With its first beginnings in 2014, this year’s edition of Open Source was a clear marker of the Düsseldorf festival’s upward trajectory; a growth nurtured through careful curation, meticulous planning and government funding. The 2015 sophomore edition marked a turning point, which led to it being sold out for the first time with headliners Metronomy and Death Cab for Cutie. Then, in a strategic move, the organisers lowered the ticket price to improve its accessibility, received larger amounts of funding from the city and ever since, as highlighted by the organisers, the sunshine has been blazing down on the festival ever since.
Drawing from the city’s cultural legacy and adding a twist of innovation to the programme, Open Source brings international names to the city to perform for the first time, combining those acts with selectors from its legendary bar-club Salon des Amateurs. It also has a policy of booking emerging acts, with many of these names going on to headline larger stages in future years.
Upon travelling around the city by foot, the atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful, with the sun searing down on the wide open roads and curving tram lines. Situated at the Grafenberg Forest, a race course may seem unorthodox for a festival site, but it works. Surrounded by greenery, seating for the races contributes to the festival’s calm, bucolic setting, providing attendees – who cover a diverse age range, from teenagers to adults with families – with comfortable viewing. A Carhartt WIP platform stands as the festival’s second largest stage, alongside the sipgate Young Talent platform and the NTS x Carhartt booth. Compact and small, the festival’s location is easy to cover by foot, creating a sense of ease for festival-goers.
One of the clearest markers of the festival’s growth is its inclusion of a new ‘Congress’ this year, funded by the city for its educational value. Among the panel discussions that stood out was one by Professor Dr Michal Kosinski, an expert in organisational behaviour. A timely talk that felt relevant considering the recent data scandal with Cambridge Analytica, Kosinski walked us through the many ways in which our internet habits leave us vulnerable when it comes to marketing and data. Elsewhere, Julius Wiedemann, senior editor at Taschen Verlag, revealed fascinating stories about the life-or-death process of making a book on architecture in North Korea and rounding off the event was Mykki Blanco, who traced his gender-fluid journey of living as a transgender woman before identifying as a man.
Calling for the media to include more nuanced queer narratives, this was a thread that ran through Blanco’s performance on the Carhartt stage the next day. Why, he asked during his talk, do you not see queer anarchist punks in the mainstream media? His own fiery performance drew from this very strain of anarchy, as well as his childhood fascination with performance art. Leaping into the crowd on several occasions, he made sure the viewers at the back didn’t grow restless with the instigation of mosh pits and the noughties bangers closing his set. A younger crowd at the end could be seen huddling together in an almost celebratory circle, in awe and exhilaration.
In contrast, Zozo played a set of Turkish psych and disco in the NTS booth, the perfect match for an early afternoon slot. However, far from keeping the atmosphere calm, Swan Meat stepped up to the booth for a darker set of raging gabba mixed with Linkin Park and Evanescence, and Laurel Halo delivered a live set that was mesmerising; a swirling tapestry created from ambient textures and abstractions, driven by shifting percussive patterns and distorted vocals.
DJ Normal 4 and Bufiman switched things up on the Carhartt stage with the premiere of their live collaboration. The process between the two was an interesting one to watch, with Bufiman creating loops in real time from hitting a whiskey bottle and playing an assortment of instruments live into the microphone to imitate bird sounds. But far from keeping it tranquil with its link to nature through environmental sounds, the pair shifted the day’s sunny slumber to a dance with the harder sounds of propulsive techno.
Later, Bufiman headed to the NTS booth with Normal 4, where he staked a claim: “This is the best festival in Düsseldorf”. He has a point. The festival’s emphasis on accessibility and education is revealing of its ethos: nurturing the city. Free from stress-inducing hyper-busy schedules on overwhelmingly large sites, Open Source is a family-friendly festival that’s bringing new sounds to the city; a growing event that maintains its status as a cultural highlight on the Düsseldorf calendar, loved by its locals.