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Berlin Festival 2013: The briefly reappearing sun

Walter rings in day two with an exploration of sun and whether the British brought it or not. He hopes the rest of England isn't angry, as what he understands is that they don't really have much of it. But they do have plenty of pop music.

Ellie Goulding. Photo: Christian Vagt

Crasshole again, catching the lingering glimmering light from a hot second day at the Berlin Festival. For those nursing a Kater, the early day heat, open air and access to more drinks are actually a welcome antidote to the fallout from yesteray’s musical acts.

And it seems that the festival opens its second day by allowing the British (pop) empire to say its sun isn’t setting – for at least a few hours anyways. The three main acts of the early part of the day all hail from London in one way or another, and the organizers here must have some faith in the great British sun. But pop music has, for the last 50 years or so, been England’s most worthy export.

The result here is admittedly a bit more mixed than a canon of rock Goliaths, but its partly hard to tell if that’s their fault, if festival goers are worn out from Club Xberg and coming in late or if the more cynical festival goers are saving their strength up only for My Bloody Valentine and Björk.

Ellie Goulding was at the top of the day (admittedly 4pm). Her fan base certainly admires her, as the wall of iPhones went up immediately to catch her every move. The young pop princess that performed at the wedding of Kate Middleton and that prince I can never remember the name of (George, Charles, Harry, William?), has a touch of local Berlin celebrity Sarah Adorable Doppelgängerness to her, but looks are as far as the comparison goes. While I have nothing against pop music per se, a sense of reality should be somewhere embedded in there. The only thing embedded in Ellie music was a backing track to “Starry Eyed” that overpowered her own vocals and some bad drum playing.

I ran over to Is Tropical next and that was the biggest surprise. Of the three acts I was assigned to cover today, I thought Is Tropical was the most generic of generic for indie rock. The Pitchfork Stage served me with one of those rare instances where a band’s recorded output and live output were completely incongruous. The dirty, raw and energized set completely sideswiped me and while I won’t be buying their records, I definitely woud give it another go on stage.

The third of the English trilogy was more of coasting out of an English rock block than impressive or disappointing. “Farewell to the Fairground” by White Lies is a great song, although I find La Roux version even better, but after Is Tropical showed that rock can still sound sweet and belong in the hands of the rough, the preppie, clean and polished look and feel of White Lies was too much for me. I couldn’t hold my attention on them for more than a few songs. I’m not sure whether the crowd could either. I didn’t see too many people there for just them, just there because they were there.

Well, the sun isn’t yet setting on the British Berlin Festival Empire, as Savages and My Bloody Valentine have yet to take the stage. But for that, I’m handing the baton over to my fellow Americans, Rachel and Strauss. And going out for a cup of tea. With vodka.