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Unter schwarzer FlaggeMS RheinEnergie, Cologne, Germany
20th April 2024
Unter Schwarzer Flagge (Under Black Flag) with Alienare, Solar Fake, Solitary Experiments, Blutengel

Ahoy, pirates of the river Rhine! It’s Saturday, 20th April 2024. We’re on what moderator Jens Domgörgen calls “Europe’s biggest party catamaran. This thing is 90 meters long. It can fit 1,600 people.” We don’t have that many guests today though. The artists need their private space too. The available 1,370 tickets for today’s boat tour have been sold out for weeks.

At the dock where the MS RheinEnergie is anchored, there’s already a small group of mostly black-clad “pirates” waiting to board shortly before 10. In just over two hours, we’ll kick off our “Cruise of the Gothics”. Since 2018, the ship has regularly sailed “Unter Schwarzer Flagge” (under the black flag) along the Rhine, offering its passengers a musical journey to the dreamy town of Königswinter and the Drachenfels. Typically, there are four bands on board, providing vibes ranging from Neue Deutsche Härte to Dark Rock. Not this year though. Because today, it’s all about electronic beats. ALIENARE and SOLAR FAKE will get us in the mood on the journey to Königswinter.

After arriving in the legendary little town, we have plenty of opportunity to explore the city of the Nibelungs, take an excursion to Drachenburg Castle, or visit the ruins on the Drachenfels. Consequently, around quarter past four, a black wave floods the small town, and we also take a little trip. Then, after a panoramic tour around the Drachenfels, we head back to Cologne with SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS and BLUTENGEL. That is, if we make it back to the ship on time from our shore leave. As Jens reports, last year he could still see two black-clad figures waving at the dock in Königswinter. Being the friendly guy he is, he waved back. Turns out, they had actually missed the departure and had to take the train back to Cologne. That’s why he’s reminding everyone emphatically to be back on time today. And everything seems to be going smoothly, and no one is missing when our steamboat sets sail again at 7:30 p.m. But we’re not on board just yet. So, let’s rewind a few hours. First things first but not necessarily in that order.

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Now it’s early in the morning, and tour river cruise is still ahead of us. It’s cold, it’s raining, but we’re looking forward to a nice (albeit chilly) day with good music and lots of dear friends. To make sure we make it on board in time, we’re heading towards Cologne after a hearty breakfast (you got to have a good base, right?) around half past eight. As mentioned, we weren’t the only ones with the idea of being early. An hour before boarding, quite a few have already made their way here, including some friends. Together, we endure the rain. The organizers must have taken pity on the ever-growing group and started boarding a bit earlier. The line has grown considerably by now, and the end is nowhere in sight.

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For a change, today we’re not heading straight to the stage; instead, we’re snagging a spot by the railing. Or better to say, up on the balcony, where chairs are set up all around. Usually, I prefer being in front of the stage. Up here, with a seat, it feels a bit like being just in the mix, instead of right in the middle of it. But it’s going to be a long day, so having a place to sit seems like a good idea. Plus, from up here, we’ve got a wonderful view of the stage and the interior. The perfect spot to keep an eye on everything for you guys. It’s still early in the morning, so we’re grabbing some coffee first and maybe something to eat later. The options offer good value for money and something for every taste. I’m pleasantly surprised by the vegan selection too. Although as a Franconian, I’ll never understand how they can serve beer in test tubes. But hey, Kölsch isn’t really beer anyway, right? I’ll just turn a blind eye to it today. The MS RheinEnergie is gradually filling up, and more and more acquaintances and friends are joining the guests.

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An hour later, it’s time. We set sail and start our river cruise from Cologne to Königswinter. There’s quite a bit of choppy water outside. Our ship is still handling it well, though, and since there’s still some time before the first band, some folks are already dancing to the sound coming from the speakers to warm up. The weather seems to have improved a bit by now. At least the sun peeks out every now and then. That bodes well for the shore leave later on. As I look around, it’s pretty clear what most guests’ musical preferences are. Besides shirts of the bands performing today and USF shirts from previous years, there’s a colourful variety and all shades of black. At first, the crowd spreads out across the different decks. Five minutes to one, and it’s raining outside again, and the indoor area is filling up steadily. The 1,370 guests are slowly streaming in. For now, on stage, we only see T.Imo’s (Timo Hanusch) keyboards and T-Green’s (Tim Schulschenk) microphone stand. The stage gets a quick changeover for each act, so all artists have enough space to shine. It’s about to kick off, and Moderator Jens takes the stage first at 1:07 p.m. After a “round of applause for the weather gods,” who seem to be somewhat on our side, our “Cruise of the Gothics” can begin musically.

Unter schwarzer Flagge


“The band coming up next is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. It’s not underground. It’s out of this world. Here are ALIENARE for you!” That’s how Jens introduces the North German duo. If you’ve ever seen ALIENARE live before, and considering the time of day, you could also call it morning workout with Tim and Timo. The band celebrates their 10th band anniversary in May with a two-day fan meet-up in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia. Additionally, their 5th album is set to be released in autumn, which will once again take Tim and Timo on a headlining tour across Germany. Moderator Jens clears the stage, and Timo takes over, cheered on by the applause of the fans. They accompany the intro to the opener ‘Diamonds’ with rhythmic clapping and really get the party started. Singer Tim is greeted by a sea of applauding hands.

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Before we fully dive into the music and performances of today’s acts, let’s take a quick moment to talk about the tech and organization. Right from the entrance, the good organization of the event is evident. The team is well-coordinated, the wristband distribution goes smoothly, and there are no issues even after the shore leave. On board, you can pay by cash or card. Empty glasses, bottles, and dishes are cleared away. The staff is friendly and attentive. The sound on board is generally good. It could be a bit richer up on the balcony, and two additional speakers wouldn’t hurt in the rear area of the ship. The sound engineers are doing a good job overall. It’s just during BLUTENGEL’s set that the sound isn’t perfectly mixed. The two vocalists are sometimes too quiet and hard to hear. But I’ll get into that later. The lighting technicians are once again doing a fantastic job today, not only mastering their craft but also truly impressing. But let’s get back to the music.

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The show goes on with ‘Something Like This’ and Tim is spinning around like a whirlwind, constantly switching sides. With so much energy, hardly anyone in front of the stage or on the balcony can keep their feet on the ground, and most of the chairs are already just decoration. Tim greets the fans. “A very good day to you all. We’re ALIENARE, and we’re thrilled to kick off this cruise with you. We’re absolutely excited to open the evening here.” Then he realizes it’s still early in the day and asks, “Have you had breakfast yet? Better get to it.” Since for some here it’s their first ALIENARE concert, Tim clarifies that it’s a participatory concert. “Even at 1:00 p.m.! That means, ladies and gentlemen here on the ship, when I say, hands up [hands go up], yeah, that looks pretty good. I didn’t say you could put them down. Hands up, everyone! And let’s go! Great to have you here!” Tim is in a great mood and infects the crowd with his enthusiasm. Despite the swaying, sometimes raucous crowd, the ship stays steady during ‘Perception’ and ‘Never Too Late’. You can hardly feel the waves outside anymore. Maybe we’re just balancing out the motion. The party guests clearly have a real urge to dance, and they’re doing it with gusto.

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As you read earlier, ALIENARE is celebrating their 10th band anniversary this year. “Many of you are probably thinking, how can that be? He’s only twelve himself.” Tim gets some laughs with that, as you can imagine. “A milestone like this definitely calls for a celebration.” And for that, the duo brought a time machine. “Let’s see where we end up.” With the second verse of ‘Timemachine’ we’ve landed in 2017 and at the first ALIENARE album. “And this is the song where Timo always checks if everyone’s hands are up and everyone’s clapping.” So, Timo can check that precisely, he comes forward, and Tim temporarily switches to the keyboard. Timo looks around carefully and seems convinced that everyone in front of the stage and on the balcony is indeed clapping along. And then it’s time to sing along with Tim. He holds the mic out to the crowd repeatedly. Tim lets the crowd take over the chorus and really savours it. “Incredible! Thank you so, so much!”

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The next song or “workout” is “pretty good for preventing muscle soreness”. Tim takes off his jacket and demonstrates: first the left arm up, then the right, and then both. “Left! Right! Both! Left! Right! Both!” It works so well that Tim is convinced, “you’ve been practicing at home”. It’s always remarkable how everyone joins in. So, it’s best to train those voices along too. After all, we still have three bands ahead of us, and even the vocal cords need to be warmed up. By now, everyone is firing on all cylinders, and the audience doesn’t need an animator anymore during ‘Everything Will be Alright’, ‘The Colour of my Soul’ and ‘Wrong’. Hands go up automatically, waving or clapping, and everyone sings along loudly.

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ALIENARE are, in their own right, “a North German band. So, basically born on the ship.” That’s why we’re doing ‘Move’ a bit differently today. “We’re on the ship. We hear the seagulls screaming.” So, the chorus lyrics today are in North German, simply ‘Moin’ [the North German greeting]. Let’s practice that real quick. “Wow, Rhineland-North German. Very cool.” And it works on the right side only, on the left side only, and all together. “Thank you so much for joining in!” And because that worked out so well, we’ll continue the workout with ‘Mission Abort’. And then Tim heads over to the photo pit first, where he leaves the chorus part to the fans in the front row. Then Tim starts his excursion into the crowd, where apparently not everyone has practiced at home. Is it just me, or does Tim return to the stage faster than usual? Is he worried that the stage will be invaded by other artists like it happened recently at Kielectric? But the ALIENARE cabin stays clean today, and Tim and Timo have the stage to themselves for a while longer.

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‘Freedom’ and ‘#Neon’ have our barge swaying. The waves on board are definitely stronger than under the keel. It looks fantastic, “unbelievable”. Tim and Timo are visibly moved. And Tim admits, “I’m rarely speechless, but this moment is one of those.” He actually wanted to make a cool announcement. “Don’t worry, there’s no iceberg on the route”, instead he thanks the fans for celebrating so much and looks forward to seeing them again at Amphi. “And there’s still so much great stuff to come. We’re going to Erfurt in May for an anniversary concert.” And we’re all warmly invited. And in September, there’s the tour for the new album. ‘Lumen’ it will be called, and ALIENARE can’t wait to celebrate the new songs with everyone. Then, one last time, hands up in the air and plenty of clapping. ‘Emerald’ even makes the sky shine. The sun is just coming out outside. Tim thanks everyone one last time, and after the closing photo, ALIENARE clear the stage at quarter past two for SOLAR FAKE.

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01. Diamonds
02. Something Like This
03. Perception
04. Never Too Late
05. Time Machine (Medley with ‘Providence’, ‘Tremor’, ‘My Shadow’, ‘The Deepest of all Blacks’)
06. Another Pain
07. Everything Will be Alright
08. The Colour of my Soul
09. Wrong
10. Move
11. Mission Abort
12. Freedom
13. #Neon
14. Emerald

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Solar Fake

In 2024, SOLAR FAKE might not be celebrating a band anniversary. But Sven Friedrich’s Synthpop / Industrial / Indie-Electro project also has a new album under the keel. The seventh studio album will be titled ‘Don’t Push This Button!’. At the last few concerts, fans got a glimpse of the first new songs, and today, we’ll also get a little taste of the new album. The trio, consisting of mastermind Sven on vocals, drummer Jens (Jeans) Halbauer, and keyboardist / bassist André Feller, even has a world premiere in store for us today. But first, the stage needs to be set up, and the instruments exchanged for the second performance of the day. During the break, the inside of the MS RheinEnergie starts to empty out. Outside, the sun sparkles on the waves, and many take the opportunity to catch some fresh air and enjoy the sun for a moment. Who knows how long it’ll keep shining for us. People grab some food and drinks, and in front of the stage, the SOLAR FAKE fan base fills the vacated space.

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Half an hour later, the sky outside darkens again, and the indoor area fills up as moderator Jens gets us ready for the next highlight. “Still all feeling good?” Before we continue, Jens explains the schedule again. After arriving in Königswinter, we have about three hours to get back on board. The ship sets sail again promptly at 7:30 p.m. But that’s still almost five hours away. It’s a quarter to three, and SOLAR FAKE take the stage. André kicks things off on bass, getting the crowd pumped up right away, and Sven storms onto the stage amid the cheers and screams of the fans, who continue their next workout right in front of the stage. ‘Sick of you’ - jumping is the name of the game. Sven and André take turns at the forefront, switching sides repeatedly. After this highly dynamic start, Sven takes off his coat, and André switches behind the keyboard. While it starts raining outside again, everything here is ‘Under control’ and the vibe is great. There’s plenty of dancing, singing, and celebrating going on.

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Next up is ‘Reset To Default’, “an older piece” and the set-up chairs are once again just decorations, with most people up here dancing enthusiastically. Then it’s time for a premiere. “Some of you may have heard, our new album is coming out on 24th May and this here will be the second single.” The song was rehearsed briefly earlier, but that’s ‘Not so important’. What’s more important is that the song hits like a bomb and once again, there’s plenty of dancing going on. I see front of me a sea of clapping hands, and during ‘I despise you’, a “piece from the last album”, the crowd becomes a swaying mass, moving to the beat of the music. Sven jumps up and down on stage, and especially a small group to the right of the stage, where some fan club members have gathered, is celebrating particularly enthusiastically. They’re embracing each other and jumping together.

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‘This pretty life’ brings back the sun. Outside, it’s getting bright again and the sky is shining, just like Sven, who seems to be having a blast. André is briefly at the front of the stage again, flirting with the fans. The audience here also shows full commitment, which André acknowledges by forming a heart in front of his chest. The first notes of ‘All The Things You Say’ are greeted with enthusiastic cheers. The sun seems to be thinking, “And I’ll shine so bright for you” and I hope, not “for a last time tonight”. With ‘I Don’t Want You In Here’ we now have a somewhat quieter song, but it develops so much energy that it’s a true joy. And Sven is full of energy, literally shouting it out. “The next song is over 10 years old already” and it’s a must-have at any SOLAR FAKE concert. Where else could the crowd showcase their skills as a chorus better than during ‘More Than This’? So, get those vocal cords ready and let’s go, “o o ohoho, o ohoho, o ohoho, oho oho…”

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Then it’s time for something new again. The band released a new video two weeks ago, featuring acting support from BLUTENGEL frontman Chris Pohl, among others. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you should definitely check it out, very worth watching, and not just because of the guest appearances. ‘This generation ends’ has already proven its live qualities and hits hard today as well. The crowd is giving the waves outside some competition. I mean, we have more motion here than out there. “Wow, incredible!” ‘Es geht dich nichts an’ from the last album, the only German-language song by the band, warms up the vocal cords and muscles nicely for the following ‘Not What I Wanted’. There’s dancing, jumping, clapping, and of course, singing along. Here’s no “place where I can fade out the noise that people make”. And I don’t want to, either. On the contrary, I naturally sing along loudly when Sven repeatedly holds the mic out to the fans in front of the stage and lets the crowd sing alone. The energy level remains high with ‘It’s who you are’. We keep moving. Our ship, on the other hand, remains still and seems to have docked unnoticed in the meantime.

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Sven is also looking forward to seeing everyone again at Amphi Festival, and SOLAR FAKE will be going on tour in autumn with their new album. But for now, let’s have another song, one that “maybe one or two of you know”. The first notes of ‘The pain that kills...’ immediately trigger a storm of cheers. Outside, the barometer is back to beautiful, and the sun is shining. The trio hasn’t played the next song often, and Sven is worried about “messing it up”. But the DEPECHE MODE cover ‘Ghosts Again’ goes off without a hitch and is, of course, celebrated wildly. Personally, I actually prefer this version to the original. “So, now unfortunately comes the last piece.” This earns Sven the audience’s displeasure. They would like to keep partying a little longer. With ‘Observer’, things really kick into high gear one more time before SOLAR FAKE say goodbye just before four o’clock. But it’s not that simple.

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The vehement calls for an encore quickly have an effect, and after a minute, we get the second cover version of this set. Jeans and André are the first ones back on stage, and André demands silence with his finger on his lips. “You know what’s coming next”, ‘Papillon’ and jumping with Sven. He’s “sweating like crazy” by now. So, to wrap it up, something calmer that the guys, of course, “haven’t rehearsed”. ‘Just leave it’ concludes the musical journey to Königswinter, and SOLAR FAKE bid farewell at 10 past four, waving and bowing together amidst thunderous applause. It’s also time for us to leave the space. They’re going to do some rearrangements now. Then the bands will have time for their soundcheck before the doors open again for the audience around seven.

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01. Sick of you
02. Under Control
03. Reset To Default
04. Not so important
05. I despise you
06. This pretty life
07. All The Things You Say
08. I Don’t Want You In Here
09. More Than This
10. This generation ends
11. Es geht dich nichts an
12. Not What I Wanted
13. It`s who you are
14. The pain that kills...
15. Ghosts Again (DEPECHE MODE cover)
16. Observer
17. Papillon (EDITORS cover)
18. Just leave it

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Solitary Experiments

Back on board, we grab some food and drinks on deck. It stayed dry, and every now and then, the sun peeks through the clouds. Shortly after six, the first guests are already gathering by the doors again, aiming to snag a good spot. For the second part of the evening, we now find ourselves a spot in front of the stage and enjoy the show from SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS just the way we like it: preferably right in front of the stage and in the middle of the action. Although today, we have to settle for the second row. At half past seven, the MS RheinEnergie sets off for a panoramic tour around the Drachenfels. The vibrations of the engines are much more noticeable down here than up on the balcony. The panoramic tour seems to only interest a few because it’s pretty crowded down here already, and everyone’s waiting for the next musical highlight. Watching the band during soundcheck is also quite entertaining, and some fans are really getting into it. The musicians seem to be in great spirits as well, with Frank and Sebastian (Seppo) already goofing around on the drums.

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The opener for the second part of our river cruise also celebrates a band anniversary this year. But not the tenth. Not even the twentieth. No, SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS can already look back on a whopping 30 years of band history. And of course, this anniversary will be celebrated extensively, with a two-day mega-event on 13th and 14th September, where the band has invited many musician friends and acts to Berlin. Besides lots of great music, there will surely be some surprises. We already get one served today. But more on that later. Five to eight, “everyone back on board? Alright, let’s do a headcount.” Moderator Jens isn’t actually planning to do a headcount, but two people played along nicely. Before we dive back into the music, we need to take a new photo for social media. Unter Schwarzer Flagge needs new pictures for the Facebook site. And while we’re at it, let’s snap a pose for Jens, who’s been on board for the 20th and 25th anniversaries of SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS. He’ll be back again this year as the host. He’ll be supported by André Feller (SOLAR FAKE) and Alexander (Mr. Android) Hofman (S.P.O.C.K) and will “guide us through the evening in Berlin nicely”. But now, let’s all welcome SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS together.

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The two drummers, Frank and Seppo, are the first to take the stage, followed by Micha and Markus, who take their places at the keyboards. ‘Brace Yourself!’ immediately sets a good mood and gets everyone moving. There’s clapping and dancing, and even on the balcony, only a few are sitting. The chairs are once again just decoration, you know the drill. “Hey! Hello and welcome aboard the Rhine. We’re SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS. Cast off!” We keep moving with ‘Crash and Burn’. “Let’s go, sailors.” The beat of ‘Heart of Stone’ covers the rumble of the engines below us. In front of the stage, the clapping crowd sways to the music once again. “So, this one seems to be relatively new, from the last album. Now, here comes a classic.” ‘Immortal’ makes sure the musicians on stage “stay nice and warm”. And if anyone here in front of the stage isn’t warm yet, “then maybe they will be soon”.

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‘Wonderland’ fills the air. “Are you ready?” A loud “Yesss!” leaves no doubt about it. And suddenly, all hands are up, and there’s clapping along. During the opener of the current album ‘Transcendent’ my thoughts drift back to the beginning of the “Transcendent Tour” and the first time I heard the song live at Hellraiser, Leipzig. “On the way to the top / Because life is a journey…”. When ‘Transcendent’ arrived at my place on 27th October (a day before the release) and I expressed my joy about the package on Facebook, the cheeky comment from the editor-in-chief of this magazine, “you can review it right away”, set off a chain of events that I couldn’t have imagined at that time. My goodness. So much has happened since then. A few days later, my first album review was published on Reflections of Darkness. I actually had no clue what I was doing, so ‘Transcendent’ was, in a way, “a helping hand to guide us [at least me] through no man’s land” even during my first live review.

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My first concert of the “Transcendent Tour” in Leipzig was also my first concert where I didn’t have a ticket but an official press accreditation. My very first live review popped up on those pages in mid-November 2022, and many more followed. And on a personal note, the guys played a significant role in a certain life-changing encounter almost exactly a year ago. “Nobody saw it coming,” especially not me. As Dennis said at the show in Frankfurt, where everything basically began, “music connects”. At the tour finale in Berlin, it literally did, and the rest is history, as Sven would say, “none of your damn business”. Either way, one could say SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS have somewhat changed my life. While their music has been with me for quite some time, especially in the last two years, I associate so many memories and beautiful moments with this band and their music. That’s why their performances are always something very special, something very emotional, and always an absolute highlight for me.

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“Yeah, when you’ve been doing this for 30 years, you can imagine that we’re not 24 anymore. Sometimes we run out of steam. So, let’s play something slow.” Well, ‘Epiphany’ isn’t exactly slow, and dancing is definitely allowed. Of course, singing too, and we’re far from reaching the “showdown” just yet. “Tonight’s festival is absolutely awesome, where we’ve been invited. Thanks again for having us.” Then it’s “Micha, take it away! This one’s called ‘Delight’ and it’s over 20 years old.” Micha shouts, “Where are the hands?” But they’re already up there, clapping like crazy. Everyone’s singing along loudly. And we’re all dancing in delight, and nothing else matters... And then the sun rises, or rather, the ‘Stars’. And united we stand! And we dance and sing together once again. In my eyes, a glimmer of tears, not of sadness but of joy. “Can you still go on? Are you still up for it? Are you still feeling good? Do you still have something to drink? Can you still stand? We’re picking up the pace.”

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‘Discipline’ and ‘Self Fulfilling Prophecy’ turn up the heat. “Everything good with you? Are you ready for a highlight?” When SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS play at a festival, they sometimes have cool ideas, and the fans get to see something that they wouldn’t otherwise. Dennis explains, “and this is a premiere, and I’ve got goosebumps”. If not, everyone recognized the intro yet, they definitely do once they hear the sample, “Wenn du dich mit dem Teufel einlässt, verändert sich nicht der Teufel...”. The [:SITD:] cover is sung along loudly. Awesome. “Do you know this one?” Hell yeah. “Der Teufel verändert dich” and SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS transform ‘Snuff Machinery’, delivering a power-packed version that makes the boat shake. “30 years of SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS on 13th and 14th September with [:SITD:], NEUROTICFISH, and many other awesome friends of ours. And where? [The crowd shouts it out with Dennis] In Berlin! Are you in?” Dennis holds the mic out to the audience “and everyone”. The crowd sings the chorus loudly. A successful surprise, and “there will be a lot, lot more surprises in Berlin. Believe me, it’s never going to be this awesome again.”

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“So, that was our fun. And now it’s time for our last song for tonight.” Once again, this announcement doesn’t get much approval from the audience. “And this song tonight is dedicated to our younger fans Lea and Lara.” Dennis calls for applause for Lea and Lara, who have been coming to the concerts with their parents for many, many years. “They’ve grown quite a bit by now. But they still come. Even though they’re from the generation that listens to completely different music. So, the next song is for you. It’s called ‘Every Now and Then’ because that’s your favourite song. And for this crap, you can thank your mother now. Last song for today, let’s go!” The song, also from the current album, is not only a favourite for Lea and Lara, but for many other fans and me as well. So, there’s another round of celebration, singing, dancing, clapping, and cheering before Dennis wishes us “a lot of fun with BLUTENGEL”. Many would have liked an encore, but instead... “We at least want to quickly take a photo. Markus always needs a proof photo. So, kids! And now everyone wave! Thank you! Thank you, Unter Schwarzer Flagge. Thank you very much, see you next time. Ahoy!”

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It’s ten past nine. It’s slowly getting dark outside. The rows are temporarily thinning out. The stage is being prepared for the last act of the evening.

01. Brace Yourself!
02. Crash & Burn
03. Heart of Stone
04. Immortal
05. Wonderland
06. Epiphany
07. Delight
08. Stars
09. Discipline
10. Self Fulfilling Prophecy
11. Snuff Machinery ([:SITD:] cover)
12. Every Now and Then

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One last time for tonight, the stage is set, this time for BLUTENGEL. The only band of the evening that neither celebrates an anniversary this year nor releases an album. BLUTENGEL did both last year. Their 25th anniversary was celebrated with the new album ‘Un:Sterblich - Our Souls Will Never Die’, a small tour, and an open-air anniversary show on 17th June at Wasserschloss Klaffenbach. What BLUTENGEL have in common with ALIENARE and SOLAR FAKE this year is a performance at the ‘Amphi Festival 2024’. Also, in July, there will be another performance in Klaffenbach, where BLUTENGEL will share the stage with their friends from SOLAR FAKE.

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So, it’s almost half past nine, time for the official headliner of the evening, although everyone probably had their own headliner tonight. Christian Lampe takes his place behind his drum kit. The intro kicks in, and the crowd starts clapping. Almost 10 hours in, and people still have a lot of energy, welcoming keyboardist Lukas Schaaf and guitarist Tom Stöwer with ecstatic cheers. The floor vibrates, and I can assure you, the vibrations aren’t coming from the engines below. I’ve snagged my spot in the second row for the hardcore fans and positioned myself a bit further to the side when singer Ulrike Goldmann and frontman Chris Pohl hit the stage. ‘Black’ is displayed on the screen, and that’s what we hear too. As mentioned earlier, unfortunately, the sound isn’t well mixed. The vocals are way too low, especially Ulrike’s and you can hardly hear her. Nevertheless, the fans are still into it, showing their appreciation for the lively start with cheers and loud screams. “Good evening, Unter Schwarzer Flagge! We are BLUTENGEL. Nice to see you’re still with us. Thank you!”

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Before we continue, Chris’s music stand gets some “special effects” in the form of a new reading lamp. “Hey there. We’re BLUTENGEL. Thanks a bunch. I hope you’re still with us because you’ve already seen so many awesome bands. I hope you’ve got a bit of energy left for us.” Something calmer is up next. Chris notices something humming and wonders if it’s because he’s put on some weight. Someone from the audience points out that the actors on stage are too quiet. “Can’t hear anything? Then the voice needs to be a bit louder so people can understand me.” Indeed, Chris’s voice is clearer now, but unfortunately, Ulrike is still very hard to hear. The crowd is still getting into it with ‘Darkness Awaits Us’. Tom keeps switching sides with his guitar, adding dynamism to the stage.

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Chris himself notices, “the sound was weird just now” and the audience remarks, “you can’t hear her singing”. So, they tweak the knobs a bit more. “Let’s see if we can get it right for the next song. You got to support us.” Chris only needs to say that once. The support comes without hesitation. There’s enthusiastic clapping along to ‘Into The Void’. The vocals are a bit clearer now. At least when Ulrike sings alone, you can kind of hear her, although she’s still pretty quiet. Chris is clearer now too. The crowd once again turns into a swaying, clapping mass. “Thanks a bunch. So, is it better now? Yes, no, maybe. Some say so, others say otherwise.” And Chris promises, “the sound will get better now, my voice much louder. Lukas, let’s see if we can get this right now? You got to play the piano now.” Lukas gives it a try. With ‘Lucifer’, Ulrike’s great voice also gets louder and is easier to hear.

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With ‘Fliegen’, we switch to the last album, and Tom picks up the acoustic guitar. Then Ulrike leaves the stage for a bit, handing the reins over to Chris. “So, now for something that gets you sweating.” The beat is driving, the mood darker for the song ‘Kein Mensch’. “Unfortunately, this song is still so relevant. I mean, who wants to be human when you see what humans are currently up to. Not me. I can only condemn that. And that’s why I think most people suck. But not you! Okay, prove me right.” Down here, the energy is intense, and even Chris can hardly believe that the audience is still so into it. “This is such an amazing performance. You’ve been here on the ship for so long, standing and dancing and clapping. So really, big respect for sticking it out like this.” After that, Chris and Lukas briefly figure out which song comes next and settle on Lukas’s dance number, ‘Dein Gott’.

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Then comes what Chris meant was next, namely ‘Engelsblut’. “Now it makes sense what the old man just said. That’s more like it. Now comes the interactive song, where you all join in. Anyone who’s been to a BLUTENGEL concert knows which song comes next. Let’s see if you know it.” The first notes play. “Dear congregation, let’s start clapping our hands rhythmically, please.” Ulrike has joined us again for vocal reinforcement, and the audience is also called upon. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you feel like it, please sing along with this chorus.” The ladies and gentlemen feel like it. What a choir. With that, Chris bids farewell to the stage, leaving Ulrike at the mic. “So, now we’ve chased away the big old man. Now let’s have a bit of girls’ action here, ‘We Belong To The Night’.” Here too, the audience claps and dances enthusiastically. “Because it was so nice, we’ll keep going” with ‘Black Roses’, which again gets everyone dancing and singing along. Some enjoy the song with closed eyes, completely surrendering to the music.

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Meanwhile, “the old man is back. Let’s continue together.” ‘Lebe Deinen Traum’ is followed by “a nice 4/4 beat song, perfect for clapping.” I notice that Chris has traded his jacket for a more comfortable cardigan. With voices united, we move on to ‘The War Between Us’ and ‘Bloody Pleasures’. Tom and Lukas add some extra action on stage. The show feels dynamic and energetic. In front of the stage and on the balcony, bodies sway once again to the beat, and there’s clapping and singing along. Ulrike disappears again, and Chris pulls up his hood. “Unfortunately, there’s something wrong with my in-ears. I need to check it out.” The problem is quickly found, “the plug was out.” The ‘King Of Blood’ didn’t even notice that our ship is now back in Cologne and has already docked. I missed that too. A glance outside confirms it, we’re not moving anymore. Well, the ship isn’t. The crowd on board, however, still seems to want more.

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“Alright, folks, let’s keep going. We haven’t done everything yet. Now we need hands again, we’re approaching the end. We got to work together here. Clap. Dance. Jump.” Both, the audience and the band give it their all, ‘Alles’. Chris’s in-ears have the plug out again, but Lukas quickly plugs it back in, and we’re good to go. “So, now it’s time for us to usually go backstage and wait to see if you want an encore. Let’s just cut that short. Can you hang in there a bit longer? Alright, the last song. Now you got to give it all you’ve got.” Ulrike is back too, and together we celebrate ‘You Walk Away’. On and off the stage, everyone gives their best once again. “Unter Schwarzer Flagge, it was a beautiful festival. We had a lot of fun. Did you too? Let me see all your hands again. Thank you so much, you guys are amazing. I think I’m in love with all of you. Thank you very much!”

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For the last two tracks, I head all the way to the back. As mentioned earlier, due to the construction, the sound here is unfortunately quite low, and two speakers in the rear wouldn’t hurt. For ‘Seelenschmerz’ Chris hands the stage over to Ulrike once again, and then we all head into the finale together. “We’ve got one more. Should we do it? One for the end, folks.” ‘Reich Mir die Hand,’ one last time today, and all hands are up, clapping to the rhythm. “Thank you so much! Get home safe, wherever you need to go. We’ll see you again. If you’re up for it, on 20th July we’ll be playing in Klaffenbach. Come on down. Otherwise, we’ll catch you somewhere else. Take care, good night.” One final bow, and shortly after eleven, BLUTENGEL also leave the stage. The ship slowly empties, and we also bid farewell to the MS RheinEnergie, to many dear acquaintances and friends, and set off for home shortly after half past eleven. It’s raining again and I remember the last words from Dennis tonight: “Main thing is, you’re happy. Main thing is, you enjoy your life and have fun.”

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01. Black
02. Darkness Awaits Us
03. Into The Void
04. Lucifer
05. Fliegen
06. Kein Mensch
07. Dein Gott
08. Engelsblut
09. We Belong To The Night
10. Black Roses
11. Lebe Deinen Traum
12. The War Between Us
13. Bloody Pleasures
14. Tief
15. King Of Blood
16. Alles
17. You Walk Away
18. Seelenschmerz
19. Reich Mir die Hand

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All band pictures by Andreas Klüppelberg, impressions by Aileen Ritter

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