From 25th to 27th of October it was time again for Berlin Ukulele Festival at UFA Fabrik. I had a great time last year so I didn’t want to miss it. I even came a day earlier than last year and stayed until Monday to make sure, that I could enjoy the whole festival.
Coming back to this festival felt like coming home or like a big family reunion. Within minutes of arriving at the venue I met so many friends again. I love how this community sticks together and has so much love for everyone. So I knew that the evening could only be great.
Friday Open Mic
I did not expect that the festival would start with such a bang though. Friday night at Berlin Ukulele Festival is always dedicated to a big open mic at Varieté Salon, which is pretty big already. But it was so packed with people, that lots of them didn’t even get a seat – and still stayed for three hours to listen to hobby ukuleleists and ukuleistas, to semi-professionals and everyone in between. The atmosphere was amazing and as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to get on stage – this will be a story for another blog entry though 😉
Diana All, our beloved Ukulele Ambassador and someone I luckily can call a friend was the host for the night. As usual, she did a great job, being just her funny self and making sure everyone, whether on stage or in the audience felt welcome. If you head over to my Instagram, you can check out pictures and short videos of the performances in my story highlights. And here’s some impressions:
Saturday Workshops, Open Mic, Sing Along
This year I wanted to have a more relaxed festival experience, so I only booked one workshop per day. On Saturday it was a workshop by Andreas David. He’s a faboulus musician and also owns a ukulele store in Berlin. His workshop was titled “Hawaii meets Ireland”. I booked the workshop when I bought the tickets for the festival many months ago. Back then I only knew that Andreas would do the workshop, but it didn’t say yet what it was going to be about. TBH if I’dve known the title, I probably wouldn’t have booked it, because both Hawaiian and Irish music are just not the things I play. But I had already payed for it so I thought why not go check it out. Plus I booked the workshop because of Andreas, so who cares what it’s about ;).
I am really glad I went though, because I did actually learn something that might come in handy for me. We started out with triplet strums (I know how to do those, yeah, go me) and then moved on to triplet strums on single or multiple strings (I did not know how to do this). I was able to follow the workshop lessons very well, which tells me that my skills did improve a lot in the last year and I did get some inspiration for some new songs maybe. So it was worth being there.
After the workshop I went to the open mic sessions hosted by Marc Gallagher. Here are some short videos of other people who played there. You can also head to my Instagram and see some more in my highlighted stories. I also played open mic, and I’ll post a blog post with all the videos in the next couple of weeks.
There were also sing alongs and many other things happening at the same time. However, there’s only so much you can do, so I missed a bunch of stuff. I do get a bit of FOMO about it, but I need to let that go ;).
I think I’ve said it before, but I am a huge fan of Kaisers Ukulelen Combo. They are the lovely people behind Austrian Ukulele Festival and with their band they just never disappoint. It’s a very authentic sound with lots of Hawaiian influences that carries you away to magical places. By now I can sing along to not just their covers but also to most of their original songs. If you don’t know them, please go check them out, I promise you will love them.
Ukentlemen are five guys from Finland with four ukuleles and a uke bass. They started their show with the theme to “Bonanza” which won over the crowd quickly. Then they mostly played well known songs but with Finnish lyrics. Since I am heading to the TWUF Festival in Finland next January, this was a very nice intro for me.
Trio de Kleer is a family affair from the Netherlands. They play mainly gypsy and traditional (folk, latin) style music. I only saw the last half of the show because I was outside catching up with some friends. But what I did see was really impressive.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Dead Mans Uke live now. Probably three or four times but I just don’t get sick of them. They bring it every time they are on stage and though I’ve heard many of the songs before, it never gets boring. This time they brought Mel Day on the harmonica which added a very nice layer to their sound.
I hadn’t seen and heard much about Brittni before the festival, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even when she hit the stage I didn’t know what was going to happen. From her looks it could go in every direction possible (she looks super cute btw). She then delivered a really great show with amazing looping skills and some very expressive songs. I don’t think that any instrumental music ever brought tears in my eyes, but Brittni did that. So thank you for that very emotional moment, for opening up on stage about your own struggles and for this moving show.
Sunday Workshops, Open Mic, Sing Along
On Sunday I attended a workshop with Victoria Vox. I was really looking forward to meet her and the workshop was a lot of fun. Victoria showed us how to play “Lean on Me” in different styles like reggae, blues, bluegrass, pop, ska,… The workshop focused a lot on right hand techniques and since my right hand is totally stupid when it comes to strumming, this is something I always need. And I think there’s some strums that I might be able to incorporate into some upcoming songs, so that’s always a plus.
After the workshop I went to the open mic again – and yes, I also played again. As usual, there was lots of talent there, here are some short snippets I took and shared on Instagram:
Unfortunately I missed the sing alongs again and I also didn’t have a lot of time to check out all the stalls and chat with the ukulele brands. Hope to catch up with all of them next time.
Sunday concerts started out with Hawaiian feeling from the festival organizer Sabina and her team:
And of course the raffle. I did not win one of the main prizes (they had some very nice Koaloha and Kanilea ukuleles) but I did win a Luna Concert Ukulele. One more for my collection;)
First concert was sponsored by Flight Ukulele and they brought The Ukuleleaves. I’ve met Larissa and Andi at Austrian Ukulele Festival and they are an amazing duo with great chemistry. This was actually their first gig on main stage and they did really well. If you haven’t seen and heard them yet, go check them out, it’s a great show.
Another band from Germany, the Lucky Ukes played next. I missed the first part of their performance because I was out catching up with some friends again. But when I came back in they just played “Scarborough Fair” and you can win my heart with that song any day 🙂
I had never heard of Barada Street before the festival and had no idea what to expect – but they very quickly became one of my highlights of this festival. Richard and Juri combine ukulele and acrobatics and brought a fantastic show with lots of laughs and stunning things to see. I really hope that we will see them on some more festivals soon, because their show would fit lots of small and big stages.
I’ve been looking forward to see Victoria Vox for quite some time now. To Berlin she did not come alone but with her husband as “Jack and the Vox“. Together they brought some very songwriting to the stage, something I absolutely adore and can’t get enough of. That plus some looping and Victorias famous mouth trumpet made for a joyful concert. I hope to see them again soon.
Friends, friends, friends
As I said in the beginning, coming to Berlin this year, felt like coming home and I would love to write more about that, but I feel so emotional about it, that I can’t find the right words (I might have to write a song about it). There was just so much love and friendship there and all I can do is say thank you to everyone I met there again, and to everyone new I met. This was a magical experience with all of you, I miss you already and can’t wait to do it again.
PS.: There’s tons of pictures and video snippets in my Instagram highlight story about the festival. You can check it out here and I’ll probably keep it up for a year.