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Blog: Cologne Popfest

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Over the weekend The Validators travelled to Cologne to play at The Cologne Popfest. It was BLOODY GRATE.

Most of us - myself, Tom and Frankie, along with Ian and Paul from Frankie's old band The Almanacs - rolled up on Friday lunchtime. They'd all come on the Eurostar while I'd FLOWN, which meant that we'd all had to get up quite early to be there, so once we'd met up outside Cologne Cathedral (which is GINORMOUS) we decided to head to the hotel, where we all had SHOWERS before meeting up and heading back into the centre of town.

Frankie had been before so knew how things WORKED. He took us to a bar in a square where we sat ourselves down in the GLORIOUS sunshine. A waiter saw us and said "FUNF?" to which we replied "FUNF!" and then a couple of minutes later he returned with five very small (200ml) beers for us. Whenever we'd finished, or were near finishing, he'd just bring us more! It was GRATE - it meant that ordering was peasy, you could drink almost PRECISELY as much as you wanted, and the beer was always cold and fresh! ALSO it felt like we were drinking LOADS of beer and thus being DEAD COOL, but were actually being almost sensible. WINZ!

We went to another bar after a while, then another for something to eat, then another really nice Indoors Place where we got a BOOTH to ourselves. It was a lovely sunny day which we filled with VERY intellectual discussions. Normally when The Validators gather we do OF COURSE have Political Discussions and that, and definitely don't sitting around taking the piss out of each other, remembering Gigs We Have Done, or just catching up. Paul and Ian being there though seemed to take us to a whole other LEVEL, and there was LENGTHY discussion of politics and especially MEN'S ISSUES. It was really good!

The evening ended with us going to The Blue Shell, venue for the next day's GIG. I had high hopes of getting there in time to see some bands (as there had been three on that evening) but all the HIGHBROW CHAT meant it was gone 11pm when we arrived. We were reunited with a whole HEAP of pals, including Marcel and the various organisers (who seemed happy with how it was going) and Katharina and Martin (AKA our legendary promoter and all round good guy for gigs in Dresden and Berlin). It was flipping DELIGHTFUL!

The Validators have a WHATSAPP group now, because we are SO MODERN, which meant that we were all fully in touch on our travels. On Friday The Pattisons had kept us up to date with their lunch and gardening while the rest of us were crossing the continent, and on Saturday I awoke to find a whole HEAP of news from them as they struggled to make it via RY*N*IR. Astoundingly, RY*N*IR were difficult and unreliable - who'd've guessed?!?

Just before 2pm all of The Validators were fully ASSEMBLED, and we set off to the venue for soundcheck. We'd been a bit worried about INSTRUMENTS as we hadn't taken any with us, but, just as promised, the organisers had sourced us a whole load of GEAR to use. Over the day they proved themselves to have done absolutely EVERYTHING they said they would, paid us PRECISELY what was agreed, did ALL the Merch Sales for us, and OVERWHELMED us with food and drink. There were drinks and food backstage, our wrist bands gave us access to FREE BEER all day, and on top of that we got given VOUCHERS "for when you start want to doing shots" (NB "when", they said, not "if"!). It was brilliant - it is a cliche for British bands to play abroad and then HARP ON about how well they have been treated, but the difference between the general standard HERE and over there is astounding. I often wonder how European bands feel when they come and play in the UK!

We did our soundcheck, which sounded FAB, and then waited to see if anyone would come. It was a lovely warm day again (Friday had apparently been the hottest April day in Cologne EVER!) so I expected people to stay outside and enjoy the weather, and we were on FIRST, so at about 3:50pm I was not surprised to find the room sparesely populated. However, by the time we took to the stage, bang on 4:00pm, it was RAMMED!

What followed was a FABULOUS gig, containing the following:

  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)

  • Do The Indie Kid
  • It was, by general Validator consent, one of the best gigs EVER. Highlights included the audience waving EU flags (which the Pattisons had made especially) during Can We Be Friends?, SPARKLERS being held aloft in We Did It Anyway, and Marcel and chum coming onstage to sing a German verse of Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met), THUS:

    It was all quite emotional really, and also Surprisingy Well Received. The audience seemed to clap for AGES after every song, and I had to just start talking over them so that we'd have time to do the whole set! When we came off I was pleased to see we'd only gone over our time by a couple of minutes, but then PERPLEXED by the fact that they were STILL clapping. We couldn't go on and do an encore, I thought - surely everyone knew that, it was an all-dayer - but they KEPT ON CLAPPING! Eventually we DID go on and do an encore, although as we didn't have much time we cut a verse of Do The Indie Kid out on purpose, and certainly not accidentally. It was FAB!

    The rest of the day was also pretty wonderful. We especially enjoyed The Popinjays, and especially especially when they came outside afterwards and we all had a LENGTHY chat in the sunshine together. It does seem weird to me sometimes when we standing around chatting to bands we used to read about in the NME as if it was Totally Normal, but it does very much seem like the ones who are still out and about these days are all dead nice!

    Another thing I have noticed over the past couple of years is that Indie events now tend to include a BREAK in the middle so that everybody can go and eat and get their second wind. It's almost as if Indie events that I go to are predominantly attended by middle-aged people who know their own and others' limits! We went to get a curry, but when we found that our chosen restaurant was full we went to a PERSIAN restaurant instead. It turned out to be a) quite MEATY but also b) very nice for what Veggie stuff it DID have. We all particularly enjoyed the raw onions and MINT - it simultaneously freshened and de-freshened your breath!

    Back at the gig there was more yacking, more bands, and more GOOD TIMES. Someone told me that he'd been DJing our version of 'Drink Doch Eine Met' locally and people were going KRAZY for it (in a good way - I checked). Other people had other lovely things to say, and everyone lived up to the Cologne reputation for being friendly, including the people who didn't COME from Cologne!

    Emma and Tom went back to the hotel first, with Emma taking someone's jacket by mistake, so when Tim and I headed back later we took one of the organisers with us to collect it, which was EXTREMELY handy of them. I went to bed full of the joys of ROCK, amazed that we get to play fantastic events like this, and hopeful that our subtle hints* that we'd like to be asked back again sometime (*telling all of the organisers repeatedly) would pay off. Cologne Popfest was GRATE!

    posted 24/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett

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