Once again the city of Cologne, Germany was calling my name, for it was that time of year again. Time for Amphi Festival! For yet another year (it’s 15th, in fact), the beautiful venue of the Tanzbrunnen played host to a great selection of musical acts, spanning the spectrum of the Gothic scene, across a single weekend. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here, for Amphi does not begin with the festival itself. It begins with the pre-party; Call The Ship To Port.

Naturally, I was on this one night only cruise up and down the Rhine. After all, it’s a great way to kick-start the festivities, and the lineups for the ship tend to be pretty good. This year was no exception to that rule, as the trio of acts were quite strong, boasting the likes of Diorama, Solar Fake and Mesh.

Diorama set the scene for the evening. Their music was filled with a dark energy that resonated a moody atmosphere, whilst also retaining an energetic feel. That said, it was a much slower-paced set than I’m used to from them. Admittedly, there were some moments of adrenaline, but overall they went at a much more relaxed flow. I guess it’s better to not burn out the crowd from the get-go, and the vibes the music created were enough to make them enticing to watch. “Exit the Grey” made a welcome appearance, even though it was presented in more of a ballad-like form. It did make for an interesting alternate take on the track, but in a live setting, I would’ve preferred to have heard it in it’s original incarnation. Also, “Off” was strangely absent from the setlist, which was a bit disappointing, but I guess tonight was not the night for it (although I’d argue any night is the right night for that song!)

Diorama, giving off dark vibes

Of course, trust Solar Fake to turn things up a bit! From the very first note, their set was high-octane, and the liveliness never let up. Their set felt like a huge party, so much so that I had to take a breather towards the end. That’s of no detriment to the band at all, far from it, just in the hot weather I found it extremely difficult to keep up with them! I have seen them on plenty of occasions in the past, but this was definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen them do. It was easy to tell that they were totally up for it, as frontman Sven Friedrich danced around the stage enthusiastically, and keyboardist André Feller went to town on keyboards. Considering how much energy there was in the room, I was surprised that the boat wasn’t rocking under the pressure! It was a cracking setlist too, that spanned across their discography, from tracks such as “No Apologies” all the way to “The Pain That Kills You Too”, they had all bases covered.

Then it was up to Mesh to close things off for the evening. I was a tad apprehensive about seeing them, as I have found their shows to be very hit-and-miss. The last two times I had seen them were less than savoury, with M’era Luna 2017 being by far the worst I’ve ever seen them, and Infest 2018 being a little too slow for my liking. Fortunately, my fears were put to rest rather quickly, as they not only put on an absolutely storming performance, but best show I’ve ever seen them do! It seems that they’re an act that are much more at home in a small indoor venue, as they practically radiated with energy and charisma! It was an extremely powerful showing, the entire audience completely captivated by every moment. Not only was it a set full of some of their best material, but was also packed with older tracks and rarities, especially during the early half of their set, with songs such as “From This Height” and “Trust You”. More recent hits such as “Runway”, “Born To Lie” and “Last One Standing” made an inevitable appearance, and were met with the same, strong response from the crowd. Of course, a Mesh show wouldn’t be a Mesh show without them ending with “Taken For Granted”. It has become a staple for them at this point, and it’s clear to see why. The audience singing the refrain of ‘I need to start again, take me far away’ in unison never ceases to be an incredible moment, and an emotional one at that! It was the perfect way to end the first day of what would become a memorable weekend.

Mesh were captivating!