I’m just back, literally yesterday, from MS Dockville Festival in Hamburg. If I had to sum it up in one word: cool. It sounds like a cop out, maybe even a little bit lazy, but it was without a doubt one of the ‘coolest’ festivals I’ve been to.
Hipsters galore. Art installations. An awesome and eclectic line up – featuring my fave James Vincent McMorrow. A unique food line up. Excellent fodder for people watching. Unique spaces. Chilled atmosphere. Just, cool.
2017 has been the festival’s 10th birthday. For the last decade MS Dockville has been running in Wilhelmsburg – an area known for its industrial feel, with waterside warehouses and docklands architecture all around.
Over 25,000 attend each year, helping the festival to raise money for arts camps nearby. In such an arty city, you know this arty festival is bound to succeed. And it’s not just the main event. Before MS Dockville, MS Artsville runs in the city, helping artists to bring their work to the people. Some of the art installations and pieces are then shown off at Dockville, adding to the cool vibe.
MS Dockville backstage pass
I had a backstage pass to for MS Dockville, although we didn’t really make the most of it. Somehow, on the first night, we (Yaya and Lloyd from Hand Luggage Only) and I managed to blag ourselves into a VIP section which looked out over the main stage, and had a free beer tap. I know. We made friends with the other people up there, had a good old chinwag and just kept drinking the beers as they flowed. Brilliant night at MS Dockville.
The second night, I went with different friends, and they denied all knowledge of letting us in the night before. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
It was ok though, because instead we went backstage and stood about two metres away from the lead singer of Glass Animals, Dave Bayley. He was absolutely drenched, as was I. Not really the time to say hello, but I’m sure he would’ve otherwise.
I also went in the pit for a bit, while Flume was playing, until we got chucked out as you’re only meant to be in there for the first three songs. I totally knew that…
Your Guide to MS Dockville Festival
What’s on stage
The music was an eclectic line up of local and international bands. Unfortunately I only knew about 5 acts, but fortunately that meant that I was presented with a great opportunity to get to know some more bands on the scene.
Know to me: James Vincent McMorrow, Flume, Sohn, Moderat, Oh Wonder, Sohn and Glass Animals
I’m a bit out of practice with my minimal techno, electro, rad electro and hip hop but as I took myself on a little tour of the festival ground I could hear that there was all kinds of different music and artists playing. There were stages big enough for around 20 people, up the thousands at the main stage and everything in between. I love a good small stage at a festival – means you can get to know your fellow festival goers and get in the moment.
The Main Stage had a small enough crowd to not need screens at the side, but big enough to have a good atmosphere. After the effort of Glastonbury back in June I’m all about these smaller festivals. Although, as we’d arrived pretty late on the first day, and then got stuck at the free bar, it wasn’t until the next night that I realised quite how big the MS Dockville festival site was.
What to eat at MS Dockville
The cheeseburger I had at MS Dockville (for €6.50) was absolutely sensational. Honestly, wanted to go back and get another one. Would’ve done if it was more socially acceptable. It had been chucking it down with rain, I was drenched, cold, and had lost my friends in the rush to seek cover. But that cheeseburger cheered me right up. I savoured every mouthful while watching the rainbow brighten, and eventually fade.
I also tried the Handbrot (for €5). I saw a queue, and joined it. How very British of me. I actually ended up queueing for 25 minutes for a slice of this. If I’d just had a dab of hot sauce, or maybe an anchovy, it would’ve been worth it. Apparently this is super popular festival food in Germany. If I had the energy I’d totally bring it to the UK. Cheesey, bready and with a few bites of ham, the oozing bread warmed me from the inside. Apparently it’s popular at Christmas Markets too so keep an eye out for it if you’re heading over to Germany this winter.
There were also fries stands, pies stands, pizza, Asian, vegan, and of course, those oh so German wursts.
What to drink
I presume in an effort to combat the inevitable waste from festivals MS Dockville charged €1 for a cup, which you got back when you returned. Trouble was you had to return it to the same kind of stand – so the beer glasses to the beer stalls, the cider to the ones serving cider, and the cocktail glasses to the cocktail stands. It was annoying at first, mainly because the mud made it difficult to get around, but it’s for the planet, so you got to do it.
The beers were €4, the Jack Daniels cocktails €6.50 and the cider €3. I also spotted some wine, but I didn’t indulge.
What to take to MS Dockville
There were a lot of wellies around at MS Dockville 2017, it was a rainy muddy one. I had totally packed little sliders and only added my Vans trainers at the last minute. Thank God I did.
The ground was so slippy, some people had just got rid of their shoes all together – although I don’t know if it was on purpose or not.
It’s not my proudest moment but it was pretty funny when we realised we were stood at the bottom of a hill and our fellow festival goers were sliding down it, arse first, spilling their pints. It was only when an 8-year-old ish boy came out with a torch on his head and stood there that they could see where they were going. He did kind of spoil our fun to be honest, but at least we saw that girl in her white jeans face palm.
So yeah, bring sensible shoes.
It was a pretty chilled festival as far as the general uniform, although that could be because it was mostly jeans and raincoats.
And don’t forget the glitter! I’ve been to European festivals before and it was like everyone was too cool to get involved with a glitter face, but there were plenty of glitter cheeks running around here.
What else is there to do at MS Dockville?
In this guide to MS Dockville I’ve covered food, drink, what to take, the line up, and now – what else is there to do?
There are lots of little shops selling jewellery, bags and clothes. Make sure you save some from your beers to splash on cool stuff. There was a poetry stage, an interview stage for new bands, sing songwriters and producers, and Chanel were randomly there giving out lollipops too, which was weird. You could wander round the art installations, relax on the picnic benches or check out the food area.
Where to stay for MS Dockville
The great thing about city festivals, in my ageing opinion, is the fact that you can stay in a hotel, in the city, rather than lugging all your stuff for hours (Glastonbury-style) into the festival. I stayed at the Motel One Hotel on Steindhamm. This was about 30 minutes from the festival in a taxi or an hour’s walk and public transport. It was a really nice and comfortable hotel, with an incredible breakfast. I stayed in a Motel One Hotel in Edinburgh when I went to Hogmanay, and they’re definitely made to a blueprint. Literally. As the hotel is blue inside and out.
Anyway, it was well located for the city as well as the festival so I’d definitely recommend it.
You can camp at the festival too – the price is included in the ticket – although this year would’ve been a bit of a soggy one.
Hamburg on Tour
I was in Hamburg as part of my role as a Hamburg Ambassador. I’ve actually been to the city before, two years ago when I went to the A Summer’s Tale Festival. Hamburg is a cool city, and one of the few European cities I could actually imagine living in. It’s more chilled than Berlin, prettier and of course, as the second biggest port city in Europe, it has that whole marine vibe going on, which I love so much I moved to Portsmouth in England for it.
If you fancy a trip over, but not just yet, Hamburg is actually coming to London (do you live near?) and I’ll be joining the team at a pop up event in Shoreditch, at the Boiler House on the 20th and 21st October.
From midday to 11pm, both days you can come down and listen to a few Hamburger bands, see a replica of the new Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall and enjoy some tasty food too. Learn more from the locals, from the people who’ve been, or just come along and have a real German beer in London.
Best of all, the pop up event is freeeee! To get in, not the drinks, this is real life guys.
What: Hamburg on Tour – they’re bringing Hamburg to YOU
When: 20th and 21st October, midday to 11pm
Where: Boiler House, Shoreditch
Why? To learn more about Hamburg, and to see meeeee!
Getting to Hamburg
More on Germany