Walking into MS Dockville 2019 behind hundreds of cyclists locking up, everyone was in high spirits. Many people were proudly wearing St Pauli t-shirts, (a district in Hamburg with a strong history of left-wing activism) whilst rolling cigarettes. The relaxed and casual air of the festival, in some ways, made it seem a world away from London’s often rowdy live events scene. Surrounded by the Elbe river and an array of opposing looking warehouses, old and new Hamburg’s MS Dockville was ready to celebrate its 12th year.
The festival site was very much split into two worlds. The first was the main stages, set next to the river, which played host to bigger names like Billie Eilish, Meute and HVOB. The second world was the series of more intimate stages set in the lightly wooded part of the festival. Here, charming art installations, such as a giant technicolour mole bursting out of the ground, made the area a great place to explore around and discover something new.
As the evening drew on a large crowd streamed towards the Vershoct stage to see Meute. Originally from Hamburg and decked out in their characteristic red coats, they brought a lot of flair and energy to their set. As discussed with them beforehand in our exclusive interview, the live elements added an extra layer of depth to a range of techno classics. Their trumpets brought a new level of epicness to Flume’s ‘You And Me’ and Fatima Yamaha’s ‘Araya’. The crowd was certainly loving it, whooping and cheering all the way through their performance.
Another festival highlight came from HVOB. The Austrian duo has evolved their melancholic melodies into a form of techno combined with relaxed vocals. Their live show then ramps this up to 11, creating a pleasant mixture of pounding momentum and soothing lyrics. The increasing amount of homemade umbrella jellyfish arriving into the mass of people certainly signalling the audience’s approval for the set
As darkness came in, the smaller stages started to come to life. Over on the Kluse stage, Follamore played a characteristically funky set which had the crowd bopping along. Next up was DJ Seinfeld to take things in a darker more direction. He played a harder and darker set. Full of big drops to take the crowd further into the night.
In the more wooded areas, the crowd settled in for the long haul as RSS Disco took over the Nest stage for a 3 hour plus set. The stage itself was characterised by painted otters marking the entrance and a wooden organ backing for the DJ as they led the midnight mass. The crowd had a very relaxed vibe, engaging with the music as much or as little as they liked. As it all began to wind down as dawn approached.
MS Dockville 2019 certainly had a lot to show off. Combining a big lineup alongside strong artistic elements, no doubt helped by having a sister visual art festival, MS Artville. You get the sense while the festival has grown in size it has made a conscious effort to retain some of its unique charm.