50 concerts in 24 venues across five days. The festival c/o pop brings together pop trends in Germany from every direction, including the avant garde. This year, c/o pop has even made its way into some unexpected places.
About 8,000 screeching girls were cheering Tim Bendzko on as he delivered a concert kicking off this summer's c/o pop festival. Bendzko is well-known in Germany, having scored the hit of the summer last year with a track called "Nur noch kurz die Welt retten" (Just Quickly Save the World). He is a symbol of how the festival has changed since its inauguration in 2004 - and the excitement that met him from the audience surprised even the singer.
The c/o pop series got its start nine years ago as an electronic festival, but indie pop has taken up more and more space in the program. Hearing mainstream pop like what Bendzko sings is an even newer development - on the heels of another German pop star from last year, Philip Poisel. Concerts like these bring in bigger audiences and more financial security for the organizers.
The indie and electro fans can respect these concessions to the business side of things, said c/o pop festival head Norbert Oberhaus, who added that people come because they know the festival offers quality acts and that Cologne is a good place to pick up on international trends in music.
Into the temples of high culture
In addition to expanding musically, the festival has grown to include more programming than it used to. It's not just the usual suspects in Cologne's club scene playing host. Instead, organizers have looked for ways to bring music to the unsuspecting. Examples include concerts staged in the Cologne "Philharmonie", which has also served as a festival venue in recent years, and on the roof of Museum Ludwig, a renowned modern and contemporary art museum. And this year even broke with local tradition as a private theater once home to beloved local actor Willy Millowitsch - the Millowitsch Theater - joined the list of c/o pop venues, offering several avant-garde concerts like that of Berlin-based singer Dillon.
Oberhaus said that the temples of high culture in Cologne were once quite reluctant to play host to events like his but that these days he gets a number of specific requests from them.
The Millowitsch Theater is hosting a silent performance this year - a concept c/o pop first took on in 2010. Conceived as a way to reduce noise, silent concerts have taken on a life of their own. The audience shows up and receives wireless headphones. There are no speakers, so silence reigns when you slip the headphones off.
True to the festival's roots, the silent performances at c/o pop generally focus on electro, including a musical trip around the world with the duo Pachanga Boys.
Festival and kindergarten in one
One question c/o pop has begun considering: how do you hold on to your audience once years have passed and people have families? Of course it's no rarity to see kids' play areas with clowns and music to their liking at festivals, but c/o pop has taken a different approach. The kids here make the music themselves. They can go to DJ workshops and get some initial experience with learning how to mix beats. Or they can even come along for a silent concert and dance alongside their parents.
It's perhaps less likely that the young ones would beg their parents to go along to the Philharmonie to catch Austrian singer Soap&Skin. But there's plenty of room for them to exercise their creativity. And who knows - maybe one of the little ones will discover his talent and end up on stage making music for the grown-ups in ten years?
Author: Matthias Klaus / gsw
Editor: Rick Fulker