Over the course of Reeperbahn Festival 2017, hundreds of artists performed in venues all throughout Hamburg. This is the blessing and the curse of the ‘showcase’ style festival: there is always something of interest around the corner, and yet due to current limitations in modern cloning technology, it’s impossible to see and do everything that piques one’s interest. While I did miss out on a few of my eagerly awaited sets, I managed to see 56 up and coming artists over the course of the week. Here are ten of my favourites finds:
1. MY BABY (NL)
The Dutch band’s self described “Roots driven hypnotic dance music” drew an increasingly larger crowd as their set progressed. Though the industry types who typically attend showcase festivals are notorious for their stoic reception, by the end of this performance, the trio had the room bouncing with energy and loud applause. Consisting of siblings Joost and Cato van Dyck, as well as the guitar slide-wielding Daniel Johnston, MY BABY’s female fronted, genre mishmash is a wonderful, and transfixing creation.
2. SWMRS (US)
Circle pits, band tees, and moshing a plenty. Though rock has been declared ‘dead’ (or at least, irrelevant) by many a critic, SWMRS might just be able to help remedy this diagnosis amongst the youth. Their upbeat brand of punk pop captures the spark of the rock music that soundtracked my teenage years in a manner that I haven’t witnessed in quite some time. The crowd, rambunctious, and ecstatic, ate up frontman Cole Becker’s every word. Of particular note for me was drummer, Joey Armstrong’s clever rhythms. The fact that Armstrong is the son of Green Day frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong made me feel terribly old, but to dilute his prowess behind the drumkit to familial talent would be a disservice.
3. Jade Bird (UK)
As one of eight artists nominated for Reeperbahn 2017’s 2017 Anchor Award, a distinction for up and coming talent performing at the festival, Jade Bird’s showcases at Reeperbahn Festival were adjudicated by Anchor Award Jurors Tony Visconti, Shirley Manson, Emily Haines, BOY, and Huw Stephens. Her sweet voice, memorable songwriting, and captivating presence won the affection of the judges, who crowned her the winner of this year’s award. I wholeheartedly agree with their decision.
4. Ella Eyre (UK)
Full disclosure: amongst the sea of up-and-comers that populated the Reeperbahn Festival setlist, Ella Eyre’s name stood out as familiar. As such, my primary motivation behind attending her set was because I thought she would be a great publicity draw. However, with energy and sass in spades, she won my affection in her own right.
5. Magic Giant (US)
I’ve been trying to catch Magic Giant for a while now. After having finally seen them live, I’m internally berating my past self for waiting this long! Though frontman Austin Bisnow’s writing and production credits include the likes of David Guetta and Steve Aoki, the California trio’s sound channels a high energy Mumford and Sons more so than the EDM superstars in Bisnow’s musical resume. However, Magic Giant is high energy not just in terms of the style of music they perform, but in their overall presentation, which through a wide variety of instruments – including the walls themselves – are an embodiment of joy.
6. BETSY (UK)
Welsh singer songwriter, Elizabeth Humphrey, known professionally by the mononym ‘BETSY’, is a classic example of why you absolutely cannot judge a book by its cover. Within her small frame lies an unexpectedly large voice – husky, textured, breathy, and unlike anything I’ve heard in current mainstream music. It was fascinating, and an absolute joy to hear her pop songs, and wonderful voice, live.
7. Joseph J Jones (UK)
I stumbled upon anchor Award nominee, Joseph J. Jones’, while enroute to a different show. Needless to say, his soulful, rich, and textured voice persuaded me to stay with him instead. Jones, who originally saw himself in a career in boxing, carries himself with an irresistible charm and swagger. As a testament to how much I enjoyed his performance, I actually made an effort to see him perform twice – once at Molotow, and a second time at Mojo Club.
8. La Bronze (CAN)
Nadia Essadiqi is a force of nature. Whether she was performing acoustically while perched atop a Deutsche Bahn train seat, or rapping behind her drum kit at the Canadian Blast showcase, the Moroccan Canadian singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and all-round creative being, did so with vigour, humour, and skill.
9. Pixx (UK)
Squeezed sardine-like into the tiny dojo-themed ‘Karatekeller’ room in the basement of Molotow, I experienced Hannah Rodgers, a.k.a. Pixx. With bright pink eyeshadow, pixie cut (Pixx-ie cut?), and quirky pop tunes, the British songstress is otherworldly, unexpected, but also surprisingly accessible. Her set bounced along humming with energy and personality that was a joy to watch.
10. The Amazons (UK)
Though I missed the full set of this Brit Rock quartet, if their Anchor Awards performance of ‘Black Magic’ was any indication, I’d definitely like to see them in their full headlining glory.