Reeperbahn Brings Euro Indie Flavor To New York

This month, New York hipsters toured Europe without leaving lower Manhattan.

During NYC’s Indie Week, wanderlust indie music fans got to backpack through Europe all within the two stories of the classic SoHo venue, Pianos.

Presented by Consequence of Sound, Germany-based music festival, Reeperbahn, returned to Manhattan on June 7 for a second go at its New York Edition. The festival showcased seven bands in just four hours, transporting audiences to places like Riga, Latvia with Carnival Youth and Porto, Portugal with We Bless This Mess.

“We’re really honored to be represented,” says Emïls Kaupers, drummer and singer of high energy indie group Carnival Youth who kicked off the night.

Roberts Vangas, keyboardist and singer of Carnival Youth says the Latvian scene is tight-knit. There are barely even 20 indie bands in Riga and, he says, “everybody knows everybody.”

With his inked up body and wide-brimmed cap, Nelson Graf Reis of We Bless This Mess looks like he could’ve stepped right off the L Train. You’d never guess he hailed from the tight knit music scene of Porto, Portugal. Standing outside the venue, the Portuguese artist tells BTRtoday that though his hometown’s music scene is growing, he still plays most of his shows outside of the country.

“There are lots of people flying to Portugal to go to shows, because it’s like a mini European California—we have good weather, cheap beer and people like it,” Reis says. “[However] probably 80 percent of my shows are outside Portugal, so at this moment I’m getting in touch with a different audience pretty much every time I play.”

Reis is at the end of a three-month tour and elated to be in NYC before returning home to Porto. “We all need to be happy and in peace and fulfilled, everyone deserves it,” he says about his tour. “That’s why I’m doing this and that’s why I try to give this message and approach to other people as well.”

We Bless This Mess played the second floor of Pianos earlier in the night, treating the audience to a beautiful solo acoustic performance. Reis plays, what he calls, “self-awareness folk punk” and is eager to spread the genre further than the small scene in Porto, Portugal.

Olivier St. Louis, who played the main stage later in the night, caters to a much larger audience.

Based out of Berlin, he frequently plays shows in NYC and travels the world as part of the touring band for rappers Oddisee & Good Company. Though originally from Washington D.C., Louis relocated to Berlin after landing a role in a theater production. However, it’s difficult to peg Louis down since he’s constantly on the road touring.

“It’s a blessing to be able to do this for a living, I keep telling myself every morning, ‘don’t complain,’” he tells BTRtoday with an enthusiastic smile. “We’re very busy as Odyssey & Good Company, but once we can get some time off I have to finish up my album.” Louis was put on the NYC bill after being unable to play the main festival in Hamburg.

Louis says he’s influenced by funk, psychedelic and classic ‘70s blues-rock. He’s working with producer and musician Bibio who, Louis admit, is opening him up to new electronic sounds that he’s considering using for his next album.

The Reeperbahn Festival is famed for discovering unique talents. This year, the festival’s Anchor Awards judges included producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie), Emily Haines (Metric and Broken Social Scene), Huw Stephens (BBC Introducing), Shirley Manson (Garbage) and German/Swiss pop duo BOY.

The bands were ecstatic just to be included. “It was unexpected and nice at the same time,” Reis says about playing the festival. “And that’s how I live my life, without expectations—then you just feel happy about everything that happens.”

If you missed the NYC edition of Reeperbahn, catch this year’s main festival in Hamburg, Germany, September 20-23. Get your tickets here.