In an ancient city tucked away in eastern Germany, an intimate three-day music festival deviates from the typical path of German electronic music.
K&F Records, run by Mario Cetti and Lars Hiller, hosted “The Sound of Bronkow” independent music festival in Dresden on the weekend of September 3. The festival featured an eclectic mix of independent artists including acts from its own label, such as Marble Man, Rumen Welco, and Garda, as well as the addition of an American singer/songwriter, David Dondero. It was the label’s first attempt at anything like a festival, and they managed to sell out.
“In my opinion, it went really, really well — it couldn’t have gone better,” said K&F founder and musician Lars Hiller. “The festival sold out, and the musicians and audience members were satisfied. There’s not actually much we could do differently next year and we don’t really want it to turn into a gigantic thing.”
The German independent music scene consists of bigger American bands that can afford to tour abroad, a handful of trendy Euro-pop names that usually sing in English, and some of Germany’s own acts. The term “indie” is generally less understood in Germany; the word sometimes confuses the normal thirtysomething citizen who mistake the word to mean “Indian”. Although the culture is consistently growing amongst the German youth with annual festivals like Rock am See, Southside Festival, and Hurricane Fest, it is still hard for people working within the scene to actually make enough money for a living.
“We all have normal day jobs — it’s unfortunately how the indie music business works. Some people freelance and work directly with the label, some come a couple days a week after work and help with other label and festival needs,” said Hiller.
“It’s hard to be a successful indie musician in Germany. Most of us have another job and families to support,” explained Hamburg musician Wolfgang Mueller, who played a set at the festival.
It’s people like Hiller and the efforts of labels like K&F that help the indie scene flourish within Germany.
“The electro scene is a lot bigger here than anything else in Germany. I’ve been looking for something like this, but haven’t been able to find it. Finally I found it.” said Sara Field, a recent college graduate from the United States who is now working in Dresden and attended the festival.
The Sound of Bronkow differed from other festivals in that it showcased musicians in a smaller theater-type setting that allowed for a much more intimate experience; the label sold 250 tickets and covered four stages over three days with around 20 acts. The most endearing part of the festival was Sunday’s singer/songwriter brunch that was held outdoors where people could sit on the grass while dining on German delicacies.
“It’s a great venue. The festival drew a lot of people who might not have otherwise been able to see me play live. When I play in Berlin, I’m lucky if 100 people come to a show,” said Berlin musician Moritz Kraemer.
After witnessing a true gem like The Sound of Bronkow, it is unfortunate to realize that most of the German names from the festival aren’t planning on touring outside of Germany or Europe, and will remain unknown to the American indie scene. To learn more about the artists from the festival, visit K&F’s website.