Netaudio Festival 09, Maria Berlin
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Netaudio Berlin Festival Roundup

By Zargon (Fernando Fonseca)

Fully recovered from the traveling, and of one intense week, let me share with all of you my thoughts about what happened in the last days at the Maria Club in Berlin, Germany.

My expectations for the festival were really high and in a way they were met. On the other hand, not really.

I have been thinking a lot about how to structure this post and I have finally decided to write about it in a chronological order. So here we go:

Day 0Where everything starts
Arrived in Berlin and went to the Maria Club to see if any help was needed. Everything was being setup and got to meet the people behind the organization that did a really amazing work getting all the festival setup.

A first talk regarding my live act with Jon, from the technical crew, got me informed that the requested Xone-92 was not available. Sincerely that got me a bit crossed and I started to think immediately that I would have to make some changes in the live act to reflect the lack of the mixing desk that I had requested on my technical rider.

That night I had dinner with David Domingo, from Netaudio Spain, where we talked about netlabelism, open source and the upcoming ‘Expanding’09’ festival in Barcelona and how we could join forces. David is one of those guys that perspires netlabelism and his insights about the scene (national and international) are something that got me thinking. One of the things that we addressed at our talk was the grey area that the netlabel world is now going through with netlabels selling music, labels releasing free music and so-called netlabels that are charging artists to release them under strange contracts.

Day 1 – Pheek Live

After spending the morning re-arranging the live act, I spent the afternoon at Maria doing my best to help out with whatever was needed. Had a short conversation with JP (aka Pheek) when he arrived. Don, from the organization crew gave me a tour around the venue and we had a great talk. Later, it was great to catch up with Thomas Raukamp, chief-editor of German Beat magazine and to head out for dinner with David Domingo and a friend from Barcelona who is living in Berlin. On that dinner we discussed cultural politics, night life in Berlin vs. Barcelona, compared cost of living and the overwhelming presence of people from Spain in Berlin.

When we got back the first live act that I went to see was 6.R.M.E. : Those who know me are aware that Hip-Hop is not really my thing but I was really surprised, in a positive way, by the live act performed by this French artist. Right before I had the great pleasure to meet Simon from Canada who had traveled all the way for the netaudio festival. It was one of the many people, that I met for real after exchanging lots of messages with them on Twitter.

Next on my list was, of course, Pheek. Some technical troubles at the beginning gave way to an amazing live act that got the crowd dancing to the sound of this Canadian born producer. Technically perfect (to my ears), full of groove and some bass lines to die for this was the absolute highlight of the opening gala of the Festival. Some sense took over me [had to be back on the venue for setup and sound check at 12am] and I left the building with the impression that this was going to be a great festival.

Day 2 – Live Act, Muffins and MachtDose

Sun was shining in Berlin on Friday: Amazing weather which somehow thwarted my live act. Arrived at Maria and started to setup my material and took some time to check and double check if everything was working. When I was happy with it I asked my twitter followers if I should have some Gin Tonic before the live act and the answer was positive. Two double gin tonics followed, some concentration time outside in the sun and back inside to listen to the amazing [really amazing] performance from Marco Donnarumma a.k.a The !S.A.D!, using a bass and a pure data based software called C::ntrl. The performance called |C::ntrl| Nature was one the best things that I saw at this netaudio festival and it was only a question of time till we connected. [more on that later]

Next was my live act, 45min turned into 10min more because the following artist was missing in action. I failed to understand how someone who is already in a venue fails to realize that he/she must act like a professional and setup the equipment BEFORE the performance starts and not at the time that performance is supposed to start. Things like these are not permitted at a professional level and surely should not be permitted period. But they happen, unfortunately. For a moment, I and Marco were going to start a jam session but we decided to leave it at that. But the idea was great.

My main mission was finished and the feedback was great. Right after I gave an interview, that turned out to be a great talk with Simon, regarding the live act, PublicSpaces Lab, the scene in general and comments about the odd boat that was passing on the river that afternoon.

Outside Maria the people were gathering and I sat on a table to have a talk with Sim Sullen from 12 rec netlabel about life, the universe and everything. Sven Swift also joined us bringing us muffins that went great with the tea. Talk about bacteria that stink, social skills and Twitter followed. Some minutes later Moritz Sauer (phlow) and Roland (MachtDose) also sat at the table and we were discussing lots of things, especially the scene in Russia, where a netaudio festival is happening the week after. It was an intense discussion that could have lasted for a long time. I kind of scheduled a talk with Moritz to happen during the festival and had a few exchanges with Roland who works in a company that develops software and hardware for us musicians. I really had some things to discuss with him and took the opportunity to do so.

I listened to the opening act of the night, Tracing Arcs. Nothing original here, music wise [think Portishead on a smaller scale], but that a group of such experienced musicians is releasing under Creative Commons is, like David Domingo so cleverly noted, the living proof that not only kids are a part of this movement. Dinner followed with Marco and Joanna at a Thai restaurant around Kreuzberg. We walked there, got lost on the way, met a Japanese couple that looked at us awkwardly when we asked for restaurants in the area [they actually told us that everything was already closed] and then ran into two German girls that finally gave us the directions to the Herz des Lebens [the heart of life]. When heading back to the festival, after a great talk about all sorts of things, we found out that there was a really straight way to the venue. But it was great to walk for a bit and get out of Maria just for a few hours.

Back at Maria I ran again into Roland and what followed was an almost 4h lasting talk marathon. One of the things that we agreed on, of the many, was about the lack of a really experimental side to the netaudio festival. This was something that I had already spoken with David Domingo, Marco and Joanna. On a time, where open source DIY projects are storming the netaudio scene, my opinion remains that, apart from a few exceptions, the line up was of great quality but, how to put this, conservative.

This night netaudio’s performances for me were just background music as the conversation with Roland evolved into matters that were far more important at that time for both of us and that was a great thing. It was inspiring to say the least. On a personal level: a big highlight of my trip to Berlin.

Day 3 – The Final Countdown

Saturday was the day that everyone was waiting for. Until now the attendance to the festival had been not that high and this was the day to see how the nightlife Berlin would answer to the call: they did! With two new clubs opening in the city, with the rain pouring [reminding me of summer days in Swansea] the people of Berlin came to the Maria Club showing interest for the musical offer but also showing that the amazing work that the organization did in promoting the festival did pay off: the audience turned up was really a much deserved reward to all the behind-the-curtains work that was being done daily by Antina, Don, Sarah and the rest of the Berlin crew.

My afternoon started watching the Netaudio Ping Pong match, a netaudio London project that involves two controllers, a ping pong table, CC samples and inspired players. And tapas, right Matt? [Private joke here] The installation is really a great way of getting non-musicians playing with samples and, at the same time, discovering the CC concept.

Afterwards, I was asked to fill the gap due to the absence of M. Cavallera ( in the last discussion panel of the festival ‘East meets West ? Netlabels: Networks as Pioneers‘. The theme for the discussion was not the best: after all East and West netlabels were already meeting in Berlin. But some of the points raised in the discussion were interesting enough – especially funding, cultural policies and the differences that we have and that actually make the scene so special. It was interesting to me that my points of view were shared by Raganova, the label head from sologroove [netlabel from Slovakia that I highly recommend].

At the backstage lots of talks were being held, too many to follow, but all of them interesting. Networking was a big thing at this netaudio festival for sure. I have to thank Sim Sullen for introducing me to so many [interesting] people [great networker]. I finally got the chance to have some chair time with Moritz Sauer and the result of that talk was an interview on Phlow Magazine. It was Moritz that pointed me to the second biggest surprise of this netaudio festival: Comfort Fit. This guy knows how to put a live act together. Not only that: his production is something that, independently if you are into his style of music or not, everyone should listen to. FAT doesn’t even start to describe it. I had the opportunity to have a long talk with Boris [Comfort Fit’s real name] and he is a real talent, someone who knows his sound and who is willing to explore. Our conversation ended with a promise to meet very soon in Barcelona, for a business related talk. I hope it will satisfy him enough to agree on a proposal that we have for him.

Marko Fürstenberg was next on my list: Great live act, really sweet dub-techno and a shame that not many were there to listen. Someone said that it was a ‘choreographical problem’ to have put Marko on that room. I agree. Marko belonged on the main stage. Coming and going from room to room got me the chance to appreciate SCSI-9 [brilliant as always].

Day light was outside already [eyes hurting], my voice was almost gone [see this week’s solipsistic nation podcast for recorded evidence of that] and I was having some chair time with the team from Visual Berlin, one of the VJ collectives that were present at the netaudio festival. Conceptually they did a high class work and produced amazing material. Talks about an after hour show was going around but I was too wasted to go anywhere else but to bed and catch some sleep.

Highlights from the whole festival [people and acts]

Marco Donnarumma + Joanna [!!!!!!!], Antina Michels + husband [Vai Galera!!!] , Don Ludwig, Sarah Ladkani, Max Lisewki, Chris Box, Matt Spendlove [Tapas, really?] , Andi Studer, Jon Dickens, Sim Sullen [!!!!], Sven Swift [Muffins] , Roland [!!!!!], Moritz Sauer, Boris a.k.a. Comfort Fit [!!!!!!], 6.R.M.E., Marco Fürstenberg, SCSI-9, JP a.k.a. Pheek [Hope you are feeling better man], Thomas Raukamp [Starbucks Office Rules], David Domingo [!!!!!!!!!!!! + !!!!!], J. Ragan, Juan, the Oxford guy winner of the Netaudio Ping Pong, the girl that I forgot the name that was doing the inquiries for Chris [get in touch], Little Rock Crew, iD.Eology crew [without the Rap please and YES WE KERN]. I am sure I am forgetting lots of people; please don’t take me wrong, I need to do some upgrading to my brain.

Awkward Moments [by popular demand]

Thursday Night: A very drunk M. Kluge sits next to me at the Smoker’s Lounge, looks at me and tells me: “You are going to smoke with me!!!” Then he just starts to speak about Modular Synthesis. On the next afternoon he could not remember a thing. Amazing guy, great knowledge.

Friday Afternoon: At the bar I bump into these guys. One had  just finished his live act. “How did it go?” I ask. “It was my first live act ever,” he tells me [nothing wrong with this]. “But the sound was strange could hardly recognise it. You see, I live with my mother and I always have to use the headphones so it was the first time I listened to my stuff on some sort of speakers?” [no comments]

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: The girl working during the afternoon at Maria at the bar. Every single time that I went to the bar to get a drink she would be studying or writing  and really made you feel bad that you were interrupting her.

See you all in London next year!

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@NetaudioBerlin Festival Roundup von Fernando Fonseca steht unter einer Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lizenz.

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