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An Early Summer Night’s Eve in Leipzig, Act II (with photo gallery)

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Mephisto birthday party. Photo by Trang Dang.
Mephisto birthday party. Photo by Trang Dang.

An Early Summer Night’s Eve in Leipzig, Act II

By Sabine Wiesner

After the open-air gig of Element of Crime, the band around German cult author Sven Regener, I visited mephisto97.6‘s birthday party. With its three concerts, the party of Uni Leipzig‘s radio station felt like a small festival, with diverse artists catering to different musical tastes. The student radio station celebrated its 20 years of existence with an exuberant bash, featuring three concerts and an ensuing DJ set at the Täubchenthal.

The venue in Plagwitz was well chosen, with its generous court, veranda and deckchairs. People flocked outside to have a cigarette, a conversation, or simply fresh air in between the musical acts. Now what sort of bands would you like to have for your birthday party? Is it the music that is dear to your heart, that you like to listen to for unwinding at home, or do you go for those that make you head straight for the dance floor? The organisers at mephisto97.6 of course decided for the latter when they invited the indie quintet Ball Park Music from Brisbane, the Swedish synth pop band The Radio Dept. and electronic artist Micronaut from Leipzig. Some weeks before the party, however, Radio Dept had to pull out of the deal and so the Brighton-based trio Esben & the Witch got the second slot. With their dreamy mixture of ethereal vocals, heightened by thunderous drums, they certainly fit rather the first of the categories mentioned above (see Kapuczino’s article on the Wave Gotik Treffen for a stream of their first album). Having listened to their debut album “Violet Cries” and especially one particular song, I was looking forward to their performance, all the same.

And since I had unfortunately missed the enthusiastic show of the Australian band Ball Park Music while I was still at the Clara-Zetkin-Park earlier in the evening, Esben & the Witch graced the stage when I arrived. From the start it was clear to me that this is not the sort of happy, celebratory music you would play at your birthday party. So I didn’t need the confirmation of the half-empty auditorium to realise they did not really fit the occasion. Still, I met a former radio colleague whose sole reason to attend the party was to watch this band. He joined the small crowd of dedicated fans at the front line. They either danced enthralled or stood and listened in awe. I think it was a typical case demonstrating the choice the music department has to make on a daily basis: Should they play unoffensive, simple radio pop to make as many people as possible happy or should they play quirkier artists that attract only a few people?

In the interval before the next act, solo artist Micronaut from Plagwitz, there was a short chance to get another drink, such as a shot of the local speciality Pfeffi, a bright green peppermint liqueur humorously known to serve as mouthwash, as well. It could not have been a bigger glass, because the possibility to have a chat over the next beer at the bar went up in smoke quite quickly (pardon the pun). The smoke was actually a video installation and the reason why Micronaut’s music could not be ignored was not purely based on its volume. He certainly knows how to do the trick to be out of the ordinary and attract a lot of people at the same time. His intricate, yet highly danceable structures managed to pull most of the guests back to the dancefloor.

Those who missed the impelling beat in Esben & the Witch’s songs, quickly found it in the energetic performance of the sound magician Micronaut, who layers orchestral melodies, ensnaring vocals and sound samples with playful beats. Musically it is not easy to imagine that this artist’s roots lie in Emo and Grindcore. There was hardly a moment in which his electronic arrangements got boring, and thus the audience paid their compliment by dancing furiously under the strobe light. Never have confetti guns been more fun. Yes, this was a proper birthday celebration. Check out the photo gallery below for a visual taste…

ALL PHOTOS BY TRANG DANG

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If you now wonder why you haven’t been there to dance along, you may stop pondering and instead get your concert planner out. Besides the concerts at the Parkbühne of the Clara-Zetkin-Park (such as Sophie Hunger in September, for which an album portrait will follow in this column closer to the event), you should definitely check out the program of the newly installed Sommerbühne in the Arena am Panometer. From the 7th until the 18th of July, you get hip hop from Moop Mama, sophisticated synth pop with Brockdorff Klang Labor, folky pop by Wallis Bird and sci-fi-delic rock from local band Warm Graves. The inauguration concert, however, is a classical one, led by none less than Kristjan Järvi, the beloved principal conductor of the MDR-Sinfonieorchester. Under the heading “Balkan Fever,” they will play traditionally, breathtakingly fast rhythms from the Balkans, mixed with Järvis’s trademark strength of breaking the boundaries of his genre.

If this is more up your aisle, you will be delighted to read that the very popular open-air concerts in the Rosental have been revived from a four-year-break. On Friday, 10th of July, you are treated to works by Georges Bizet, Charles Gounod, Richard Wagner, Antonín Dvořák, Giuseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini. On Sunday, 12th of July, there will be a rendition of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy‘s symphonic cantata “Lobgesang”. And the best thing about it? It’s free, so all you need is a blanket, maybe a cool drink and a few nibbles, and you have wonderful evening entertainment surrounded by one of the biggest pieces of woodland area sprawling well into the city. Whatever you do, please don’t stay inside all summer.

Sabine grew up in the idyllic suburbs, appreciating the benefits and offers of a city close by. Apart from a short au pair stint in London, this anglophile music lover never left her hometown, because she never saw a point in doing so. At the local university she threw herself into the humanities, where she followed her passion for the English language, names and the arts. At the university’s radio station she lived out her adoration for musicians who are always a tad out of the ordinary. The avid cyclist values things that are cleverly designed and done properly. The only thing she loves more than music is food enjoyed with family or friends. In her garden, preferably.

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