LIVE: We Built The World And Miss The Stars Fest IV, Berlin

By Ashwin Bhandari

For people who complain about there being not much to do in their hometown, the answer has, and always will be to travel elsewhere. This is especially the case for screamo. While Miss The Stars Fest is still relatively underground, the hype and buzz for the event has been getting bigger each year. So much so that weekend tickets sold out not long after the dates were announced last year, meaning that fans still planning to attend are told to get to the venue as early as possible for day passes in order to avoid being turned away.

When you arrive inside, you’re welcomed with a patio area screening silent films, zine set ups, vegan food trucks and but tasty beers. The merch area is situated on the other side of the venue, where you follow a short trail of fairy lights to get to. While there are plenty of stalls and records for you to feast your eyes upon, the majority of bands also use this space to say hello to people and hang out with friends. Even when equipment fails on stage, everyone is happy to help out. As curator/founder of We Miss The Stars Alex Grigutsch told us last year; “I see it as more of a “Do It Together” label rather than D.I.Y.” This applies with the ethos of the festival, as well.

With only two rooms at Tiefgrund, a basement stage and the main stage, Miss The Stars doesn’t have the usual half-hearted vibe of people only catching the bands they know or are 100% passionate about. It’s all about supporting everything and everyone there.

It, comes as no surprise when the basement stage is fully packed out for Kepler on the first evening. Their caustic yet subtle aura of post-hardcore is reminiscent of early La Dispute. This is also clear with the quirky choice of percussion the vocalist uses during his set, captivating everyone in the basement. With new material being just as highly received as cuts from ‘How To Disappear’, Kepler are a wonderfully cathartic warm up for the rest of the evening.

Shuffling to the main stage with a lot more space to breathe, Sore Eyelids arrive next.  For those less familiar with the Euro DIY  scene, the band is an emo side project of Henning Runolf from Suis La Lune. Contrasting greatly from his main band, the outfit masterfully plays moody, anthemic rock songs, laced with a dash of shoegaze. Runolf’s dreamy vocals soar over the driving riffs and even from the back fans can be heard enthusiastically bellowing along. A few well-laden twinkles here and there also balances things out. A lot of modern emo revival bands could take a lot of notes from Sore Eyelids. While not being entirely unique in their style, they set the bar very high in terms of enhancing their sound on record into a live environment.

Changing the mood to a darker tone, Austria’s Archivist are certainly one of the biggest highlights of tonight. The sextet bludgeons their way through a varied mix of their two LPs, showering the audience with their cataclysmic energy and ethereal hypnoses.  It’s charming to see the band grin and laugh so much on stage given the emotive and serious nature of their music. While they might stick out like a sore thumb at this festival, they’re warmly received and made to feel at home throughout.

Speaking to various attendees earlier, a lot of people have already seen Swain countless times before as their previous incarnation, This Routine Is Hell. Indeed, the group’s constant touring schedule around Europe since 2008 might seem tiring for mainland emos to watch them play yet another headlining set. Swain couldn’t really give less of a fuck about that though, as a large selection of cuts from ‘The Long Dark Blue’ are dished out openly.

From the grungy, downtrodden vibes of ‘Never Clean My Room’, to the thumping energy of ‘Half Asleep Half Awake’, Swain’s unapologetic nihilism from their recorded material translates immaculately live. Older material is, of course, lapped up without question but their 2016 record has brought them such a new sense of identity it would have been just as satisfying to hear it in full. The set breezes by quickly, but the Dutch hardcore quartet prove why they’re one of the most important bands in their scene at the moment, and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

The second day is a British invasion of sorts, with sets from acts on Nottingham’s Adorno records label taking over the basement room. Charlotte Light And Dark’s brand of invigorating and fidgety screamo starts off the day with a blast. Their instrumentation is frantic, loud and concentrated purely into hard hitting bursts of screamo energy.  There’s a sense of blunt clarification with every song that vocalist Darran Nolan introduces, even if it boils down to being borderline unintelligible. He spends the last few songs rolling around on the floor in anguish and if you’re not doing that during your set are you really in a skramz band?

Following this, Thisismenotthinkingofyou and Yuri team up to form an unparalleled powerhouse of skramz fun. Abi of Yuri, yells into her microphone and crowd surfs across the room for most of the set. This perfectly accompanies Shaun of TIMNTOY’s shrieks and oppressive guitar licks. It’s surreal to see a human pyramid during a skramz show, and it’s also criminal how these bands just don’t get the time or attention they truly deserve back home. Sure, they might play to floor shows with their mates, but here’s its a joyous combination of UK bands they’ve played countless shows with, and Euros giving it their all for them.

The main stage showcases Boneflower’s sample heavy post-rock, which swirls blissfully into melodic walls of sound.  The Spanish trio encompasses reverb-soaked vocals amongst their tight instrumentation, even if they’re not a band who necessarily grab your gaze instantaneously.  It’s a nice mix of immersion and attentively melancholic vibes for their set which on the whole, works very well.

Nervously pacing back and forth, I Hate Sex embrace the anxiety of arguably their biggest show to date, plunging into ‘January 24’ and ‘Sleep Paralysis’ as if they’d never left their mother Canada. Vocalist Nicole Boychuk’s unquestionably sad screams echo through the room, giving you a very personal touch with their songs subject matter.  ‘World Of Grief’ steals the limelight of material, with the blend of the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ sides of the LP melding together. The glistening guitar lines lull you into a false sense of security before you’re forced to grieve and share your universal anguish with them. Older tracks such as ‘I Fucking Hate Sports’ are played ever so slightly faster than on record, but this adds a somewhat greater sense of urgency to them. As we get to ‘San Fransisco’, I Hate Sex’s consistently brilliant set closes as Boychuk shrieks “You deserve so much happiness, you deserve so much more than this.”

Finally, Suis La Lune converges to a room of dedicated fans, some of whom have traveled across the other side of the planet for this festival. Opening on ‘What These Hands Can’t Hold’ from their 2016 split with Shirokuma, their set is the epitome of what you might refer to as a ‘beautiful’ kind of sadness. Runolf’s screams are all well timed, striking a nice equilibrium of cacophony yet letting nothing go to waste. Audience members at the front gleefully scream along, stagedive and make the most out of this hour-long set, an absolute treat considering the brief nature of most skramz bands performances. There’s something so pure and heartfelt about their live sound as well as the resounding crowd reaction, as Suis La Lune rich guitar tones and crescendos feel utterly euphoric. As they finish, the sense of beautiful sadness fades into actual sadness when we realize the festival is done and dusted this year.

However, as bands and fans all hang out and party with one another, noise artist Amethyst starts his set in the basement room, advertised as an ‘afterparty’ set. It’s not entirely harsh, but still feels uncomfortably abrasive.  Noise is very much a marmite genre, which is proven by the fact that there’s barely anyone in the room, and those that do pop their heads over to see what’s going on are entirely baffled. Regardless, this is a unique way of ending a festival, and those that do stick around are treated to 30 minutes of unfiltered drone/noise with some raw yells thrown in at the end.

It’s been a killer two days, confirming that Miss The Stars fest is unlike any other European fest you’ll go to. Even if you don’t know certain acts or are just there to hang out with pals, you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful time with like minded individuals and a love for all things sad.