Nerdville and more – the Firenze 2011 Live Looping Festival

Firenze, Italia – or Florence, Italy, for you English-speaking folks: a beautiful historic town in the middle of beautiful Tuscany. While it brings many of the ingredients that makes Northern Italy such a nice holiday destination for us Germans, it sure lacks one: it’s quite far from the Meditteranean sea. It makes up for that, however, by providing lots of culture.

I first made the decision to go there “sometime” when earlier this year, I played the computer game Assassin’s Creed 2. In that game, a big part of the action takes place in Firenze during the Renaissance period. You’ll meet da Vinci and di Medici, jump around on the historic buildings. It does, however, lack on the musical side of culture. More specifically, it does not feature 2011’s Live Looping Festival, organized by Massimo Liverani.

For me, this was really an easy decision when Massimo asked me to play the festival: I wanted to see Firenze. I wanted to test drive the new Nerdville 2.0 setup. And I also thought about taking my company car, Herbert, for a longer spin. So I said yes and agreed to play the festival on Saturday 16th of July.

Going there – and arriving

I decided not to go alone, rather to take an assistant. This role, which included taking photos, manning the video camera and of course helping me with setup and teardown onstage, fell to the notorious @m333l, whom you no doubt remember as the spirit behind the tech scenes from the original VSV festival.

always worth a short stop: Lago di Garda

Starting on Friday morning, the Nerdville setup was neatly packed, complemented with some clothing (most importantly: the original Neinnein auf dem kleinen Weg stage attire – after all, this was my first trip to Italy since recording this album), and off we went. Fortunately, the drive is lengthy but not so much unconfortable, so with a pass around Lago di Garda, we arrived on Friday evening in Firenze, to be greeted by Massimo, Mario (of Officine Croma, one of the supporters of the event) and Gareth Whittock and his wife Emma, later to be completed by Fabio Anile and Michael Peters.

Mario's business mailbox - a real dead one?

After a dinner of pizza (obviously), we went off for sightseeing in the historic town of Firenze – making use of the fact that just around midnight, it’s less hot and the sights are less crowded, but the visit still impressive. Alas, they’ve mounted some protective grill to Giotto’s Campanile to stop people from scaling it similar to Ezio in Assassin’s Creed 2.

We were very fortunate that a friend of Massimo’s, one Christina, had agreed to let us crazy musicians stay in her flat for the duration of the festival – so after that sightseeing tour, it was off to the flat (which we shared with Emma and Gareth, and for the next night also David and Willie – see below).

Giotto's Campanile at night

We rose comfortably around eleven, and immediately got over to Massimo’s place, because we had an action-packed schedule ahead of us. Of course, there was the festival in the evening, but we also had some sightseeing to do…

As we had already enjoyed the sights of the town centre the day before, this day our charming tourist guide Massimo led us a little around Firenze, first to the south for a beautiful view onto Firenze’s historical monuments, then to the other side into some smaller villages in the hill where we also took our lunch. Next step was of course to pick up some more artists: Enrico Coniglio from Venezia, Willie Oteri and Dave Laczko from Austin/Texas and also the local Giovanni Lami.

The Festival – Day One

We continued to move to the venue – one Teatro Blu. Now why was it called blue? The answer came after sunset, as you can see on this photo of Giovanni’s set.

Giovanni not playing the blues in Teatro Blu

Apropos the music: about one week prior, I had found out that this was to be an “ambient” festival. Now I’m not exactly an ambient music specialist – even my An Ambient Manifold programme didn’t really include lots of stuff most people would regard as “ambient”. Now screw that – I invented a new sub-genre the evening before, called “aggressive ambient”.

The schedule for this evening started of with Giovanni (a laptop-ambient guy), followed by Enrico – who enriched the genre-typical laptop-plus-controllers setup with beautiful use of some singing bowls. Then Fabio Anile with his (also not ambient, rather Glass-inspired imo) piano sounds; ending the evening, Michael Peters with an almost Fripp-like concept (who had jumped in for Randolf Arriola from Singapore who unfortunately couldn’t make it), and in between, my Aggressive Ambient approach – which I even extended by including the new Kondomautomaten track intended for the #secretalbum project. Now how is your chance of getting people to sing along to a stupid ska tune at an ambient festival – in German at that? In Italy, obviously quite high – thanks, you were a wonderful audience!

Aggressive Ambient - using the Nerdville 2.0 setup
"Ich hab' mir am Kondomautomaten wehgetan!"

The evening was rounded off by the notorious “everybody get back onstage and jam together” section – which even with those lots of musicians with a very dense sound, turned out quite beautifully (not only in the photos).

Straschill, Anile and lighting effects
If I ever want to play a dub festival - I'm gonna use this photo to apply!

Day Two – and returning home

Of course, we didn’t get up much earlier the next day – and it was already clear that some of the artists wouldn’t be able to attend day two of the event: Michael had decided to travel to Rome with Fabio, Enrico had to get back to Venezia, and myself and m333l wanted to get back to meet some appointments in München early the next day.

Artists' Lunch (l to r: Emma, Gareth, myself, Willie, Fabio, Dave)

After some nice breakfast with the entire gang staying at Christina’s flat (which was Willie, Dave, Emma, Gareth, m333l and me), Massimo, Fabio and their partners had a fabulous idea – namely to cook pasta for us for lunch, before some of us had to get on their trip.

After swapping some CDs among the artists, we went onto our respective trips onwards – with the remaining artists who were already there and were yet to arrive in our minds as they were to perform that very evening. From what I heard, the second evening was as much great as the first was – and on that basis, it’s also very understandable that we all had agreed that something like this needs to happen in the future again.

Back in München, I read emails from Willie and Enrico who had already started targeting a similar event to happen in Padova. Now, I have been in the town where Leonardo da Vinci lived for a long time. Next stop would be a place where Galileo Galilei had lived – Padova would be the right place for that. I’m already looking forward to that!

Finally, my thanks go to all the people who were involved in that event. Foremost Massimo for organizing this and for being such a great host, Fabio, who had assisted in the organization, their respective partners, all the musicians I was lucky to meet, and once again the great audience. Thank you, guys.

And now, without much further ado, the promised video!

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