Gräfenhainichen – a modest city between Wittenberg and Dessau – would be the location for where our weekend of party heart would be cultivated over three days (11th– 13thJuly). Over 200 national and international artists showed out over eight different stages for the 22ndissue of Splash! Festival – the biggest hip-hop and reggae festival in all of Germany. Despite the threat of thunderstorms and the lack of German spoken on our part, the weekend was building up to be one of the best this summer. Formerly one of Germany’s best kept secrets until we were invited, Nation of Billions were on hand to give you the lowdown on what transpired during our German adventure.
Anticipation for this year’s Splash! Festival was so high that a new record was set for tickets selling out – January marked six months before Splash! was due to open its gates at the famed Ferropolis venue. Bad luck for anyone that found out about this festival too late! Given the quality of the line-up, it should come as no surprise that Splash! sold out in record time. They had booked everyone from $uicideboy$, Buddy and Luciano to Saweetie, Skepta and Young Thug so as far as line-ups went, this was one of the best that any European festival had to offer.
A notable absence who was supposed to headline on the main stage was A$AP Rocky; but with his ongoing legal situation in Sweden, this was not to be. There were a couple of performances that ensured that his presence would be missed as friends of Rocky kept his spirit in our thoughts. Skepta’s Friday set was a throwback to a time when you could see him slaughter an Eskimo Dance, while his performances of ‘Praise the Lord (Da Shine)’ and ‘Vicious’ EP favourite ‘Ghost Ride’ provoked the crowd into moshpits and wild chants of ‘Free Flacko’. Queens, New York native Action Bronson also used part of his lively set to hop the ‘1 Train’ in support of Rocky, while a passionate performance of ‘Red Dot Music’ kept Mac Miller in the minds of 30,000 concert goers. Other highlights from the main stage included a colourful showing on the opening night by ScHoolboy Q (he was also with the Free Flacko movement), watching German born rapper Luciano rock the main stage with his brand of trap music and seeing 30,000 people go wild for both Young Thug and Future.
Ferropolis is a weird lightshow of a spectacle that never sleeps
Splash’s home Ferropolis is described as an open museum of huge industrial machines from the mid-20thcentury. Once you set foot inside the city of iron, you’ll find that this description undersells the sheer scale of Splash! Festival. If you were to take a panoramic photo of Ferropolis, you’d see giant wooden reindeers that shoot fire from their antlers, huge cranes that dangle large disco balls, a beach to the side of the main stage – and that barely scratches the surface! For the most part, the venue that is an hour and a half from Berlin and resembles a post-apocalyptic dystopia with more clouds of smoke and dusty sand than good phone reception. But whether it’s during the sunny day or closer to the 3am curfew, Ferropolis is a weird lightshow of a spectacle that never sleeps and is a sight to behold for locals and festival goers alike.
With eight stages and a host of attractions scattered across site, there was always something other than music to keep the crowd occupied. If shooting hoops or hanging out in the little forest doesn’t appeal, then getting a better view of proceedings atop one of the surrounding cranes is another option. Despite previously attending festivals in America, The Netherlands and England, I had never been able to take a dip in the lake while I watch acts take the stage! Elements like this made for a truly unique experience and the size of Splash! did not prevent it from being an efficiently run spectacle.
Even with the venue doing its best to mirror George Miller’s Mad Max, the small patch of beach to the left of Snipes mainstage provided the alternative of a tropical ambience and still managed to attract a huge crowd. Over the weekend, acts such as Little Simz, Trippie Redd, Lil Baby, Jay Rock, Yxng Bane and Madeintyo rocked the sizeable Splash! Beach to a forgiving crowd that made it easy for those that opted against drowning in exuberant moshpits. Elsewhere, acts like Saba and Yung Fume – assisted by his DJ Yank Boogie and fellow artist Fee Gonzales – delivered their differing brands of rap on a Backyard stage that combined elements of an industrial yard with a sandy beach.
In terms of the true festival experience, the stage that best highlights my experience was the High Snobiety Soundsystem with a variety of exciting acts that originate from London, Germany and the US. The intimate set up that was hidden among the trees featured acts such as UK based DJ’s AAA and Conducta, London rap collective House of Pharaohs, Los Angeles exports Buddy and DUCKWRTH, Murkage Dave, Places + Faces and Deutsch-American rapper JuJu Rogers among many others. With a host of DJ’s also supplementing the vibes, the High Snobiety acts were expertly curated and displayed a level of diversity that reflects the range of crowd that Splash can attract.
In short, Splash! is a proper festival for proper aficionados of music culture. The blend of cultures seen within the diversity of the crowd and the line-up is something that demonstrates that modern day Germany is one that embraces the idea of a metropolis in an experience that is unlike any that you could hope to experience whether you’re from the United Kingdom or beyond. So if you don’t mind a bit of sand in your feet, the minor threat of thunderstorms or partying all the way until 3am, Splash! Festival is the place to be.