We are hugely excited. We are always hugely excited of course, but today specifically for the PEOPLE festival that’s coming up this weekend.
One step at a time…
It’s 2015 and Bryce Dessner is recording the music for film The Revenant in the huge ex-radio station complex, turned huge recording and rehearsing complex Funkhaus, just outside Kopernick on the eastern side of Berlin. Amazed by the space, the look, the feel, the vast live rooms, its location on the edge of the Spree river, backdrop of industrial brokendowndecay, an idea is born.
A conversation evolves between him, the wonderful Michelberger Hotel crew, the conversation ripples out to musician friends, Justin Vernon, Erlend Øye, Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan, the ripples spread, and they spread.
And in 2016 they put on what is intended as a one-off, unique event: a festival like no other. Eighty odd musicians, some hugely famous, some less so – but all with a particular something. The festival will not be your conventional festival, where you go to see bands A-Z. Instead it is planned, and lo it comes to pass, that for a week the Michelberger hotel closes its doors and turns itself into the headquarters, living space and backstage for what will be called the PEOPLE festival. The entire Funkhaus complex is also rented out for the entire week, and musicians from this and that outfit meet, explore, rehearse, experiment. Odd pairings, strange collaborations, unusual combinations. The musicians put together new formations, they try different things. For the first time in this age of corporate, hugely organised and minutely planned music business, they are free to go on what is essentially a retreat, to go back to basics, to win back that sense of wonder.
They spend this week experimenting, and on the Saturday and Sunday the Funkhaus doors will be opened to the public, who will be split into groups and led through studios and big and small live rooms to be audience to what has arisen through this week of endeavour. Something new, something different, something freeing.
And lo it comes to pass.
That was 2016, it was a wonderful success, the event goes down in history, it is filmed, recorded, it will be spoken about in blogs and internet forums across the world, the ripples spread further.
The PEOPLE platform is born. There is continuation.
There is also the realisation among the musicians that it was huge fun.
And so it is planned again.
For the last week 180 odd musicians have been exploring, rehearsing, experimenting behind closed doors, camping out in the closed-for-the-week Michelberger, and tomorrow es ist so weit.
This weekend the 18th and 19th of August see the second outing of the PEOPLE festival.
Everyone is terribly excited. We were allowed into the the Funkhaus, to wander nimbly and quietly among the rehearsing musicians, standing in some weird stage-turned-instrument, trying not to be too obvious as legends walk past either in intense conversation with one another or seated in odd postures in empty corridors with laptops and headphones, nodding along.
The weekend tickets are sold out. The day tickets are sold out. Over 3,000 people are coming.
There are still tickets for the evenings of Saturday and Sunday, when the little studios, live rooms and odd nooks and crannies are closed down and the huge central stage is open. You can still go!
Hope to see you there. I will be the one panting and drooling, eyes like saucers, nodding enthusiastically and trundling around extolling various virtues like a dog who’s been out in the sun too long and has just found the back door to the hot dog stand.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.