Fuchsbau Festival 2019

  • Christine Kakaire explores the quirky German event with a powerful musical and political vision.
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  • A striking takeaway from Fuchsbau Festival, the pocket-sized gathering hidden away in the German countryside near Hannover, was the contrast between the last-minute precariousness around the event and the on-site experience of a weekend so detail-oriented, ambitious in scope and generous in spirit. Run by a self-financed, non-profit organization, it's set among a former brickworks factory currently occupied by a small cooperative. The venue, however, is likely to be sold by its owner in the near future, and the festival announced that this year's event had been in such dire financial straits that it only went ahead thanks to some emergency state funding. This year's theme was "Supermarkets." Little knowing touches were found everywhere, from the stage names (Feinkost, Kasse 1, etc.) and decor (plastic-wrapped shipping palettes, a huge half-wrapped chocolate bar) to the bar staff dressed as deli counter servers and a disco ball caged in a shopping trolley and suspended from the ceiling. There was even a partnership with a real supermarket brand, so campers could order their essentials in advance and collect them onsite without having to schlep for miles.
    The tone of the festival was fun and quirky, but not without substance. The theme opened up to include a broader stream of talks and panels concerning the production and consumption of identity, art, surveillance culture (shout out to the installation of a creepy human figure who lay collapsed under the gaze of cameras and monitors) and consumerism itself. Unusually for a mixed-media festival, all disciplines were given equal spotlight. The transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf, who gave a talk moderated by the academic Shaka McGlotten, shared top billing with Apparat. On Saturday, SHYBOI spoke about negotiating the terrain of a commodified music industry during a well-attended panel discussion in the afternoon, then whipped up a frenzy hours later in the same spot, with a gripping set that single-mindedly barrelled towards harder and harder sounds, through baile, electro and hardstyle. On the main stage, Kasse 1, on Friday, the moody German synth rockers HOPE drew a loyal crowd in the blazing sun, before Apparat delivered slick emotional heart swells as night fell. The following night, Colin Self made the large stage their own. More revue than concert, they were joined by a string trio for dreamier new age numbers and a choir of youngsters wearing stocking balaclavas who sang, moshed and danced, all choreographed by Self.
    The indoor Storno stage offered some similarly hypnotic performances. A Friday night performance by the queer artist Bendik Giske demonstrated the limitless potential of a saxophone, a set of hardened lungs and trippy filters and loops. Later that night, the Hamburg-born DJ Alobhe calmly went about a truly devastating set. Eschewing seamless technical blends, her progression, through sharp-edged industrial, doom techno and unclassifiable chaos, involved the abrupt gutting of noisy tracks, pulling them from their centres like entrails. A mysterious fourth stage, by the outdoor Kühlregal area, hosted a mix of German-language panels and party-ready hits. The dance floor was kept busy late into both nights with crowd-pleasing house, disco and other anthems. The sound of Dominica's '90s classic "I Gotta Let You Go" repeatedly blasted out over the site early on Sunday, each time rousing whoops and cheers from weary campsite dwellers as they slowly packed down their tents. Maybe it was just an overenthusiastic soundcheck, but it seemed to capture the mood at that moment: a reluctance to leave and a hope to be able to return again next year. Photo credits / Jan Helge Petri - Lead, Crowd, Talk, Colin Self Isabel Machado Rios - Bendik Giske