Berlin has always had a rocky relationship with pop music festivals, and nobody seems to be sure why. The hyped metropolis is a mecca for startups and artists, home to people from more than 190 nations, with the average resident age being merely 42.7 years. About a third of the population is of foreign descent, while approximately half of about 44,000 yearly newcomers derive from middle or upper-class backgrounds – people still able to invest in entertainment and culture.
Furthermore, the standard of living is solid enough for bands like Rammstein to sell 170,000 tickets for consecutive stadium dates in minutes. The terrain couldn’t be more favorable for large music events with platinum-selling lineups, and yet, somehow, a large-scale pop festival is yet to come to fruition – and not for lack of trying.
From 2005 to 2013, a lovely attempt was made with the Berlin Festival, a two-day event looking to fuse the city’s love of techno with rock and pop. Over time it grew to 20,000-plus attendees, becoming massive enough to occur at the defunct Tempelhof airport in 2013. Blur, Bjork, Pet Shop Boys, and more were featured in the lineup. The attendance was good, the atmosphere great (I was there), but the event was subsequently canceled, never to return.
Lollapalooza Berlin also suffered greatly over the years. It had to change venues four times in four years for reasons ranging from noise complaints to refugees needing space to stay. Finally, in 2018 it settled at the Olympiapark. It has since become a revered event, and rightfully so, but in Berlin, it is the only one.
Now, Tempelhof Sounds has arrived to face the historically low odds. It will also likely beat them. Organized by FKP Scorpio, a reputable German events enterprise with more than 30 years of experience and rock-solid clientele, the event’s inaugural edition promises a good mix of pop-rock legends and fresh blood, along with a focus on sustainability and environmentally-friendly development. The festival will take place at the legendary, now retired Tempelhof airport, one of the world’s first commercial airports, a place where pilots used to drop candy for the impoverished children of West Berlin (Operation Vittles), and the only airport located in the center of a major city to have been active well into the 21st century, until 2008.
The expansive and perfectly located venue also means easy logistics, an incredibly important benefit for the fans. Since most large festivals take place in the middle of nowhere, requiring travel and lodging (often camping), the idea of getting to a festival site in 15-30 minutes no matter where you live in the city makes for a hell of an argument to go. No wonder the outing is advertised as a “relaxed, after-work experience”. A weekend casually spent listening to an assortment of great bands with all the advantages of any high street night out and no downsides of travel expenses, mud, and sleeping among insects (at best), should be enough to attract the locals. Moreover, the festival’s location in the city is hugely appealing to tourists wanting to visit Berlin – it’s an effortless two-for-one weekend getaway.
As for the lineup, there’s plenty to look forward to. After the pandemic has sadly thwarted their touring plans for two years, the Strokes will finally get to showcase their comeback album, 2020’s The New Abnormal, in all its dejected maturity. Florence Welch will bring her band’s fresh-off-the-press release, Dance Fever, just released on 13 May, while Muse will preview their ninth album, Will of the People, which will be released on 26 August. Interpol, Alt-J, and Wolf Alice will also arrive with recent or upcoming new material; the same goes for the majority of bands that, until recently, were forced to lie low due to the pandemic.
With the pandemic restrictions effectively ending across the European Union only in March and April of this year, as an early-season festival, Tempelhof Sounds will be a special celebration of sorts, a first truly major congregation in Germany since the world reopened. Given its organizers’ approach to business as both fun and beneficial to the society at large, It’s quite likely it will earn its place in the standard event lineup very soon.
Where: Tempelhof Airport: Berlin, Germany
When: 10-12 June 2022
Who: Florence + The Machine, Muse, The Strokes, Interpol, The Libertines, Alt-J, Wolf Alice, Royal Blood, and more
Tickets: three-day passes €189, day passes €89. Buy tickets here.