Music & clubs

Pop-Kultur 2018: Popping off!

It's that time of year again! The 4th Pop-Kultur, Berlin's state-sponsored showcase indie showcase for fan, performer or industry mug alike has taken over the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg for three days. Cameron Cook has the Day-One rundown.

Image for Pop-Kultur 2018: Popping off!

Photo by Courtney Chavanell

It’s that time of year again! The 4th Pop-Kultur, Berlin’s state-sponsored showcase indie showcase for fan, performer or industry mug alike has taken over the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg over three days for the second time (the first two years were in Neukölln). Its mix of mainstream and underground concerts, talks on political and cultural issues, gallery showings, food and DJ after parties make it like a little summer camp for Berlin’s hipster scene. We’ll be covering the ins and outs of the festival over the next few days, but first, let’s address the elephant in the room…

Starting with last year, a number of artists have pulled out of Pop-Kultur and the festival has been subject to a political shitstorm – as well as boycotts – over their ties (read: artist funding) to the Israeli embassy. This year, acts like Shopping and John Maus have cancelled their appearances, and last year Young Fathers and a few others skipped out. As of now , Pop-Kultur accepted €500 in 2017 and €1200 this year, to help cover artist fees and accommodations. Not a huge amount of support, but enough to incite a healthy political debate, and one that was continued in yesterday evening’s “Boycott” panel discussion at the Kulturbrauerei’s Kino. Moderator Shelly Kupferberg welcomed Israeli author Lizzie Doron, who has just written novel Sweet Occupation about a Palestinian family living in Tel Aviv, and Klaus Lederer, the Senator for Culture and Europe from Die Linke. What started off as a fairly respectable chat about the pros and cons of the political act of protest became heated when a few groups of pro-Palestinian activists began to protest within the theater – and were firmly asked to leave on several occasions. I have to say, it wasn’t a great image for Pop-Kultur – by shooing away the protesters, who, granted, were there to disrupt, it made the talk seem stilted and rehearsed by comparison, an attempt from the festival to smooth things over without really engaging with the more aggressive side of the debate. It sort of begs the question, for such small amounts of money, why continue to engage with the embassy in the first place? To make a point about freedom of speech? But then, wouldn’t boycotting also fall under those same parameters? Clearly, I left the talk with more questions than answers.

Afterwards, I felt the need to clear my head with some mind-soothing noise, and luckily,´Austin, TX post-hardcore legends …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead provided. Their set at the Palais was deliciously ear-splitting, and even though I’ve seen them countless times before, hearing their 1999 album Madonna in its entirety was a special treat for diehard fans. After catching a few songs from current reigning goth-metal queen Chelsea Wolfe at the cavernous Kesselhaus, I ran back to the Palais to catch the band everyone’s been buzzing about: Boy Harsher, who execute a mix of dance floor cold wave, techno and industrial that sounds like an alien rave on an imploding supernova. Despite the controversies that kicked it off, it’s been an exceptionally stellar end to Day One…