Reeperbahn Festival Wrap-Up: TVOTR, The Constantines & Lykke Li
In Hamburg, the yardstick for conquering the Reeperbahn is concluding your Saturday night with a trip down to the Fish Market after it opens at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. So when I began walking through the stalls of vendors selling rows of eels, fruit baskets and St. Pauli soccer T-shirts, it was with a feeling of accomplishment. Credit my body's complete confusion about time zones, comraderie among foreign journalists or the knowledge that if I went back to my hotel room, I never would have made it back up for our final tour in the German city.
By the time my long night concluded at the weekly market, all of my fellow evening revelers except Filter editor Pat McGuire and our host had long since gone to bed (or home to Ireland), leaving behind a wonderfully strange collection of elderly sailors and grandmothers dancing to the house band's covers of ZZ Top and Lynard Skynard, sometimes with their canes aloft in the air. Our evening ended as it began—with music.
But the middle-aged cover band at the fish market couldn't have been more different than the first group I saw that night: The Hong Kong Blood Orchestra, a punk band from Mexico City, flown in by the festival organizers on the strength of their MySpace videos. They were playing the Molotov—the city's CBGB's, a hole-in-the-wall basement venue, where a blast of sweat and heat caught me off-guard every time I entered and cast a thick layer of steam on my eyeglasses. The club faced extinction last year, due to the city's exhorbitant charges for parking spaces, despite the Molotov's owners argument that they didn't even want their clientele coming by car since their livlihood depending on plying the youngsters with alcohol. Only a series of fundraisers and a sizable check from an anonymous donor has kept the Molotov scooping NME for talent another year. Tonight, however, despite the novelty of a screaming Latinos in a German cellar, is unlikely to figure prominantly in the club's history of breaking new bands, especially since they didn't wear their matching red jumpsuits.
From there, I headed to see TV on the Radio at Club 36 on a stretch of road just off the Reeperbahn that was home to several strip clubs, including the infamous Safari Club that advertised live sex acts. Strangely, this was also where the Beatles got their start playing venues like the Kaiser Keller and the Star Club for months on end before they ever even made much of a splash in Liverpool. The area's Red Light district has slowly been ceding real estate to less bawdy entertainment since. Club 36 was packed with what I'd guess were a couple of thousand of the city's indie rock kids. TVOTR's math-friendly post-rock translated well among the Germans.
Next up was the D-Club for Brighton, U.K.'s Blood Red Shoes, a guitar/drums duo that graduated from legendary (around here) shows at the Molotov to this giant warehouse of a club. Described to me earlier in the evening as "an A&R dream," I could see the appeal—gorgeous guitarist, charismatic drummer/vocalist, anacronistic grunge, and air-tight melodies. But it didn't take long for every song to sound the same, their repeatitive refrains crashing into each other and chasing me off. I headed back to Molotov for another English act, Rosie Oddie and the Odd Squad. The glittered-up Rosie lived up to her name in the best way with quirky pop songs and tons of stage presence.
It was a long haul through a closed fairground to Knust for The Constantines, but well worth it. I'd never seen the Toronto-based band before, but have enjoyed their music for a while. Bryan Webb is an impressive frontman, every syllable scratching its way out of his throat at full volume. I scooted out during the last song to catch most of Swedish pop star Lykke Li's set. I saw her earlier this year at the By:Larm festival in Oslo with just a keyboardist, and I wasn't too impressed. But with six months more touring under her belt and a full band behind her, she was mesmerizing.
The last band I saw was a trio of young siblings from London, Kitty Daisy & Lewis. We couldn't really see them on the low stage in the very crowded Angie's Nightclub, so we found a table in the corner and enjoyed the Americana and rockabilly music. What we missed on stage was their dad playing acoustic guitar and their mom playing the upright bass. We also didn't know at the time that the mom didn't play any instrument until the band was together and needed a bass player. We met the band at the festival's afterparty later in the evening, and the two sisters Kitty (15) and Daisy (20) and their parents joined us on a search for karaoke on the Reeperbahn. When we realized the karoake club wasn't doing karoake, we settled instead for a photoshoot at the Beatles monument and headed back to the Molotov for a drink. But even they were closing. Fortunately, it was almost time for breakfast and a field trip to the fish market. And then a long, long nap.
Reeperbahn Festival Day 2: Bon Iver follows The Beatles to Hamburg
Reeperbahn Festival Day 1: Sleepless in Hamburg