Monday, 31 January 2011


Review: Gay Beast

"I mean, are people going to stay in and watch Tatort on a Sunday night or are they going to watch a band called "Gay Beast"?". Good question. 

It turns out that a decent amount of people chose the Gay Beast. And rightly so. This trio amazes with spazziness that redefines the word spazzy. Then, they add some saxophone to make it jazzy. All the while they manage to stay dancey. Whatever your opinion on record - Gay Beast is an amazing live band.

The setting was an art installation for Transmediale at West Germany. The crowd mixed. And the atmosphere relaxed.

A perfect Sunday night, I say.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Preview: the week ahead (31st Jan - 6th Feb)

OK, let's face it: who needs a gig guide when the Club Transmediale is on? Therefore, I'll give a quick overview of gigs outside of CTM in this post and then you'll get a separate preview from me with my picks of the vast offering that is CTM.

I Might Be Wrong at Magnet: MySpace is so hateable. It returns "They Might Be Giants" when entering a query for "I Might Be Wrong". Yes, I know TMBG but I wanted to look up IMBW. For real. Just as much as MySpace has its preference, so does the local indie radio station, which likes to play I Might Be Wrong a lot. It's just perfect radio music: poppy yet clever. Fans of The XX should definitely go for this. But if you don't get into the groove, just head next door to... 
...The Vaselines at Comet: Do you believe the Dum Dum Girls took their name from a Vaselines song? Perhaps. I don't actually know. But the brilliant Scottish Vaselines will appeal to the same crowd for sure. But watch out! The Vaselines have been aorund for a long time and they know how to rock hard. Oh yes.

The Black Atlantic at Schokoladen: I really can't think of too many Dutch bands I listen to but this is one that springs to mind. Their quiet dreamy tunes will fill Schokoladen with wonder for sure. Very pretty indeed.
The Haters at West Germany: How do they fit two gigs into their busy CTM schedule at West Germany? I have no idea but they do. After Gay Beast last Sunday, it's The Haters today, an art project involving samples and noise and some more noise. I like noise.

Terror Bird at Bis Aufs Messer: The name is deceiving. It's not a grind core band of some sort. Terror Bird actually play wavey pop, synth and all. Very cool. This is a must-go-gig! Don't forget that Bis Aufs Messer is a record store and that gigs here start very punctual because the shop is situated in a residential area.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

What's in store for 2011 - Pt 2 (April)

It looks like April is going to be a killer live music month in Berlin. I've picked out another four gigs I really look forward to this year and it just happens to be that they all fall into April. 

The Kills - yes, hype can sometimes put you off a band. But really, The Kills are great on record but they are amazing live. Serious Rock'n'Roll, with a drum computer. Not possible? Is so! I love these two and can't wait to see them in April, new album in tow.

Belle and Sebastian - is there a more perfect group? The DIY attitude, the modesty despite considerable fame, the artwork and yes, the music. I once saw B&S perform at the Royal Albert Hall, and hand on heart, it's one of the most memorable events I have been to in my life. With their large number of band members and even larger number of instruments used, plus the persona of Stuart Murdoch, your attention is held until the very end. No time to go get a beer. You better do that beforehand.

Mi Ami - They played at Festsaal Kreuzberg in support of Black Dice. Now, I only remembered Black Dice from a Gravity 7" I've owned for many years. So my surprise when they had fully changed direction and had shed guitars in favour of electronic equipment only with which they produced ambient noise. Very good though. But the bigger surprise was the opening band. I actually bought a record after the gig and that happens very seldomly. Mi Ami are my soundtrack when I relax in the evenings but fit just as well on to my noise and dance compilations. They strike the balance just right between experimental noise and danceable ambient music. It's hard to explain - you'll have to listen for yourself. Either way, Mi Ami are very convincing on stage, so you should really go to this gig and be amazed.

The Dalaï Lama Rama Fa Fa Fa - French psychedelic music. In itself that really wouldn't get me off my couch. However, these kids play it poppy enough to dance to and experimental enough to appeal to the intellectuals among us. They're also cute. Nah, but seriously, I think this group will give a great live performance if online videos are to be trusted to give a hint of what's to expect.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Preview: the week ahead (24th-30th Jan)

A mellow week before the Transmediale is going take over many people's lives. I'm going to spend this week doing Aerobic and going to see Aidan Baker and Gay Beast. Here is what this week has got in store for you:

Scott Rudd at Madame Claude: See my preview from last week! This is another chance to take in the beautiful songs of Mr. Rudd.

New Idea Society + Château Laut at Schokoladen: Poppy post-allsorts emo. Sweet and should be a nice cosy evening at Schokoladen.
The Notwist at Huxley's: The mighty. I was a massive fan of The Notwist about 12 years ago. I have to admit, I've ceased to listen to their records. But I expect them to still give great concerts.

Aidan Baker + John Farah at Madame Claude: Heroes of experimental music, these two are bound to widen your horizon this Friday. It's like theatre without the actors. Read up on them online - this space just isn't enough to convey to you the magic. However, this short film may give you an idea:

No Nebraska! at Scherer 8: unusual experimental post-HC ideas and variable instrumentation to match. I truly recommend this to you.

Gay Beast + Gelbart at West Germany: Long-awaited, cannot-wait gig. The magic that is Gay Beast played at nbi exactly a year ago and hardly anybody attended. The performance was amazing though. This year they're returning but this time to West Germany and with minimalist experimental project Gelbart. There is always a set crowd that shows up here and the atmosphere of West Germany will suit the music better I reckon. So I can't wait for this Sunday. Come out and join me! We'll watch Tatort afterwards online when we're back home and tucked in in bed.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Review: Japanther + Shellshag

"We don't believe in governments. We are the Beavis and Butthead of Japanther and we believe in Rock'n'Roll!". Word.
Sold out. Fashion Week audience. Happening.

Shellshag weren't my cup of tea: poppy punk. So I won't go into that.

In theory, you could consider Japanther of the same genre. But in practice, their use of beat, samples and statements raise them to a league of their own. The very mixed crowd reflected this: people of all walks of life.

I was near the stage with the dancing kids for two-thirds of the show and I was somehow disappointed that this time round, the samples didn't carry live. However, when I moved to the back near the end of the gig, I realised that the sound upfront simply didn't let the samples through. At the back, all the elements really carried across and pleased musically. So: good show with a lot of dancing and a lot of band-audience-interaction at the front. Good music at the back. Just my luck that I enjoyed both sides of the medal.

I enjoyed myself and it was Japanther alright but to be honest, I don't think this gig compared to the last time they visited Berlin. But then again, it would be boring if every gig was the same.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Wish List

If I had my way, this would be the bands I would want to visit Berlin in the near future:

The Chinese Stars
Male Bonding
The New Bloods
Gang Gang Dance
Past Lives
All Leather

I was going to add The Kills and Mi Ami when I found out that they are indeed touring. I'll post about that soon in my next 2011 preview.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Review: JEFF The Brotherhood

You can just imagine these two sharing a room (bunk beds), kicking each other under the dinner table or going camping with their parents. It's so apparent they are brothers. They are obviously very comfortable with each other and used to spending time together.

So comfortable and confident that besides playing music the boys have great fun interacting with the audience and entertaining the room in the most charming way. Big smiles, funny remarks, asking that people take off their coats, walking into the audience, you name it. Togetherness. And how JEFF The Brotherhood manage to have such a stage presence when it's just the two of them, a drum kit and a guitar, is beyond me. Wonderful.

Musically, we were delivered what was promised. That raw late seventies sound that was later reproduced by a lot of groups in the early nineties. Noisy yet poppy. Rock yet punk. Fun yet serious. And surprisingly danceable. It's not new and it's not rocket science but boy, do these guys rock the little equipment that they have. And when, near the end, they answered people's requests for five more songs with "we will just combine 5 songs to play one more song for you", they weren't joking. They actually manage to do that, sort of. 

I haven't had this much fun at a gig in a while. May many gigs like this follow. And may JEFF The Brotherhood return soon.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Review: Tennis

I tend to be late for gigs. Pair this with a shortage in parking space around Schlesisches Tor and you end up showing up when the band is in their third song. And the band played a short set as it was with one encore, that's one song as an encore. Still, short but sweet, as they say.

Tennis is a group that allows you to time travel to 1965. The look, the sound, the feel - for me, this band embodies the pre-hippie 1960s. And this leads me to think of petticoats, the Beach Boys, teenagers making out at school fêtes, pastels and for some reason sunshine. All that stuff you see in the movies.

However, live Tennis are a much more mature affair. Frontwoman Alaina Moore is a serious singer with a womanly voice and not nearly as girly sweet as the recordings may suggest. She does little talking between songs and beautiful dance numbers during instrumental passages.
The stage presence of the band is also that of a serious group and draws a lot older audience than I may have expected. We did recognise faces from the Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast gigs but not nearly as many as we thought there may be. It appears Tennis play in another league - that of a group that doesn't just go for the spirit of the 60s but for a musical endeavour that appeals to people of all walks of live and across genres. I was surprised. Positively.

We stayed for a while after the performance was ended and soaked in the atmosphere of Comet Club. And we weren't the only ones. This wasn't the gig to be rushing to and from, this was a performance with a feel that would linger for a bit longer.


You know my obsession with Ganglians. Well, last year, they performed at Spain's famous Primavera festival and my best friend joined them on second drums. A classic live performance.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Preview: the week ahead (17th-23th Jan)

The year is in full swing again with several events this week which make my bloodpressure rise. JEFF The Brotherhood and Japanther in one week? What else do you need? And if you are lucky enough to hold a Godspeed You! Black Emperor ticket...

Ink & Dagger at Cassiopeia: Hardcore Punk with a vampire theme. Now if that isn't fun... I admit I'm a sceptic because the original singer, Sean Patrick McCabe, died several years ago. The band has reformed with a different singer (Geoff Rickly of Thursday fame) and although this is apparently working out musically, to me, the stage presence of Sean Patrick McCabe is irreplaceable. Still, Ink & Dagger is a cult band and if you haven't seen them before, this is a chance I guess. Cancelled!
JEFF The Brotherhood at West Germany: I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am about this event. It's my first one at West Germany in the new year and what a band to begin my gig year with! JEFF The Brotherhood are from Nashville and on Jack White's Third Man Records. Now you know what you're getting? No you don't. Of course they look and sound like children of the 1970s and of course they have the odd blues influence but overall they play late 70s punk and rock. Dance, rock, energy. Any indie kid is going to appreciate them but so are the rock and the punk crowd. Raw two-man energy. I can't wait!

Scott Rudd and Oldseed at Schokoladen: Fancy some folk after rocking out at West Germany on Monday? I don't like all singer-songwriter material and not everything that is folk automatically catches my attention. So when I recommend something of this genre, you can be sure that I really dig it. Scott Rudd and Oldseed are such artists. I am a big fan of Songs:Ohia and although Mr Rudd and Mr Bjerring don't have Mr Molina's voice, their music gives me similar goosebumps. And what better venue to dream in than Schokoladen?
Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Astra: Sold out. Nothing else to say but if you have a way of sneaking in I suggest you do so. One of the most impressive live acts I have ever witnessed.

Crystal Fighters and Minnaars at Magnet Club: OK, so there was me praising Crystal Fighters in my 2011 preview. And now I will be at the Japanther gig that night. But if you like to dance and have fun with electro pop Spaniards and if Japanther is totally not your thing, I still recommend this event to you. It's just screaming fun. Also, I think that Minnaars from England are noteworthy. They do the typical British indie thing but this may go somewhere. They're playing again next week BTW.
Japanther and Shellshag at West Germany: Pop. Punk. So sweet. Fun. Meet me at West Germany on Thursday, dressed to dance.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Preview: the week ahead (10th-16th Jan)

Another quiet week to chill out or catch up on work that has piled up over the holidays. Next week is going to get more exciting with Japanther, Godspeed! You Black Emperor (sold out BTW), Crystal Fighters and JEFF The Brotherhood. This week I've got two noteworthy events in the calendar:

Tennis at Comet Club: This group is the perfect solution for all those who wish themselves back into the innocent days of the 1960s. Musically at least. Backcomb that hair, put the pastel colours and polka dots on and come out dancing in style.

The Effort and Gold Kids at Cassiopeia: I know I write a lot about schmindie music and experimental tunes but at heart, I'm still a noise kid. HC music got boring with age but every now and so often, there is a group to respark that old feeling. Fucked Up did this for me and The Effort are such a group, playing traditional HC the way you have heard it a million times, but with a twist here or there, and more importantly: catchy and extremely energetic. It appeals to HC kids and punk kids and fans of noisier indie-rock, too. Due to popular demand, this gig has already been moved from Lovelite to Cassiopeia, so be sure to get there early if you don't have a ticket already. And be prepared for a big party and a lot of dancing and sing-along but also expect to be fending off kids in Earth Crisis shirts who have got no rhythm and to whom dancing is a foreign vocabulary.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

What's 2011 got in store

Happy New Year! to those who I haven't told yet.

I've researched a bit about what 2011 might bring. Here are a few highlights that I am getting excited about already.

Godspeed! You Black Emperor are playing Berlin in two weeks time. I once saw them play the Union Chapel in London and came away in absolute awe. Amazing!

Crystal Fighters - what's with bands that have Crystal in their name? I like them all. But then, I used to live in Crystal Palace. These guys from Spain mix all sorts of genres but could be summarised as electronic pop I guess. They also play in two weeks time. Dance!

Aidan Baker's "Chainsaw" has been one of my favourite songs for a while now. It gives me the same relaxed pleasure as soaking in a hot bath. He's playing at the end of this month. Experimental god!

Crocodiles  support White Lies at the start of March. Crocodiles really convinced us with their fuzzy rock music last time they were over and I would have wished for a headline gig but I guess this is a chance to see them anyway. A really good live band. Support!

The Books experiment with electronic equipment and samples and whatever else takes their fancy. They will visit Berlin at the end of April and I for one am very excited about this one. Don't miss!

MINKS - modern indie music the way they play it at The Smell in LA but this group is from New York. This is a project I am really looking forward to. Reminds me of my youth listening to Dinosaur Jr and yet it's so up-to-date and could just as well be performing with Wavves. No dates have been set yet but they are coming over in 2011. Pop sensation!

Eternal Summers - girl-boy-lo-fi-action from Virginia, USA. Lovers of K Records or the British Lo Fi music scene from the 90s will get excited. Intelligent Indie music the way I like it. No dates set yet but currently booking. Can't wait!

Austra is the new signing of Domino Records. A Canadian trio that do electronic experimental yet pop music. They are doing a mini tour this month but bypass Berlin. However, I am expecting them to return to Europe later in the year and surely, they can't miss Berlin twice? Look out!

Of course this is just a taster and there is lots more in store for the year. Especially for the first half of the year the calendar is filling fast. So keep checking back - I will do more 2011 previews as I go along.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Review: Aimée Argote, Birthmark, Burian Family Band, Petethepiratesquid

How do you spend New Year's Eve? A dinner with friends? A crazy house party? A ticket to the most exclusive club night in town? Well, we just do what we always do: hang out at Schokoladen with a group of friends, watching a gig.

It was an early one. Rumour had spread that the show was going to be sold out early on and at 9pm, when we arrived, there were already people queueing to get in. The doors hadn't even opened yet. Talking about building up excitement. It was going to be sold out but not until around half past ten.

Aimée Argote
The night commenced at 9:45pm with the Burian Family Band. What? You've never heard of them? That's because it was a premiere. Al Burian (American-German writer and musician who resides in Berlin) and his mother, Frau Burian, played mountain songs of their native home, North Carolina. I dare say people got into the mood, even though I doubt too many had been to North Carolina. It was a very sweet performance and I sincerely hope it wasn't a one-off.

Next up was Aimée Argote. To my surprise the promoters had put the performances in order of loudness. What a good idea! Aimée played mostly songs she also performs with her band Des Ark, most of which are melancholic tunes that tell tales of her life. She has got a beautiful voice and it somehow doesn't seem to make that much of a difference to me whether she plays with or without a band. An accoustic guitar and her voice seems to suffice.

Birthmark definitely managed to top their gig from the night before. The same songs but more time, more light, more sound. Schokoladen is the very perfect venue for this group.

After our "Happy New Year's" at midnight, Petethepiratesquid  came onstage at 12:45am, dressed as senior citizens. Wigs, shirts and slippers to match. The four-piece from Berlin have been going for 9 years and are therefore solid live, even if they don't perform that often. Post HC math is what they play but for the occasion of New Year's Eve they ended the set with a dance number. And oh we danced! It was a great performance in all but the 10 minute dance song topped it all.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Preview: This Saturday (8th Jan 2011)

It's the start of the year and that's not usually a popular time to tour. In a couple of weeks, we'll be back to Berlin's busy live music calendar but for now, we are taking it mellow. But there is one concert happening this Saturday that may be up your street.

Child Abuse and BATALJ at Schokoladen: Well, I'll be honest with you. The last time Child Abuse played in Berlin at West Germany, it made their support act look very good. Gary War was opening and even though I'm not a massive fan, he's the one I remembered with fondness at the end of the night. And this is not because Child Abuse were playing badly but because they were spening a lot of the break times slagging off promoters across Europe. Not knowing whether their anger was justified or not, it seemed rude manners to publicly call for distrust of people in other European countries. And most likely, nobody in the room had ever heard of these people. I certainly hadn't.
But musically, Child Abuse are a pretty unique group that is worth paying attention to. It's a noise ensemble with a twist. The musical setting is that of a math noise group while the vocals remind me of dark metal at its finest. Think Eye Hate God meets The Locust meets Battles. If you can.
Supporting group BATALJ are Berlin based with Scandinavian roots. Noise and Screamo à la Gravity Records and Three One G. If that's your cup of tea you'll like them. A link to a past live performance.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Review: Birthmark + Kid Ikarus

"Fuck curfews, right?", said the man of Birthmark who could play the clarinet, the bass, the drums and the violin. Which is a good summary of the night, really.

It was packed. Plenty of people were up for a pre-new-year's-eve-party. What a good idea. KIM is a bar in a disused shop front, entirely tiled (and therefore very cold when it's freezing outside), with a small upstairs seating area. It was a good choice for a short-notice event to celebrate before the big celebration. Or the idea was: take some pressure off the new year's event.

Kid Ikarus is a one-to-two-man side project of Berlin based group ampl:tude and consists of some drum effects (either with a drum computer or sampled pieces of music), a guitar and a singer who doesn't mind being the centre of attention. And all the songs (at least I think it was all of them) were cover songs, primarily of the post HC genre but also some German punk and a Hip Hop tune. It's very fun to watch and may also include puppets. We laughed. A lot.

Birthmark are a more serious musical endeavour. Nate Kinsella of Joan Of Arc fame has grouped other musicians to create a sound similar to that of JOA but more rhythmic at times. I am not very familiar with their recordings but live, this is good stuff. The instrumentation varies a lot and includes drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, a violin and a clarinet. And the musicians switch around playing these instruments. They had to shorten their set because of a live music curfew but personally, I appreciate short sets that are enjoyable and to the point over long sets that bore you.

Most people stayed for the afterparty that lasted until 6am the next day. And we all met up again in the evening to celebrate New Year's Eve. But that's another story.

I couldn't take any pictures because the light in the bar didn't suffice for my humble iPhone App camera that I always use. Sorry about that.