Until last year, I never missed a single Out Of The Crowd Festival, but for the ninth edition, things became a little too predictable for me so that I decided with a heavy heart to skip it for once. This year I gave it another go, considering it was the festival’s tenth anniversary, but let’s face it: the mix of mathy indie rock bands and modern dismal electronica starts giving the OOTC a somewhat foreseeable image, making it harder and harder to truly make astonishing discoveries.
This year the festival was co-organised by the Kulturfabrik and the Exit07, the latter probably in charge of the more electronic artists. The Kulturfabrik stage was in the big room, while the Exit07 stage was located where in the smaller one where you normally find the bar during regular concerts.
The first band started playing at 4pm, and when I was younger I always took care to be there from the beginning, but even then I often missed out on the headliners to either fatigue or excessive beer consumption. So today I arrived at 7pm, just in time to miss the omnipresent Monophona, a band which is highly praised by nearly everyone but still not reason enough for me to like their sound.
British indie rockers Tall Ships had just started their set at the Kulturfabrik stage, and while Wikipedia calls them an experimental band, I had a hard time coming to the same conclusion. Earlier in the day I checked some videos of them on YouTube, and their live show didn’t really improve on that. Their music is playful, the guitarist did a lot of live loops, but his vocals were not that interesting, as it seemed that he cared more about his flowing blond hair than his actual performance. The kids seemed to like it, but then they are kids and still highly impressionable, unlike the oldsters who have seen it all.
Next up it was time for Heartbeat Parade in the smaller Exit07 stage, and to their credit, they filled it to the last place with their fans and people generally eager to find out what is so special about this much lauded trio. Since the band’s inception, there were always undeniable parallels to From Monument To Masses, mostly due to the heavy use of politically charged speech samples, and this hasn’t changed since then. FMTM had a more refined approach to music, unlike HBP who maybe should pay more attention to dynamic song structures instead of overburdening their music with the samples. And again, I seemingly stand alone with my opinion.
So what about BRNS from Brussels about whom I heard already a lot of positive stuff? Their music was strange, to say the least, and they were able to surprise time and again with really good moments, but in between it all seemed a little weird to the uninitiated. Sometimes I would have liked the pace to quicken, and the songwriting could have been a little more compact, but so far they were the best band of the evening until then.
But not for long, as Rhode Island indie rockers Fang Island showed on the small stage that you don’t need good sound to make a convincing show. Was it the location? Or did the soundman have a bad case of tinnitus? All I could hear at first were guitars, guitars and guitars, with the vocals drowning in the mix. After some time it became a little clearer, although good sound is something different. This didn’t prevent the quartet to deliver a great set full of screaming guitars, and their music reminded less of the triteness of math rock than of testosterone fuelled arena rock of Thin Lizzy and Allman Brothers. Don’t get me wrong: I couldn’t care less for Seventies hard rock, but mixed with the hipster geekiness of indie rock, it became quite the potent potion.
Then it was time for the first headliner: Maserati. I think this is the fourth time I have seen them. And while the early demise of front row drummer Jerry Fuchs was an immense tragedy, I must admit that I liked their last two albums better than their early material. Tonight was no different: their music has become more electronic, and the new drummer and the two guitarists didn’t need a bassist, as they relied instead on the prominent use of sequencer parts. This gives their music a nice kraut rock touch, making them sound as if Neu! had discovered post rock. Good show! But the question remains: why always have headliner bands that have played here already so often instead of finding good yet undiscovered bands?
I more or less passed on Mmoths, an Irish electronic artist who had the good sense to play his set with a couple of live musicians. But it was already getting laid and I saved my breath for the final headliner Minus The Bear that also already played in Luxembourg years ago. The mid-2000’s were a really good time for them but tonight I couldn’t really get into their sound. Maybe they had their zenith years ago, or maybe I just had enough music for one night. And that’s why I didn’t stay for Publicist, which is the solo project of Trans Am drummer Sebastian Thomson, doing live drumming and vocoder singing over sampled music.
Has age made me more critical or even cynical? But then lately it is getting harder and harder to become really excited at concerts. Twenty years of busy concert visits must leave a person saturated, and therefore it may be time for a new generation to take over. The Out Of The Crowd Festival is still a viable and valuable to other local festivals like the Rock um Knuedler and the Rock-A-Field, but just like the latter, the OOTC has started to rely on well known headliners instead of fulfilling a mission to bring the audiences something new. But would the audiences still show up in that case? This must have been the best visited OOTC yet, and I am happy for the organisers that they finally get the success for which they have worked so hard all these long years.
I didn’t even get around this time to visit the art exhibition or try the vegan food (soy steak burger, anyone?). If the weather is nice and the programming good, I might just make it to the eleventh edition in 2014.