It’s not every day that musicians and artists can join one another as friends to create and collaborate, then present the fruits of their labor and love to an audience of collective fans, all at one time, in one place.
Well, with their second ever music festival event—the unofficially-named Endless Nameless—Michelberger Music facilitated that very happenstance last weekend, bringing together members of The National, Bon Iver, Poliça, Kings of Convenience, and countless others for the sole purpose of making beautiful art.
A bit of backstory for those of you unfamiliar with the Michelberger magic: founded in 2009, Michelberger Hotel quickly established itself as a go-to space for creatives looking for a haven while traveling through Berlin, and this was particularly the case among touring musicians. Eventually, these wanderers were not only staying at the hotel but also giving back: musicians such as My Brightest Diamond, Erlend Øye, Nils Frahm, Basia Bulat (among many more) began recording music and playing small concerts in the cozy hotel lobby and courtyard. This tight-knit network soon grew to include Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National) and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), aka the co-conspirators of what would become Endless Nameless.
The two-day event was held at Funkhaus, a stunning GDR-era radio recording studio space. The performances occurred in a number separate rooms and halls: a massive shed hall served as the common area with a main stage and small side stage, then there were two performance halls where the scheduled concerts played out and three studio rooms featuring ongoing collaborative acts. What you saw within the performance halls was predetermined by the variant of wristband that you received upon entry, and was not revealed until the artists came out.
During the scheduled hall concerts, we had the chance to see a performance by an all-female choir comprised of Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle, Kate Stables (This Is The Kit), Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond) and many others, an intimate set by Aaron and Bryce Dessner featuring music that was either inspired or written by important woman in their lives, Bon Iver playing material off of his fresh-from-pressing release, and an incredible collaboration between the s t a r g a z e chamber orchestra, conductor André de Ridder, members of Poliça, and rapper Kill the Vultures. In the studio rooms, we saw things like Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson comedically reenacting Schumann’s Dichterliebe, while in the main shed hall we saw acts ranging from Kings of Convenience and Flock of Dimes, to Indonesian experimental noise outfit Senyawa performing to a selected collage of hypnotic footage by Vincent Moon.
Because nothing in the way of a lineup or a timetable had been announced beforehand, none of us really had any idea what to expect. This approach was, of course, not without glitches—long waits for unknown concerts that you may or may not actually fancy led to some frustration, for instance—but the team learned from their mistakes, and made adjustments ad hoc (e.g. adding more interactive pop-up performances for those waiting in line). Regardless, it was impossible to ignore the absolute joy and contentment exuded by the participating artists at being able to share their experience both with one another as well as all of us, and this sentiment was contagious. With no financial partners or sponsors, Michelberger Music succeeded in shedding the ego and commercialism typically associated with events of this nature, allowing for a distraction-free zone tailored and curated by and for music-lovers, in a location built specifically for superb sound quality. Here’s to hoping this game-changing festival can and will be replicated, but if not, suffice it to say the memories from Endless Nameless will last.