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Bergfest 2023Ballenstedt Castle, Ballenstedt, Germany
24th June 2023
Bergfest 2023 with Morphose (feat. Lennard A. Salomon, Sascha Klein, Sven Friedrich), Absurd Minds, Neuroticfish, Rotersand, Sono

In the Bergtheater Thale on the Hexentanzplatz in the Harz Mountains, the Bergfest had its premiere 2019. After the forced break caused by the Corona pandemic, the small festival went into the second round in 2022. Since the original venue could not be used due to major renovations, the festival initially was moved to the Mark Fortress in Magdeburg. In 2023 the festival returns to the Harz Mountains. Unfortunately, the Bergtheater is still being renovated a new location was found in the dreamy little Ballenstedt.

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This year, Neuwerk Music presents us five top-class acts. That goes for the old hands as well as for the newcomer, if you can actually call MORPHOSE that in view of the band structure. And it goes to a good cause too. Neuwerk boss Pedram Sadighi (Peddy) has been supporting the Sargstedt dog-sanctuary for several years. And so, donations for the sanctuary are being collected again today. In the donation boxes set up, almost €1,400 come together on Saturday, which together with another €400 from Berlin have now been transferred to the Sargstedt sanctuary. Already a nice success for the Bergfest team. But first things first, but not necessarily in that order.

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At 3:30 p.m. on this sunny Saturday afternoon, the gates to the courtyard of Ballenstedt Castle are supposed to open to the visitors. So, our small travel group, which happened to be staying in the same hotel, sets off shortly after three in the direction of the castle. There is plenty of space in the adjacent parking lot, so that a suitable spot for the carriage can be found quickly. Already on the few meters to the entrance you keep getting stuck with familiar faces. Here a short “hello”, there a little chat. You immediately feel among friends. The mood is already merrymaking. The small bunch of black-clad party-goers, who are already lined up in front of the entrance, are patiently waiting to be let in. This will be granted punctually at half past three. The castle courtyard offers a wonderful backdrop for the stage but hardly any shade at this time. Luckily, it’s still bearable today with 24 °C. Nevertheless, it’s not easy to bear the sun and every passing cloud is celebrated.

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It’s clear from the start that a very special festival awaits us today. The coherent line-up doesn’t have a real headliner, because somehow every performance feels like you’re actually attending the main act. The sets are all (with small differences) about the same length. Only SONO has a bit more stage time. At other festivals, you have usually a change in the audience, as rarely all bands are equally interesting for everyone. Not today. The castle courtyard empties during the changeover breaks. The folks are looking for space in the shade and use the time to get something to eat and drink, stop for merch or have a chat with friends, new acquaintances or the artists.

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You always have the feeling of bumping into someone you know. If you don’t know each other before, you know each other afterwards. Even the artists mingle easily between the music lovers. You can see Arc Morten sitting comfortably with friends in front of a wall. Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg strolls through the castle courtyard and twaddles animatedly. Sven Friedrich and Christoph Schauer can be meet at the merch. Rascal Hüppe stands in front of the stage between the fans and chats a bit... But when the music sounds again and the next act starts, everyone is back very quickly and you usually have the same faces around you as before. I have rarely experienced such a solved, relaxed and familial atmosphere.

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At this point, a big compliment and a heartfelt thank you to the promoters and organizers, who put together a great line-up and organized everything very well. Okay, a second drinks stand would certainly not have hurt. But to my delight, there is something vegan to eat and the prices are very affordable. So, get something behind your teeth and then it can actually start.


The unique music project by musician, songwriter, film music producer and video artist Christoph Schauer starts the festival day with several premieres. In this constellation, the artists are on stage together for the first time and this is the very first festival appearance of the project. The release show for ‘The Inexplicable Darkness Of Light’ last October in Hanover was played with a slightly different line-up. In addition to Schauer (bass, guitar, keyboard), Marius Lürig (drums) and Arc Morten (synthesizer, vocals) were permanent band members on stage with guest singers Sascha M. Klein (NEUROTICFISCH) and Viktorija Kukule. Today, Schauer hands over his place on the keyboards to Max Filges, who strengthens the fixed line-up.

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Unfortunately, Viktorija Kukule had to cancel her performance today due to illness. At the concert in October, this fate befell Lennart A. Salomon, who was only represented with his songs on the screen. Today the singer is finally in (vocals, guitar). And the formation welcomes a new guest singer on stage today. Sven Friedrich (SOLAR FAKE, ZERAPHINE) also contributes two songs to the set. And here we are at a world premiere again. In addition to the first single ‘All Comes Back To You’ from the upcoming album ‘The Open Shutter’, there are several other new, previously unreleased tracks to be heard today. /

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Music & Performance
It starts promptly at 4:30 p.m. Few words about the light. There isn’t much to see from the stage lighting in the glistening sunshine today. So, I spare the rating. Only later at SONO, the spotlights and light elements used have a chance to unfold their full effect. But back to MORPHOSE. It’s not really crowded in the castle courtyard. With the fairly warm temperatures and hardly any shade, this is quite pleasant. So everything spreads loosely in front of the stage when Arc Morten and Max Filges take their places at the electronics, closely followed by Marius Lürig, who takes a seat behind the drums. Armed with his guitar, mastermind Christoph Schauer enters the stage next and Arc starts singing the first new song ‘Open Shutter’.

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The title track to the forthcoming album opens the set and works perfectly as an opener. Lennart “sneaks” onto the stage almost unnoticed and also joins in the song on the guitar and at the microphone, making it a duet. It seems that nobody told Lennart today’s dress code. While everyone wears a friendly black, Lennart appears in white from the shirt collar to the sole. A very nice visual contrast and a perfect visualising of the lyrics. Before Christoph can say anything, Lennart greets the group with a cheerful Hamburger “Moin”, which is immediately returned. And then he makes it clear “We are MORPHOSE. It’s actually Christoph Schauer’s project. But today we all are MORPHOSE.”

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Lennart takes the mic part and continues with his two contributions to ‘The Inexplicable Darkness Of Light’ namely ‘Encounter’ and ‘Spin The Wheel’. With a “many heartfelt thanks” and a kiss on the hand, Lennart says goodbye from the stage and leaves Arc the place at the microphone. He doesn’t lose many words and presents us another new song, ‘Control’, and then the already known ‘Beneath It All’, very impressively. A short “thank you” and he’s back behind the synthesizers while Sascha comes on stage. He wears his most comfortable shoes and is in best mood. “Hello”, he smashes at us with joy. With ‘Moveout’ and ‘Surrender’ he has two well-known songs in his luggage, in between there is another new song called ‘Undertow’.

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After his performance, Sascha also thanks us warmly and hands over the baton to Sven. Like his predecessors, “the new one” is frenetically greeted and cheered. As a reward, he starts with a completely new song. There really isn’t anyone in the audience who is ‘Disappointed’. Although Sven “co-wrote” the song he messes up his cue at ‘All Comes Back To You’. But that makes the singer all the more likeable, especially since he has to laugh about it himself. The audience sings along all the louder. As a farewell, Sascha and Lennart come back onto the stage for a joint bow.

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What a performance. MORPHOSE consistently inspire with enormous energy and joy of playing. Whether it’s Max Filges, who not only plays the keyboard on ‘Moveout’, but also occasionally plays air drums. Christoph Schauer, who jumps off the drum platform in high spirits. Sascha, who dances exuberantly across the stage, to name just a few actions that I stuck in memory. And the audience returns that with equal energy and enthusiasm - dancing, singing (at least the songs already released are loudly intoned), clapping and cheering. Despite the change on the microphone, the musicians form a wonderful unit and you never get the impression that this is their first appearance today or that they are “only” guest singers.

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Even when dismantling, everyone tackles together afterwards. A terrific opening for a fantastic evening and I’m already looking forward to the upcoming album and further concerts in autumn.

01. Open Shutter
02. Encounter
03. Spin The Wheel
04. Control
05. Beneath It All
06. Moveout
07. Undertow
08. Surrender
09. Disappointed
10. All Comes Back To You

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Light: n.a.
Sound: 9.5
Total: 9.8 / 10

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Absurd Minds

The second performance of the evening will be played by ABSURD MINDS, whose band history began in the mid-nineties. Stefan Grossmann (vocals) and Tilo Ladwig (synthesizer) started their Electro project as a duo. Live, the line-up was reinforced by Timo Fischer on drums, who became a permanent band member during the work on the second album ‘Damn the Lie’. Then there was another addition in 2006 with Toralf Nikisch on keyboards and vocals. In this constellation, the quartet is still on the road these days. /

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Music & Performance
The program continues at 5:40 p.m. The intro drives most of the guests back to the castle courtyard. It takes a while for everyone to find their way back. At the beginning of the set there is still plenty of space in front of the stage. Those already present use this all the more exuberantly to celebrate. Tilo, Timo and Toralf (can this be coincidence or was that fate?) are welcomed on stage just as warmly as MORPHOSE were just said goodbye. The same goes for singer Stefan, who is the last to enter the stage. A journey through almost three decades of band history awaits us.

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Stefan and Toralf complement each other perfectly on the mic. Toralf regularly alternates between keyboards and the foremost stage front. It’s sometimes difficult to say which of the two is actually the front man. The two master it almost equally and deliver an extremely dynamic show. From time to time, Toralf gets carried away to jump off the stage and seeks closeness to the audience. That sets the mood right. Old and newer songs are equally celebrated. When the show ends after 50 minutes, not everyone has had enough. The loud calls for an encore cannot be answered due to the tight schedule.

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01. Now We Hear The Call
02. Countdown
03. Turning Away
04. I’m Dying Alone
05. Interconnectedness
06. A Man Received The Answer
07. Descent
08. One World
09. Dependence
10. Brainwash

Music: 8
Performance: 10
Light: n.a.
Sound: 9.5
Total: 9.2 / 10

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I last met Sascha Mario Klein and Henning Verlage about four months ago, when NEUROTICFISCH tore down Jens Klostermann’s club (the Subkultur in Hanover) at a sold-out full-time show. But that didn’t stop the head of SubKultur from partying in the Harz Mountains today, just as he did in February in his own four walls. Let’s see if this walls still stand afterwards. The shows of the Bochum duo promise a lot of energy and good mood with their sounds between naive Pop melodies, hard Industrial noise and Trance / Techno elements. All paired with intelligent and emotional lyrics and a voice that gets under your skin. /

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Music & Performance
Already at the sound check, the castle courtyard is well filled and Sascha causes the first bursts of joy with his “voice rehearsals” and gives me goose-bumps despite the still high temperatures. “Shit, we have to start now. Everyone get here.” And with that, the program continues at 6:50 p.m. with Sascha once again wishing “a wonderful good evening” while Henning starts the intro to ‘Colourblind’. NEUROTICFISCH take us on another journey through years of the band’s history. The “dynamic duo” delivers a highly energetic as well as very emotional set and in turn creates a fantastic atmosphere.

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My emotional highlight of the evening comes with the second song ‘Walk Alone’, which always makes me shed a few tears. And then Sascha and Henning pick up the pace. “Henning is already moving his feet, so you can do that too.” With classics like ‘Former Me’, ‘Silence’ or ‘Civilized’ we are then heated up properly. There’s not much to do by Sascha to get the audience up to speed. I’m quickly gaining certainty that the demolition in Hanover will be repeated today. If you don’t know the lyrics to the “90-year-old” number (actually there are 23) ‘Wake Me Up’, “it’s your own fault”. Judging by the volume, there’s no one today. So, I can read from Sascha’s lips “You are the hottest”, and rightly so!

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Before things get emotional again with ‘Suffocating Right’, “let’s top it”. And the literal ‘Bomb’ hits like one. The vibe is just amazing. ‘Greater Good’, ‘Is It Dead?’ and ‘M.F.A.P.L.’ finally transform the castle courtyard into a witch’s cauldron. The gentle hint, “we haven’t demolished the place yet. The castle has been here long enough.” is not necessary at all. ‘Velocity’ does it all by itself and then, when you’ve “just warmed up”, “the last track comes up”. “Yeah, I hope you don’t have that. But now comes ‘Fluchtreflex’ (escape reflex).” But nobody is fleeing here today. Only the words that Sascha run out for a moment. In view of the enthusiasm, he only brings an “Alter Falter!” (something like “Oh my gosh!”) out before he catches himself.

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As the saying goes, when it’s at its best, you should stop. And I wonder what’s supposed to come after that. But as already mentioned, today one headliner follows the next and the next cracker is already in the starting blocks. But before that, Henning is also allowed to have his say. “Thank you”, with that, all has been said.

01. Colourblind
02. Walk Alone
03. Former Me
04. Silence
05. Civilized
06. Wake Me Up
07. Bomb
08. Suffocating Right
09. A Greater Good
10. Is It Dead?
11. M.F.A.P.L.
12. Velocity
13. Fluchtreflex

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Light: n.a.
Sound: 9.5
Total: 9.8 / 10

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With ROTERSAND, two more old hands follow. Or as Rascal puts it, “two wrinkled old men”. This combo has also more than 20 years under its belt. But eventually we all get older and that’s a good thing. In two decades, they have released eight studio albums, various singles and EPs. Rascal Hüppe (vocals) and Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg (synthesizer, backing vocals) are known for their intelligent Electro as well as for their intense and highly energetic live shows. Today, however, I have the pleasure for the first time. /

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Music & Performance
And pure enjoyment it shall be and it starts at 8:15 p.m. with a “dramatic start” and Krischan in the mist. When he’s standing behind the desk with his headphones on, you get the impression of a DJ set. Since the songs mostly flow directly into each other, this impression is reinforced. But Krischan proves that he cannot just DJ when he takes over the microphone and rocks the front of the stage together with Rascal. So, for example at the last two songs ‘War On Error’ and ‘Exterminate Annihilate Destroy’. Rascal, for his part, knows how to wow the crowd and carry them with him. Again and again, he jumps into the photo pit and onto the barrier to be very close to the fans.

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Great thing, how he weaves “Oh Bergfest. Can you hear me? I can’t hear you... Can you hear me?” in to the lyrics of ‘Electronic World Transmission’ and then goes straight to the greeting. “A very nice good evening, folks!” Also, with ROTERSAND the audience is extremely sure of the lyrics. The last two singles ‘Forgotten Daydreams’ and ‘Higher Ground’ are intoned just as loudly as the classics and the crowd is dancing in sheer ecstasy. In ‘Torn Realities’ the castle courtyard resembles a witch’s cauldron again. Lord Rascal, who earlier “signed the contract of sale”, demands “a bit of respect” and at the same time announces that we will be having a party here every week from now on.

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This, in turn, is answered with loud screeching, before all sing along loudly again. Krischan has his own party behind the podium while Rascal whirls and jumps around on stage. What an energy sloshing off the stage and returning in a huge wave. Just unbelievable. None of us down here will have a voice tomorrow. And yet the party-mad mob in front of the stage still doesn’t have enough and demands another encore when Rascal and Krischan say goodbye to the stage at 8:20 p.m. But even these calls are not answered. Somehow, I’m almost a little happy about it. After all, there’s something more to come, and by now we’re all a bunch of “wrinkled old men” or women or others.

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01. Electronic World Transmission
02. Grey
03. Forgotten Daydreams
04. Torn Realities
05. Silence
06. Merging Oceans
07. Higher Ground
08. First Time
09. Rushing
10. Waiting To Be Born
11. War On Error
12. Exterminate Annihilate Destroy

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Light: n.a.
Sound: 9.5
Total: 9.8 / 10

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Not much needs to be said about SONO either. More than 20 years after their first release, the electropop giants from Hamburg released their 7th studio album ‘In The Haze’ in April. Lennart A. Salomon (vocals, guitar, bass), Florian Sikorski (synthesizer) and Martin Weiland (synthesizer) recently toured with this album and are well-levelled for tonight. /

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Music & Performance
In addition to a few songs from the new album, the Hamburg band also has a lot of their earlier hits with them. The castle courtyard slowly fills up again when Martin and Florian start the intro at 9:40 p.m. Lennart has changed colour from white to black for his second appearance of the evening. With a microphone in one hand and a water bottle in the other, he is the third to enter the stage. The castle courtyard is not quite as crowded as before. It seems, that some first need to take a breath or get something to drink again. Also in this set, the second song is my personal highlight. I was particularly taken with ‘New Kid In Town’ when I first heard the current long player.

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Lennart has already proven with MORPHOSE that he is not only a gifted singer but also an excellent guitarist and now he is doing it again. Somehow the circle closes here. Lennart opened the evening with MORPHOSE and a guitar supported sound. And so, the evening will find its end today. But first a “brief moment for an announcement.” Backstage, they wondered, “why aren’t here more? What’s going on here? It’s such a great atmosphere here.” So, they thought about doing it again next year. Lennart can imagine saying, “That was awesome. We’ll just do it again.” The reactions from the audience suggest that we would all be up for it. The planning for 2024 can start.

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But now “Shall we make some more music?” Definitely yes. Meanwhile, the latecomers are back and it can be celebrated again. I notice how cool I find Lennart’s way of dancing and realize that there’s just as much hopping around in front of the stage. Lennart mobilizes all the strengths of the guests present and infects everyone with his energy and good mood. What a great fun. My highlights are the already mentioned ‘New Kid In Town’, ‘Together’, the SONO version of ‘Killer’, ‘Supersonic’ and actually the complete block of encores. And not just because there is one. ‘Perfect Harmony’ could be the motto for the whole evening and is celebrated by everyone together, giving Lennart goose-bumps. “If you can sing so beautifully, then we have to go through with.”

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So, ‘Better’ is actually intoned even better and louder. “Thanks a lot! Will you promise me that we’ll meet again here next year? So, we would come. You too?” Loud approval from all sides. But first we’ll do it again with ‘Control’, “it has to be, right?”. Unfortunately, it really is over at 11:00 p.m. for tonight. But, maybe not quite yet?

01. Can You Hear Me
02. New Kid In Town
03. A New Cage
04. Amplify
05. Chasing The Light
06. What You Do
07. Never Die
08. Cupid
09. Flames Get Higher
10. All Those City Lights
11. Together
12. Let Go
13. Killer
14. Supersonic
15. Blame
16. Perfect Harmony
17. Better
18. Keep Control

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Light: 9.5
Sound: 9.5
Total: 9.8 / 10

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Somehow, most don’t want to go home yet. Many remain in small groups and chat with each other. You meet up for the last time at the merch or toast to the nice evening at the drinks stand. Since there is no after-show party, some simply move the event to the parking lot and continue partying there together. Or the party is simply moved to the hotel. We too are still sitting comfortably with music and drinks on the hotel veranda until around two o’clock the last ones crawl into bed. Conclusion of the evening: “That was awesome. We’ll just do it again.” So, I’ll come back. You too?

All pictures by Daniela Vorndran ( /

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