17.03.2018 – Turbinenhalle, Oberhausen
Last weekend (at the time of writing), I ventured to E-Tropolis Festival in Germany. I’ve gallivanted off to Germany on many occasions to attend festivals over the past few years, even to the point where it’s become a running joke in some of my circles on how often I go! I mean, can you blame me… if they keep putting on such amazing festivals with such great lineups, then how can I resist? However, E-Tropolis was one I’d not been to before, and after a spur of the moment suggestion from one of my best friends, which honestly didn’t take much convincing, we decided to attend it this year.
My friend, Babz, had previously been to the festival, and had hyped up how amazing it was. The venue itself in particular I was assured would be a highlight. The venue of choice for E-Tropolis each year is the Turbinenhalle, located in Oberhausen. The building itself was originally constructed in 1909, and was a factory that was used to generate electricity for Eisenhütte II, an operating unit with four blast furnaces. After closing in the 1980’s, it was repurposed as a venue in 1993. The pre-party was a good introduction to the venue, but actually walking into the halls through the main entrance for the first time was truly a sight to behold. My face lit up with glee as soon as I laid eyes upon it’s interior (and I’m sure my expression was priceless.) The look and feel of the building has been maintained, giving it a rustic aesthetic that’s stunning to behold. Arches scale the walls, remnants of the various old pieces of machinery are still present, chains hang from the ceiling near the stage, exposed pipes are everywhere and it’s all covered by arched roofs. It’s beautifully industrial, and absolutely perfect for a festival such as E-Tropolis, adding a whole new layer to the atmosphere. I’d go as far as saying that this is now one of my favourite venues of all-time!
Anyway, a festival is also about bands, and we saw quite a few of them! The first we got to check out was Eisfabrik. I’d seen them before last year at Amphi Festival, and they were great then, they also didn’t disappoint on this occasion. In fact, with them performing in such a venue, it helped to enhance the experience even further. Lively, pounding and uplifting beats filled the main room, and got everyone moving to the beat. Tracks such as ‘Walking towards the Sun’, ‘Soon Enough’ and ‘The Choice’ went down a treat. Of course, their mascot, the yeti was there, accompanied by an Eskimo (I honestly don’t know his actual name, if he has one, sorry) and they danced amongst the crowd, perking them up and adding even more fun into the mix. Your’s truly even managed to receive a glowstick off them. It was a brilliant start to our day.
Next up were Chrom, who I’ve seen live on numerous occasions, but would never miss an opportunity to see. Needless to say, I’m incredibly glad I saw them here. They cut straight to the chase, opening with ‘Walked the Line’. Hits such as ‘Visions’, ‘Loneliness’ and (one of my personal favourites) ‘Staring at the Sun’ were amongst ones performed. I even chanted along for the latter, managing to get a few others involved whilst I was at it. I have no idea how Chrom pulled it off, but they had the best bass of the weekend, the whole room was literally shaking as the bass boomed throughout the complex. The atmosphere was so rich that it was enough to give me goosebumps. Genuinely, this is the best I’ve ever seen them live so far, they were on top form.
Aesthetic Perfection were next, and if you read my review of the London show of their tour from last year, you’ll know I have some reservations about them. I just felt there was too much ego going on during that show. Tonight got off to a bit of a dull start, with them favouring their newer material over their older songs (which I prefer.) Plus, after Chrom’s deliciously bass-filled set, it sounded a bit flat at first. However, I have to admit, the further the set progressed, the better it got. There were no signs of ego to be seen throughout their time on stage either, although Daniel Graves did appear to be doing his best Michael Jackson impression. Joking aside, it was surprisingly enjoyable. ‘The New Black’ and ‘Spit it Out’, the latter of which closed the set, were real stand out moments of their performance for me. I do have to admit, ‘LAX’ has become an absolute beast live, easily surpassing the quality of the recorded version. It was nice to walk away from their set with a smile on my face, rather than with negativity.
Frozen Plasma have been something of an enigma for me, in the sense that every opportunity I’ve had to see them has always ended with me missing out somehow. The last time I fell short was at Amphi Festival last year, when they managed to pack out the theatre stage a whole hour before they were due to play. However, I was determined to see them this time, there was absolutely no way I was going to miss them again. After all those years of striving to see them, I finally got my wish… and my god, it was so worth it! Opening with the epic ‘Age After Age’, the entire set was a blistering performance of hit after hit after hit. Lead singer Felix Marc danced around stage energetically, clearly absorbing and loving every moment. His lively, charismatic and addictive personality could be felt from the crowd, as we were hooked on his every word, and joined in every interaction without fail. It was electrifying! The setlist for the show was top-notch too, featuring some of their most iconic tunes, old and new. ‘Warmongers’, ‘Foolish Dreams’, ‘Murderous Trap’, ‘Irony’, ‘Tanz Die Revolution’ (with obligatory crowd chanting) and their cover of Trans-X’s ‘Living on Video’ all went down an absolute storm. They even featured a brand-new track, ‘Safe From Harm’, which is an excellent hard-hitting dance anthem that I need a studio version of yesterday! One of the many stand-out moments was when they played-back a recorded speech, that lead into one of their songs. The actual speech was a woman reading out some very negative statements, but the twist was that she then read the entire text in reverse, and it not only flowed flawlessly, but completely changed the context to a much more positive one. I think that’s the perfect metaphor for Frozen Plasma’s music. It explores dark themes, but there’s always that sense of hope and positivity within them. Needless to say, the whole hour they were on stage flew by, and there are honestly no words that can convey how happy I was during that hour, or how uplifting the entire experience was. The best way I can describe it is that it was absolute pure joy! They were not only the highlight of my weekend, but easily one of the best acts I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing live. Going forward, whenever they’re at a festival I’m attending, there’s no way I’ll miss them, even if I have to queue for an hour to see them!
So, I’d heard a few bad things about VNV Nation in recent years. Despite this, I went in with an open mind. In fact, I was actually genuinely looking forward to it… which makes it all the more worse that the hearsay was indeed true, they were terrible. Ok, so the instrumental part was flawless, it was pitch-perfect throughout. The real problem was with Ronan Harris himself. There was something clearly up with him, as it was easy to see he was getting irate when the crowd weren’t moving. Even worse, he constantly shouted out certain lyrics and other cues as a method of interaction, which came across as demanding, rather than enthusiastic. This wasn’t just once or twice, it was repeatedly, throughout the entire set. As if to add insult to injury, he forgot lyrics, was out of time and tune on many occasions, as well as laughing his was through one or two of their songs. His manner was rude at times too, telling an audience member who was filming with their flash on to “Turn out that fucking light, we brought our own”, or when he had a go at someone for messing with their hat. Admittedly, the latter could be interpreted as banter, and he did address the crowd as ‘lovely people’, with glimpses of kindess, but it’s too bad it was all overshadowed by his diva attitude. There was a 15 minute delay due to tech issues, sure, but that’s no excuse to take it out on the fans. I miss the old Ronan Harris, the one who was more down-to-earth, the one that was genuinely so funny, he could have easily been a stand-up comedian. It certainly ended the event on a downer, to the point where my friend and I couldn’t even be bothered to go to the after-party.
However, even if the send-off was a massive let-down (and that I’ve spent an entire paragraph ranting), I can confirm the festival was definitely and entirely worth the trip. I mean, it was worth it just to see Frozen Plasma alone! Overall, it was a fantastic experience; the Turbinenhalle is the perfect venue, the atmosphere was astounding, and it was an incredible experience. This year’s E-Tropolis certainly will not be my last, and I have nothing but anticipation for when I next attend.