Synasthesie IV: A Festival of the Senses

In a very uninspired summary of a very climactic event: Synasthesie IV was pretty damn perfect.

Conceptualized, organized, and delivered by the tiny team of Berlin’s favorite “underground rock” pet 8MM Bar, the fourth edition of Synästhesie was a comparatively grandiose affair.

The festival generally focuses on bands that represent the 8MM aesthetic, German experimental music of the 60’s and 70’s, which may include anything from krautrock to post-punk, psych, glam, you name it. Compared to last year when it was held at Volksbühne, the scale was at least doubled if not tripled: two days instead of just one evening, and 18 bands compared with last year’s 6.

Perhaps my favorite element about the line-up is that it featured many local Berlin bands that often play at 8MM […] giving a real sense of “staying true to roots and community.”

This year Synästhesie took place November 23rd-24th in the historic Kulturbrauerei, an old brewery-turned-cultural center which was the perfect combination of walking distance to 8MM for its local patrons (such as myself) and titillating, unusual venue. The Christmas market, merry-go-round outside the main entrance, and labyrinthian organization of the space naturally enhanced the hallucinatory, mischievous aura, while inside, a premium music-going experience was provided in the main-stage room with incredible sound and a balcony area for optimal viewing.

And this is before I even bring up what was truly impressive about the festival: the line-up. Perhaps my favorite element about the line-up is that it featured many local Berlin bands that often play at 8MM, like Jealous and Gym Tonic, giving a real sense of “staying true to roots and community.”

First of all, cramming 18 bands into two evenings is a pretty impressive feat. But 18 amazing bands that manage to stand out but also keep a coherent vibe, and then knock your pants off? Well, that’s pretty much magic. The big ticket here, was of course the elusive Spiritualized, who hadn’t played in Berlin in over 10 years but somehow managed to be booked for Synästhesie.

Other big names included The Soft Moon, The Underground Youth, The Blue Angel Lounge, and The Third Sound (ft Anton Newcombe), but perhaps my favorite element about the line-up is that it featured many local Berlin bands that often play at 8MM, like Jealous and Gym Tonic, giving a real sense of “staying true to roots and community.”

If you consider that synesthesia is […] the most desirable side-effect of psychedelia, then the two day festival generously delivered and lived up to its name.

The bands were spread between two rooms (the large main-stage and a smaller room, perhaps a touch too small) and played in slightly overlapping increments, keeping things flowing naturally and seamlessly in and out, ensuring that the exhilarating music continued to bump and grind throughout the night, keeping everyone satisfied.

Synästhesie also went to great lengths to make things interesting, proposing a film screening before the music began on the second day (Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger), catching everyone off guard right before the festival announcing a surprise Häxan show after the last band Saturday night, organizing at least two outside events for those who couldn’t attend the sold-out shows, again looking out for the community.

Speaking of, 8MM bar already stands out as a beacon for gig-loving folks in Berlin, especially those with a taste for rock-scene nostalgia. It plays an important role in bringing together like-minded people who are turned on by live music. With this in mind, organizing an event like Synästhesie in a city like Berlin which is largely dominated by electronic music and DJ-love is not only a courageous endeavor, but also one that I believe is much appreciated by 8MM patrons and the rest, helping to foster this sense of community and producing a singular, festive oasis.

Combining multiple surprises, tangible merriment, holiday setting, and familiar faces, it felt like a psychedelic holiday party of sorts for the live-music community.

A last note on this groovy, blurry, rapturous monster that was Synaesthesie IV.
If you consider that synesthesia is a condition in which two or more senses become intermingled, confused, perceived as one another (i.e. hearing the color blue), and that it is the most desirable side-effect of psychedelia, then the two day festival generously delivered and lived up to its name.

If you missed Synästhesie IV and the web of events around it, you’re out of luck since the fifth edition is apparently only scheduled for 2020. Let’s hope they’re only teasing…

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