18,19-07-2009 Amphi Festival

Location : Tanzbrunnen, Cologne (Germany)
By: Sabine van Gameren & Elvira Visser

Amphi festival has been started and Cologne is filled with dark people in the most gorgeous outfits. The weather forecast promised loads of rain, but it seems like we got spared a bit since there were only a few minutes of rain during the weekend.
Amphi of last year (LINK) has been a success and this year some changes have been made in order to give the visitors more space when watching the bands that are not playing on the mainstage. The conference hall that is located at Tanzbrunnen has been used instead of the theater.

Day 1: Saturday 18-07-2009

The band to open this years festival was Coppelius, a German band that want to show the audience that you can do a hell of a lot more with musical instruments that normally are used for chamber music. Usually classical. But they want the audience to experience some rock, showing that there is much more to a an double bass, cello, two clarinets and drums. Dressed in top hats and nice suits their butler will make the stage ready for their show. A show where the butler does not stay in the dark. They show that they can rock and it is a very nice start of the festival. The band is very energetic and to my surprise the cellist has a great voice. Who just played cello the first couple of tracks. There is much to see on stage as each seem to play a role, little bit of musical sounding vocals, kind of story telling but all great voices combined with an ensemble playing not so dusty music.
It was for the Swedish band Auto-Auto privileged to open the Rheinparkhalle stage. The electronic, devilish sweets from this band are danceable and playful. The task to warm up the audience came hard on them, the audience seemed more interested in just watching to see what this band is about. At the end of their set they got a couple of people dancing and they got a well deserved applause when they left the stage. This act was one of those acts that a lot of people miss out on, because they played early but those who were there and start the buzz which made people wondering if they missed out on something. It’s to foresee that they will attract more people next time. Put them in a tour with a sinners band like compatriots Sexydeath and some interesting following can be created.

Second up on the main stage it is Mantus bringing some dreamlike gothic sung poetry on stage. To me the female vocals became very boring after two tracks. See sing to sweet, to delicate. It needs more power at certain times. The music has those moments which makes it a little interesting but overall it was quite boring. This goes for their stage presence as well. The guitarist looked like he was bored playing it. Maybe they have enough followers, to play at the mainstay at this festival, but they did not leave a great impression. Their lyrics are poetic and spoken by Martin Schindler and sung by Thalia. Maybe in a dark setting in a small venue it would come across a lot better but on this stage, how they performed it looked a bit empty and quite boring.
The EBM act Jäger90 was next in Rheinparkhalle. As these Germans state themselves: They are not original. The song they started with had not much more than a repeat of everything. The beat, the lyric and even the stage act. As soon as this song was gone there seemed to be something interesting coming up. A band that actually produces music instead of noise. A bad start, but a great catch up. Energy spunked all over the stage not only from vocalist Thoralf but also his back up Vigo who besides playing his instruments also had his controls over a huge spotlight that he used to search through the venue while creating a mystery about where he was searching for. Interesting act for those who dig the harder sounds.

Sven Friedrich is known as singer of Dreadful Shadows and Zeraphine but he was hitting the stage today with his solo project called Solar Fake. That he gained full trust of audience since he started the project in 2007 was clear when you noticed that quite some people gathered at the main stage to see Solar Fake. With this solo project, Sven wants to show the electro side of him that does not came up clearly in his other projects. The big stage seemed a bit empty with Sven and his back up keyboarder. His warm voice brings up a sexy dreamful atmosphere and takes over the hearts of the audience. The song “Hiding Memories From The Sun” is one that seemed to be favorite by his fans as some of them are singing it along.
To mention is that Solar Fake might bring more people into movement when playing a bit later on the day, it was now just too early to surrender to this music.

XotoX, industrial for hyperactive people brought to you by 2 persons on a dark stage. A spanish intro with spoken words and a nice beat. The xotox-sound is characterised by hard beats, catchy melodies and merciless noise-attacks that filled the Rheinparkhall. XotoX is a solo-project by Andreas Davids and was founded back in 1998. The hall became very hot as the audience could not stand still on the beats. The male and female DJ, stood behind their tables but created a stage act as well. A drum with a smoke machine in it, when hitting it on one side the smoke came out on the other side, this together with a good light show gave a brilliant sight. A project that has managed to establish itself on nearly every German dance floor. This was noticeable by the amount of people that had gathered in front of the stage to nod their heads or dance hyper active.
The Birthday Massacre is a well known name by now. The Canadians have built a reputation and the sweet vocals of Chibi in combination of the powerful but yet calm back up of the rest of the band brought many people on the move. Unfortunately for those who were standing further away from the stage the vocals might fall a bit too much in the background. The Birthday Massacre is a band that clearly had great joy in performing. Guitarist Rainbow spins around and all of them are full of energy and play with a smile on their face. Songs from all of their releases got played and for many festival visitors The Birthday Massacre seemed to be one of the favorites.

Scandy was next on schedule in the Rheinparkhalle. Who is Scandy? Scandy is a project from Andy who is known from Pantzer AG and Combichrist. A name that is not unfamiliar and actually Pantzer AG is scheduled for day two of Amphi festival. The Scandy act was not much more than a dj-set where various people came with the impression of it being something else. On stage there is not too much action going on, but maybe you were not suppose to stare at the stage but dance to the tunes that Scandy spills to your ears. Obviously, it took a while before most people got it, but more in the back of the venue people were dancing and enjoying it. Scandy should perhaps been programmed on an afterparty because in between the other shows it comes over as being a place filler and did not really got the light as it should have been.

With an ever growing audience it was time for Eisbrecher on stage. A lot of girls, as the guys describe their motto as: Sex, Girls and Rock’n’Roll, gathered in front of the stage with the distinct female military hats. Singer and mastermind Alexander “Alexx” Wesselsky (lyrics/vocals) Noel Pix (composition/keyboard, guitar, producer) founded Eisbrecher back in 2002 to play dark-electro trip-rock. On stage Alexx is quite charismatic, letting his crew run for him to come and take his coat. Knowing how to get the crowd going they play their dark electro. They play good enough to gather many people in front of the stage. While the stage was full of smoke, Alexx jokes around even about his own band members.

Two Belgian guys were up next in the Rheinparkhalle. It is electro minimalistic and it is called Absolute Body Control. They are influenced by UK and German electro scene and the name is in use since 1980. A long hiatus came but nowadays they are back on the road as a duo. Here at Amphi they brought a set that spines mid-tempo, electro tunes that are rather friendly than aggressive. There is a sense of emotion to taste in their music, bringing the sign that they are living the music through. Dirk Ivens, who formed the project, is energetic on the stage and Eric van Wonterghem is working more relaxed in the back of the stage. Their show was a nice one to lose your thoughts and free your mind. Absolute Body Control was here in the right place at the right time.

Leaether Strip came on stage when the intro told us it was the battle of Cologne. Claus Larsen is the mastermind of this project and he comes from Denmark. He stopped the project for a couple of years but is back with Leaether Strip since 2005. The stage was a bit big for the performance in the start, but that changed as soon as Claus left his fort of keyboards and came to conquer the stage by seeing every single piece of it. The music is intense and sets the party up. The perfect warm up for what else is coming this evening. Leaether Strip might only seek a little more in effects to dress up the show as the music allows that and maybe secretly begs for it. It was a bit naked right now.

Agonize was playing in the Rheinparkhall and vocalist Chris L, was walking around on stage quite aggressive with big steps almost growling his lyrics. He was accompanied by Mike J. and Oliver S. on keys. There was not much light during theirs show but a cross was altered in blue and pink light. The band has roots coming from bands like Klinik and Suicide Commando, their first album Paranoid Destruction was played much on the German dance floor. The band was founded by Established at the end of 2002 by Mike Johnson and Olli Senger who later needed a good frontman. They found it in Chris L. Today at Amphi they proved to be a good to get the audience moving and dancing on the dance floor but a great stage presence was lacking.
The band Covenant from Sweden is around since 1986 and formed the band because there was not enough loud progressive electro music. The three friends Eskil Simonsson, Joakim Montelius en Clas Nachmanson wanted to experience more with synthesisers into their music using these new techniques. Inspiration for there were Kraftwerk, The Human League and EBM pioneers Front 242. In the year 2007 Clas decided to quit the band and Daniel joined the band after spending the summer with them touring. Today they were playing at Amphi Festival as one of the big known names and many people gathered around the stage. The electro beats filled the grounds and got people dancing. Eskil was dressed in a white and black suite, very neat adding something to the stage performace. Which they kind of needed, but they clearly showed they still have loads of ambitition but the years that they are doing this gave them a good doses of pride to show off.
One band that really took the energy on stage and in front of it to another level was the one from German band Feindflug. The project founded between the years 1995 and 1996. When two creative heads met by accident. In the last years Feindflug has been a big contributor to the dark electro music scene. Other bands used their samples or words and got inspired by them. The popularity of that band grew as well. In 2005 the lineup had changed, but the liver performance was always very important for the band. Something they plan, and for their gig at Amphi they planned a big party. When they had played their first track the energy in the hall was growing and the band make many in the audience dance, almost in trance of their drum beats. Which was not a weird thing as they had many live drums on stage, what created this massive beat that you could hear and feel. They played such a great show that the plaster from the ceiling came down, luckily non got hurt.
Founded back in 1984 Fields of the Nephilim is one of the classic gothic rock bands. The band is not the band people know from back in the days. The vocalist Carl McCoy left the band in 1991 to focus on other projects. The band continued with a new singer and different names but never got any big response. In the end of 2005, Carl had recorded an album with guest musicians and released it under the name of “The Fields of the Nephilim”. He gathered some new live musicians and started touring again. Today they played Amphi Festival and a large crowd came to see their performance. Some long time fans, some who only had heard their name. The band was a little weird to see, they were all wearing sunglasses and Carl was wearing those super blue lenses. Which gave their set a weird feeling, together with the used light and smoke. They did play a good gig and many people cheered and asked for more.

Day 2 : Sunday 19-07-2009

The second Amphi day started on the main stage with Mono Inc. The band Mono Inc. rose from the ashes of several band projects and released their debut back in 2004. “Pain, Love & Poetry” is the bands third full album. The band has seen some line up changes during the years, with the leave of their former vocalist and Katha Mia joined the band to play the drums. Martin Engler who was the drummer became the vocalist who on the Amphi stage sent out happiness. The performance was nothing special but the guys on stage clearly had fun while being there. The vocalist Martin had played with eye-shadow and created black eyes and had a tiny white mohawk. The music is very nice and easy to listen to, the backing vocals from the other members are nice but the music brought nothing special or new. It was a nice gig, to wake the crowed and get them ready for another day of Amphi.
Rosa CRVX had a little weird show compared to others, but made sure there was something to look at. The project brings a martial and apocalyptic atmosphere, bringing us directly to the heart of things. Understanding the show and music of Rosa CRVX lies in the acceptance of mysteries while mostly staring at the darkness because not much light was used, to add to the dark mysterious atmosphere. A vocalist with guitar, a contrabass, someone who plays the piano and bells and a three piece choir. The bells stellar was something I had never seen and the females from the choir were at some point waving with the flags above the heads from the audience. The whole show might have been a bit boring to some because it was theatrical, dark and mysterious but at the same time it was quite interesting to see something completely different. They had marching drums on stage but they had created some machine to play it. No humans were needed. Rosa CRVX is definitely something different you should see.
Panzer AG is a project by Andy, who was performing yesterday as Scandy. The music is somehow a bit more aggressive and a little dirty. Panzer AG is the more perverse side of Andy as it seems. The music and stage act seemed to be built around temptation. Tempting you to get down on your knees and surrender to the music. The three musicians at the stage turn you into a slave of their minds. Not that it should scare you, Panzer AG brings the feeling that it is ok to do so. The music is save, just as the atmosphere they built around it. Nothing to be afraid of, just give your soul to the music and enjoy it.

The Other was having a hometown gig as they are from Cologne. The horror punk band is one that comes with an act. They started out as a Misfits coverband and made their way to what they became now. Their show started a bit later than planned, also because Feinflug took playing the roof of the venue a bit too literally they day before which made the Rheinparkhalle having to close and move the shows to the Theater. They played a full energetic set and talked quite a lot to the audience during the show. The décor they brought on the stage made it look like they played in a dungeon. Although the audience was partly there waiting for the next band on the stage Jesus on Extacy, they managed to entertain the core of the audience and played an impressive show. Thumbs up for The Other.

On the main stage it was time for the Dutch gothic/symphonic band Delain. Where the day before brought clouds and a little rain today the sun was shining. Delain a band that started of as a project gathered a nice audience. An enthusiastic Delain entered the Amphi stage when their intro was played and some in the crowd were cheering. The Female vocalist Charlotte was dressed for the occasion in a nice black outfit. With their new album they try to become a bit less poppie or gothic as they have been called in the past. And this gig was remarkably good. Charlotte pitched all the high notes perfectly, something different then their performance at Forstarock the week before. But not only the vocals sounded a lot better also the overall music. More rough and good relations between the guitars, keyboard and drums. Nothing to hard or dull. The audience liked the set with new tracks but also work from their previous album. People in the audience were singing along and seem to enjoy. Not only them, but also the band themselves seem to enjoy while showing wide grins towards each others.
The theatre was filled with many people jet again, this time for the German band Jesus on Extasy. An gothic industrial band that plays with a band instead of a dj/laptop, bringing a much more interesting show. At least to me. Vocalist and pianist Dorian Deveraux and guitarist Chai founded the band in Germany’s Ruhr region back in 2005. The band started too late but they played a bit longer in the end as time was scheduled. The band seem to like the performance I guess as their set progressed the music got more industrial, more rough and the last tracks the drums got a trash metal sound. Not everyone in the audience seem to like this but some got more wild during the set. Jesus on Extasy is known for being misinterpreted by people but I guess they showed during their set where they stand for. A very red and dark stage presence by the band. Overall the band needs to work on being themselves as they might try to copy other gothic metal bands.
Diorama was next on the main stage. These Germans came with two cubic frames, one for the drummer and one for the keyboarder. Their music is futuristic, but sometimes a bit without a body to hold on. It is driven on the drums and keys that make the whole atmosphere. Vocals seem to fall backwards in their music but when you compare that to the live act that Diorama is putting on the Amphi main stage you see that the vocalist is fighting for his attention. And as soon as guitarist Sash Fiddler gets his change he runs forward to claim his moment. Seems like someone was in a desperate need of attention. The music is attempting to break free from that lounge electro, but it seemed to stick between this and some more dramatic form of electro. Diorama disappointed in this sight quite a lot with their performance.

In the theatre is was time for Omnia to climb the stage. After a little stage problems with the sound on stage the band asked if the anxious waiting crowd was ready. Omina’s sound is a mix of the deep earthy tones of didgeridoo expert Luka Aubri-Krieger (East-Indies), the virtuoso harp, hurdy-gurdy and bodhran playing of Jennifer Evans-van der Harten (Holland), Violin, guitar, mandolin and banjo by Joost van Es (Holland), drums by Tom Spaan (holland) and flutes, bouzouki, drums, and ironic dialogue of front man Steve “Sic” Evans-van der Harten (England). Bringing you something really unique on stage. Inspired by nature, folkore music and the pagan traditions and believe they make music pure from the heart, which is very easy to like. Many in the crowd seem to know the band and they start to cheer with the very first notes of new songs and starting to dance on the nice beats and melody lines. Omnia’s music is very powerful and the atmosphere is very pleasant to be in, you can feel the energy from the band. You also learn something about their lyrics when Steve talks about the songs and lyrics, in a tone that keeps you listening. The audience requested a song about war, and well after screaming enough with all the people in the theatre they decided to play it as an encore. Before and after the encore a very load applause filled the theatre. This was a very good show.
Hocico was definitely the nicest surprise of Amphi. They come from Mexico and never bored the audience for a second. The intro included some dancers with a lot of feathers and facepaint, who circled around the frontman of the band. They came back later to paint his face red. The music was daring and challenging and above all, very danceable. For those who prefer to just watch the stage there was plenty going on. Hocico set down an act like a headliner, but the end of the festival was not in sight. To review this afterwards Hocico surely had the most impressive act and probably gained a lot of new fans with their show.

Goethes Erben goes under the name Henke to surprise us with a sort of gothic theater act. With his show it is not so much about the music only, the theater element plays a main role in the total. He sings with a scratchy voice, made often think of Gargamel, the evil character of the smurfs. The rest of the musicians on the stage stay mainly in the background, it is Henke’s story and they stay out of it. The theater was not that filled as due to the fact that they started much later than planned they were now scheduled straight against Unheilig who seemed to have, ironically, a holy status at the Amphi visitors.

Unheilig a band that got us curious after seeing many cars with stickers on them and many people wearing t-shirts. I must stay I really do not understand this, do not even get the name as I expect some black brutal EBM/Industrial but it is just a singer with some poppy electro beats. Unheilig was founded back in 1999 and since then their group of fans grew fast over the years. The band used to sing in English but nowadays they chose to sing in German. Maybe another factor or me not liking the band, or not getting them. It is boring especially after the great set from Hocico. That many people did like it showed itself by the many many people that gathered to see this band live on stage and after the gig block the theatre entrance because so many people stand in line to get an autograph at the singing session. I mean the music is not bad, but to me just boring after a couple of tracks. Ballads on electro beats, do not work for me but apparently is does massively for the German audience.
KMFDM was a band that got the theater filled up. They are originally formed by Sascha Konietzko and are getting closer to world domination each day. The band jokes around with the audience and photographers during their set. The band has an intense vocalist for the harsh and aggressive sounds and a female vocalist to bring back the sex in the music. This band is a team and you can see within a split second that they work together on a base of trust. The band set a great show that got in minds by many visitors, but some people left when the set got further because Front 242 was about to start at the main stage. The band had a steady performance and is musically that far, that no one has to tell them what is missing or wrong, which would be a hard task to say anyway as they showed their very bests.

Front 242 was not planning on open up tonight, the stage was filled with smoke and that pretty much stayed at all times during their set. The band is formed in 1981. Today at amphi there were quite some fans for them, but their performance was disappointing a lot. It seems like the guys were rushing it all, in a hurry to get off the stage again as soon as possible. The motivation seemed not really meant and I had expected way more from a band with such a name. Perhaps the next time they will play some more intense and take the audience a bit more serious.

The highly acclaimed and influential Dutch band The Gathering is finally back and after releasing their 9th studio album they were now playing the Amphi stage showing their new vocalist Silje Wergeland from Norway. Only the organisation of the program which moved from the hall to the theatre get out of hand, which resulted in the fact that Th Gathering was playing 50 minutes late. Many people wanted to see the “new” The Gathering, knowing how Silje sounds and if the band still have the same atmosphere. Something I cant really tell as I have never seen van Giersbergen with the Gathering live. However I must say to me it did not sounded weird as like nightwish with their new vocalist. I think the band made a very good decision. The band plays really nice ambient rock, which is melancholic at certain times, but really know how to work with melody lines.

More pictures of the following bands available at sabinevangameren.com:
Auto-Auto, Jäger90, Solar Fake, The Birthday Massacre, Scandy, Absolute Body Controll, Leaether Strip, Panzer AG, The Other, Jesus on Extacy, Diorama, Hocico, Henke, KMFDM, Front424.

More pictures of the following bands available at photographicretentions:
Coppelius, Mantus, XotoX, Eisbrecher, Agonize, Covenant, Feindflug, Fields of the Nephilim, Mono Inc., Rosa crvx. The Other, Delain, Jesus on Extacy, Omnia, Unheilig, The Gathering

Links:
Amphi Website

27 July 2009