Everything but watery – Audioriver 2008

Often it is not easy for successors. For example Sister Act; first part was amusing, but the second part of that 90-minute Whoopie Goldberg word stream was something for the garbage. For festivals this piece of wisdom applies as well. Honestly, subconscious expectations were high when hearing the first news about Audioriver 2008. This year’s logo of Audioriver was the opposite of all things happened; really no one was eager to hang up his ballet shoes. Dancing was the maxim, come hell or Vistula’s high water…

The memories of last year are still vitally alive: sudden lack of Vodka, as well as meeting top live acts such as Spooky, Hybrid and Infusion. This year the main stage again saw the usual split between Drum’n Bass on Friday and progressive stuff on the day after; the main stage program on Saturday broke fresh ground though, since not less than four mature bands were set to play a sophisticated mixture of electronica and alternative music styles. Last but not least for the Audioriver team that meant a dramatic raise of logistic challenges.

But one by one… For us Berliners all things started on Friday, some minutes past 4 p.m. when I picked up buddy Peer and his fella Jens. At this daytime all things happening on German A12 highway are already dictated by 40 tons six-wheelers. In particular driving on Polish A2, between Frankfurt and just before Poznan, is really no pleasure at all; especially when being accompanied by two backseat driving Woolworth bladders and a broken down truck some 10km ahead. The new highway starts just before Poznan; it leads you to the Kolo exit faster but also more expensive as three toll stations have to be passed and 33 Zlotys to be paid. From there the way leads through some villages with names reminding a bit of old Soviet commanders. From Kolo it’s not far away to Gostynin, from there it’s only a short hop to Plock. And when crossing the Vistula you can already have a first glance at the festival site.

We hit the Vistula beach right in time to catch Martin Buttrich’s Live Act. It didn’t take much time and Martin’s sound made people at the circus stage bopping well. He played solidly, didn’t get bogged down in details and encored two times as Agoria didn’t show up in time. Martin played a live set as soft as buttrich butter; you could even have thought that you’re hearing his tracks 1:1 like from CD, but on a big sound system.

Even in the techno tent you could hear the massive bass attacks and warm-up calls of Roni Size. Agoria wasn’t impressed by that and unreeled one of his typical eclectic-percussive DJ sets in more or less a way according to his latest mix compilation “At The Controls”. Though, the psychedlic and solemn “noise harmonies” he likes to throw in, took out the drive of the techno melange played so far. Well, there were people dancing, the tent wasn’t empty at all and apparently not few ravers classified Agoria’s set as “Absolutely flashing!” On the other hand the techno car had definitely been put a bit into neutral. His set was a matter of taste…

Josh Wink played completely different and quickly won the favour of the Polish crowd. His performance is slightly narcissistic, but he delivered two hours of excellently grooving techno. At the latest Higher State of Consciousness made everybody ranting and raving. Within short time Wink turned the circus stage into becoming a refuge of repetitive and looping rhythms; mayhem on the dance floor…! Of course Josh didn’t want to stop; it was he who put the technoid lid on the Friday night. Wink played non stop, even not when Loco Dice was already waiting in the wings to take over the steering. Wink even had the idea to play back-2-back with Dice; something that Loco understandably rejected.

Then the dices were literally rolling… To date there aren’t many musical things that surprised me in way Loco Dice did that night. He dropped pithy bass-heavy and percussive techno tunes being far away from lace-making-like minimal. His wave of music even swept through the techno tent late after 7 a.m., the actual deadline of his DJ set. A business economist would surely have certified Dice as “This bloke is worth every spent Penny!” Armed with a sampler and several FX Dice was tackling the music played; I am not sure if there was a moment when really only one record was played alone.

That weekend the city of Plock saw quite some rush. Artists, organisers and guests of the Audioriver had to be accommodated as well as the bustle around some Miss Poland preliminaries. Normal festival visitor fell a bit by the wayside since all hotels and private guesthouses were fully booked. On short notice the festival organisations expanded the tent camp and booked a vacant boarding home as additional accommodation. But at 6 in the morning it was fully booked as well, so that my friend and I searched for a quiet place to get some sleep under the blue sky. By saying “Looks like a quiet blind lane…” we accidentally ended up at the gates of Petrochemie LK Plock sailing club. No matter, we needed sleep; the face of the caretaker however spoke volumes and surely something like: “Man, now the Germans are even (or still?) sleeping in my front lawn…!” :-)

At noon something set in that dominated the whole remaining Saturday and even Sunday: drizzle, sometimes fine, sometimes heavy. An advantage: the beach isn’t dusty anymore. A disadvantage: the lukewarm summer night became slightly chilly and inside the techno tent all things called air went oppressive; a 100% assurance for sweating there at night. When hitting the festival site at 6 p.m. everybody was working hard already. At the Main Stage the sound check was going on; apparently the waterways police took things a bit toooo personal when the mikes were checked by repetitive chants like “You guys suck!” ;-) Everything started in time though, at 7 p.m., when Polish DJ doyens Cube and Fresh kicked off the night. Those two couldn’t have started the Saturday in a more perfect way.

Right after them Damian Lazarus really pushed things forward. After playing some Berlin-esque minimal the London-based boss of Crosstown Rebels delivered a doozy. In particular the first and last half an hour was a relentless bass rhythm cannonade of progressive techno spiced with steaming but joyful acid elements. Even if Lazarus was actually on the go as he had to play Berlin’s Bar25 later that day, he didn’t miss the chance of being at the front line almost all night long; also dancing, from Extrawelt to Villalobos.

At the same time but actually with a little delay the show on main stage started. In the beginning the duo Electricity warmed up the people by dropping pop music influenced electro tunes. Sometimes these tunes were quite simple, but on the other hand those remixes worked. Apparently the legion of fans of endless “I wear my sunglasses at Night” refrains isn’t as small as assumed in the beginning. While still having a “Doo Doo Doo”, an echoing vocal of the last Electricity remix in mind, backstage A Mountain Of One, the first live music gem of the night, got ready to step on the main stage.

For them it was not only the first gig in Poland, it was rather their first gig having an absolutely new band constellation. From Vice to Fact and UnCut, all those magazines recommend their sound. And at the Audioriver, when they set their melange of driving but epic and melancholic sounds free, they gave a watertight proof why all these specialist magazines are currently praising these Londoners. Imagine already great Pink Floyd sound, spiced with a dash of a bit more electronica and you got A Mountain Of One.

After A Mountain Of One the people could enjoy another band deserving a big “Hats off!” compliment: Swiss-based Kalabrese and his Rumpelorchestra, what literally would mean bumpy orchestra. They played everything but bumpy. It was pure pleasure to listen to absolutely flawlessly playing musicians, delivering a well-balanced sound. Especially the involvement of trumpet and percussions plus the way everything was underlined by electronic grooves and sensual vocals made Kalabreses appearance to be a real eyecatcher, or better to say earcatcher :-)

Then things became a tensile test… Extrawelt teamed up to rock the circus stage with an unprecedentedly kickin’ live act. Nobody, absolutely nobody stood still anymore. The fence and the area in front of the stage were completely occupied by dancing people. Difficult, as at the same time UNKLE literally rocked down the other stage. The guitarist is a true spotlight hog and delivered a rock show par excellence… Wildly jumping around he stroke the right notes with a surgeons precision. Amazing. Only stage diving was missing… It must have been fate that I didn’t miss my hymn “Reign”. UNKLE live – world class music presented in a world class manner. Sheer madness!

But let’s get back to the techno tent. Extrawelt was still nailing together sounds as somehow Guy Gerber couldn’t be found… “So what. Let us make another one :-)” said both Hamburgians and went on delivering pure dance floor mayhem. Together with Guy Gerber Arne and Wayan were the climaxes of all things called circus stage. Their live acts were framed by five huge screens, a massive playground for the VJs to present their really wicked visuals and animations.

Shortly after Extrawelt’s encore Guy Gerber showed up and immediately hit the public like a bomb. With a smooth beautiful intro and without much ado he unleashed those hypnotic sounds and grooves he is worldwide know for. Spiced with eclectic-mystical strings and vocals his 1.5 hours lasting live act elapsed way too quick. Even Dave Seaman came along to have a look and a listen to what Guy is doing there. Maybe Dave also fancied getting into the festival’s groove; his gig on the main stage was already in sight.

Speaking of the main stage… After the UNKLE rock spectacle 2020 Soundsystem was set to play. The cold drizzle which set in again brought the band around Ralph Lawson a little loss of visitors. Maybe it also made the round that crowd of the techno tent was really going wild. The circus stage was definitely packed, but let’s hand over the speaking tube to an Audioriver debutant: “Despite all these people there is lots of place for yourself, for dancing. Cool! :-)”

Beside lots of great music there was an important improvement for the visitors: the first two festival editions in 2006/07 were free of charge, now a 2-day-pass costs 35 Zloty. No need to worry, as paying for admission makes the one or other fan of public noisy beer consumption staying at home. Also meeting people having no problem to pay for quality is always a pleasure. To boot an admission fee of circa 11 Euro is really everything but expensive when speaking of such a well wrought line-up of high quality.

Though, weather can’t be bought… Fortunately the really big stormy downpour and hail went down on Warsaw. However, fog arose and from the sky came cold drizzle. For a short moment coat and umbrella became one’s closest party friends. Of course that had an impact on the main stage, since roofing such a big area is sheer impossible. Hence a fantastically rocking Dave Seaman played in the dry and his fans were dancing in the drizzle.

Over in the techno tent already the crowning final loomed when “Riiiiiiiiiicardo!” entered the backstage area. For the Poles Villalobos is a kind of a folk hero; a true magnet and crowd-puller par excellence. Not few Poles are regularly coming to Berlin to hear their hands down favourite playing preferably 24 hours a day. After Gerber finished his live act there was an incredible yelling and all hands up in the air when Villalobos took over the decks. Everybody can imagine what happened then and there at the circus stage, no further explanations needed ;-) On the main stage Dave Seaman easily kept the pace of Extrawelt’s and Gerber’s sound energy. Personally I would have loved to listen and dance longer to his DJ set, but making our way back to Berlin already loomed, as in the morning the East-West-roads are still 6-wheeler free…

Bottom line: A truly brilliant and fine festival with a great familiar atmosphere and simply great booking. It was absolutely worth to come all the way from Berlin. I am pretty sure that next year on the first weekend of August it will mean again “It’s Audioriver time!” :-)

Bottom line 2: Since a long time I know that the Audioriver guys are quite hospitable. The confusing accreditation process of Polish Creamfields 2008 once more showed, in what league that Plock festival is playing by now. Good to very good organisation, no promoter airheads desperately seeking for admiration around, no constraints to write positively and patronising international visitors is also a foreign word. Thank you!

Used Photo Equipment: Canon EOS 1D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35 2.8L II, Canon EF 24-70 2.8L, Canon EF 50 1.4, Canon EF 85 1.2L, Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS USM

Main Stage
20:00 21:30 Harper
21:30 23:00 Cls & Wax + K-Size
23:00 00:00 Visionary Underground
00:00 01:15 Roni Size Reprazent
01:30 02:30 Jungle Drummer vs DJ Fu feat MC LowQui
02:30 04:00 Danny Byrd
04:00 05:00 Sesiz
Circus Stage
19:00 21:00 Optymist
21:00 22:00 Petter von Coil vs Hagal
22:00 23:00 3 Channels
23:00 00:30 Martin Buttrich live
00:30 02:00 Agoria
02:00 04:00 Josh Wink
04:00 07:00 Loco Dice
07:00 08:00 SLG
Main Stage
20:00 21:45 Electricity (Bert & Igor)
21:45 22:45 A Mountain Of One
23:00 00:00 Kalabrese and his Rumpelorchestra
00:15 01:15 UNKLE live
01:30 02:30 20:20 Soundsystem live
02:30 05:00 Dave Seaman
05:00 06:00 Quantum Mekk
Circus Stage
19:00 20:00 Cbass & Mikobene
20:00 21:00 Cube
21:00 22:00 Fresh
22:00 00:00 Damian Lazarus
00:00 01:30 Extrawelt live
01:30 03:00 Guy Gerber live
03:00 07:00 Ricardo Villalobos
07:00 08:00 Poziom X

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