The 14th annual Reeperbahn festival hit the streets of Hamburg, Germany last month, bringing with it hundreds of performances, conference panels, award shows and streets filled with food, live music and an incredible atmosphere. The event is positioned, unsurprisingly, around the streets of Reeperbahn, the city’s red light and entertainment district, which is famed for giving The Beatles their start. In fact, it’s here where Ringo Starr first played with the band, and one may say the rest is history. And now at the Reeperbahn Festival, bands are using the very same venues that The Beatles once played to help leave their own mark on the city, launching their own international careers.
With Australia as the “spotlight country” for the event, we were thrilled to see established Australian acts like You and I and The Rubens hit these stages, alongside rising superstars like The Teskey Brothers and Press Club, and lesser known acts like the Berlin based Steph Grace and The Stroppies, who bring together a troupe of established musicians from Melbourne and London. It was a joy to see them all play to packed rooms, as well as at Sounds Australia’s iconic Aussie BBQ event, which is held over three stages at one of Hamburg’s most loved venues, Molotow.
Today, however, we’re going to look back at the discoveries from this year’s event, that hail from all corners of the globe. They’re acts who very much made their mark on the festival, and left a lasting impression on yours truly. Throw your ears around these seven discoveries from the festival.
Soran (Quebec, Canada)
Quebec artist Soran had such an amazing voice, with tracks like “Julia” and a track he said was about his ex Emma. There’s a nice R&B edge to his pop production, and the set I saw at Canada House proved him very much an artist to watch.
Offt. What stunning vocals this Norwegian pop artists had. Accompanied only by a piano, she absolutely floored me. This is one of those talents that you see live and have to ask yourself “why did no one tell me about her sooner!?”.
The Hormones (Chengdu, China)
One of the Anchor Award nominees this year, I was truly impressed by the presence of the indie rockers from Chengdu. They brought great energy, a whole lot of cow bell and proved one of the highlights of the week.
Celeste (Brighton, England)
One of the most talked about artists of the year is without question the British songstress Celeste. She first came on my radar at The Great Escape earlier this year, but at Reeperbahn – also one of the Anchor Award nominees – I finally got to see the talent in person. And I was truly blown away. With songwriting skills and presence that could make her the next Adele, and chops that seem to ensure she’s also destined to sing a future Bond anthem, you can expect her to be one of the biggest musical stars in the world in the coming years.
Skye Wallace (Toronto, Canada)
While I’d caught the Canadian artist Skye Wallace before, it was here in Reeperbahn that I truly saw her in all her glory; the self-described “Folk Rock Powerhouse with Shades of Punk” seeing sweat dripping off the ceiling in a packed basement at the Molotow, thrilling with her own music and a spectacular cover of The Beatles’ classic “Helter Skelter”. If she and her band weren’t booked for every festival in Europe off the back of that show, I’d be shocked.
Les Big Byrd (Stockholm, Sweden)
I ended my 2019 Reeperbahn in one of the iconic venues that once housed The Beatles, Kaiserkeller, with the Swedish pysch rock act Les Big Byrd. This is a group who have been around for a while, and have the same manager as Refused – but I’d never heard of them until this festival. And my god, do I just want to be enveloped by their music from here til eternity. The above song, “I Fucked Up I Was a Child”, from their 2018 LP Iran Iraq Ikea, was a highlight of the set, though it’s hard to pick a favourite (and it’s fair to say I didn’t know the names of most of the tracks). In any case, do yourself a favour and get your ears around this outfit that everyone needs to know about.
For more about the festival, which is held every September, head to the official Reeperbahn website.