The Contact festival is Munich’s biggest electronic music happening during the winter Months — let’s review it!
Link to the Event: Resident Advisor
Everything took place at the Zenith Event location a bit outside the city in Munich Freimann. The area is the home of multiple halls, first of all the Zenith Mainhall itself, Kohlebunker and Kesselhaus. The last two have each hosted one stage while the Mainhall was home of two floors.
The place itself was easy to reach since it is only approx. 15 min outside the city center. The night busses drove quite frequently and at least for me I had no problem with coming and leaving the festival.
The area and buildings are boring. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s just the usual industrial flair. No graffiti’s, no decorations and no charm to it. The buildings are separated which will be important later, since you need to go outside if you want to change the floor. But they aren’t very far apart. The max. Amount of time it took to go from one building to the next was 3 minutes.
Contact closed down at 5 a.m. which is quite early in my opinion. But Munich itself is also tricky with after hours. Usually most clubs close down by 8 a.m. And there has been an official after hour inside the Mixed Munich Art Club. The thing is on facebook it was announced between 12 p.m. and 8 a.m. So mostly while the festival was happening itself. If you stay till the end of the festival its 5 o’clock. You get your stuff out of the locker and drive to MMA club with public transportation. I guess that you would be there between 5:30 and 6 a.m. which leaves you with 2 hours till the club closes down. I don’t know if that was a joke and maybe they stayed open for longer but I hardly think so. I think they did a contract with MMA club to side host an artist for cheap and use it as Contact Marketing. A real after hour should provide shuttles to the club and run at least till 11 or 12 a.m. so it is worth it for the people to go there. That MMA Contact After Hour looked like a Marketing move. However in 2017 that was different when it was hosted at Rote Sonne and went from 5:30 a.m. till 11 a.m. as stated on facebook, maybe it is time to go back there.
I was very interested in the setup since for Munich the festival is massive. And in general an indoor festival brings difficulties but also some benefits designing the sound. Well, I was disappointed. Same as the buildings the sound was boring. I don’t know if there was no budget or technical skill involved, but the setup was extremely simple. Each stage featured a line array in the front. That was it! No 4-point sound and no delay towers. I am bad at guessing but I think the floors have been between 300 (small stage) and 700 square meters (main stage). And only having front facing speakers is just not enough. Especially in the Main Room and the Atlas stage. Especially the Atlas stage was quite long and would have benefitted a lot from delay towers.
The most used brand was DB Audio in the Mainstage and the Cocoon stage.
The Atlas stage featured an L-acoustics sound system which had clear highs and mids and especially in the front it sounded quite good. The Hydra stage was as far as I recall also equipped with L-acoustics. But I didn’t spend enough time there to talk much about the system. My first impression was that it was just average. For the Mainstage, as you would expect for 2-point sound- in the front it was great. DB Audio builds great speakers no questions. But the further you got to the back the more disappointing it was. A lack of bass! Both of sub bass which was nearly not existent but also the middle-low frequency range was weak. I just wish for a more homogeneous sound across the room. This also allows an even distribution of people since they are not “fighting” for the best sound.
The cocoon stage for my hearing sounded the best. I can’t exactly say why since it was also running a DB Audio Line Array like the main stage. But maybe the space was easier to fill with sound since it was bit smaller or they had more elements in the system. My impression was also that this stage had the highest volume level which probably helped with making it sound better.
My overall impression of the sound was negative. The festival is quite famous in Munich and already going for a couple of years. The tickets aren’t cheap and I expected more. Every stage being a 2-point system surprised me, especially in the main room. For a festival this size I give it a bad rating of 3.5/10 being well under average.
Lights and atmosphere:
Ohhh lord. It continuous. The impression of boring seems to also affect this section. And honestly, now I am getting bored writing about it. In my review about DGTL at ADE I criticized the “standardized” use of moving heads and projections without bringing much new to the table. Well comparing DGTL to Contact… That’s miles away from each other. It seemed like the organizers of contact had no budget for lighting. Well there have been the occasional Moving heads and Projections. But everything seemed very one dimensional. Those things are hard to describe but with some pictures it gets clear. The focus was on the DJ resulting in most lighting coming from the front or projections being in the back of the DJs. Also I had the impression that fog was underused making moving heads and beams look uninteresting. What would be my recommendation? I love strobes and washes. Hanging some strong strobes on the side and washers from the ceiling would bring a great addition to the industrial room (like at DGTL). Maybe some minimalistic lasers would help to create good scenery. But no decoration and a boring light show are a bad combination.
Same goes for the projections. Some have been very generic and some just didn’t fit in the room. E.g. the Atlas stage had white/gray walls which made the room by itself look very bright. Constant projections only emphasized it and that’s just ugly. More darkness, more fog and only occasional explosions of light would have fitted much more in that room.
The best stage was again the Space stage. Since it was the only one with some 3 dimensional approaches. The triangles hanging from the ceiling and being illuminated have been interesting.
Also the Hydra stage with the big fans was something different. But most times the halls felt empty and without a real concept behind them. Just some cool names but no meaning.
The whole festival is an open space surrounded by three buildings having the floors inside of them. The space between them is used for food trucks. The variety of which was very good! You had burgers, falafel and even Asia food. Best thing is that coffee was also available. In general you can access this space without buying a ticket for the festival. But if you buy one you get a wristband which allows you to enter the stages. Each one has security in front of it which checks your wristband and grants you access, but only if it is not overcrowded. Arriving there brought the first problem — not enough lockers. But since there was nearly always a need to go outside if you decided to changes stages it wasn’t the worst thing having a jacket. The only exception were the Cocoon- and Mainstage which have been in the same building. What surprised me was that there was no heating outside. Not at the food court and not even in the designated area for smoking in front of the stages.
The peak time was around 1–2 a.m. and Boris Brechja was playing in the Mainroom. It was completely overcrowded and I decided to changes the rooms. But all the other stages except for the Atlas one have also been overcrowded. Wanting to enter them you would have to wait outside in the line (without heating). So seeing the DJ you actually wanted to see was nearly impossible. In simple words Contact is a completely overcrowded experience. Sure it can happen that one stage is closed for entry, but 3 out of 4 just shows that the organizers sold to many tickets. It was around 0 degrees during that night. Waiting outside in line in a T-shirt or even a sweater with no heating provided is a risk for your health.
To be fair some blankets have been handed out, but I am not sure if that was done by the promoter or by the medical staff and if there have been enough available. Still I think some patio heaters should have been placed at the entrances of a stage and in the smoking areas!
The rest was good. There have been enough clean toilets and the security was mostly friendly and respectful. There were a lot of undercover cops (maybe they caused the festival being overcrowded :D ) but that’s not the fault of the organizers.
Another important point are places to sit down and take break. Since the sound was so weak you could sit down in the back of the stage and comfortably talk. Sometimes there have been banks or stands but the floor was also an option to sit down since the stages have been well heated.
To speak about residents is difficult considering it is a festival and they don’t have an own label. There are a few names that are constantly booked like A.N.A.L, Moonbootica, Stephan Bodzin, Aka aka and more. So in its structure the Line-Up stays the same which I don’t consider a bad thing since it dictates the feel of the festival. But they also drop in some new names (not newcomers) every year to add variety. What would be cool to see would have been more Munich artists. In 2018 the only Munich newcomer was Moritz Butschek (Bahnwaerther Thiel/Harry Klein).
I should remember making pictures of the menu and the prices because otherwise I just forget them. I am sorry my dear reader. The only thing that I recall is that most things had the usual Munich price tag and nothing caught my eye. On facebook some people complained that there was a shortage of some drinks like cola, but that’s about it.
The entrance price is a different story. Yes, there are Blind Tickets and Early Bird ones. But I don’t look at those since they are usually sold out quickly and I don’t plan party’s month in advance. Cool if you do but for now I will consider the final price of whopping 61,66€ (including fees). For a one day festival with 15 hours of music that’s a lot. But with similar festivals like Timewarp (80€) Connect — by Timewarp & Awakenings (60€) and SEMF (65€) it seems normally priced. To be fair I myself am not a big fan of one day “festivals” since I don’t consider them a good value for money. Sure there are multiple stages but you can only attend one at a time (especially here). And often it becomes just a showoff lineup with small time slots.
That’s also the best way I would describe contact. The lineup looks great. A lot of big names you think you can see during one evening. But remember, you are paying 60€ for only one day. And seeing the festival already end at 5 a.m. isn’t a good value in my eyes. With most of the stages simply being overcrowded or not accessible during peak time those seemingly usual 60€ in reality offer bad value. You are clearly paying for the lineup here and aren’t able to “access the product you purchased”, in other businesses we would call that a scam.
This review is quite subjective and it took me some time to write. I know that some of my friends had a different feeling about contact. But also some have been taking recreational substances making them ignore a lot of my points, like heating outside or the place being overcrowded. I think the festival was poorly organized and very money oriented which I always dislike. Having to deal with health affecting issues scares me and if you can’t find a good way to handle the cold as an organizer maybe you should move the time of the festival to a warmer month.
Still I try being objective here is my rating in points:
- 2.5 for well under average sound quality
- 1.5 for boring and uninspired lighting and decoration
- 0.25 for the lack of lookers
- 3.5 for the inaccessibility of stages and no heating outside
- 1 for the ticket price which wasn’t delivered due to an overcrowded venue
Contact festival scoring an awful 1.75 out of 10 points. I can’t recommend this festival!
My state of mind:
To be honest, and that is the point of a review, I wasn’t in the best state of mind. The night before (Friday) I was at a friend’s home party and after that went to Blitz Club. I was at home somewhere around 7 a.m. noticeable drunk. Still I managed to wake up well and worked a bit during the day. The problem is, that party wise I was satisfied by Friday and didn’t really had the urge to go to the Contact festival. But some friends went and it was possible for me to go for free. I wasn’t in a bad mood but I wasn’t excited for the evening. I’ve just been curious to see how it was organized and interested in some artists. I was sober that evening. I think I had one hot chocolate with some Baileys but that was it. Two friend groups went and I had a lot of people to interact with. Also there have been multiple other people knew and was surprised to see. So the festival is definitely known and relevant in the Munich/Bavarian scene. But unfortunately the environment and some good sets didn’t help to overcome the negative image. I spend around 6 hours at the festival and left at 3 a.m. I won’t deny that my mood could have been better, but still… With a warmer place and a more interesting scenery the organizer could have accomplished it, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I din’t went to the After Hour at MMA Club and that is why I didn’t rate it but till this date I find the facebook announcement with the opening times strange.