The task is: Write a backstage story/ festival report about Bochum Total 2019. Meet up with bands and musicians. Talk to the crew. Take a look at what’s going on behind the scenes and backstage. Take beautiful photos and have some nice interviews.
Okay, hey – if it’s not even more than that. I would be laughed at if I couldn’t manage that. Bochum Total, I ask you. I know my way around there. This is my hood. “Bochum, you’re where I’m from,” to quote Herbert Grönemeyer. My festival, my people and lots of bands and musicians that I already know.
I come to Bochum Total every year and every year I do a photo shoot for the local music library. We have been the official photo partners for Bochum Total for a few years now. And this year König & Meyer will be there, too. I know my way around. Yes, that sounds easy and like great motivation for getting through the next four festival days successfully.
One day after the festival, I am incredibly exhausted and dog-tired sitting in front of the computer to write this report. I start off with a story and a kind of confession of love for Bochum Total.
Good preparation is everything
It’s Wednesday evening, the night before the start of this year’s Bochum Total festival. How do you prepare for a four-day festival. Very easily. Camera batteries are charged – all of them, even those that you have never needed because you have always found that batteries charged like this last a damn long time. Free SD cards from old unnecessary files and you format the cards as a precaution. Three cards should be enough. They are saved, backed up and emptied every evening. Study the official Bochum Total program, list schedules separately so that you can throw everything overboard on the first day of the festival and redesign your schedules with the team. But it counts toward goodwill. Write down interview questions, much more than is at all necessary (you never know) and think about which shoes fit the respective outfit on the one hand, but on the other hand are comfortable enough to survive the more than 6-hour festival march without hurting. Pack the backpack, but as lightly as possible. The two cameras and the four lenses together weigh around 20 kilos. Anything added after this point is unbearable and makes your back hurt. But don’t forgot hygiene wipes to clean your hands from time to time. Ready to go, right? Yes, Bochum Total, here I come.
We can get going – the biggest free and outdoor city festival in Europe is getting underway
Thursday, 5 pm, the official starting signal for 2019. It all gets going and as always, all of the stages have performances going on at the same time. We split up and take pictures of the initial bands. The four official stages of Bochum Total are located around the “Bermuda Triangle” (das Bermuda3eck) in Bochum. The Bermuda Triangle, which is actually the well-known “nightlife district” in Bochum, will be the focus of one of the largest free and outdoor city festivals in Europe throughout the festival. In the Bermuda Triangle alone there are now over 80 catering establishments and it features its own permanently installed stage. For Bochum Total, this becomes the “Sparkassen Stage,” and is one of the main stages.
Almost all the catering establishments join the hustle and bustle every year and sometimes even come up with special menu items for the many visitors who attend. There are numerous “off stages” throughout the Bermuda Triangle. Bands and solo artists play everywhere and almost all venues are free access. The routes between the stages are filled with food stalls, cocktail bars, the pop-up stalls and beer carts. There is food and drink on every corner and there is something for everyone. At Bochum Total everyone gets their money’s worth, and not just when it comes to food.
Backstage it’s different from your average concert
Musically speaking, Bochum Total is always a colorful mix of beautiful and loud sounds.
The largest of the main stages is on Victoria Street, which connects the ring with the city center. The “1Live Bühne,” which got its name from the well-known 1Live radio station, is a giant stage. The backstage area behind the stage is built a few hundred meters back into Victoria Street and there is space for Nightliners and transporters, for a lot of technical stuff, for Porta John toilets, a few white backstage tents and an area for chilling out. There is a fridge with drinks and mini snacks in one tent. The band tents are relatively sparsely furnished. But if we’re honest, why would they need to be. The only time the bands are actually backstage are before and after their gig. There is also a festival VIP area where the catering is located. A restaurant on Victoria Street is being converted during Bochum Total and serves as a catering area. There are 5 dishes to choose from every day. You can either sit outside or in the restaurant. There is a small salad bar and drinks at the counter. Every musician, everyone from the Bochum Total crew, all kinds of people responsible for various aspects of the festival, photographers and other people come to the restaurant to eat and drink. We, the press crew, use this place as a meeting point. Actually, we have been trying for years to get all of us to meet there at least once a day to eat together. As you can imagine, that doesn’t always work, of course. But to the point: Goodwill counts once again.
Behind the scenes: the stage crew is ready, too.
There is a stage manager on every stage. He takes care of supporting the artists, and ensures that everything on and around the stage runs smoothly. He is responsible for this and heads up a large team on stage. There are technicians, stage hands, security personnel and helpers. The stage manager organizes all the bands’ arrival times and keeps an eye on them. Basically a cool job with a lot of responsibility. Over the years, you start to recognize many faces from the individual crews and it is nice to see some of the same faces year after year. I’m up for it and am looking forward to four great days in downtown Bochum.
4 days, 10 locations, 117 bands & artists!
Live music all evening long
Thursday kicks off with some of them. Everything is there, from soothing sounds to SKA. There will be Rambazamba on every corner on Thursday from 5 pm to 10 pm. People are constantly streaming into the downtown area and the headliners are playing in front of a hell of a lot of people. The area is packed – that is, if you can call an open-air concert that doesn’t have any clearly marked boundaries packed. The mood is exuberant. On this first day, everyone seems to be well rehearsed and knows what to do. In the end, it’s probably like riding a bike. Once you can do it, you never forget how. Except for a few tiny changes that are at the most reflected in this year’s layout (an insect theme), everything has basically remained the same. All stages are in their familiar places and the restaurateurs are the same. But why change, anyway?
If you can catch a few quiet minutes, you can have a little chat with friends. „Hey, how ya doin’? Man, another year already.” Yes, this is how often goes today. My photo finale is going to on the Ring stage/ Coolibri stage today. Boppin’B are totally rockin’ it out on the Ring stage at the end, while Alice Francis (1Live stage) and Rage Against The Machine (Sparkasse stage) are rocking the evening out on the other stages. Now it’s time to meet with the team and review the first day, get something to eat and drink and plan day 2. One thing is certain. I know I made the right shoe selection, but the camera backpack is damn heavy and my back has clearly taken a heavy hit after day 1.
Head home, back up photos, take notes, go to bed. It is well after midnight and a great first festival day is over.
What other people are saying and everyday planning
You often get the feeling that you have to justify yourself to people who have nothing to do with all the press or with all the photography in the music industry. Sometimes I think outside people think, oh come on, you take some pictures and whatnot. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes live photography is a really exhausting job, because the photos don’t just fall out of my camera and interviews don’t automatically get column space or lead to a backstage story. The first thing on the morning of Friday is to view and edit photos, upload them, save them and prepare for the interviews planned for Friday at Bochum Total. Preparing means that I briefly read up on each band again. Google = band = skim important things and take notes if necessary.
Preparation is important, but I don’t try to plan out everything. I want a lot of things to arise during the interview itself and to come up based on our conversation. Of course, a guideline or a basic idea is good and probably important, but not everything has to be planned out ahead of time, and anyway, it all comes across as a lot more authentic to just let it happen.
I head into Friday full of energy
I’m looking forward to some bands on Friday. Especially the Rogers, who do the Friday headliner on the Ring stage. But I’m always looking forward to bands that I don’t know yet or that I’ve never seen live. This year, for example, would be Engst or BenjRose, of which I have heard a lot of good things and I am happy to have a chance to form my own opinion.
All the processes remain the same and a kind of routine has already taken place behind the stages. Nothing special going on. The mood is upbeat and there is a lot I have to get done today. Last year I came to the conclusion that a scooter would be just the right thing to drive between stages. Huh? Why don’t I have any scooter? Yeah, great. But in 2020 I will have a scooter, guaranteed!
Friday is a successful day and everyone involved can be satisfied with the result. The weather is excellent and there is a lot going on everywhere. On Friday, bands will continue playing until nearly 11 pm, after which visitors can chill out in the bars. I haven’t eaten anything all day—which I realize as soon as I get home. The day goes by so incredibly fast and drinking is much more important than eating, anyway. Or something like that. Just get a little something on the fork and get to the evening data processing procedure. Festival halftime!
Tomorrow I have my interviews with Betontod and Batomae, which I am really looking forward to.
Saturday – I meet Batomae and Betontod for an interview
I made appointments with the bands in advance as far as possible and made an appointment to chat a bit. Yes – here, again too. Planning is everything? Such nonsense, everything turns out differently than expected, anyway.
Batomae is ready for his gig
Shortly after the first band, I meet my crew briefly backstage to organize the day and who is that sitting at the next table? Batomae! I take the chance to introduce myself briefly and we quickly decide to make this the planned interview and start chatting right then and there. Spontaneity is everything! Like this, for instance! I sit down with him at the table, start my recording function and tell him in 2 short sentences what I am going to do. It goes something like this: “So, I’m going to record our interview on my cell phone so that I can remember afterward what you’ve told me. You are welcome to take time to think about how you want to respond or to correct yourself.” Why do I say it this way? No idea, but no one has ever challenged it. But it probably gives the artist a kind of “good feeling.” Batomae is in a great mood and we both talk about Bochum and the Ruhr area and about his positive backstage experience.
Betontod is looking forward to their appearanc
Batomae will not play on the Sparkassen stage until 8:45 pm on Saturday. After the interview, I still have enough time to conduct my second scheduled interview on this day with Betontod. I’ve arranged it with the band’s tour manager so that I will let him know when I am on the Ring stage that day. Said and done.
One of the guys has time for me and we settle back into one of the tents for a nice little chat. Interviews usually vary a lot. I ask questions, but the answers are pretty short. I always try to create a relaxed atmosphere right at the beginning of an interview by starting with questions that are very general at first or that challenge the interviewee. Sometimes, I don’t have to work to make sure the atmosphere is loose and chill. Sometimes the chemistry is just right or you accidentally meet at the Porta John and…ta da…the ice is broken. True story!
Even if the weather isn’t quite as great today….
Unfortunately, the weather god wants to annoy us this Saturday and sends a few water balls to earth. To be honest, it does annoy me a little. Yes, it hasn’t rained for days and the harvest has been bad for farmers. The flowers and insects urgently need water. But if it were up to me, it would have been great if the dear weather god had simply spared me a few square kilometers in Bochum that day. It’s just annoying when you’re standing in a ditch with your camera and you have to make sure that all your precious camera gear doesn’t get wet and that the photos turn out great without any rain drops on the lens. The temperature has also dropped a few degrees. The mood has stayed upbeat and despite the slight shower, and there are a lot of people are in front of the stage. In general, I think that there are a few fewer people here today than on a Saturday in previous years, but the shortage of visitors is rather negligible. Betontod and Batomae fire up their fans and numerous Bochum Total festival goers. Batomae tells me later, “Yes, I’m happy. It was a great gig. Of course, it’s a shame that it started to rain. But hey, the people were so great and the atmosphere was so nice. Bochum Total is very special, I was excited for days beforehand.”
Sunday – Backstage with Van Holzen
Sunday, last day, the final sprint! Today I am meeting with the guys from Van Holzen. Florian called me in the early afternoon and informed me that they would be arriving in Bochum soon. We meet behind the 1Live stage where they are playing on the last day of the festival. The boys arrived with a big Sprinter vehicle. Six of them. When I get there, the guys are sitting in their bus and come straight to me to greet me. Without further ado, we are considering conducting the interview immediately because there is time right now and the guys don’t have anything to do, anyway. I talk to all three for a good 15 minutes. There is a lot to tell and to learn. I am amazed at how professional and yet authentically the guys conduct the interview. They are all a few years younger than I and definitely know how to sell and make a positive impression. Van Holzen is looking forward to the festival where they are playing for the second time and they are also really up for seeing something great from the other bands playing today.
A terrific conclusion to the festival
It has stayed dry today. It’s much cooler but dry and that’s the most important thing. In addition to Van Holzen’s performance, I look at a few other bands today and take photos until the grand Bochum Total 2019 finale.
I’m actually a little wistful. Four days of festival always pass so quickly and I find I am already thinking about next year. About possible bands, about things that I want to organize differently next year, about my scooter that will take me from stage to stage next year and whether just one camera will be enough for taking photos next year. My back would thank me, anyway.
One day after the festival, the daily newspaper states that over half a million visitors attended this year’s festival. Anyone who knows the numbers of the past few years knows that 2019 was certainly not the best year in terms of attendance but that is not the most important thing. Bochum Total has been around since 1986, which is both impressive and exemplary.
I’m looking forward to Bochum Total 2020, my scooter and a lot of great bands!