What can I say? For its fifth edition, but also first since its five year hiatus, Puschenfest really hit the nail on the head!
The two-day event, previously described as “shrouded in mystery” (by me), did pretty much everything right and managed to feel like a real festival experience and not just a series of bands playing, despite being indoors in the colder part of the year.
It was sold out, but definitely not overcrowded due to the adaptable and spacious Festsaal Kreuzberg location with its two stages, fireplace chillout room, and pleasant outdoor smoking area.
“acts ranging from barely-on-bandcamp to probably-on-Spotify, but definitely not something all your friends know”
It was the right combination of professional and casual that makes festivals so enjoyable, assuring audiences that things will run smoothly but also linking them all through the promise of human error that is inevitable in such highly coordinated events. Saba Lou pulled siblings up on stage for special songs, Girl Ray laughed together at slip-ups then sang their hearts out at the post-show karaoke like rest of us, Ought had car troubles and arrived late (nobody waited, don’t worry), most bands gave each other props and shout-outs, but also all played wonderfully, energetically, and relatively on-time.
It was an admirable and proportionate booking of acts ranging from barely-on-bandcamp to probably-on-Spotify, but definitely not something all your friends know (unless you have really cool friends).
This element was the most impressive to me, because, sure a festival is about the music, but also because I was having trouble grasping what the “theme” of this particular one was. Usually festivals have some pretense of a theme or music type to get the genre-heads excited right?
“this made the festival attractive precisely to eclectic, music-driven people who live to discover new artists”
Looking through the Puschenfest acts prior to the show, the only connection I could make between the bands was that they all maintained some level of “fringe” in their respective niches and stages of notoriety, had a knack for experimentation, and were somewhat uncategorizable.
Seemingly a stretch, but as it turns out that’s exactly what they have in common (besides also being talented performers) and in my opinion this made the festival attractive precisely to eclectic, music-driven people who live to discover new artists, if that makes sense. Even though I recognized audience members from different bands or working in the music industry, I highly doubt anybody there knew all of the artists playing.
This combined with the festival’s small size and relative obscurity made me think of it as almost a curated tasting of interesting contemporary acts for music nerds.
It was a lot less pretentious than it sounds. Hear me out: in a city driven by electronic music, it was nice to have a little space carved out for those appreciative of new music out there in the world that innovates without being primarily electronic. And Puschenfest provided that platform and that hope.
While it would be great to discuss each band’s merits individually, let’s face it that that would take forever and be quite boring. Let’s just say highlights for me were the dreamy “estrogen pop” of Girl Ray, the wild and steamy performance by U.S. Girls backed by a full band (one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while, to be honest), the head-shredding post-punk set by Repetitor, my favorite new discovery, and most of all the post-show karaoke on Friday in which both audience and band members jovially participated, strengthening the music-loving bond even further and then tearing it to shreds with our drunk screams into the night.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned if Puschenfest comes back next year!