Visiting Hamburg and Discovering New Music at Reeperbahn Festival 2018 | Press Trip
Back in July when I attended TBEX Ostrava, I met representatives from Hamburg Marketing who invited me on a press trip for Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. (Admittedly, I had to Google what the festival was all about.) Every year, Hamburg holds a three-day festival in September for both up-and-coming and well-established artists and performers to play at clubs all around the city. In addition to the musical performances, there are also networking events, panels, award shows, art installations, food stalls and more.
The festival namesake, Reeperbahn, refers to Hamburg’s most famous street for nightlife and entertainment. The street is sprinkled with (strip) clubs, bars, restaurants, and sex shops. It first started in 2006 and more and more clubs participate each year, allowing a greater opportunity for musicians and artists to gain exposure and recognition in the historically musical city.
While the festival was definitely the highlight of each night of the trip, during the day, we had the opportunity to do and see some pretty cool activities in Germany’s second largest city.
The Beatles Tour in Hamburg
On the first day of the trip, we went on The Beatles tour. Started and guided by singer/songwriter, Stefanie Hempel, she took us around to the spots where the world-famous band from Liverpool lived, played, and hung out during 1960-1962. Stefanie was such a great guide and brought a lot of enthusiasm to the tour. She even sang some covers of some of her favorite Beatles songs as well as ones that were historically relevant to the band’s time in Hamburg.
On the tour, we ended up at spots Indra Club, Star Club, and Kaiserkeller which were all clubs that The Beatles played at most frequently. Kaiserkeller is also where the group first met and teamed up with Ringo Starr who was originally playing with a band called “Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.”
We learned that when Paul, George, and John first arrived in Hamburg, they stayed in an old cinema called, Bambi Kino. The room they shared was dirty, dark and tiny, and they started referring to it as “The Black Hole of Calcutta.” They even had to use the sinks in the women’s restroom to clean themselves, which only had cold water running through the tap. Even though these sounded like hard times for the group, hearing stories like this is a good reminder that even the most successful people in the world started from somewhere.
If you are a fan of The Beatles, the tour offered in Hamburg is definitely worth checking out. More information can be found here: http://www.hempels-musictour.com/
The Elbphilharmonie / Exploring the Port of Hamburg by Boat
On the second day of the trip, the group went on a tour of the Elbphilharmonie (the Philharmonic Hall), which cost a cool 789 million euros to construct. It is still a very new building and opened its doors in January 2017. On the day of the tour, I got the schedule wrong and was unable to go. However, I did get see the inside later on for a show. But, as luck had it, the show was cancelled! The performer had the flu and waited until the last minute to see if she would somehow get better, but unfortunately, she was unable to perform. At least I as far as the main hall, pictured below. I can only imagine how good the sound system would have been.
At the end of the second day, we went around the harbor by boat and got to see the city from the water. The weather had been pretty rainy all day, but by the time we got onto the boat, the sun came out. We also saw a rainbow which always feels pretty lucky and magical in any location.
Experiencing Virtual Reality at VRHQ
The same day we visited the Elbphilharmonie, we also went on a tour of VRHQ, which is located in a converted warehouse space known as the Kreativspeicher Hamburg. The building hosts tech and creative tenants including sustainable fashion brand, Jan N’ June, and a group of virtual / augmented reality related companies including NOYS VR (music and sound VR) and Spice VR (film and video VR).
I had never tried on a Virtual Reality headset before, but it was really cool. You put on a headstand and are audio-visually immersed into a virtual world. If you’ve ever seen that episode of Black Mirror with the video-game-loving backpacker (Playtest), it felt similar to that.
Junipalooza Gin Festival
I am not a huge drinker of gin (or of alcohol in general) but part of the trip included tickets to the Junipalooza Gin Festival. It was actually pretty fun to try a lot of different gins. Each vendor infused their own gin with different flavors and they all tasted slightly different. The one I liked the most was by Gin Sul - made by a distiller from Hamburg.
The gin festival was held in Hamburg’s historic fish market, right by the water. Every Sunday morning, the market opens and you can see the boats bringing in a fresh catch! From 5-9:30 am, the market sellsl fish rolls, fried seafood, and of course fresh raw fish, but to be honest I can’t really stomach the thought of eating anything with scales that early in the morning. There’s also some produce and dried goods, too.
Details about the Hamburg Fish Market can be found here: https://www.hamburg-travel.com/attractions/hamburg-maritime/fish-market/
Sternschanze Neighborhood & Hotel Superbude
For the entirety of the trip, myself and the other bloggers and journalists stayed in Hotel Superbude in the neighborhood of Sternschanze. That area is super hip with tons trendy cafes, shops, and restaurants.
During our free time, I went out to explore the neighborhood and ended up going to the cafe, Törnqvist. As you know, I love going to cafes, especially in Europe. I actually went to this place last year right when it opened up and I forgot the name of it. Luckily, I remembered where it was located. The interior is super minimalist and clean and the menu only has three options for coffee—simple, effective, and delicious.
Best Performances at Reeperbahn Festival 2018
Over the course of three days, we got to explore Reeperbahn Festival on our own. The festival created its own app which made it easy to figure out when and where each artist was playing. There were a few artists that I knew beforehand, but most of them I had never heard of. Nevertheless, it was fun to just discover new performers each night. The first night, I ended up on this musical bus called Bazzookas. This group from the Netherlands had previously been at Reeperbahn Festival, performing ska and punk rock inside a tiny bus. I didn’t understand everything they were saying, but I didn’t really need to. With all the jumping around, clapping, and singing along, it was enough to know that their their main message was “Have fun!” :D
The festival lineup included musical artists from every genre you can think of. I liked the fact that there was so much variety, especially when compared to the Berlin music scene which largely focuses on techno. The artists I went to see were:
Amber Run | Rock | U.K.
This band from Nottingham was really good! I hadn’t heard of them before, but they reminded me a little bit of Bombay Bicycle Club as well as Foals.
Kazy Lambist | Dance/Electronic | France
Kazy Lambist had a bit of sound issues throughout the performance, but the music was still really cool. I thought the female backup singer that performed with him was also very talented.
Kid Simius | Dance/Electronic | Spain
My favorite performance was Kid Simius. He played at Mojo Club which was literally underground and had a very cool theater-like setup. He had incredible stage presence brought so much energy to the stage.
Charlotte Lawrence | Pop/Folk | U.S.A.
Charlotte Lawrence was also an incredibly good vocalist. I have a feeling she’s about to get very popular very soon. She played at Prinzenbar.
Zak Abel | Pop | U.K.
The thing I remember most about Zak Abel was his stage presence. Definitely had the makings of a great pop star. I think every young woman in that room was crushing on him—big time. But not me…to young ;)
Jess Glynne | Pop/Soul/R&B | U.K.
Jess Glynne! She was great. I also forgot how many songs of hers that I knew and ended up singing a lot to a lot of them.
Each artist played in different clubs, and every single place had a different vibe. For artists like Jess Glynne, she obviously had a bigger venue to play in. I watched her perform at The Docks.
TLDR: Quick Tips for Visiting Hamburg
Transportation: If you visit for more than three days, get the Hamburg Card. This covers you on buses, local trains, and ferries: https://www.hamburg.com/hamburg-card/
Foods to Try: Pan Fried Fish (Pannfisch), Danish-inspired dessert, Rote Grütze (AKA Rød Grød which is a berries and creamy pudding type thing)
Points of Interest: Reeperbahn (clubs and bars), Elbphilharmonie (performance hall), Fish Market on Sunday morning, Sternschanze Neighborhood
Recommended Tour: The Beatles Tour
Fun Facts About Hamburg:
The city has more bridges than London, Venice, and Amsterdam combined
Hamburg is a cultural hub for international music and the city where The Beatles got their start
“Moin” is the common greeting for hello in Northern Germany and is used very often in Hamburg
People from Hamburg don’t refer to themselves as Hamburgers, but instead as “Hamburgions”
Having the opportunity to visit Hamburg and attend Reeperbahn Festival on behalf of Hamburg Marketing was an amazing experience and one that I am so happy I got to be a part of. I think this is a city I will definitely return to again soon.
Have you ever visited Hamburg? Thinking of going? Need more tips from me? Comment below!