What does one do with an historic disused airport in the heart of a bustling city? Turn it into a festival venue of course! And that’s just what happened in Berlin for the inaugural Europe edition of Lollapalooza in the city that is ever so brazen. And this festival, hosted over the weekend, certainly upped the ante of what a music festival should be made of. Germans do things differently and they do them well. Australia take note.
I already knew German music festivals operate on a complete other level from festivals in Australia after attending the Taubertal Festival in Germany last year which included having a make shift supermarket on site selling alcohol and also for its selection of venue being in a valley with a river nearby catering to those that wanted to have a dip upstream mid festival. Choice of location is pivotal and Lollopalooza did not disappoint with it taking place in the former Berlin Tempelhof Airport. Ceasing operations in 2008, the pre World War 2 built airport still has terminals and hangars remaining intact whilst situated on a small portion of the now 386-hectare public park and recreational space. The unique setting was certainly taken advantage of with one of the main stages being housed in an old plane hangar, providing a perfect industrial setting for fist pumping and raving beats ranging from dub step to EDM.
Germans are a creative bunch. Whether it be riding to a festival pretending you are playing a live action Mario Kart on a kids’ car or wearing a hat out of beer cans, the crowd is a sight to behold. One of the most common sights is to see people walking around with juice boxes with a DIY made gaffer tape strap over their shoulders. This would be their source of alcohol for the day as BYO alcohol is permitted depending on the container used. Another uncommon sight in comparison to festivals in Australia is to see cigarettes freely being sold by vendors walking around the festival – liberties that Australian festival goers just don’t have.
For a place like Germany, where pedestrians stop at the red lights despite no traffic crossing, crowds are orderly and well behaved. However an interesting contrast is that festival goers are upbeat and zealous. Germans know how to have a good time. They dance with no shame and participation is paramount. I found myself at both festivals dancing by myself and also making new dancing buddies easily as the crowd seemed friendly and open to it. I even got praised for my awkward dance moves!
Germans are known for their efficiency and the ingenious idea adopted at the Lollapalooza festival was to banish the double queuing for tickets and drinks and make the whole festival experience cashless. Yep that’s right! This innovative concept has been adopted at various festivals around Europe. Pay pass your way around the festival via electronic wrist band, proving to be a fantastic way to curb the fumbling around of tickets and cash and shortening of queue times. And if you do not spend all your money, you can simply apply for a refund of unused credit on your pass. Despite no camping options present at the festival, festival goers also had the option to leave and re-enter the festival as many times as one pleased.
Germans can also be bizarre but in a very good way. The Hamburg based electronic hip hop act Deichkind put on a spectacle of a show. It looked as though someone had tipped a toy box onto
the stage with the amount of oddities appearing including a jumping castle, a trampoline and a giant wine barrel suspended from the roof of the stage. Band members were running amuck on stage, above and in the crowd in strange cartoonish and flamboyant outfits including one futuristic number of made of smart phones, a male wearing a coloured tutu and one jumping around with a gigantic pink wig. Band members also opted to make a political statement with reference to the ongoing refugee crisis currently in Europe by waving flags with ‘Refugees Welcome’ on stage. This activism was well received by the audience. The crowd lapped the ever so energetic and lively set up which finished with people hoisted by rope bouncing up and down while shooting confetti into the crowd. This was quite possibly the most outlandish set of the day showcasing that anything is possible in Germany.
Away with the usual festival fun fair with not a ride was in sight, rather than various sustainable and social responsibility activities were readily available in vain of the Lollopalooza free spirit. Workshops on offer included upcycling bikes, making jewelry from recycled materials and screen printing as well as various charities and social awareness stands being present promoting good will causes. Not just for adults, there was also a family friendly arena for kids including art workshops, capoeira and break dancing classes, sporting activities, mini skate board ramps and an instrument carousel. How much can one festival offer besides the music of course?
The festival did not stop at the end of the headlining set from thrift shop lovers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis either. After the energetic set, a surprise circus inspired performance took over the skies of the main stage with a woman being hoisted by a balloon similar to that of a miniature hot air balloon dangling above the crowd performing acrobatics. This was something of pure awe and an unusual way to cap off a day of music.
I left both festivals inspired and my mind being open to new ways of enjoying the atmosphere of a music festival. The bar has been raised by our German counterparts in terms of the ultimate festival experience. This is just one of them. They know how to put on a good show and create a fun atmosphere and this is why you must experience a German music festival in your time.