1st to 3rd September 2023
Nocturnal Culture Night 16 Day 2 with To Avoid, Kalt, Ashbury Heights, Project-X, Janus (acoustic), Tom Bailey - Thompson Twins, Zoodrake, Les Berrtas, Vomito Negro, Boytronic, Kirlian Camera, End Of Transmission, Marva Von Theo, Bedless Bones, Traitrs, Attrition, Emmon, Ermes / Harms, Strobo.Lolita, Larrnakh, Uwe Nolte - songs of Orplid & Forseti, The Devil and The Universe, Die Weisse Rose, Marcel Schulze with Eli van Vegas, Christian von Aster, Marcus Stiglegger, Robert Meyer with Dr. Anja Kretschmer
On the second day of the Nocturnal Culture Night 16, the weather is cooperating better. After yesterday’s water battle, it stays dry today. Occasionally, the sun even comes out, and it becomes pleasantly warm.
The puddles from yesterday are slowly drying up. The authorities and customs also seem to be satisfied. Nevertheless, entry today begins with a slight delay at 11:15 am. It’s going to be a tiring day. We still have a little time before it starts, so we head to the Kulturbühne to find a seat and rest our feet for a moment. Friday seems to still be affecting some, and for many, it was a late night. There are relatively few people here in the afternoon, but that will change shortly. But first things first, but not necessarily in that order.
At 20 minutes past twelve, things kick off on the Kulturbühne with ERMES / HARMS, so we’ll stay right here. The project by Axel Ermes and Hauke Harms, who met in the 80s during their time with GIRLS UNDER GLASS, takes the attentive listener on an exciting sonic journey through their meticulously executed acoustic fantasies and sometimes even randomly occurring sonic events like feedback or electronic disturbances. It’s often quite experimental and stoic, and you won’t find many harmonies in the pieces. However, sonically, it’s quite impactful, and the cool sound goes straight to the legs. It’s a similar scene over at the Amphibühne. There, TO AVOID kicks off the festival day with old school EBM and modern sound structures, attracting a handful of early risers who are already dancing their way awake.
END OF TRANSMISSION kicks off the day on the Parkbühne. The duo formed in 2020 and released their first album ‘Cause and Effect’ last year. Jens Schubert and Sven Schröder have their fan club with them, who are already partying to the electronic sounds. It gets crowded in front of the Parkbühne quite quickly as well. For now, I’m drawn to the Waldbühne, where ZOODRAKE is starting the second day of NCN simultaneously. Here, too, some festival-visitors have already gathered. Hilton Theissen combines electronic sounds with elements of Alternative Rock and even Indie Pop in this project founded in 2019. Silvveil is there as live support on the keyboard and backing vocals. The identity behind the hoodie and metallic face mask remains unknown.
As mentioned earlier, Friday seems to have left some still feeling a bit groggy, but people are still dancing and clapping, and Hilton frequently engages with the audience, for example, by standing on the speakers. Hilton has been quite productive in recent years. Three albums were released during the pandemic, and, of course, there are tracks from the current long player as well. I’d actually like to stay longer, but I’ve made a firm commitment to check out the Lesebühne today. Over there, Marcel Schulze is currently reading from ‘Elektronische Körpermusik’ (Electronic Body Music). With a book that deals with music, it naturally doesn’t stop at just reading. For musical support, Eli Van Vegas (ZWEITE JUGEND) is also part of the performance, playing fitting music to accompany the text passages. The reading is not only informative but also quite entertaining. It’s a book that anyone even remotely interested in this kind of music should definitely get their hands on. By the way, the book doesn’t just contain text but also a lot of great pictures.
I’d like to stay longer here as well, but I tear myself away and head to the Amphibühne to get an impression of KALT. The French EBM project is already rocking out, even though there’s still plenty of space here as well. Meanwhile, over at the Kulturbühne, STROBO.LOLITA lives up to its name. Victoria Nyctophilia from Gelsenkirchen is really letting loose here. The mix of Rhythm and Noise and Techno is certainly waking everyone up. We use the time for coffee and cake (by the way, extremely delicious) before heading back to the Parkbühne. There, I experience the first big surprise of the day. MARVA VON THEO impresses with Electropop characterized by expressive vocals and a charismatic woman at the frontline. Marva Voulgari not only has a great presence but also a wonderful voice. The Greeks are having their first performance in Germany today. Another act I’ll be delving into more after the event.
At LES BERRTAS on the Waldbühne, things are really heating up now. The Würzburg-based band had disappeared from the scene for 20 years before they made their first comeback in 2016. The persistence of their fanbase had brought LES BERRTAS back to the stage and into the studio. Three years later, the new album ‘Serrapolis’ saw the light of day and is now gracing the stage at NCN. Meanwhile, on the Kulturbühne, we have Neofolk with ambient and industrial influences from LARRNAKH. The Hungarians blend experimental elements with acoustic instruments like violin, cello, bass, and piano arrangements. Personally, I’m not connecting with it, and besides, ASHBURY HEIGHTS is also performing on the Amphibühne.
Actually, the Swedes were supposed to perform here last year, but due to cancelled flights, the show had to be cancelled too at short notice. So, ASHBURY HEIGHTS was promptly invited again for this year. I missed their performance at M’era Luna, so I’m watching the entirety of their show now. In front of the stage, it’s not only crowded but also really lively. Anders Hagström and Yasmine Uhlin are brimming with energy. Songs like ‘SmAlLeR’, ‘Is That Your Uniform’ or ‘Spiders’ are creating a lively atmosphere and getting the crowd moving in front of the stage - it rocks.
On the Waldbühne, the Belgian Hard-Electro legend VOMITO NEGRO also knows how to impress. Rhythmic loops, dark soundscapes, pounding sequences, harsh synths, and vocals are all thrown at you here. Meanwhile, on the Parkbühne, BEDLESS BONES is conjuring a hypnotic, powerful, and fragile sonic world. Estonian Kadri Sammel is the singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist behind this project. The expressive artist surprises with an intriguing, atmospheric sound, tremendous charisma, and presence. Another entry on my list to explore further.
Before heading back to PROJECT-X at the Amphibühne, we pay a visit to Marcus Stiglegger at the Lesebühne, where he is currently reading from ‘Schwarz’ (Black). The book delves into a fascinating topic from a scientific perspective. It experiences deep insights into the abyss of pop culture, combined in fascinating chapters. It delves into “black” subcultures, fashion and politics, “occulture” and fetishism, profound beauty ideals, and cultural terrorism. Unfortunately, the acoustics are currently quite poor. The microphone keeps crackling, and the music from the other stages is quite loud, making it a bit challenging to listen to. Fortunately, the microphone issue can be resolved, making the author easier to understand. ‘Body Politics’ is the second book the author has brought, and it’s much more personal but no less interesting and highly engaging. However, I don’t have time to listen for long.
On the Amphibühne, PROJECT-X is waiting to tear it down. The Swedish EBM cult formation is releasing a reissue of their album ‘Modus Operandi’ on vinyl this year and returning to the stage for a single exclusive show in Germany. After a generous amount of smoke, frontman Torny Gottberg appears on stage, covered in fake blood and with plastic wrap around his head. As menacing and eerie as the singer may appear on stage, he’s actually quite likable, albeit a bit eccentric. The man exudes an incredible amount of energy. While it’s not as crowded as it was earlier with ASHBURY HEIGHTS, people are jumping, dancing, and singing along. The audience in attendance is really into it. And PROJECT-X is just damn cool. It’s simply a lot of fun.
After a quick refreshment, I head to the Parkbühne. Here TRAITRS are performing while BOYTRONIC takes the stage on the Waldbühne at the same time. I would have liked to see both acts in their entirety, but since that’s not possible, I decide to start with TRAITRS and switch to the Waldbühne later. There isn’t much space in front of the Parkbühne, so it’s likely to get very crowded here. It seems like the right decision because when I switch to the Waldbühne, the area is packed all the way to the back, and I can hardly make my way through. If I had arrived just now, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see much of the Canadians. The duo impressed me in the spring when they supported VNV NATION, and today, they once again deliver top-notch Post Punk. People are dancing right from the start. I’m still simply captivated by Sean-Patrick Nolan and Shawn Tucker today. This duo really belongs on a larger stage. There’s just not enough room here for their fans. The Canadians would have been better suited for the Amphibühne or the Waldbühne. As planned, I make my way there around halfway through their set.
The area in front of the Waldbühne is also packed, and I can hardly find a spot. The atmosphere is fantastic, and the celebration extends all the way to the back. “Put your hands in the air. Let’s dance!” Just like that, and no other way. The German Electro-Pop band became a cult sensation overnight with their song ‘You’. BOYTRONIC’s music still captivates today. What a party. Things are considerably more subdued at JANUS on the Amphibühne, where they are performing with an acoustic set today. The set feels quite experimental but still has its admirers. The ambiance on the Kulturbühne would have suited this performance better, and there would have been enough space there. On the other hand, THE DEVIL AND THE UNIVERSE, who are performing simultaneously on the Kulturbühne, could have used more space. Tribal drums meet 80s electronica, industrial beats merge with oriental percussions. The soundtrack-like songs sound almost hypnotic. That’s truly captivating.
The Waldbühne is really crowded for KIRLIAN CAMERA. The opening track takes me by surprise and immediately brings a blissful smile to my face. Although I’ve heard ‘The Great Unknown’ live several times this year, it’s never been with Elena Fossy’s vocals. The song was recorded in collaboration with SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS for their album ‘Transcendent’, released as a pre-single, and of course, played during the tour for the album. Hearing the song performed today by Elena is simply fantastic and a true delight. KIRLIAN CAMERA has already made me happy with the opener. So, it’s not too difficult for me to say goodbye early and turn my attention to the next act on the Parkbühne, especially since I’ll have the chance to enjoy the band extensively at a club show in Oberhausen in December.
Back at the Parkbühne, it seems like the action is currently concentrated at the Waldbühne. There are only a few people here at the moment. The British avant-garde band ATTRITION was founded in 1980 by Martin Bowes and played a significant role in the development of industrial music in the UK. The band also experimented with classical elements. Their music is an eclectic blend of experimental and traditional sounds, combining electronics and acoustic elements, as well as male and female vocals. It’s pretty crazy, quite cool, and somehow fascinating.
On the Amphibühne, Tom Bailey catapults us back to the 1980s with the music of the THOMPSON TWINS. The all-female band and the singer himself are dressed in stylish white outfits. The contrast with the audience, who are almost exclusively dressed in friendly black, is hard to miss, and the singer finds it remarkable as well. Tom Bailey is truly enthusiastic and not only sings but also plays multiple instruments. Classics like ‘Love on Your Side’, ‘Hold Me Now’, ‘Lay Your Hands on Me’, ‘King for a Day’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ or ‘Hold Me Now’ get the audience on their feet, and they are celebrated. People are singing, clapping, and dancing, making it a joy to behold. At one point, a giant red balloon comes into play, which Bailey tosses into the audience, and it travels over heads across the stands. No one can resist the charm of the music and the enthusiasm on stage. Loud demands for an encore bring the quartet back to the stage. It seems they hadn’t quite anticipated this.
Bailey apologizes, saying they don’t have that many songs in their repertoire because they are playing together in this configuration for the first time. Nevertheless, they want to see us dance and simply play the opener ‘Love on Your Side’ once more. Bailey’s wish is granted, and everyone dances again before the veteran shakes hands with fans in the front row as a farewell gesture. However, the second day of the festival doesn’t end at the Amphibühne but on the Parkbühne. Once again, today, they’ve saved the surprise highlight for the finale. EMMON shines with minimal Electro and Synth Pop, paired with a fantastic female voice and the commanding presence of the petite Swede from Stockholm. Just like yesterday, it’s crowded in front of the Parkbühne for the closing act. This woman has incredible power, and the performance is incredibly enjoyable. I’ll definitely have to delve deeper into this project when I get home.
It’s a great finish to another successful festival day, and I actually managed to only miss two bands. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to Uwe Nolte and DIE WEISSE ROSE (both on the Kulturbühne). At least I could attend two out of four readings in some capacity. Unfortunately, I missed Christian von Aster today as well, and I also couldn’t make it to Robert Meyer with Dr. Anja Kretschmer. But tomorrow is another day.
All pictures by Dani Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)