Tuesday 29 March 2011

Review: Sunburned Hand of the Man + Cam Deas

My second concert at Marie Antoinette and this time, many things were different. Not just that they moved the stage to the side, which was good. Entrance fee was reasonable and there were also much less people there, so everybody could take a comfy seat somewhere when Cam Deas began to play.

Cam Deas was just one guy with a 12-string guitar. I knew that beforehand, but I had no idea what he does live with it. He has truly amazing guitar skills and manages to get an impressive variety of sounds out of that thing, with just his fingers, steel fingerpicks, a bottleneck and a slide bar. No effect pedals, no external sound sources, except the S-Bahn driving over the building, which surprisingly fit in really well. His music was like a mixture between classical Flamenco and avantgarde ambient noise. It was characterized by slow and quiet parts, where he often used harmonics and then built up to fast and crazy outbursts, beating the strings and picking stunningly fast. He started with one really long piece and eventually I wished for a break, as he often repeated certain patterns which got a bit boring to me. Then he played two shorter pieces, one being a tribute to another guitarist whose name I didn't get. All in all he was a more than worthy support and seriously a great live experience.

It took a while until Sunburned Hand of the Man came on stage. They started quietly without anyone really noticing and the sound guy/DJ also seemed to be unsure whether they were already playing or just still doing some soundcheck.

Sunburned played as a duo, a first surprise to me, as I expected a larger band. They had crazy visuals projected on the wall beside the stage, which showed a hectic movie including a strange horse in the woods and somewhat creepy life-sized puppets. They also brought one of these puppets on stage, first throwing it in the audience and then on the drumkit.
They began their set with some weird sample noise, which developed into jazzy and at the same time heavy guitar and drum impro noise-rock. After their first song they seemed to want to stop playing (asking one another "how long was that now?"), but then switched instruments and played another song. After that one they left not just the stage but also everyone disappointed, so they had to come back for an encore after some applause and "come on" calls. I couldn't tell if they were unhappy with something or if they just did not want to play longer. It was definitely fun to watch and they were musically great for the most part, but I had loved to see some more songs. Nevertheless this was a good evening!

Saturday 26 March 2011

Review: Ducktails + Ignatz

Two Woodsist bands in one week and the Sunburned Hand of the Man concert coming up on Monday, it seems to be weird folk spring!

I've never heard anything from Ignatz before he opened for Ducktails tonight. But despite his obvious nervousness he did good. Ignatz played twangy echoed guitar over looped noises and guitar parts. He had a quite interesting approach to the usual singer-songwriter music, using very lo-fi vocals and guitar melodies which reminded me of very early traditional blues/folk/country tunes, think maybe of Lead Belly and comparable delta blues stuff.

Unfortunately most of the people who watched Ignatz while sitting on the floor in front of the stage didn't leave their places afterwards and kept on sitting there, when Ducktails, also just one guy with guitar, pedals and stuff, started to play. Maybe they expected something different, but Ducktails played a crazy mixture of often dancy, sometimes almost Hip-Hop style, beats over lo-fi folky guitar, vocals and loops. I really liked what he did, but except a handful of people, no one seemed to be willing to dance (or at least to move any of their body parts for more than clapping after the songs, drinking and smoking). Half of the room in front of the stage was filled with people just sitting and staring, so hats off to the seriously lamest audience ever. Nonetheless Ducktails tried hard and did as best as he could under these circumstances...

Friday 25 March 2011

Preview: the week ahead (28th March -3rd April)

We are not terribly impressed by this week's live music offering in Germany's capital. We may stay at home and count our trading cards instead. But if you feel like going out, here's a few options:

Matt & Kim at Lido: I'm a sucker for fashion blogs. And this group was recommended by a fashion blogger from Australia who saw them live at a festival. They play radio conform pop music with a twist - maybe think of a light version of MIA. It's intriguing - it could go one way or the other: Either this duo from Brooklyn are the next big thing and turn dull or they up their experimental and dance pieces and turn amazing. I'm guessing the former will be the case but hopefully, I'll be proven wrong.
Sunburned Hand of the Man and Cam Deas at Marie-Antoinette: I'm looking forward to this and I'm quite excited how Sundburned are as a live band. If you like this whole New Weird America folk thing, this is a must see! Expect something between Psychedelic, Folk and Experimental noise. But then again, judging from some videos on Youtube, I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Listening to some of their songs, my guest-dog started howling, he seemed to like them. Cam Deas plays crazy experimental instrumental stuff on a 12-string acoustic guitar. If you missed his February show at Madame Claude's, this is your second chance.

Mogwai at Huxley's: No need to introduce these Scots to you. And top marks to Mogwai for avoiding a big reunion comeback by never splitting up in the first place. Amazing band. And it's now happening at Huxley's instead of Postbahnhof.

Flip Grater at Monarch: When I mistakenly searched Flip Greater on Myspace, Elvis Presley came up. Ha! But no, Elvis has not risen from the dead. Instead, Miss Grater, a songstress from New Zealand will perform at Monarch on Wednesday evening. This may turn out very nice: a drink in hand, a mellow guitar and a nice slightly smoky voice, watching Kotti from one of the large windows. I know, I know, I have recommended similar events at Monarch to you before. But it's a nice thing to do mid-week.

Kid Ikarus at Ida Nowhere: Berlin locals who love knobs and buttons. Fun to watch and just the right thing to get you started into the weekend, especially if you are planning on going out dancing later that night.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Review: Woods

The whole day I felt like I was getting a cold, so I wasn't all that motivated to attend a concert tonight.

We arrived quite early at Comet Club, because none of us had been there before and we didn't want to miss anything. When we entered, the support band was already playing. I have no idea what their name was and honestly I didn't care much. I watched for about two minutes and had to leave the room because I wasn't really in the mood for school band style acoustic music. They even had one of these wooden drum things that you sit on while playing. Most definitely not my cup of tea at all.

The Comet Club is in the same building as Magnet Club. It's smaller but at the same time not any cozier than its bigger brother. They both have this "professional club feeling" to me, with security people checking your bag at the entrance, seperate room for smoking and extra cloak room. I never felt comfortable in such surroundings and I'm sure this isn't going to change anytime soon. The live sound though was really okay (although it seriously could have been a bit louder) and a definite plus was the lack of Magnet Club's annoying "light show." They could have left out the smoke-machine stuff but then again, what would a hip indie-rock club be without its smoke-machine (I mean except more bearable...)?

Woods started on time at ten o' clock, playing as a three piece with acoustic and electric guitar and the tape-pedal-earphone noise guy from Time Life. They had no drummer and so the whole concert was surprisingly quiet. They started with three or four smooth and catchy songs - until then I felt a bit disappointed. But then they threw in some longer and experimental songs, reminding me more of free improv-folk stuff, which I really liked. The noisy pieces fit in really well with their otherwise more or less smooth live sound.
Some of their further songs were boring, then again some were really really good. I especially liked Rain On and Keep It On which they both played in much more slower versions than on record.
They played about an hour in total and even though I missed some of my personal Woods hits like Night Creatures, Time Fading Lines or Ring Me To Sleep, I would say it was a nice Monday evening concert and well worth the visit. Now tea and bed-time for me.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Preview: the week ahead (21th-27th March)

A jam-packed week ahead, giving a hint of what April is going to feel like.

Woods at Comet Club: I nearly missed this one. Either the Woods lo-fi neo folk hype is over or there's just no need to advertise them anymore. Either way Comet Club was already nearly sold out when I got my ticket last week. I really like most of their records, let's see how they do live this time.

Glasses, Mononoke and Tyran Tyran at ://about blank: If you need a musical punch in the face go see Glasses that night. They rock! Mononoke play something like Emocore and Tyran Tyran are a new band from Berlin. It's their first show ever that evening.

A Hawk And A Hacksaw at hbc: from New Mexico, this is really something! This duo play amazing wonderful folky sounds, reminiscent of former times, mainly instrumented with a violin and an accordion. If you are into Beirut et al, or even just into Coen films, join c* on Wednesday at hbc.

Terror Bird at Madame Claude: Still on Tour, if you are into dark and wavy stuff like Zola Jesus and want like a cozy small location, this is your chance.
Ducktails and Ignatz at West-Germany: This seems to be experimental Friday. Ducktails are another Woodsist Records Band and play psychedelic lo-fi folk stuff, think of Woods etc.

Gang of Four at C-Club: I don't think I have to say much about this, one of the best and (musically as well as politically) most influental Post-Punk bands ever re-united again. However, I don't really like their newest record but I think if you do and are willing to pay the 30€, they could be worth the visit.

Saturday 19 March 2011

A swinging summer

It was announced today that the reformed 1990s HC group Swings Kids will tour Europe this summer under the name of Blue Note. You just have to believe me when I tell you that Swing Kids are one of the top five live bands I have ever witnessed. And while the members of the band have grown older, you do have an array of amazing talent on stage when these guys perform: Sweep The Leg Johnny, The Locust, Tristeza and The Album Leaf were just some of the subsequent groups that members of Swing Kids played in.

This is what it was like to watch Swing Kids in 1996. The craze girl is in the audience but naturally, you cannot spot her due to her height of 1,56m.

And this is a film which includes footage of their gig last year. Sadly, the original guitar player and wonderful person Eric Allen passed away several years ago but I think he would be proud of this. Oddly, the audience is ridiculously idle. Let's hope Europeans will be more into rocking to make these gigs unforgettable events.

Review: Jeans Wilder + Jemek Jemowit

There is a lot that I love about Madame Claude: The fact that it is entirely underground, the French receptionists at the door, the prices at the bar and in particular the concert room. It must have been a coal cellar or similar at some point and you get a slightly eerie feel when you descend the steps into the room. And usually the dark underground atmosphere suits the artists that play perfectly.

The opening act Jemek Jemowit was previously unknown to me but I realised before the gig that many people had shown up to see that band and not Jeans Wilder. Naturally, I was curious.
"80s. We're living in the 80s."
Jemek Jemowit creates dance music with a variety of electronic equipment and is clearly influenced by New Wave music from the 80s. He dresses the part, wears face paint, and really gets into his act. It was extreme fun to watch and the songs were danceable. And that's what people did - dancing.

Jeans Wilder were a lot more mellow in contrast. And that was a little unfortunate. By then, people were up for dancing. Some of their songs are danceable and there were a couple of songs when we really got into it. But there were also a few songs that seemed to fill the gaps in-between ("I just wrote this song on the train"). They were brilliant for hanging out in a bar to, and that's what we did, but they didn't grip and move people enough to bind the audience. Many people left after a few songs.
Well, we didn't. We stayed and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves to the at times slightly melancholic, rhythmic ambient tunes. But maybe I was hoping to dance a little more.

Here is a video of their gig in Lyon a few days ago and this reflects very nicely the beauty of Jeans Wilder while maybe also showing that you need to be in the mood for this type of music to truly appreciate it:

Sunday 13 March 2011

Review: Anajo

Because I lived abroad for over eight years I have missed out on a certain German music scene, with acts primarily singing in German. Last night I was invited to watch Anajo (on Tapete Records) at Festsaal Kreuzberg. I was a big fan of Hamburger Schule back in the 90s (Blumfeld, Die Sterne, Tocotronic) and intrigued what this threepiece from Augsburg would sound like, what German music sounds like.

Anajo play pop music in the sense of the term. It's rocking melodic music that appeals to a large amount of people, -> popular, and is very inoffensive. The lyrics are clever and easy to sing along to and this is exactly what the crowd does. Every song, regardless whether it's from the new or an old album, is known by heart to two-thirds of the audience. 
With a very solid drummer and an extra tour member playing keys and melodica, the band still comes across more like a two man show. Guitarist/singer/song writer Olli is obviously the head of the trio but live, he is almost like a comedic double act with bass player Michi. Nevermind the Bavarian accent - people are intently following every word of these two. 
Anajo performed for over 1,5 hours but time passed quickly. The songs are rather short and never reach the four minute mark, and thus, the concert was varied and entertaining.

Of course, Anajo are not to my taste generally speaking, but taking that into account, the concert was enjoyable and the evening a pleasant success. The main impression I am taking away from this concert is not so much in regard to what was happening onstage but rather the dancing off stage. Anajo have a very diverse, but distinctly hipster-free, following that seems to regard the band as their absolute heroes. Fandom as I haven't witnessed it in a while: dancing, singing along, half an hour queueing at the merch table. Wow! It was absolute fun to watch this audience. Then again, I like hipsters, too. I just like people watching per se. 

Outside Festsaal Kreuzberg, underneath the U-Bahn tracks, someone has fitted a light installation, turning Kottbusser Tor into a sparkling wonderworld. This has been my favourite moment this week, standing under the sparkling tracks, so I'm sharing a couple of pictures of this with you. You may want to consider experiencing this for yourself.

Finally, here is the video to the current Anajo single, featuring a friend of mine and giving you a nice impression of the group's work.

Saturday 12 March 2011

My first concert

My first gig ever that I went to (consciously) was Nena in Münster, Halle Münsterland, on 29th March 1984. I was 2 weeks short of turning 6 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday. I'm also still grateful to my Dad for taking me. Now you try and say this hasn't influenced my appetite for live music...

Preview: the week ahead (14th-20th March)

I'm currenly planning my LA trip in April on which I will report to you from some gigs I will attend on the West Coast. But for now, spring is finally hitting Berlin with degrees over 10°C (wow!), sunshine and the first flowers growing in the guerilla gardens. It's another rather slow March week for live music but there are a few gems lurking in there. Here are our picks this week:

Nicolas Metall & Marie Germinal at King Kong Klub: Nicolas Metall and Marie Germinal are two artists in their own rights but my research leads me to believe that they come as a package. They're heavily influenced by Wave music from the 80s will appeal to those that listen to Joy Division 24/7 but also to fans of late 60s girl bands due to Miss Germinal's distinctive vocals.

Cut/Copy at Lido: Australians jumping on to the 80s influenced electro pop wagon. If you feel like dancing mid-week, this is an option for you.
Damo Suzuki & Groupshow at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Although those days are long over, Damo Suzuki will probably always be associated with Can, legendary 70s band that he sang for. Today, Mr Suzuki wanders on the experimental psychedelic trail with improvised vocals and gives a rare performance this Wednesday. Shame on me, but I'm actually slightly more excited by his support act, Groupshow from Berlin, who use an array of equipment to produce odd and wonderful sounds to move to or marvel at.

Cara Beth Satalino at Schokoladen: a US singer from Georgia, Miss Satalino will appeal to that certain crowd that likes that certain kind of singer-songwriter music, preferably with a female voice. And indeed, her voice is beautiful and it will fill Schokoladen and you may as well be there early and grab one of the few seats.

Jeans Wilder at Madame Claude: This is totally my discovery of the week. Jeans Wilder from San Dieog is a one-man-project and chose the categories "Down-tempo / Experimental / Pop" on MySpace. I think for once this describes the music extremely well. It's music to sway to but at the same time clever and experimental at times. I think this is the perfect gig for a date or to simply start your weekend in a relaxed fashion, unwinding from the working week. Pick of the week. Meet me there.

Polyhymnia Festival at Maria: A festival dedicated to Kraut and Progressive music, you will widen your horizons by spending one of the two nights at Maria this week (the festival runs Friday and Saturday). Check out their listings for all the acts that are playing and djing but let me especially recommend Warm Digits to you, some Brits who know how to get you moving. Fans of Battles, etc - listen up!

Death Vessel at Privatclub: J. saw Death Vessel support Low once and reckons he's good live. I personally am reminded of such wonderful groups as Gregory & the Hawk when I listen to Death Vessel. At the same time I am amazed by how wonderfully female his voice sounds and how beautifully he uses it as an instrument in its own right. Definitely worth your while.

Thursday 10 March 2011


While April is hard to beat, the live event calendar for May is filling up nicely, too. Thank You, The Styrenes, NISENNENMONDAI, and Ty Segall are just some of the gigs I look forward to. And it all culminates in that evening on which none of us will be able to choose which gig to attend: Low at Lido, Matmos at HAU or The Black Heart Procession at Heimathafen Neukölln on 30th May.

Here are a couple of videos to get you as excited about May as I am:

Monday 7 March 2011


...realizing that two of your favorite bands play on the same day. Low and the Black Heart Procession on 30th of May, wish I could see them both...

When we were Finally Punk

Two years ago, Finally Punk played a gig at West Germany, and it was amazing and inspiring. What a fantastic show! The girls were rocking and switching instruments and smiling. And we danced.

Now, if you know us you know that we would usually not link to the Vice website even if you paid us for it. But Katja Hentschel took really good pictures that night that I think are worth sharing. See if you spot the craze girl and some famous booking agent in the pictures. ;)

Review: Crocodiles

Somehow this gig felt incredibly exclusive, queueing in the staircase that leads to West Germany at 11pm on a Thursday night. We heard the band soundchecking and the excitement was building.

Crocodiles actually came onstage at midnight and, since they had had a warm up as support of White Lies at C-Halle, went into a full rock performance straight away. Musically tight with a good rhythm section, they played their songs with a lot more rock'n'roll than they sound on record.
Lead singer Brandon Welchez sure likes to give a performance, and on this occasion that included anything from grabbing a phone from an audience member, joining the crowd for a dance, climbing on top of the drum set, to just dancing in a self-indulgent fashion. It made for a fun gig to watch.

If I didn't know this group was from San Diego, I would for sure guess so anyway. The look and energy convey Southern Californian style to the max and strongly remind me of a lot of groups from San Diego in the 1990s.
But, to the disappointment of my date, they weren't wearing sunglasses onstage. 

Maybe I felt at times that the band was loving itself just that little too much. But then again, I prefer that a lot to those groups who just stand around playing a guitar with nothing much to it.

This was something. This was fun.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Preview: the week ahead (7th-13th March)

Last year, March was almost our busiest month of live music in Berlin, this year, boo, March is a right slow mo. Exactly 4 noteworthy gigs this week.

DAF at K17: Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft are playing three German club shows in the near future and this is one of them. I have no idea if it's easy to get a ticket or even to get in on the night but seeing DAF at a reasonably small venue (by DAF standards) should be exciting and fun.
Holy Ghost! at Berghain: Disco Disco! NY City guys know how to make you move, taking inspiration from the 70s and 80s for it. This is my recommendation of the week.
Boduf Songs at Dense Shop and Schokoladen: With a die-hard fan base, Boduf Songs plays "deceptively low key, and skirts between singer-songwriter, psychedelic, home recorder and folk modes, bringing an obtuse, angular minimalism to these forms", according to Kranky Records, home to Boduf Songs. Go to Schokoladen and be quiet and take in the beauty. Boduf Songs are also playing a Matinée show from 3 to 6pm at Dense Record Shop (near Frankfurter Tor) with DJ Knive as support.

Surfer Blood at Privat Club: Indie rock with a surf theme. This might be a nice way to start your Saturday night.

Review: Noem + Nothing + Family Battle Snake

Family Battle Snake was the main reason for me to head to Bei Roy, the former Raum 18, this Friday night. He was on first and played drone synthie noise, starting very quiet and slow (he even had to tell some people chattering in the front row to shut up) and building more and more into heavyer psychedelic sounds, which reminded me somehow of spacey sci-fi John Carpenter soundtracks. His set of about twenty minutes ended with a massive and loud wall of sound. No complaints here, he was really great and well worth the visit.
Next on were Nothing, a relatively new band from Berlin and some sort of hardcore supergroup with members of Mönster and whatever. I don't want to say much about them. They played punky and fast hardcore, really no big surprises here. Also they apparently seriously brought a Vice Magazine camera crew to film and record their gig… yeah well…
Noem were the headliners of the evening. Like Nothing they are relatively new and also from Berlin. Unlike Nothing they had no camera crew around, which was a good thing. Noem played loud and fast noise rock. Not exactly my taste but they did okay.
All in all I was glad to have a chance to see Family Battle Snake and also take a look at Bei Roy, which I really liked. It certainly wasn't my last visit here.

Friday 4 March 2011

Review: Maserati + Günther Schickert

Well, this wasn't exactly what I hoped for…

Krautrock musician Günther Schickert and his band opened for the first gig of Maserati's current European tour. Schickert and band started with some drony noise stuff with echoed and delayed guitars, which I actually found quite interesting, slowly building into more and more groovy and psychedelic Post-Rock songs. I didn't like the groovy parts and had hoped for Schickert's set to be more experimental. Altogether they played about half an hour in front of a half empty Lido. Günther Schickert also announced a session in collaboration with Maserati post their set. But before that Maserati were going to "blow everyone's ears," at least according to Schickert...

Maserati came on and started with the first songs from their latest record. I thought the sound was quite good, at least it was better than the "light show" which I found really annoying.
However they bored me already after two or three songs. It all kind of sounded the same to me. They played tight and good and I think as a die hard Maserati fan you might have liked it... at least the people dancing in the front rows did. Also worth mentioning is the last song Maserati played that evening as it was their only song with vocals. Let me just say I really hope they're going to stick to instrumental music and stop trying to sing...

After that I wasn't actually in the mood to wait for the impro-jam-session but I wanted to see at least if it could become worse. I have to say it did not but it also didn't get any better, so I left after about ten minutes.