CTM manages to be one of the most exciting events of the European music scene, and this year’s edition was no exception. Don’t cry you didn’t get the chance to be there and read our review instead. Or perhaps, cry a little, and already start saving money for tickets for next year.
Text by Anna Wim
It seems like most of European music festivals have been struck by a nasty epidemic in the past few years – a curse that sucks all the attractiveness and freshness out of their lineups. Familiar names, often those that had their biggest share of fame a while ago already, are booked here and there, which makes all those events almost interchangeable. Not that this method wouldn’t work, everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, but such safe-betting doesn’t really push the scene anywhere.
Luckily, CTM is not a festival afraid to take a risk, quite the other way around, and thanks to that it manages to be one the most interesting music events in Europe in the present times. Some might remember my rather harsh review of last year’s Atonal, which I scolded for name repetition and zero diversity – that is certainly not the case with CTM. On the contrary, variety seems to be the main leitmotif of the festival, allowing the visitors to check out an exhibition, a panel discussion about women organizers in music, a contemporary dance performance and a metal concert all in one day, bringing artists and spectators from different countries and backgrounds to the German capital.
In fact, this year’s CTM was so packed with exciting events it was almost impossible to pick where to head each day, and unless you ditched work and made sure not have any other plans during those ten days (which, I guess, one would do to fully take advantage of the not-so-small sum of money invested in the ticket) and secured yourself an unlimited supply of coffee or any other energy-boosting substance, a lot of painful selecting and planning had to be done. And even though some of the key events indeed usually had several reprises, I myself had to give up on quite a few shows in order to keep (the last bits) of my own sanity.
While the festival’s 2018 theme, “Turmoil,” might bring out some rather disturbing and/or bleak connotations, rest assured that the ten eventful days were full of fun and temperament, rather than mourning and confusion. Full of disorder, destruction, and sensory assault too – but in a good sense.
As I’ve already mentioned, I had to be very picky when it came to planning my CTM schedule in order to, literally, survive, but here are some of the highlights I actually managed to see:
Lotic & Roderick George – “Embryogenesis”
To my own surprise, CTM made me fall in love with contemporary dance, which is something I’d never expected myself to say. The combo of Lotic’s club beats and Roderick George’s redefinition of classical dance was so immensely beautiful I left completely buzzing. The whole performance felt like an incredibly powerful and radical redefinition of masculinity, an ode to softness and sensuality, profound and brave.
NAH’s show at “Happy as Hell” at Club Ost
While I initially came mainly for NAKED—whose concert, albeit incredibly short, was definitely great too—, I was blown away by NAH’s deafening performance. One had to wonder whether he was the world master of one-man-shows or an actual wizard, watching his intense high-speed drumming and singing and shouting, so full of energy and raw power. Well, if your brain actually still managed to function and wasn’t completely melted away by the loudness of the act at that point – I’ve never seen this many people covering their ears during a show. CTM organizers, you might as well prepare yourself for a few hospital bills coming your way soon. My hearing will definitely never be the same again, but it was absolutely worth it.
The “Native Sketches”/“New Turf”/“hoe_mies” night at Yaam
Even though the official closing party was taking place at Schwuz the next day, many deemed the Saturday night at Yaam a bit more interesting and headed there to celebrate the fact that those exhausting but enjoyable festival days were coming to an end. The night was pumped with alt dance and hip hop tunes; the peaks of the night definitely being the Nuxxe showcase with coucou chloe (don’t forget to read our interview with the talented artist here!), Sega Bodega and Shygirl, and Equiknoxx feat Shanique Marie. The hoe_mies floor was also a great place to just chill for a bit and let yourself go crazy and show off those silly dance moves. However, even though the party’s lineup was really brilliant, the location unfortunately wasn’t – Yaam, being known as one of the IT party places on the tourist maps, was filled with a crowd pretty different to the one you’d usually meet at CTM events, which made the atmosphere, at least in my opinion, slightly strange. What’s more, the place definitely had somewhat of a sexist, male-dominated vibe—which I definitely didn’t get to feel at any other shows throughout the course of the festival—and seeing random men trying to grope women while dancing was a rather common sight (and for many also a common experience), with no one taking any precautions to make it a safer place. There was also an incident of a trans girl being asked to leave the ladies’ bathroom by the staff – after speaking out about that, the club quickly removed the gender division from their restrooms, but there’s a still long way to go to tackle the general problem. While CTM does a great job at incorporating lots of diverse artists and touching upon issues of sexism and privilege in music, this is something the organizers need to be aware and work on in the future.
Rashaad Newsome – “Five Berlin”
Now that was some vogueing par excellence! The five dancers, each clad in vivid colors and rocking the floor with their smooth dance moves, were accompanied by a live orchestra, fronted by Mc. Princess Mami Precious and opera singer Justin Austin, all led by Newsome’s creative hand. In no time, the incredible spectacle managed to stir the blood of the audience and fill the air with immense energy – and received a well-deserved standing ovation in the end.
Pan Daijing at Monom
By sheer luck, I managed to get a ticket for one of the sold-out Pan Daijing shows at Monom, and I am so thankful I didn’t miss this immersive performance. Pan Daijing started her set by encouraging people to walk in the pitch-black room supplemented with a very high-tech spatial 4D sound system, only dimly lit by occasional flashes of red light somewhere far away. It was so easy to just close your eyes and let Pan overtake your body with her words and music, voluntarily submitting yourself to her own will. Sensory deprivation at its best.
Ernest Berk – The Complete Expressionist
This very special tribute to the eclectic dance and music pioneer Ernest Berk was really an exciting one. Before Rashad Becker and Pan Daijing took over HAU with their Berk-inspired experimental music, Christoph Winkler’s dance company provided the audience with an astonishingly hypnotizing reconstruction of Berk’s works. The dancers seemed to be enchanted with the slightly cacophonous sounds, their possessed bodies mindlessly following urges unbeknownst to the spectator. The grand finale, which saw the performers strip off completely and get completely lost in the trance, accompanied by Japanese duo group A, was truly the sweetest cherry on top.
“On Edge” at Berghain
One look at the lineup and you know this was a special, energy-charged night: Swan Meat, VIOLENCE (in a wonderful canary-yellow outfit everyone was jealous of), BLISS SIGNAL, and Schwefelgelb – what else should I say? It was a night of bouncing up and down, BPM raising high, and sweat almost dripping from the ceiling of the concrete Halle am Berghain.
The opening of Uncanny Values of a Possible Future
Even though Kunstraum Bethanien was literally beyond packed that night, it was a great way to ease into the CTM program, meet a bunch of like-minded people, and just get yourself into the right vibe. The exhibition mixed politics with artistic practice, exploring the festival theme “Turmoil” from diverse media.
Without any doubt, it has to be said that the CTM team really did a great job at putting together an impressive range of acts which complimented themselves in their own diversity. Honestly, I cannot wait for next year’s CTM. I just hope I’ll be able to recover from this one by then.
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