Germany’s Maifeld Derby pulled off its 12th edition without missing a beat. Founded in 2011, the Mannheim festival has the feel of a live mix tape given to you by a close friend. Taking place over three days in June at an equestrian racetrack, this boutique festival has become a solid fixture in the European indie festival scene.
I don’t have a favorite festival, but I do have a short list of fests that I love and Maifeld Derby is at the top. Like other independent events, the pandemic was not kind to those of us in the industry who didn’t have the backing of a corporation, so I’m just happy to see Maifeld Derby on the other side. Let’s take a look at what went down during my third visit.
Table Of Contents
Running the Numbers
Dates: June 16-18, 2023
Attendance: 5,000 per day est.
MFW Beer Index: €4.80 per pint
MFW French Fry Index: €4.00
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 33C/14C (88F/61F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes
Held at a horse racing track, Maifeld Derby is one of the easiest festivals you will ever navigate. With two tents flanking an outdoor stage along with a fourth that features covered stadium seating, everything can be reached in a few minutes. A small footprint and reusable cups (€2 deposit required) meant the grounds were super clean. The two tents can get super stuffy during the day but provide ample shade and cover in this rainy region.
Probably one of the best ways to discover new music, Maifeld Derby never disappoints with its eclectic lineup. Whether it’s Japanese neo-folk with Mitsune, Israeli electro-pop from Noga Erez, or post-punk rocked out by cumgirl8, I always find fresh artists to add to a playlist. There are clashes, but with a little planning, it’s possible to see all the major and mid-acts with some room to explore the smaller stages where you’ll find plenty of emerging talent.
One of the reasons I adore this fest is that it still remains relatively undiscovered by an international crowd with a friends-and-family style atmosphere. I estimated daily capacity at about 5,000 festies and the organizers have stated in the past that they don’t want to grow past this size. I also don’t have the data on hand but believe Maifeld Derby has the highest tattoo-to-attendee record in Europe.
Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them
- Viagra Boys
- Los Bitchos
- Surf Curse
- Jack Botts
- Noga Erez
- Baxter Dury
- Bat For Lashes
- Say She She
- Caroline Rose
- Loyle Carner
- Death Grips
- Kerala Dust
Festival MVP: Phoenix
What can I say? As a photographer, I’m a sucker for crowd-based antics especially when Thomas Mars starts riding around on a sea of hands. Add a disco ball along with hits like “Lisztomania” and “1901” and you have the recipe for my favorite act of the fest.
Most Surprising: Mitsune
Death Grips was so loud and so insane that I immediately left after taking a few pictures and ended up catching Mitsune. I’m really glad I did as this was one of the most intriguing bands of the weekend. Playing Japanese neo-folk music on traditional instruments, it’s such a unique act that it’s hard not to get caught up in it.
Keep Your Eye On: Los Bitchos
This is one of the buzziest bands on the festival circuit this year knocking out surf rock adjacent tunes that are light on the lyrics and heavy on a laid-back summer vibe.
Ready to Party: Viagra Boys
Punk rock Swedes, Viagra Boys, came out heavy, only stopping for swigs of whisky and low-key comedy. A sample of frontman Sebastian Murphy riffing:
“Hopefully you are better than the crowd we had last night in Switzerland!”
The German crowd boos the lame Swiss.
“Thank you! We are the Viagra Boys from Switzerland.”
Debut Festival Appearance (For Me): M83
I mostly knew M83 from their huge hit “Midnight City” so was really curious how their live show would play out. Definitely my favorite set from Sunday with founding member Anthony Gonzalez fronting a full band and jammy new tunes. Weird fact – M83 did the entire soundtrack to the Morgan Freeman movie Oblivion.
Riding The Rail At Death Grips
The energy in a Death Grips crowd is insane. You can just feel it pulsing from the start of the soundcheck and it never lets up.
The Mut Zur Wut exhibit mixes social commentary with humor and art. Some of my favorites are below.
Drum sticks. Sunglasses. People be losing stuff on stage.
T-Shirt of the Weekend
It turns out that he did not in fact want to fuck me.
What’s the weather like? Germany is in a bit of a drought this summer so rain was almost non-existent. Temps can be warm in the late afternoon, but I was comfortable in just shorts and a t-shirt. And when it gets really hot, as it did on Sunday, try switching over from beer to a Radler (lemondade+beer) as my new recommendation for summertime sipping.
What are the prime hours for music? Tunes start a little later on Friday (4:45 pm) and stop a bit earlier on Sunday (10:00 pm), but overall, the main acts happen between 6:oo pm to midnight.
Where did you sleep? Although it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had camping at a festival (cool weather, spacious spots, quiet neighbors), I did not have my gear this year and had to settle for staying in a hotel with a shower, black-out curtains, and air-conditioning. I suffered through the conditions like a champ.
How do you get there? Mannheim is blessed with loads of public transport, and I rarely waited more than 15 minutes. Your fest ticket also covered local transit so there is really no reason not to use it. I stayed across the river from Mannheim with a direct tram that ran right from my front door to the venue.
Some festivals you grow out of, and some fests, like Maifeld Derby, just seem to get better with age. I know some of you reading this think that music festivals are 50,000 drunk maniacs camping in a flooded field listening to generic music, but Maifeld Derby asks, what if it wasn’t like that?