The Ex-Fest, Trier, with: Steakknife, Masked Intruder, The Flatliners, Ashes of Pompeii, AC4, Riverboat Gamblers, Far From Finished, Antillectual, The Static Age, Iron Chic, Episodes, Cowboy Poetry, The Detectors, Ghost of a Chance, Madamme Hau Mich Blau, Ex-Haus 4. May 2013.
I had a good time at the Ex-Fest. But there is one thing I want to address. It has nothing to do with the festival itself. It’s rather a point that affected me as a photographer. So 98% of you can just ignore the next paragraph.
[start photographers rant]
There was a really sophisticated light system at the Ex-Fest. It allowed a lot of different and interesting light patterns. If you scroll down you will see many different light situations, colors and there were probably a lot more that didn’t quite make it into an image. It was really good in creating all kinds of light……and it was also really good in creating a lot of really shitty light! Unfortunately for every cool light pattern there were multiple that sucked! Sucked badly! Here’s something you never hear form a concert photographer: I wish the light system would have been simpler. Cause then it would have produced a lot less crappy lighting. I just want to pick out two things:
1. The ratio between front light and back light. There was a lot of light coming from behind, while at the same time the lights from the front were directed at the ground and feet of the artists. (Oh and the heads of the audience I might add) Seriously, try to put at least some light into peoples faces! 2. Fuck the damn smoke machine! I get that smoke works fine to create light effects. But if the machine is running 100% of the set, every effect just gets lost. And if you then add the massive back light, well, let me put it that way: it felt like 50% of the time I couldn’t even see the drummer. Some bands joked about it. You will find just very few drummer shots below for that reason. With all the smoke I cannot even use a flash with any sense, cause it will just turn everything white, thats what smoke does. So let me say it again: Fuck the smoke machine!
[end photographers rant]
Okay, back to the Ex-Fest. We were supposed to be four people. At 12 noon sharp I get a message on Facebook that one of the guys is sick and cancels. 8 minutes later I get a call and the other two cancel as well. At least I can stop thinking about a good way to split the gas money now. A quick stop at the supermarket supplies some road food and off I go. It’s a beautiful day, sunny, but not too hot, there is no traffic and the route is quite scenic. Not a bad drive at all. At one point I realize that I’m listening to Billy Talent’s “The Ex”, which seems like a great tune if you’re going to Ex-Fest, right? As I get to the Exhaus I’m lucky to catch one of the last parking spots right next to the venue. Nice. If the fest sucks I can also go the the swimming pool next door. Talk about options. As I walk to the venue I quickly run into some people I know: The Pascow and Bierschinken crew. There’s a grill in the yard as well. Then its already time for the first band to open the event.
Iron Chic are the special guest opener. I just saw these guys a mere 15 or so hours before. Will they work on such an early hour? There are some people here, but the venue is nowhere full. Pretty much as soon as the band starts the four biggest guys in the room start jumping around and singing along. We see the first stage dive during the first song as well. That answers the question: This totally works! The band has a very approachable sound that helps as well. I enjoy this. Pretty much the best way to spent half an hour of this afternoon. They even play an encore, then the band drives to Münster to play a late show. I check out the smaller second stage, which is just on the opposite end of the floor. The first couple bands here are just acoustic acts. So Madamme Hau Mich blau is just one guy with a guitar. Sorry, this is too quiet for me right now. I go outside and spent some time socializing. I miss the next band completely, but make an effort to see Episodes. Its too guys playing cover songs, but extremely slow. So slow you barely recognize it. Not sure if I had realized they play “Waiting Room” if they had not told us before. While I like the idea behind their concept, I think you need to take it even further. Just remember: Justin Bieber sounds awesome if you slow his songs down 800%! (If you don’t believe me, follow this link.)
The Static Age are next. I enjoy their atmospheric post-rock. They might actually be the one band that profits from the light system. I try to see the next acoustic act, but find the room to be empty. Whatever, I walk outside and see whats going on. Instead of playing to 10 people in the basement, the guy from Cowboy Poetry just took a pallet and plays his acoustic set in the yard. Best idea of the day so far. Weather is perfect for this anyways. The Dutch punks from Antillectual are playing back down on the main stage. Before the show I talked to Fö and he said something like: Is there any reason to believe they will be good, after seeing them twice before when they are just alright? – To answer this: No, its still just alright. Sorry. Ghost of a Chance is another one man and his guitar act. I have to say the acoustic stage is not ideal for this environment. My mood is way to good to see some singer songwriter playing in the dark small room. I’m not that emo! Maybe an outdoor stage would have worked better here? The other problem is that there are not all that many people here. Even in the best times the big room could hold two or even three times as many visitors. I feel bad for the promoter, cause this is a good lineup, a nice venue, a beautiful day, its reasonable priced, and then just a small crowd shows up.
That doesn’t stop Far from Finished from rocking pretty hard though. There’s a constant crowd of people singing and dancing up front and the band is entertaining to watch. The guitar player “knights” someone in the audience and their set is really fun. They are followed by The Riverboat Gamblers who just blew me away. I never listened to them, but had heard good things about the live show. And they totally outdid their legacy. The singer is a complete badass on stage. Constantly jumping, posing, running into the audience, diving off the PA system, swinging the microphone… it just doesn’t stop. And the rest of the band is just as rocking. Extremely energetic and entertaining set. I regret missing them on Queensday a few days ago now. Definitely my favorite set of the day. Back to the small room, which by now has moved on from acoustic to full electric band sets. The Detectors – never heard of them. I’m often somewhat skeptical when it comes to young German bands – probably because I don’t like that many of em – but the Detectors are surprisingly good. Definitely another band I need to check out. Which is the complete opposite I think about AC4. Old school hardcore with Dennis from Refused on vocals. While there is some energy and jumping on stage happening, the set is just not all that exiting. Too much talk, and not even funny stuff. Rather ‘Grampa talks about the war’ kinda stuff. Band history and when he bought what Slayer record. The bass player looks a lot meaner than Lyxzén actually. Ashes of Pompeii is the next band in the small room. Modern hardcore / post hardcore / how do you describe them? I like this way more than I should. At first all the effect pedals of the guitar players scare me, but the band makes good use of them, so the three chord punker in me can deal with this. Another band that I need to check out when I get home.
We’re getting to the headliners. I actually did see The Flatliners at Queensday, so I know what to expect. I’m not all that into the band, but the majority of people here are. For the first time the crowd feels big, and I have to work to get a spot in the front of the stage to take images. At any point there are some arms in the air and people are singing. This is all good. And then there’s Masked Intruder (yes again), who I just love. I sing along the entire set, some others do as well. I also try to film the set, its an experiment, if the results are okay I will post some video here. At one point I manage to capture a few jumps of Intruder Green in a row as I get into his jumping rhythm. Awesome. Although there are some girls in the audience, nobody takes on the female part in ‘Heart Shaped Guitar’, dammit. There is one girl I saw at the Masked Intruder show in France, which is a solid 400km from here. At least I’m not the only idiot that travels too much. Yay! I like how the idiot marvels at the idiocy of another idiot. Speaking of this: Somebody gave me 50€ so I could buy him five (5!) Masked Intruder Ski-Masks! Finally: Steakknife are the last band of the night. I like these guys, I like their set. Sounds tight and I like it much better than the last time I saw them in Bonn. And they seem to enjoy it as well. However, by this we are 10hours into the festival day and my hand starts hurting from holding the camera, so I leave after some songs. I take some more images outside, put my stuff into the car and then head back in to catch the end of the set. 2$ haircut is just too good a song to miss! Too bad that the room has cleared out a little. But its late, I feel it myself. And maybe the Flatliners crowd is not really familiar with Steakknife?
Then its time to say goodbye to everyone. Most people are tired and beat up as I am. Its been a long day, but I enjoyed the festival very much. Everything went smooth, lots of sets I liked, some bands I discovered. It there is another Ex-Fest I will definitely come again.
Madamme Hau Mich Blau
The Static Age
Ghost of a Chance
Far From Finished
Ashes of Pompeii