Review: Amphi Festival 2016

Misc (25)Day 1

Rainy, humid and no air. Add to this zero sun and a very heavy heat, and you get the fantastic weather in which Amphi 2016 started. It was like being in a sweaty oven for two thirds of the day.

Well, this is the hazard of the weather, no one can control that. What was under control however, and was majorly fucked up for this 2016 edition of Amphi, is the stage organisation.
The venue setup has significantly changed since last time Amphi took place at Tanzbrunnen in 2014.
The Main stage is still where it used to be, however the indoors venues have experienced the following changes:
the Theater remains the Theater, however now it is impossible to access it from within the festival perimeter. You heard it, you have got to get outside the festival perimeter to get back in at the entrance of the Theater, which is considered as a separate venue and where you get both your wristband and your bag checked;
as for the third venue, well surprise: it’s in a Ship. Sounds great! However what could have been a fantastic idea quickly turned into a hassle.
Problem 1: to get to the Ship, you’ve also got to get out of the main festival area, and walk a good five minutes before reaching the pier. And that’s without counting the slowdowns caused by the crowd movements from one location to another.
Problem 2: Again, this is outside of the main festival area, which means new wristband and extensive bag check, but also, as this is a whole different venue, you get to finish or toss your drink before getting onboard, because the Ship wants to make money too, you know.

Well, colour me baffled. What kind of bad idea was that? Of course the previous indoors venue at amphi (the Staatenhaus, at the back of the fest area) was not ideal, especially in terms of sound quality, but damn it was so much easier to go around. And why make the Theater entrance only accessible from outside the festival? It used to be inside, and it worked fine.

So here you have it, a festival area that is great, but that you must exit two thirds of the time if you’re wishing to see more than the Main stage bands, security checks that you’re submitted to five to ten times a day depending on how actively you’re moving between stages, and what could sound trivial, but really is quite important: every time you leave the main festival area, you are back into the “reality” of Köln the normal German city, with “normal” people hanging out on the Rhine quays. And those few people, at best are surprised and take pictures of the most eccentric Goths they see, at worst point at them and laugh.
Knowing that one of the main reason why Goths go to festivals is a social one, in order to be amongst themselves, especially as a community who does differentiate itself visually from the common people and is regularly bullied for it, well, having to confront the “real world” during the one weekend where you thought you would be sort of “protected” within a goth sanctuary… it doesn’t feel that good.

Last year as some of you may know, Amphi festival took place not at Tanzbrunnen as per tradition, but in Lanxess Arena, a mostly indoors venue (especially due to the weather conditions during last year’s Amphi that forced most gigs to happen indoors), which is more fit for oversized gigs such as Depeche Mode than for hosting an entire festival. Rumour was spreading throughout the festival-goers regarding all those unwelcome changes at Tanzbrunnen this year, that it was a deliberate move from the organisers in order to get back to Lanxess Arena from next year. I can see no reason why they would want to do that, and I give little credit to this rumour, as I think festival-goers and organisers alike love Tanzbrunnen, its beach, its unique shape and atmosphere, its beach, its central “island”, its beach, and all the others things that make the place so unique, such as its beach. Moreover, announcement has already been made on Amphi’s official website that next year’s festival would take place in Tanzbrunnen once more. As of that, I wouldn’t worry too much about Amphi’s future location, but I sincerely hope they will fix the current “outside venues” situation, and either make them all fit within the fest perimeter again, or increase the festival perimeter itself, so that the “ten security checks a day” ordeal doesn’t recur next year.

Well now, to the bands!

[X]-Rx opens the festival like dynamite, managing to transform the Main stage into a gigantic dance floor so early in the day, minutes after most people got inside the festival area. The alchemy between the two [X]-Rx boys is a great show in itself, and the rough songs of the duo fill the crowd with joy. Joy of being here at last, joy to know that the long-awaited dark celebration has finally started. It’s around 12 o’clock, Saturday, and it’s already a party.

One I Cinema
We didn’t have the chance to see One I Cinema in Amphi this time, as they apparently had to cancel due to illness. This is all the info we could get, and it is with disappointment that we head back to the entrance of the festival (One I Cinema was due to play in the Theater, so we had to get out of the festival to find out they were cancelled, and head back in through the main entrance only to be checked and searched again… the beginning of a weekend of security checks pleasures).

Solitary Experiments
The red shirts are back (I feel like saying “as always”, for they seem to be scheduled at every goth festival ever), to warm the goths’ cold hearts thanks to their Futurepop/EBM “VNV wannabe” songs.
Some of the said red shirts do drop after a few tracks though, namely the two drummers (yeah, two.), as the humid heat is getting a bit suffocating.

About those drums. So, Solitary Experiments has two sets of drums on stage – one traditional, one electronic. This combo makes for the perfect thick, catchy and trashy beat sound, especially powerful live. On top of that, the drumming gang is particularly enthusiastic, jumping up and down regularly all throughout the set, with big smiles on their faces and an evident satisfaction to be here.
This drums duet is however the strongest part of the set; for unfortunately, the quite monotonous vocal melodies of SE, while working perfectly fine in studio versions, sound a bit dull live. Here, the (rather still) singer sounds like he’s mainly hitting a single, monotonous note, despite the instrumental arrangements. The strength this can have in studio versions is kinda lost within the live performance.
Nevertheless, Solitary Experiments manages to gather a huge crowd for a bit past 12 o’clock, proving that fans’ loyalty to SE hasn’t failed in years. The singer even greets the crowd with a thank you for coming out to see them so early in the day, and they then grant their fans with a new song of theirs.
Their similarity with VNV Nation is sometimes really extreme, to the point where I’m wondering several times whether they’re covering or plagiarizing a VNV song. Until the moment where they actually cover VNV with “Shine”, which is no doubt one of the strongest moments of the gig.

Megaherz are announced like Jesus by the very enthusiastic presenter, when it’s their turn to appear on the Main stage at 1.25 pm.
And indeed when they come up in front of us, they look pretty amazing. Their make-up work is great, even badass, and their sort of “futuristic/totalitarian police” look is a killer. The singer triggers a thunder of cheers when he comes up on stage with energy, rocking their balls-filled opening song.
It’s dark, heavy, metal, the singer never misses an occasion to cheer and excite the crowd, whether by walking like a hungry rabid man-beast, laughing like a madman and yelling “Jawohl!” at regular intervals, or shaking his decorated baseball bat-microphone in the air.
Amphi is on fire despite the rain.
We almost forget the effect of real instruments after hearing dozens of electro acts live. Megaherz rocks a line-up made of two guitars, one bass and a heavy rock drum kit. The result is simply epic, and they manage to remind us all that we do like dark metal quite a bit.

We enter the atmosphere of a dirty, insane club in the slums of a Blade Runner type of cyber city. Dive. Dirk Ivens is as possessed and ice cold as ever, his aggressive singing style following the sick beats he created, while he’s hitting his own chest violently, belting out the fantastically cruel lyrics. Sweaty, sadistic and sexual.
Dive’s live set has changed a bit: no more strobolights that Ivens controls manually on stage, instead the venue’s light engineers take over the strobe effects with the stage spotlights, and they do a pretty good job at it. The result is: more freedom for Ivens to move around on stage, but it’s a bit of pity still, as seeing him play around with his epileptic strobolights on stage was part of Dive’s live identity.
Luckily he still has his megaphone to play and yell in the microphone with when it’s time to hit that very hard, old school industrial spot. This, together with a fantastic delay effect on Dirk’s voice results in an eerie, hard and cold vocal sound. As always, he never misses an occasion to make himself memorable live.

Stahlzeit is exactly how you would imagine a Rammstein tribute band to be.
They are loud, heavy and unapologetic.
The lights are red, to reflect the fiery mood that the band imposes on Amphi’s Main stage.
We expect pyrotechnics but we first get sprayed (as if we were not already wet enough from the rain) by what we hope is water, coming from the fake penis the frontman has sticking out of his trousers for a while, before he decides to pretend to sodomise a consenting stage actor for another few long minutes. Tasteful.
We don’t have to wait too long for the more “heated” entertainment though, as the first, highly-anticipated fireworks start to blow out from the stage ground towards the sky at the third song, before setting Amphi on fire with “Sonne”.
Fireworks party.

Laura Carbone
Laura Carbone is without doubt the “old rock/shoegaze/Jesus and Mary Chain” vibe of the festival. We’re on the boat, dry at last, away from the rain, blessed by the Ship’s AC system, and listening to Carbone’s 50% sunny, 50% sad nostalgic tracks, and it feels like we’re on a cruise in a Californian bay. If the hundreds of goths in rain jackets wouldn’t kind of break this fragile illusion.
Laura looks amazing, if a bit high-schooly, rocking a 90’s punk rock girl look with a leopard dress and heavy black hair. The pink and blue spotlights, Laura and her guitar, the magnificent sunny pop/light rock vibe make us feel like we are directly teleported to Coachella. She managed to create a great atmosphere on that emotionless boat in the heat of a grey, rainy day.

Ewigheim’s dark metal between Lacrimosa and Sentenced colours the Theater of their heavy riffs at 3.20 in the afternoon. Between two songs, the singer (who rocks a Sisters of Mercy t-shirt) defiantly claims that, after all that electronic music at Amphi, it was time for a bit of guitar.
Bold, but given how effective Ewigheim is, we can forgive their lack of humility.
They’re a rock band, confident and heavy, with the unmistakable German touch that makes German heavy metal that good and distinguishable.
The band is mostly static apart from the singer, but the man is such a good entertainer, with a permanent wide smile on his face (à la Jurgen Engler from Die Krupps), that he makes us quickly forget that detail.

Mono Inc.
A harmonica line typical of a 60’s western is heard coming from the Main stage, thin and lonely in the hot summer air, before an epic orchestral follow-up breaks the silence accompanied with a growing beat that soon invades the whole Main stage area: a big low voice introduces the band, who shows up at last in cowboy and pirate attires: “welcome to the world of Mono Inc.”, i.e. Fields/Sisters wannabees.
Crow designs, white light stripes, voice modulation and female backing vocals à la Sisters of Mercy, we’ve clearly entered the realms of Goth Rock. A very neat Goth Rock, more dynamic than these days’ Fields shows, melodic enough to remind a bit on The Cult as well, Mono Inc.’s definitely got(h) some style.
They throw in some pyrotechnics to seal the deal of a really cool show. The vocals are perfect, the smokey atmosphere and smokey eyes, the slight over-dramatic stage presence without falling in excess… They are pretty much perfect, and deliver a great show.

“Good evening everybody, we are Spetznaz.”
Spetsnaz kick starts their gig as fast as their songs are, drowning the Theater in their mesmerizing beat and raw EBM.
The frontman Pontus Stålberg is full of energy, evidently happy to be here, dancing and kicking on the hard beat produced by Stefan Nilsson in the background, who’s hitting on his electronic drumpads like a machine.
His movements, regular, robotic, hypnotic, only add to the electric atmosphere of this fantastic set.
Their songs are fire, and they deliver them very well, with the perfect blend of musical aggressivity and stage positivity (Pontus never gets rid of his big fat smile all along).
They are so good we even forgive the singer’s dad jokes “Eau de Cologne… smells good…”
… Ah well, you can’t be good at everything.
Pontus’ performance, filled with as much humour as talent, makes for a very responsive crowd.
“Degenerates Ones” drops like a bomb after two songs, setting the venue on fire once and for all.
Spetsnaz rules.

At 17.44, with ten minutes of delay, the very anticipated Tarja hits the Main stage, with her big opera voice, a rock song, a white wedding dress and a fluffy black bolero.
And what we witness is literally beyond our greatest hopes for the fantastic metal singer.
Indeed, after leaving Nightwish and wandering for a few years between her old songs, some new, not extremely convincing songs, some classical music works and a few hard rock covers (Alice Cooper, etc.), it seems Turunen has found her style at last: a positive, aerial and pumped up heavy rock that leaves plenty of room for a stellar voice.
The first song kicks in, and it already feels like it’s gonna be a hell of a performance.
She holds the stage very well, she’s very happy and magnetic, we wanna see her, fill our eyes with her. And most importantly, her songs are excellent, have a real epic dimension, reinforced by a stage cello and heavy keyboard layers. Tarja still rocks as hell, throwing at us songs as amazing as “Never Enough”, “Demons in You”, “Innocence”, all strong musically and lyrically. She hits impossible notes as casually as you’d eat your cereals in the morning, cheering at the crowd, running around the stage like a fairy of happiness, in her pretty white dress, interacting with the band as often as she can… Tarja definitely granted an outstanding performance to Amphi, and remains, more than ever, a real Heavy Metal Queen.

Aesthetic Perfection
So we were supposed to see Aesthetic Perfection on Saturday. Sadly, circumstances made that we missed it. The reasons are, for one, that the gig had been rescheduled half an hour earlier than the time we initially were given, and that we didn’t notice until arrival in the Theater; which was so packed we couldn’t even slip through the crowd in order to get a bit of AP’s show.
So, we don’t really have an excuse, shit happens. Luckily, Aesthetic Perfection being probably the second most scheduled band after Solitary Experiments, we will see them again and have seen them before, so if you fancy reading A live review of Aesthetic Perfection NOT at Amphi 2016, please refer to the E-tropolis 2014 report. Onto the next band.

Peter Heppner
As a delicate melody invades Amphi’s Main stage surroundings, Heppner blesses us with his presence. His voice, as smooth and softly dramatic as ever, his songs as subtly and immensely sad as expected, his hair growing whiter and whiter, he looks and sounds like an angel.
As always, Peter’s show unwraps in subtlety and simplicity, nothing crazy happens on stage, and the show is focused on the harmonics between his heavenly voice and the beautiful keyboard layers.
The performance is also much better than last time at Amphi (2013), when Heppner had sound issues and could hardly sing in tune, due to the sound difficulties experienced by the previous indoors venue the “Staatenhaus”, that gave hell to many of the bands who played there (thinking about London after Midnight and Project Pitchfork in 2014).
This year, Heppner finally got the Main Stage he deserves.

Neurotic Fish
Change of atmosphere with Neurotic Fish, their wonderfully dancy EBM and their army of cyber goths.
Red spotlights and strobolights coupled with the energetic Neurotic Fish style makes for a very solid show. The venue is packed and in movement, dancing as one throughout the whole set. After two or three songs, what with the wet heat and the swarm of cyber dancers kicking and punching the air in rhythm, the venue could very well be mistaken for a dark club going full blast between 1 and 2 in the morning, proof that Neurotic Fish is doing their job very well on stage.

Der Fluch
A quick stroll to the Ship to see what Der Fluch (“the curse”!) is about, and we land into a pretty greasy Punk’n’Roll gig, with the whole black shades and black clothes look. And ballsy songs. Der Fluch mixes Ska Punk rhythms and heavy guitars, which results in a very dancy venue. The fancy, slightly bland Ship on the Rhine now feels like a filthy Punk club; also the average age of the crowd got up a notch for this “daddy’s Punk” show.

“Dum dum da! Dum dum da!”
Is Queen headlining the Main stage tonight? Nope, it’s Blutengel, opening with “Sing”, which, I realise for the first time, borrows its entire rhythm section to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Oh well.

It’s 8.45 pm, and the vampiric cult that is Blutengel emerges on stage, with Ulrike Goldmann on the left and frontman Chris Pohl on the right, triggering passionate reactions in the crowd as he steps on the Main stage ground.
Pohl looks as dramatic, precious and talented as ever, but sports a less vampiric, more minimalist and urban look, that does suit him fairly well.

Without further ado, the Germans kickstart the gig, raising the pace progressively, while the smoke machine is already working full blast and some sexy vampire dancers rock the stage with Pohl . After two songs it’s already a party down in the pit of the Main stage.
Pohl is joking and very talkative between songs, and despite me not understanding German, I get that the man is throwing some pretty bad jokes that the fans could have very well done without. Ah well, to hell with the haters, Chris is happy, and that’s what matters.

With songs as varied as “The War Between Us”, “Lucifer”, or “Dein Gott”, it’s a very balanced setlist that Blutengel has prepared for this show, with a mix of new and old songs.

With his new, more minimalistic, “simply dark” look, Pohl displays a certain likeness with Marilyn Manson, only increased by his arms stretched out and thumbs down posture, chanting “to hell with Jesus Christ” on “Lucifer”. Iconic.

“Hey now, hey now now now now”…? After Queen, is it Sisters of Mercy now? Nope, still Blutengel, with “Save us”. Let’s call it a tribute, for the lack of a better word.

In the meantime, the three dancers (of which two lost their shirt somehow) are back , performing a mostly static military conceptual dance, moving occasionally only to emphasise the strong words in the lyrics (“We know that nothing is ALRIGHT, (…) we run away to SUICIDE”).
On another song, the dancers change into super-sexualized almost naked females traumatizing a nun on some anti-Jesus lyrics; somewhat of an unforgettable memory.

The dancing show is quite original, not too much or obscene (à la Nahtmahr), not boring, innovative and pretty cool.

The songs are spotless, and Pohl and Goldmann are on point vocally. It may feel a bit standardised and mechanical though, compared to, say, Tarja’s heated Rock’n’Roll show, especially given how static and very much in their corner the singers are, Ulrike staying pretty much always on the left of the stage and Chris on the right. But this is how Blutengel rolls, this is part of their formal, ceremonious, gothic ritual style, which is far from being a Rock’n’Roll show. From that point of view, we can consider that they delivered a well-executed show on this Saturday evening.

Day 2

It’s 11.40 in the morning and despite the late partying on the night before, Xotox is up early rocking a Theater already packed with happy cyber goths.
The glowsticks have gone out of fashion, cybers are now juggling with fluffy light balls while dancing, or wearing lit-up combat armors.
In the meantime, Xotox is smacking us good with their very hard industrial beats and the insanely strong yelled vocals of frontman Andreas Davids.
We’re even given a great video show in the background, composed of a varied display of creepy abandoned houses and unsettling frozen forests, while the relentless strobolights take care of removing the last bit of sanity remaining in the venue.
Relaxing Sunday mornings, meet Xotox.

Tüsn is probably the wtf band of weekend, despite Editors and all the Metal bands being there.
To sum up, Tusn sounds like German Pop with hipster choruses, while the singer wears a weird black plastic straps armour.
They are a very middle of the road German Rock, with the horn sounds, the “Ooooh”, the haircuts, so much that one wonders why they’ve been programmed at an alternative festival such as Amphi.
The band itself is pretty static, well-behaved”, an “everyone stays in their designated spot” kind of band – with strap armour though.
I come to wonder if they might have won a school contest talent to be there. Although it still doesn’t explain the armour.
Anyway, long story short I didn’t really know what was going on with Tüsn or why they even were on the Main stage (maybe they’re famous in Germany), but I didn’t like it, so I went to get some chocolate strawberry at the candy stand.

After the departure of Tüsn from the Main stage, it is now time for Unzucht to show up, and to wrap their (quite numerous, to my surprise) fans with their Hardcore/Emo-fed “Dark Rock”.
The band emerges from backstage under a thunder of applause, as I witness a Johnny Depp lookalike with beanie and eyeliner grabbing the microphone to greet the large crowd.
Then, as smooth and fast as their guitar riffs, the band starts to appropriate themselves the Main stage with their dark lyrics and solid modern Rock, coupled with the bubbly stage presence of the very enthusiastic singer who never misses an occasion to involve the crowd, make people sing, jump, etc.
A good Rock show overall, even though they lack a bit of that darkness they so much seek. Maybe after a few years and some more life experience, Unzucht will live up to the Dark Rock label they have chosen for themselves.

Another trip to the boat in order to enter the dark industrial world of XMH, who’s already dropping their infectious aggressivity on the Orbit stage upon our arrival at 1.20 pm.
Hate-filled songs, insanity and acid beats are XMH’s trademark, the perfect recipe to have the dancefloor on fire onboard of the Amphi Ship, as the cohorts of neon dancers shake their furry boots in all directions.
The singer, as of his habit, owns the stage with his madman stage presence, his strong, greasy voice and cruel vocals.
They fill in the contract perfectly and make for a Ship filled with very happy cyber people.

C64 is another weirdness from the wonderful LSD world of Welle: Erdball. Put simply, C64 is half of the members of W:E singing W:E songs while making jokes in between, and without any specific light or stage effects.
They also throw in a song they had written the night before, because why not, and because I think that’s the aim of the “interactive songwriting” thingy (I didn’t really get it..). It is a confusing and short experience (literally two or three songs before Honey and Lady Lila packed and left), but overall quite positive and fun.
It feels a bit like a free, unexpected, chill and absolutely random Welle: Erdball mini gig, and everyone seems happy about it.

The Beauty of Gemina
The Beauty of Gemina and their wonderful 80’s style take over the Theater stage and transforms the place into a Batcave in the early summer afternoon.
The singer looks fantastic, with his perfectly 80’s look, hair and attitude, and mesmerizes us as he either leans in for an intimate singing moment close to the front row of the crowd, or sensually and playfully oscillates on stage on the rhythms of the ethereal beats, reminding us that this is a goth festival after all.
I’d take some more BoG anyday.

Solar Fake
Sven “Angelface” Friedrich and friends enter the Main stage at 2.50 pm. He looks radiant, as luminous and weightless as his voice.
As it is a custom for festivals, Solar Fake undertakes to play their most standard hits such as “Here I Stand”, but also some fresh sounds (that sounds pretty much the same) such as the very good “Under Control”. They don’t forget to play some of their harder stuff too, to keep people heated and in a dance mood, resulting in an overall pretty balanced setlist.
They experience a few sound issues, mostly the fact that the vocals are too loud for the crowd speakers and the “s” are obnoxiously loud and whistling, but nothing bad enough to taint the experience of the hundreds of Solar Fake fans gathered there (I can even spot a few Sven Friedrich lookalikes in the crowd).
Solar Fake are softly and beautifully layering melancholy over the Main stage on this hot summer day, providing us with our dose of summertime sadness.

It’s on religious chants and electro beats that the blood priest singer of Ost+Front appears on the Theater stage. Ost+Front is like a Goth and German version of Powerwolf.

Hold on, Powerwolf IS German.

Ost+Front is a very German, Goth version of Powerwolf; which means they play a lot with the grandiose and the ridicule, use a shit-ton of epic keyboard layers, that they have a grandmaster-type of singer, and chalked faces. Oh, and also that they kick some serious ass. It’s like a burlesque Metal Goth show with a lot of blood, as well as musicians in military/totalitarian police uniform.
The show is simply very, very good. It’s always great to see bands who put particular effort into their live performances, and the scary-sadistic twist that Ost+Front give to theirs makes me (and most of the crowd) simply ecstatic. In turns, we witness a savage man-beast in nazi uniform and gasmask crawling on stage, running around like a living dead on the unsettling “Fleisch”, then a sort of ghoul wearing an oversized sombrero wandering on stage and confronting the singer several times. It’s all perfectly creepy and fantastic.
Musically, it is a bit reminiscent of Rammstein (I dared calling it a “more intelligent version of Rammstein” because less penis and more blood, I think I didn’t make only friends on that day) with the singer’s low vocals and the heavy basslines working as the common thread in all of the songs. Various folklore influences are also reflected in Ost+Front music, as long as they can be made creepy and insane through the Ost+Front blending machine (I can tell you that this mexican traditional music going with the sombrero ghoul was hella creepy – yes I say hella in that case).
I pause to observe the frontman Patrick der Kalauer. The man is an amazing stage performer. He simply possesses the stage, the venue, and us with it.
In the meantime, Nazi gollum has gone down to the pit to interact with the front row with what look like a piss bag (but is probably beer – I hope), and make people drink out of it, under the worried eye of the security staff.
Welcome to happy chaos.

Suicide Commando
Suicide Commando start strong on the Main stage with “Severed Head”, as a foretaste of the very bloody and gore songs that are to come in the show of the very popular Belgian act. As usual, the floor is tightly packed with fans (and tight is difficult to achieve for the Main stage, given the almost limitless room there is in this outdoors “venue”).
The singer Johan Van Roy shows up seconds after the music has started, sporting a bizarre black pointy headpiece – a bit evocative of Silent Hill’ Pyramid Head – and a blood red tie. I hear several jokes in the crowd about the colour of the pointy hat, and that we got “lucky they made it black” – it’s indeed a bit reminiscent of some occult, intolerant gentleman club active in the 1920’s.
“Bind, Torture & Kill” follows up (you’ll notice we’ll stay in the sickening “hurt other people” theme), and Van Roy removes his pointy gimpy hat as the crowd fires up on this industrial favourite.
The setlist is pretty usual, SC throws in most of their classics as it is usual for festival gigs, which is perfectly fine given that this is probably what people want.
As always, SC’s frontman occupies the stage well, very involved and involving the crowd as much as possible into singing along the murderous songs with him, smiling his insane serial killer smile as often as he can. Yet I notice he seems a bit below his usual self; maybe slightly less over-the-top-energetic than usual. Still, this doesn’t prevent anyone from having fun and enjoying the rough and dancy Suicide Commando sound.

The Devil and the Universe
The dark brotherhood of hooded monks place their curse on the goth boat at 4.20 pm. It is a strange, yet mesmerizing show that is on display on the Orbit stage, although nothing unusual when you’re familiar with the dark ambient scene. The hoods, the twisted faces, the sacrificial ritual feel… Nothing new here, but it’s always fun to see. What they bring which is a little different from what we’re used to in this specific scene, is a subtle sense of humour, which may not always be obvious in their live sets but that you do get a hint of anyway. It’s always nice to see that those guys in hood don’t take themselves too seriously.

And as dark priest #1 is hitting on that drum kit that sounds more like primitive wooden sticks hit on one another than anything else, dark priest #2 looks like he’s giving us a sermon from behind his keyboard. In the meantime, dark priest #3 is in the background doing whatever he’s doing, but come regularly on the front of the stage to execute some occult symbols and gestures before going back to his corner. Really cool satanic fun.
Also, they really like goats and goat masks, which… why not.

Coppelius is like a Circus Metal Big Band kind of thing. They have a double bass, a clarinet, other funky stuff like that, and all of this layered on some almost-Motorhead beats.
It sounds insane, like a circus gone really wrong, switching from Metal to Punk, from Big Band to Medieval, to Gypsy, to Celt. Plenty of great influences.
Coppelius is a bit like a festival of madness, all kinds of madness thrown together in a blender in order to create a not-always-musical, yet happy and creative chaos. It is done so well that the beat remains, it is still possible to dance and headbang on it and the songs end up making sense through the chaos.

Very early stage time for Covenant at 5.20 pm on the Main stage.
And it’s a shaved head, glasses-clad Eskil (eye glasses, not shades) that enters the stage with his two road companions.
Within seconds, after a few eerie words as of his habit “We meet again…”, the fever starts.
“Time… waits for no one… Time… is like a bullet… from behind.”
I can’t help but think about Andrew Eldritch as I contemplate Eskil’s shiny head. Nevermind that though, as he is as energetic as ever, bright and aerial in his flashing white suit and tie, jumping, dancing with one hand in the air, on the rhythms of the pulsating smoke machines.
The drama settles in on “Kingdom Come”, and Eskil appears and disappears like a ghost in the trails of smoke thrown at the sky.
The setlist they play is a very balanced mix of very recent works as well as some of their mid and early career stuff (“Bullet”, “Kingdom Come”, “Figurehead”, etc.).
They perform a great version of “Figurehead”, with fantastic eerie backing vocals like distant callings in an industrial, sort of apocalyptic atmosphere. It’s always a pleasure to see how Covenant put as much effort in their stage performances and versions as in their studio work.

And Covenant’s magic happens once more. Their inimitable way of blending melancholy with uplifting melodies, as well as some techno-y influences mixed with blue and white colours to keep it subtle, light, so light… They are perfect, as always. Or at least as every time I saw them. No I’m not biased. Go see Covenant.

L’Âme Immortelle
Time for some more gothic drama before the weekend ends, with L’ me Immortelle on the Theater stage. Sadly, it sound very quickly like the sound check has not really been done properly, as the high frequencies are way too loud in the mix for a good part of the gig. We kind of have to roll with it at this point.
There is pink smoke everywhere, and female lead singer Sonja Kraushofer emerges from the fog to start singing and shaking in all kinds of goth ways at the front of the stage. As she reaches the second verse of the first song, her male counterpart Thomas Rainer joins her with his hard vocals and presence.
The duo works well, Sonja singing softly the calm parts, Rainer taking over the beaty verse, and both voices joining for the chorus.
Rainer’s body language is all over the place, but in a very different manner compared to a Nachtmahr show, hitting here pretty much every trad goth dance stereotypes (catching spiderwebs, screwing and unscrewing lightbulbs, stroking the air, etc.). It’s kind of adorable to see the man we’re used to see in the role of an Austrian totalitarian leader, king of the dirty industrial beats, fitting in perfectly in a romantic goth atmosphere. A pretty decent show, hopefully good enough for the fans who don’t get to see them that often (well, not as often as Solitary Experiments anyway).

Escape with Romeo
After Laura Carbone, it’s the turn of Escape with Romeo to provide us with our daily dose of eerie Goth Rock, romantic lyrics and traditional Pop Rock songs.
The lack of electronics is loud enough to be noticed; it DOES feel weird not to hear any, after so much electronic music in our ears for two days.
Once more, the average age has gone up a notch in the Ship for this 80’s reminiscent rock gig.
Escape with Romeo has a pretty good swing, their funky guitar riffs get the small, yet happy crowd gathered in the Ship bounce back and forth in rhythm.
The overly exaggerated bass line (the frontman plays bass, don’t look further…) gives a very original, very groovy colour to this soft Goth Rock, reteaching us that music can be good without being heavy.

Theatrical entrance for the second Metal act of the weekend.
Like a distant cousin received in a family house that generally only sees the very close siblings, Moonspell are welcomed like stars among the Goth crowd of Amphi. Their setup, typical for grandiose, ostentatious Metal, is composed of dirty bone decorations, a fantastically epic organ also looking like it’s made of bones or some other rough material, and a superb backdrop.
Their hypnotic Goth Metal melodies win very quickly the hearts of the Theater.
Their light effects, a tone of dusty gold alternating with dark blue, only increases the great powerful atmosphere that Moonspell has managed to create in only a few minutes.
Fernando Ribeiro is a great frontman, looking impressive and charismatic with his hair, his leather and his eyeliner, leading the show like a ceremony, a mass, to the sound of his thundering voices and the strong iconic gestures he uses, both arms raised to the sky, bringing the venue to commune with him.
If Amphi needed a bit more epicness, here comes Moonspell.

Project Pitchfork
Project Pitchfork is finally offered the Main stage, which is refreshing after seeing them in the Staatenhaus and its recurring sound issues in 2014.
Spilles looks great, radiating charisma as always.
His movements are limited, but he could quite possibly just sit down on a chair in a corner of the stage and the crowd would go insane for him anyway. Which is exactly what’s happening (apart from the chair part): Spilles is doing his thing, affecting his grave look while going over the songs that turned Project Pitchfork into a legend, and the crowd is steadily approaching collective orgasm.
Something about this gig makes it perfect. It’s hard to explain what exactly, whether it is the heat finally dropping a bit, the sun gone down on the horizon and drowning the Main stage in a magnificent light, or the impeccable sound and vocals achieved by PP tonight.
It’s probably this perfect blend that turns this evening’s pre-last gig of Amphi 2016 into such a great, intense moment for all.

Big rusty reactors, man buns and plain black t-shirts: it is now time for a one way trip to Goth Hipster paradise with Editors.
They are greeted by Amphi like the second best thing after Belgian waffle.
The leader steps of stage and it is instant madness in the crowd; truth be told, his charisma walks ahead of him like a ghost, and fills the stage even before he opens his mouth close to the microphone.
In seconds, Editors fill all of Amphi with their watery, melancholic sound, and the magic begins.
Deep slow beats, ethereal high pitched whispers, fantastically well-balanced and subtle sound effects… The sound never really stops between songs, like a fragile layer of sky hovering over us.
The singer knows exactly how to keep the tension up and spread fever through the crowd, either with a few isolated words, or simply silence. He is that good, that intense, that he can just shut up and look at us. And we feel it.

Their setlist is filled with songs one more amazing than the other.
The singer interacts with the crow mid song, while it’s going full blast “it kicks like a sleep twitch… are you still there?”, which, timed impeccably as it is, with the perfect backing vocals, raises up the excitement to a whole new level, and we don’t touch the ground anymore.
It feels like the perfect gig on earth.
To those who doubted that Editors had their place at a Goth festival… Well, ask them now. They’re probably still dancing and dreaming, of that time Editors played Amphi.

Best performances of the weekend:

Having a boat venue was kinda fun, especially given how welcome the AC onboard the Ship was after the killing heat and the absence of wind outside.

The beach!! The beach the beach the beach. The beach beds, the cocktail bar on the beach. Please please please Amphi, do not ever change your location, this beach is the best place on earth.

Many food options, including vegetarian and also fruits (oh my god the chocolate strawberry skewers. Just, drown me in it), and the many shops, a great way as always to refill one’s dark wardrobe.

The variety in bands!! It is SO cool to be able to switch from harsh Industrial to romantic Goth or Futurepop, from Goth Rock to Metal, and even shoegazy Rock and Hipster Goth this year. Well done Amphi for such a great band list.

I have mentioned it several times in the main article, but I’ll say it again here as it is the only disappointment and the only thing that was a pain in the ass (and can be fixed, unlike the rain on the first day): those goddamn venues/venue entrances outside the festival. Seriously, having to have your bag and your wristband checked and sometimes your drink TOSSED AWAY (the boat, I’m looking at you) several times a day becomes quickly super tiring. People got cranky, including the security staff sometimes, and it’s all negative feelings that could have been avoided (well I hope). So, I sincerely hope this will be improved next year. But please please, Amphi, remain in Tanzbrunnen. Sacrifice a venue if you must, but think about the beach.

Bands we missed:
Day 1:
One I Cinema (they were sick, not our fault)
Angels & Agony
Bloodsucking Zombies from Outer Space
Lebanon Hanover
Whispers in the Shadow
Aesthetic Perfection (Theater too packed, we couldn’t get in)
Front Line Assembly

Day 2:
Beyond Obsession
Spiritual Front
Joachim Witt

Review by Marie Lando, Pictures by Stefan Linke. More in the Gallery.