The Tanzbrunnen Cologne, which had gotten close to our hearts and characterised the Amphi Festival sustainably from 2006 till 2014, was available again in 2016. “Home is where the heart is,” as the folks say. Therefore the festival returned to the place people relish. With cosiness and summer open air feeling, for example, the fountain lounge is back, as well as the popular beach club along with pure holiday feeling. Alongside the open air stage at Tanzbrunnen Cologne and the indoor stage at Theater am Tanzbrunnen promoters prepared another pleasing surprise, the new Orbit Stage.
Last year’s Orbit Stage remains faithful to its name as it found a new home in 2016, rocking the MS RheinEnergie. Only for the Amphi Festival, Europe’s unique event-catamaran landed and stayed at the boarding bridge in Cologne-Deutz, just a few hundred meters from the Tanzbrunnen. During the entire weekend, you could see numerous live shows there, relax on the ship’s lavish sundeck with a large number of seats or dance through the night, since there was an alternative second floor, in addition to the regular after-show party at the Theater.
[X]-RX opened the festival and their gig quite academically – shouting “Welcome to the show.” Honestly, sometimes it was difficult to understand if they still just shouting something or sing another song. Not everybody was able to enjoy the band, at least not at that time of the day. The others could not imagine a better start of the day. Well, it is easy to imagine hearing rave and techno in the morning, let us say at 06:00 but it would be rather the end of the previous day. At 11:00 it is hard to accept it. The fans were really cheering, though. There were people, who were hard-core cyber-dancing as if they were warming up while waiting for the doors were open. The dancers partly overtook the responsibility of the musicians and made the day the first day at Amphi Festival.
High noon with Solitary Experiments on the Main Stage. Usually, electronic music on open air stages is hard work convincing the audience, especially at lunch time. But what should I say – the catching hits like ‘Delight’, ‘Rise and Fall’, ‘Epiphany’ or ‘Stars’ by this Future Pop pearl were pure delight. Everyone in the crowd was in a generous mood as well as the guys on stage around front man Dennis Schober in their red shirts and black ties. Even the drizzling rain could not dropout. The audience enjoyed the set a lot and proved that by cheering and dancing.
Angels & Agony
Due to health reasons, One I Cinema had to cancel their show at Amphi Festival and so, Angels & Agony were opening the program at the Theater Stage. Angels & Agony are a Dutch Future Pop band consisting of vocalist Reinier Kahle, guitarist Erik Wierenga, DJ Marco van Belle on synthesizers and backing vocals and Fried Bruggink as the sound engineer and drummer. At the Amphi Festival, though, we had John Fryer at guitar. The band formed in 1995 and produced two EPs before its first full album, ‘Eternity’ (2001). Angels & Agony made 4 full-length albums on the Out Of Line Music. Metropolis Records describes the band’s music thus: “Although the music can be dark and melancholic, but still danceable with pumping beats and sequences, the songs have a very positive message.” The latest album, ‘Monument,’ was released in 2015. The set at Amphi Festival contained several older songs but of course also songs from the latest album, like its title track, ‘Horizon’ or ‘Shine.’ Angels & Agony’s ingenious electro-pop tunes went straight into the limbs and spread fun all around. The excited audience clapped and danced along to the songs. Definitely amongst the highlights was ‘Forever’ from the eponymous EP released in 2002. All in all, it was a refreshing, sympathetic performance and a great start of the day at the Theater Stage.
The Amphi Festival crowd celebrated the band’s latest album ‘Erdwärts’ (2015) by dancing wildly and singing along to ‘Wer hat Angst vom Schwarzen Mann’ and also enjoying some calmer moments with the hymn ‘Glorreiche Zeiten’ and the ballad ‘Einsam.’ Older classics like ‘Miststück’ from the ‘Kopfschuss’ record (1998), the title track of ‘Heuchler’ (2008) and ‘Jagdzeit’ from the ‘Götterdämmerung’ album (2012) led to a lot of head-banging and arms raised up in the air.
The audience was bawling the refrains while the musician’s makeup started to melt away. Megaherz ended their hard and heavy set with two further calmer tracks from ‘Zombieland’: after the beloved ballad ‘Für immer,’ the powerfully melodic chorus of ‘Himmelsstürmer’ made everyone shake a leg one last time. All in all, Alexander Wohnhaas’
Vocalist Alexander Wohnhaas, guitarists Christian Bystron and Christoph Klinke, bassist Werner Weninger and drummer Jürgen Wiehler are Megaherz. Founded back in 1993 they are one of the founders of a genre described as “new German,” and “hard” (Neue Deutsche Härte). This year, the Industrial German Rockers from Munich played their very first Amphi Festival gig. The five blokes with their black and white makeup and Alexander Wohnhaas with his baseball bat mike stand successfully rocked out on the Main Stage presenting their repertoire of old songs next to newer ones. They kick-started their bombastic show with the title track from ‘Zombieland’ (2014) followed by the smasher ‘Fanatisch’ from the vocals and the band’s performance were just mega! And not only the sound was simply great, but also the atmosphere because of the black crowd’s celebratory mood on that early afternoon at the Tanzbrunnen. After this summer festival season, the Industrial German Rock party will go on: The “hearties” will be back for an Erdwärts Club-Tour all across Germany starting in October.
The theatre was packed with people awaiting mastermind and Electro pioneer Dirk Ivens on stage. Dive as one of his projects besides EBM legend The Klinik is always a guarantee for full dance floors in underground clubs. Hard, noisy sounds filled up the darkness in the venue. Fortunately, the mainly old school EBM fans had not to stamp and shake their bodies in the brightness outside. So the brute basses and catchy hook lines could come to full evolvement by monotone wafting throughout the theatre.
Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space
Short before the show, the vocalist of Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space was sneaking to the restroom. At Amphi Festival you normally do not wonder if you meet a walking dead Indian dancing together with an alien and a girl in underwear – it is what the festival about. So it was not a big surprise as the zombie, which you just met at the men’s, appeared on the stage. Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space was one of the brightest bands at the festival. There was no other band, which would be that outstanding in the sense of music. Punk and Gothic rockabilly inspired by B-Movies deserves special attention. At first, it is pretty funny and brings a lot of joy. To the end of the gig though the listener might get the feeling that it is too much of everything: punk, contrabass, singing drummer, pretty heavy electro guitar. Sooner or later the noise from the stage demands too much concentration to recognise the songs.
Quite fittingly, the next act up on the Main Stage following the Industrial German Rockers Megaherz was the “greatest Rammstein cover band” called Stahlzeit. The moderator announced the band with quoting the musicians, “we have absolutely no clue about anything!,” and commented that “this is not true at all.” Stahlzeit used their 50 minutes of playing time to prove this. And indeed, their sound was massive and their show fiery. The Stahlzeit crowd at the Tranzbrunnen had a great time with frontman Heli Reissenweber, who really kind of resembles Till Lindeman, keyboardist Thilo Weber, guitarists Mike and Matthias Sitzmann, bass player Bora Öksüz, and drummer Thomas Buchberger-Voigt. While quite a few were amused by their performance including a load on of stage blood and theatrics and took a batch of pictures, others seemed to like it was not really their cup of tea. Music-wise, however, there was no doubt that everyone in the audience loved singing and screaming along Rammstein hits such as ‘Sonne,’ ‘Feuer Frei!,’ ‘Ich will,’ ‘Du hast,’ and of course the classic ‘Engel.’ Every time Stahlzeit started to play the next song there were cheers when folks recognised which Rammstein smasher was about to be played. Finally, vocalist Heli Reissenweber invited those who want to experience a “full show” of his tribute band, to join Stahlzeit on their upcoming tour at the end of the year.
With ‘Ein Nachruf’, Ewigheim, a band formed by members of The Vision Bleak and Eisregen, sounded the bell for their dark and atmospheric set. The metal heads of the Amphi Festival crowd and everyone else who was craving for some heavy guitars and drums combined with diverse electronic tunes gathered in the theatre. There, guitarists Ronny Fimmel and Ulf Theodor Schwadorf, drummer Dirk Törppe, and vocalist Allen B. Konstanz presented a perfect mix of doomy and yet danceable, melodic metal tunes. The quartet’s performance was a real sonic treat as their audience enjoyed eleven well-crafted Goth Metal songs taken from their repertoire of 17 years of band history. With the old track ‘Leiche zur See’ from their debut album ‘Mord nicht ohne Grund,’ the song ‘Die Augen zu’ as well as ‘Schneemann’ with their melodic choruses, the doomy ‘Das Rad der Käfer’ and, without any doubt, the smasher ‘Tanz um dein Leben’ one highlight followed the other.
Finally, Ewigheim ended their set on a calmer note by playing the piano tune ‘Heimweg.’ In addition to their unique music and great sound, one cannot praise the band enough also for their creative lyrics sung in German. These are sinister in tone, however, always with a portion of irony. All who share Ewigheim’s grim sense of humour, have a thing for the grotesque and love their Metal tunes served in a dark way, had a wonderful, black celebration inside together with the band, while the sun was shining outside on that first Amphi Festival day.
After a five minutes’ walk from Tanzbrunnen to the Orbit Stage aka the ship Rheinenergie, you could have enjoyed live music on the river Rhine, which is still a quite special venue in the festival landscape. Protain placed the relatively unknown, but very special acts or secret hints there. Laura Carbone in a Leo printed dress and her band welcomed their audience with spherical sounds and Laura Carnone’s warm voice. A front woman is always a welcomed variety, especially when she is such an outstanding beauty with black hair, red lips and pale skin just like Snow White. They performed their handmade New Wave sound with the pure instrumentation of guitars and drums and sometimes a tambourine. Of course, songs like ‘‘Swans’ or ‘Exes’ were not missed and the people in the stomach of the boat were pleased.