of the whole weekend. Happy to have stumbled in on them. Don’t expect to dance to this though.
With X-RX, it was time for the first big dance party of the weekend. Suddenly the sides of the area before the Main were lined with dancers. These guys are big in the club circuit and didn’t disappoint on stage either. Not very clear how much of it was ‘live’, but who cares when the atmosphere is great and everyone has a good time, right?
The announcer told the audience to prove to Centhron we could dance just as well as the people up north (if I understood correctly, that is, don’t really speak German). Centhron didn’t leave any time to doubt. They launched scorchingly and never slowed down, turning the Theater into a massive steaming party from start to end.
Aesthetic Perfection (***)
Daniel Graves brought not just the keyboard player from Combichrist, but also their drummer along for his set at Amphi. A good choice, because those guys know how to put on a show! The keyboard player spent as much time on top of his rig while continuing to play as behind it and the drummer’s signature setup with high-mounted cymbals doesn’t really allow laid back playing either. Graves himself looked plenty charismatic, too. Unfortunately, the sum of the parts was not quite what we expected. Not bad by any means, but it still left us a bit underwhelmed. Especially for bringing along those musicians. It’s as if something about their performance didn’t quite make it off the stage.
Suicide Commando (***1/2)
Booked as a last minute replacement for Assemblage 23, I was happy to see our Belgian industrial get added to the line-up. They turned the already sweltering Theater into a dark pit by turning the room lights off completely and bathing the room in slow but harsh industrial with pieces like Necrophilia and Desire. Three songs in and it felt as if that was what the venue was built for. However, in the middle of the day the slower pace & heat also lulled the audience a bit. The band quickly picked up on this and switched several gears higher to a stomping party to build up to a fitting end with See You In Hell.
ASP was the first headliner on the main stage. I’d never heard of this band before, but they made quite the theatrical entrance. Judging by the audience reaction, they must be quite popular in the German scene as well. However, with 3 different music styles in twice as many songs from the start, going ever more to a poppy (schlager-y?) feeling, this band was not really my taste at all. But the crowd in attendance was loving it. I decided to head on over to the Theater and check out the other closing act for the night.
Midge Ure (**1/2)
Another first for me. The British rock band band is actually named after its front man. Who’s had a very influential music career as I’d discover later. To my shame I must admit his name didn’t ring a bell. Midge and his band played a much more consistent set. For an EBM festival, there was very little electro to be heard here, but the room was still quite full and the music enjoyable. Turns out the front man of this band wrote and produced “Fade To Grey”, the popular Visage song from 1980 and so they played their own version. Things you learn at festivals, eh?
For the pictures go to the photo coverage here.