If you’re curious why we started paying attention to music festivals, I’d say it’s not exactly that simple. In spite of the fact that music and fashion have always been very close, it’s fashion and not exactly the music what made us interested. Just look around and you’ll find lots and lots events that attract some visually special kind of audience and represent a certain visual and spiritual style. For example, we already mentioned Wave Gotik Treffen once and it’s where you should travel to see the goth people in all their glory and visual diversity. But what about European folk community? What if you’d like to dive deep into the Middle Ages, dance to some real medieval folk music, hang out with knights, troubadours, artisans and wizards and enjoy some very eye-pleasing medieval/fantasy fashion? Well, I could recommend at least several big events for all that, but Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum would be probably the first to cross my mind.
MPS is the biggest folk culture festival in Germany with everything you could expect to see at such an event. Even better – every year it roams across the country and visits (each time for 2 days straight) up to twenty cities since March till the end of September. Actually I was damn lucky to catch it in Hamburg-Öjendorf, because everybody says if you want to see the real MPS you should do it in Hamburg. Great start!
Öjendorfer Park is the traditional place for Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum in Hamburg and I have to say I haven’t seen a better place for such a festival! You just can’t think of a better place for a folk event than this huge, green area with a large lake, especially if the weather is fine, and on that day it luckily was. Even though the MPS area is gigantic (it takes the space equal to 20 football fields and it actually can take up to half an hour if you’d like to reach a stage located in some other part of the festival ground), it’s just a small spot of the Öjendorfer Park’s map. We found the park quickly, yet still had a long way to go to the festival entrance, but in this case it wasn’t particularly a bad thing, because the park was so beautiful. You don’t get bored along the way, you rather get mesmerized by those never-ending green fields and sparking water of the Öjendorfer lake with some small islands scattered here and there.
Entering the MPS area is like stepping into a portal to another dimension. 21st century stays behind the fence and you become utterly absorbed in a motley and clamorous variation of a “Middle Age VS sci-fi” world with several big and small concert stages, lots of food and drink stands, dozens of amusements for children and adults and so on. Thousands of people around you walking, chatting, drinking and having lots of fun and high above all this you can see some huge balloons with MPS logos flying (I guess they were intended to help people finding the concert stages). After just 10 minutes here your head starts spinning and you just don’t know where to look first! And the first thing we stumbled upon was the band Cobblestones, an Irish folk act from Berlin. The guys looked like miners with dirty faces and tools hanging down their belts and played some quite good acoustic Irish rock. And all four of them could sing – that’s what you can’t see that often, even on the folk scene.
Somebody else would probably set all his systems on and run to explore every little corner of the area, but I strongly believe in beer being the starting point of every festival. The weather was great, our spirit was flying higher than the sun, so we just stroke into one of the nearest bars. All of them are decorated as pirate taverns or pirate ships and it feels awesome to be there, especially since the beer menu happened to be quite eye-delighting. Being not a big fan of mixing drinks I just stuck to one of my favs – the “Honigbier”, which is a sweet beer with honey. Very recommended! Speaking about food, it’s literally everywhere and for any taste, including vegan, and it’s really delicious. The only minus is obviously too many people: doesn’t matter how many food stands are available – there will be a line of 20 people to any of them :) Still you get use to that very quickly and it becomes tolerable, just forget about rush. You see, those long lines unwittingly serve the general MPS aura and teach you to relax and enjoy the day. Just leave your usual festival “I have to be there and there and there – all at the same time!” race behind and chill. This is what Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum is all about.
The next gig we saw was the UK’s very own Celtic rock band The Dolmen. These guys play at MPS almost every year and every time gather quite a crowd! I’m not a fan and can’t be too specific, but as always The Dolmen played a decent and very honest set and people at the stage enjoyed it very much.
Versengold followed as the next group and these folks surely knew how to rock! To be honest I’m not a fan of this band either, but at least I’ve seen them live two times before, know what to expect and even can sing along “Im Names des Volkes” :) Say anything you want about them, but every time they play like it’s their last gig on the Earth and their drive splashes over the top. Need a band to bring some fabulous cheerful spirit to the neighborhood – call Versengold!
What we saw next was probably one of the coolest things of the day – “Großer Umzug der Heerlager”. Put simply, MPS wouldn’t be MPS if its guests were just simple folk fans. There’s also a very special kind of people who take the medieval culture very seriously. Every year they come (sometimes up 3 or 4 generations together!), put up their tents, set their own family blazon banners high and live pretty much as they would live in 13th century (with some minor differences, of course). And once a day all the families and clans unite for a big march across the whole festival ground! Looks magnificent and sometimes very funny. Some groups look very focused and even professional and some just take it all as a huge carnival.
Sailing closer to the people, usual guests of Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum with a rampant imagination! Magical fairy tale creatures drew my special attention!
More than enough people came dressed gorgeously and in outstanding style – pirates, wizards, knights, sorceresses, crusaders, elves, highwaymen, Northern warriors, highlanders and I saw even a couple of ancient Rome legionaries and empire troopers from Star Wars! One could guess they felt kind of lost in the middle of this medieval party, but they weren’t at all. I definitely should think about buying a Captain Kirk’s costume for the next MPS :)
Celtica Pipes Rock happened to be a very nice surprise for me, I really liked their harder sort of folk with both bagpipes and heavy guitars. And a nice show too! Unfortunately they performed with an incomplete line-up, or I just wasn’t lucky to see the whole band because I could stay only for 10 minutes and then had to run to another stage. Hope to check them closer next time…
Saltatio Mortis is literally annual guest at MPS, there’s no Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum without them! They are one of the most known and successful folk bands of Germany and usually if you see a huge wild crowd before a stage, you can be sure it’s them. Usually Saltatio Mortis play twice a day, once during the day and once in the evening (with an awesome fire show!), but this time I managed to attend only the first one. As usual the band delivered a classy and highly professional “best of” show and the audience had a time of their lives singing for rasp. “Wir sind wie der Wind, man sperrt uns nicht ein, wild und frei – so wollen wir sein…” (c)
After Saltatio Mortis we felt we could use some rest and just went for lunch. As always, the honey beer was great and I swear I’ve never tasted the barbecue ribs that awesome! We found a rest zone full of hay and finally got some good rest there. What can possibly tune your spirit better than lying on the fresh hay on a beautiful day, listen to some distant bagpipes, absorbing beer and meat and chatting about what we just saw… We still had a lot to see though, so in an hour we continued our trip across the festival ground hoping to see more interesting stuff and nice people.
Once started Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum never takes a pause – there’s always something going on and if you just travel across the area, you’d definitely find something to warm your heart. Various stores offer anything you might need in this cruel world of leather and steel, some smaller folk bands play here and there filling the air with joyful sounds of reed pipes. In the middle of the festival ground you could see a huge fire-breathing smithy with four real blacksmiths working. Sometimes you could notice typical medieval attractions where anyone could test his strength, agility or archery skills. There was even a very authentic open hot water bath-house and sometimes you could see some laughing bare ass people running both directions from or to it :) Have you ever wanted a hug from an Uruk-hai? It was possible too, since several of them were there for a free hug that could possibly cost you life, but who cares?! We were also lucky to catch the end of a big staged knight tournament. Of course the good nights won, the bad cheating knight failed (that bastard used a magic sword, can you believe it?!) and the people in the audience had some good time watching the whole battle play and cheering the winners.
Probably the most popular attraction for kids was a hay castle filled with plastic yellow balls. They were super light, soft and harmless so everybody was just going crazy with them. In the evening half of the festival area was covered with those yellow balls!
My best discovery of the year was Ye Banished Privateers from Sweden! I happened to watch their latest video “Annabel” and frankly got charmed by how great it turned out! Ye Banished Privateers are called “pirate folk rock”, though I wouldn’t compare them with the most of the pirate bands whose songs are mainly inspired by funny fairy tales and movies about Jack Sparrow (Captain Jack Sparrow!). This band is more serious and dramatic and the guys write really good songs, not just spooky tunes stylized as pirate tales from blockbuster movies. I had a great pleasure and as I know they’re already confirmed for 2018, so I’ll do my best not to miss this band next year.
Our way finally led us to the tents where serious folk people stayed. Nothing special was happening there, everybody was spending the evening chatting, drinking, taking care of their weapons, cooking dinner on fire, you know, usual stuff :)
The pagan folk band Cesair from the Netherlands retained in my memory with its mystic tribal music and a very emotional violin player. All in all great performance, though not really my cup of beer.
How could I simply pass when someone on a stage plays with so much heart and soul?! Honestly I didn’t know these guys and had no idea who it was until the end of their show when I got some time to inspect the line-up schedule. Their name is Forgotten North, they’re from Germany and they definitely know how to raise hell on Earth! Their music is some sort of a wild semi-acoustical epic folk with heroic lyrics and even more heroic attitude. They even used pyro on stage and that’s why I hope they will play later next year, just to make their gig even more epic.
Cultus Ferox is a very dear guest of any folk/goth festival and people love them for their loud and minimalistic folk music and rousing show. Even though the guys performed on a very small stage, they managed to gather quite a crowd!
The last band we had a chance to see was one of the headliners Faun, the band I always miss for various reasons at other festivals :) Every time I see Faun in a line-up I can’t come by, as if some sinister curse keeps me away from the stage they perform on! So this time I was very determined to be there. Period! In spite of certain sound problems in the very beginning the band delivered a very nice gig! I’m not really a fan, just like what these guys do, but I think nobody could deny they’re true professionals in mixing medieval folk music with electronics and doing it on the highest level possible. This evening Faun performed a “best of” set with, as far as I could tell, a couple of songs from the latest album “Midgard”.
Unfortunately that was the end of the day for us since we didn’t stay in the camp and had to figure out how to reach our home which was not even in Hamburg. It was a magnificent and relaxed day full of fun and great music, but everything comes to an end. All that’s left to do is waiting for the next year’s MPS which is already looking very promising!
We’d like to thank Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum’s management for our accreditation!
The official Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum website: http://www.spectaculum.de