author: Mark Nox
English translation: Valentine Wiggin
When it dawned on me, that man cannot live by club music alone, I went to Dresden last weekend to attend the Runes & Man Festival. This event was an opportunity to see Death In June twice. The capital of Saxony welcomed me with hard frost, heavy snow and a traditional Christmas market (held for almost 578 years). For me, as a fan of this kitschy Christmas halo, the market itself was a first class pleasure.
On Friday the post-industrial Reithalle was filled to the brim (my trained football fan-eye counted about 450-500 people), on Saturday the frequency decreased slightly. My musical discovery in the festival was Jännerwein from Austria, very warmly received by the fans. An interesting orchestra and the versatility of their musicians left an overall good impression. The most interesting performance of the evening (besides the headliners, of course) was Die Weisse Rose. The group presented an interesting and coherent show, led by a strong marching rhythm. Thomas Bojden (the only permanent member of the group, an erudite who probably has discovered an endless source of inspiration somewhere high in the mountains, because he draws handfuls of it) once again held a great, thought-provoking show.
On Saturday the performance of the group Arnica has brought me to my knees; incredible energy created by the hurdy-gurdy. I’m a fan of traditional, archaic instruments, so forgive my being a little biased. The next band was Fire + Ice, a band that I was seeing for the second time, and which managed to put a spell on me once again. For a while Douglas P. also supported the vocalist. Of The Wand And The Moon were unfortunately boring and monotonous. I’ll stick with listening to their studio albums. Spiritual Front was, as always, full of class and if not for two or three sugary songs, the set would have been perfect. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to see The Enchanted Wood and Vurgart, and Sonne Hagal didn’t perform.
Time for Death In June: both concerts were prefaced by a vocal performance of Douglas with the piano accompaniment of Miro Snejdr (the fellow who additionally performed the acoustic versions of DIJ compositions on “Peaceful Snow”). Douglas and Michael presented the classic DIJ show, with the shamanic elements (such as chasing away the evil spirits gathered over the stage) which are so strongly connected with Douglas P. performances. After playing the whole standard set, a wishlist took place. It seemed to have no end – on Friday DIJ performed for almost two and a half hours, and the set was a bit shorter on Saturday. Douglas kept contact with the audience, adding a dose of his specific, slight sense of humour. We probably heard all of his most interesting compositions, often with special guests (like Gary C from Joy Of Life). The cherry on the cake was the grand finale in both concerts, the performance of… Rose Clouds Of Santa Claus, demonstrating the above mentioned sense of humour by Douglas, who sung this well-known song and changed the lyrics to a Christmas version about Santa Claus and his elves; this masterpiece of the grotesque was supported by the accompaniment of tiny bells courtesy of the members of Arnica, OTWATM, Die Weisse Rose and Joy Of Life wearing Wehrmacht and SS winter-camouflages…
To sum things up, the event made it clear to me that the formula of a purely neofolk two-day festival doesn’t have to be boring and that it’s rather difficult to force German fans to be an active part of the show (Douglas tried a couple of times to invite people to sing along). The hall was not heated enough, trash bags weren’t available (masses of mugs were lying on the ground, especially during the last day), and these were basically the only faults of this ambitious event. Let’s face it – only a small percentage of the audience was there by accident. Fans of the genre realize how big a challenge it is (especially in Germany), to organize a two-day festival with a lineup of artists whose work and stylistics balance on a knife-edge, and demotivated by the intrigues made up by journalists with a wild imagination, looking to cause a sensation. But can one use the word “imagination” towards short-sighted people, not capable of engaging in multilevel interpretations? So even more respect for the organizers.
P.S. More than 90 percent of the attendees were Germans, and only 7 people from Poland that I could track down. Shame, my dears; Dresden is just 3 hours from Wroclaw.