John K. Samson delivering at Maifeld Derby
Verena, Marc and Timon and I rode down to the 2nd Maifeld Derby Festival in Mannheim, Southern Germany in a Toyota Yaris 1.0 on the 18th of May in the year of the Lord 2012. Catherine finally couldn’t make it because of work, which was a bit of a let-down. But although he was suffering from severe pains in his right forearm caused by hard-core-Windows-gaming and turbo-copy-pasting sessions, Timon took her place in the T., and off we were to Mannheim, leaving Berlin, the city of [insert noun here] on a beautiful Friday morning, fairly happy and merrily excited.
We arrived in Mannheim a few hours later and set up our tent in light drizzling rain. Maifeld Derby again took place on the Mannheim Maifeld Market grounds, which are set out around a massive horseracing stadium. It’s not one of those romantic nature festivals, where people take Es all the time, run around naked and dance in circles swirling coloured ribbons to Ragga Dub Electro music on strawberry fields – no, it’s a small festival based next to a motorway featuring a family atmosphere (the festival), with very friendly security staff, nice helpers at the stands selling Kumpf meat and other food provided by Timo’s parent’s (The Kumpfs), who are butchers, and very nice beer from the neighbouring town of Weinheim (“Woinemer”). There were four stages: the open air stage, the huge and fabulous circus tent, the “Parcours d’amour” stage in the the actual horse-racing track stand and another smaller open tent called I can’t remember. The Derby Stars and festival organisers Timo, Maxxi, Andrea and Peter had provided us with the necessary bracelets, so we were all sorted right from the beginning.
Setting up our tents, I realized looking around that we were quite old in comparison to most of the other campers, but hey – the kids seemed alright. Sort of. We met Dark Prince Konstantin on the festival grounds and although he kept rambling on about some sort of Communion cult we really should join (featuring a beast?) it was great to see him again after so many months. As we had arrived a lil’ late, the first act we actually saw was Hamburg’s own singer-songwriter Oli Schulz. He told a story about something or someone for a while and then only sang one more song I can’t remember and gone he was. We had missed most of his show. The next band I remember seeing was the Swedish band Friska Viljor, a proper party rock group both Timon and I disliked a little. (In fact, I was at that point in time in one of my moods and hated them and rushed out of the tent in a state of fury). After the beardy, blond indie-party-wikings had left the stage, Hooded Fang from Toronto, Ontario played, and oh my, their thin surf-guitared but heavy-based indie punk sound was spectacular and we could actually be seen poging around in front of the stage like we used to in the old times. When they finished, I was completely exhausted shouting „one more“, „one more“ joining a chorus of thousands. Well, I turned around to face my fellow dancers in arms and suddenly realized that there had been only about 15 people listening to the band instead of the many I had imagined afore. One of them was a man in his fifties wearing and indie military cap and sporting a silver grey beard. He looked very fit and I hope I will be just like him when I turn fifty.
I then went to see Peter and Maxxi in the centre of power and we had a few beers outside. I can’t remember a lot afterwards except that back in the circus tent a lousy DJ played boring indie stuff instead of the late night dark techno the way we Berliners like it after three in the morning. We went back to the tent and it took me ages to get my stuff sorted. Timon’s love called at six in the morning tenderly awaking us and somehow we found ourselves drinking coffee on a very hot second festival day in front of our tent waiting for Marc who was still doing the only right thing to do at this unholy morning hour – sleeping.
After a while, I went to the toilet/shower facilities where, under the showers, I met the only real freak I saw throughout the entire festival. He was a tall guy in his early forties wearing glasses, he was smiling at me in a very friendly but slightly eerie way watching me tenderly as I was trying to get rid of my medium range 6 hangover with the use of cold water. As I got out of the shower he said: „Man, it’s like a steam bath in here, isn’t it!“, and I answered „hmpf“ and thought: „What a weird thing to say at 8:30 in the morning on the second day of the second Maifeld Derby Festival.“ Later on, we saw that man walking back and forth all over the camping ground all day long in his multi-coloured boxer shorts and cycling shirt carrying a cabbage in a transparent plastic bag chatting in a friendly way to everybody sitting in front of their tents probably asking them „Would you like to touch my cabbage?“ (Marcs joke).
We decided to go to the shops before hitting the festival’s day two and somehow found ourselves driving around good old Mannheim, where Marc and I both lived for a while years back, me working for the Academy, him studying at the U. It felt a bit strange being back in the Jungbusch after such a long time. It was a very hot day and there where Catholics all over the place celebrating Catholic Day or something and singing Catholic songs. It all felt very Catholic, but we just had a Pizza at good old Gianni’s and took it over to Popacademy’s where we had a very enjoyable lunch break on the banks of the canal.
Back on the festival grounds, we were battling heat and fatigue and I wasn’t able to enjoy the bands much. I met Markus and Nina though and that was nice. I saw Aidan standing next to a fence but couldn’t bother going over to him because I was so tired. I though I’d catch up with him later but unfortunately didn’t see him again. I watched Dear Reader perform a bit and although I really liked the singer Cherilyn McNeil, I had to leave the tent because I was close to falling asleep listening to their feel-good indie-folksy songs.
And then the storm came. Marc stood looking at those dark clouds closing in; they had the form of an anvil. Bad sign. Marc proved to be a true weather prophet when he said, „This thunderstorm is going to hit us, move on an then turn around over the Odenwald and hit us again and again.“ We all had a good laugh and made fun of him but it all turned out exactly like he had toldeth us.
We were in the tent listening to John K. Samson (The Weakerthans, ex-Propagandi) while the storm was threatening to blow the whole Derby away. There was lots of rain and we became a bit worried about our tents. But watching and listening to the endless wisdom of John K. Samson made us feel alright. Ah, bless John K. Samson. I have always loved The Weakerthans and I go way back listening to them. For me this was a very special moment during the festival. Samson seems very comfortable and relaxed on stage and the way he and his nice live band connect with the audience is remarkable. Community spirit. I ordered his first solo album „Provincial“ yesterday and look forward to listening to it very much.
Meanwhile, at the festival, Timo and Co. lost their open air stage due to a short-circuit fault and had to re-schedule the following shows. Sizzar was cancelled and the open air stage stayed closed. The organisers managed this situation very well and people were very cool about it, too. We saw We Have Band from London who were great and then went to the „Parcour d’amour“ where we were entertained by the local „Golden Hirsch Short Movie Festival“ and watched an inspiring movie called „Pseudo“ among others. Good fun the “Golden Hirsch” thing and a very, very nice event to have on a festival.
Finally, we went to the small tent where Bayern Munic had been beaten on screen shortly before and listened to the L.A. based electro-duo High Places. They played a very nice and cool set – for me it was a perfect ending for the Derby. Mary Pearson (hot) was singing in a very cool and smooth voice while turning some knobs changing it. Rob Barber, hipster-dressed like a young boy in the 50ies, took good care of the beats and stuff. Though highly concentrated, they looked slightly uncomfortable performing but then that’s what you want/get when watching the show of an avant-garde electro duo from L.A. I reckon. I met a few of my old Popsy aquaintances, which was very nice, although one of them said to me (after barely having recognised me): „Jesus, Kennedy you really have aged a little, haven’t you?“ I took this as a compliment and after a few more beers went back to the tent with my friends at two o’ clock in the morning. An old man needs a good night’s sleep.
Well, tired but happy we drove home on the next day. I really want to thank my Karakter friends again who made this wonderful little festival happen. I am very proud of them and truly thankful, as they made us feel very welcome and we had one hell of a time. I wonder what cabbage-man is doing right now though. Probably juggling cabbages at the next festival.