Monday, 27 June 2011

Review: Weekend

The questions we were asking ourselves last night were:
1) Why do some bands get hyped more than others?
2) Why insist on having the band go on at 9:30pm when there is nobody around to watch them?
3) Why book Weekend at Comet Club when there are at least 5 more fitting venues in town?
4) Why did nobody read the craze preview and showed up at the gig? Didn't I tell you all this band was not to be missed?
5) Are bad ass looking drummers always bad ass?

On my way to the venue I already received a text that the band was going to go onstage at 9:30pm. Punctual. Driving like a maniac, parking half-legally, running along to the venue, I made it right before the band went on. Phew! But wait, what was I running for? The room held exactly 20 people who had come to watch the band. We were literally standing in an empty room when Weekend started to play. Odd.

There was no support act. There was no delaying the gig for late-comers. There was no moving the band from stage on to the ground in an effort to liven up the atmosphere. We felt truly sorry for Weekend, who started to play to an empty room, on a stage with an elaborate light show. It was a sorry affair.

Lucky for us, Weekend were just as amazing as they had promised to be. Live, they come across less wavey and more noisy. And extremely loud. Playing in the classic Police-formation (singing bass player, guitar, drums), they created an amazing wall of noise, while all along being very melodic at the same time. The room filled up a little more as the band was playing and several people danced wildly. And when the band had started to play noise to an empty room, by the fourth song it was danceable loud guitar music (sounds odd but it isn't, think early 90s) to an appreciative audience. 

Weekend played a long set and ended with a wall of sound that made the whole club vibrate. And those few that had come out to watch them, and had not left early due to the loudness, were found standing in the half-empty room in wonder. Wonder, why so few had bothered to show up, wonder why so many mediocre band get hyped when there is Weekend to be had, wonder how this three-piece could have created so much noise and yet be so pop and accessable all the while.

I'm going to see them again in London in a few weeks and I sincerely hope more people will show up there. But until then I shall be glad I had the opportunity to go watch the cute guys with loud music in Weekend.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Preview: the week ahead (27th June - 3rd July)

Well well, what a nice week we've had with that gig at Altes Finanzamt that J. went to and the Ganglians evening that c* enjoyed. And then there is the redesign of the craze. This coming week, c* will make her way to London, leaving the craze in the trusty hands of J. once again. Make sure you invite him to many concerts, sponsoring him with Club Mate!

Raein, Beau Navire and Captain Your Ship Is Sinking at Lovelite: I saw Raein some years ago (2004 to be exactly) and they really left an impression on me. They share musicians with La Quiete and Neil on Impression and if you're still into intense screamo stuff I'm sure you aren't going to miss this anyway. I still like their Il n'y a pas d'orchestre record and I think they could still be good live. I've never heard of any of the other bands though.

Marcel du Swamp, Sewn Leather, Fyoelk and Special Guest Translola at bei Roy: Somehow I have a feeling that this is going to be really good live. Prepare for an evening of experimental and noisy electronic wave stuff and dancy minimalistic electro. Sounds techno but I think this is going to be way more punk than you expect (not just because Translola are playing as special guests).

Footloose Shows is having a Footloose Fest this weekend and they invited a shitload of bands to play (Punch, Alpinist, Planks, Make Out! just to name a few... visit their tumblr for more info and running order). Go there, see bands, have some vegan cake, look around at distros and stay for the after party on Saturday with some disco, DJ, electro stuff waiting for you.

Zun Zun Egui and Francois & the Atlas Mountain at West Germany: Zun Zun Egui play a great and highly danceable mix of something you could call world music and krautrock. Check out the video below to get the idea. If you are into Omar Souleyman, Group Inerane, Group Doueh and similar stuff this is a must see.

Trans Am and Camera at Festsaal Kreuzberg: I first saw Trans Am play at Hamburg's Marx-Club in 1998 and I was taken. The combination of cool, fun and new sold it for me. They were so minimalist compared to other groups of the time, yet analog (at the time). Now, 13 years and several albums on, they still appear current and they still display a fantastic sense of humor. You are guaranteed a fun night out at Festsaal this coming Sunday.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


Some impressions from the Berlin gig and the Conan show in LA (read my reviews of those in April).

Review: Herman Düne

I have no idea why I have been putting this blog post off for so long. Granted, I have been busy and priorities had to be set. But honestly, there is never a week in which I can't find a minute with a cup of tea to review a gig. This should have happened a long time ago last week.

Anyhoo. I am a fan of Herman Düne and have probably mentioned this in passing before. I love the way these two combine pop and folk music with honesty and humor. It makes for a very sweet affair. But even though I very much enjoyed the gig at Berlin Festival last year, I wasn't sure whether I was going to attend this gig until more or less the last minute. There has been so much going on in Berlin this spring and my wallet is looking a little empty. Also, the gig sold out way in advance, causing a lot of confusion with the endlessly large guest list on the night. Luckily, my man managed to secure a spot on the paid list and many friends were going, giving me the final motivation needed to embark on yet another night at Festsaal.
I was not going to be disappointed. Wye Oak had just started when I arrived but for some reason, I didn't enjoy this at all, so I won't go into this too much. The room was full when Wye Oak played and many people commented positively afterwards, so either I wasn't in the mood for this or it just wasn't for me. I'll find out some day I guess.

The pause between Wye Oak and Herman Düne was pretty long but nobody seemed to mind. A lot of chitchat with friends and acquaintances and a drink in hand almost made me not wanting to go in to watch a gig at all. But when Herman Düne started playing, all was forgotten that had previously been lingering in my mind. The voice, the tunes, the humor. I was taken to another world. About halfway through the set I resorted to one of Festsaal's cosy sofas and snuggled up with my man and enjoyed a truly relaxed evening come to and end. 
After the gig we popped into West Germany where a small exhibition of Herman Düne artwork took place. Very nice and recommended if you get a chance to see some of the artwork one day.

I am glad I went. This gig won't make my Top of the Year list but that is hardly the point. It was a very enjoyable evening spent with loved ones. What else can you ask for? And as a bonus, you end up with an array of quotes to throw into conversations for weeks to come. Herman Düne - we love you.

Quick review: Sir Simon Battle

A little while ago, I went to see Sir Simon Battle at hbc. The ex-Tomte man and Kreuzberg local had been highly praised in Zitty but my motivation to see this gig stemmed from having a friend play as part of his group. I admit I was positively surprised. On the outset, it doesn't look like his singer-songwriter music should be my cup of tea but live, it was delivered beautifully and I thought the earnest and humorous speeches between songs made for a relaxed and fun atmosphere. A nice spontaneous night out with a soda, a piano and some friends.

Quick review: Ganglians acoustic set

Well, I was very excited about tonight but it turns out Ganglians in an acoustic version doesn't cut it for me. The songs were sweet as always, the hair looked good, the atmosphere nice. But the energy was missing and the whole affair turned out to be rather boring. And given that this was supposed to be a preview show for the upcoming album, we are no smarter as to knowing what the new album sounds like. I assume it's not all acoustic. 

However, it was an extremely nice evening overall. Ganglians provided the perfect background music to a drink and a chat with friends, of which many had turned up. Monarch was nicely filled and it felt like everyone knew each other in some form. We just all had a nice relaxed mid-week evening together and ended up staying way longer than the concert, past midnight.

(I didn't get a good picture of the band but here are some friends playing Tischfußball and these pictures characterise the evening very well.)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Review: Distraction + Maxime + Hai Noon

Wow, I'm still stoked about this concert. This was a last minute show and seemingly set up just that day. So I went to Altes Finanzamt with no real expectations than maybe of spending a nice evening. We hung out in the yard until the concert started and went in to witness a truly amazing concert of three really great bands.

Hai Noon started, they're a drums and bass duo and played loud, crazy and highly rhythmical noise rock, not unlike Lightning Bolt. Their drummer was seriously amazing and I was positively surprised to say the least. I wish they've had a better sound because I couldn't hear the bass that good. Otherwise no complains at all.

Maxime played next, I knew him for being the saxophone player in a band called Vocuhila, which I saw at bei Roy some not so long time ago. He was being supported live by Hai Noons crazy amazing drummer and another guy doing effect stuff with laptop and mixer. They played noisy impro Jazz stuff and it worked so well together! The echo/delay/reverb/feedback effects were a great addition to the awesome free jazz saxophone and drum instrumentals. So this was positive surprise number 2 in row. Let's see.

Distraction were the last band to play that night. Consisting of already twice mentioned crazy amazing drummer and the effects laptop guy from Maxime plus one guitarist/singer. They combined heavy and fast drum rhythms and breaks with more minimalistic guitar play and vocals. It somehow reminded me of an experimental noisy mix between early Blonde Redhead (probably because of the sometimes fragile but noisy at the other times guitar stuff

plus the female vocals) and the Paper Chase. The only bummer of their otherwise great gig was that Distraction had to stop early after a neighbour complained about the concert being to loud.

I left totally euphoric and happy. You should definitely check out Altes Finanzamt's monthly program, they got lots of great stuff going on. And you also should check Eine Welt aus Hack (links to both are in the side bar on the right) who set up this show and also sets up lots of other great shows, too!

Monday, 20 June 2011

open air society

This is exciting. The World/Inferno Friendship Society will play the Hof (yard) of Schokoladen in August. They are a great live band, provided they have the right setting. This is it, I'm sure of it. See you there!

(make sure you watch through the intro to actually hear one of the most fun songs ever - only anarchists are pretty!)

Preview: the week ahead (20th - 26th June)

48 Hours Neukölln is moving feet this weekend, both walking and dancing. So why stop on Monday when there are fun gigs going on in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg? In fact, a few gems in the calendar for the coming week, but in particular, I'm expecting you all at Monarch on Wednesday.

Big Kids at Bis Aufs Messer: This is going to be an acoustic set by Jason Romero, lead singer of Californian indie punk group Big Kids. It starts bang at 8 (you know the deal at Bis Aufs Messer by now) and promises to be great fun and a rare chance to see (at least some of) Big Kids.
Hype Williams and Gala Drop at West Germany: Hype Williams = Experimental ambient music from London, reminds me a bit of Jeans Wilder. Very nice. Gala Drop = Experimental analog dance music from Portugal, reminds me a bit of my step mother's world music cd collection. Also very nice. No regrets when you go to this show.

Ganglians at Monarch: One of my favourite live bands in a small cosy venue like Monarch, with the rain outside. It may feel a a little something like this:

Talibam! and Young Hare at bei Roy: I don't really know what to expect from Talibam! It's more like some sort of live punk opera performance. That sounds a bit strange but judging from some videos they could be fun live. Young Hare do something completely different. They're a duo and play some sort of lo-fi wavy beach pop.

Gustav at Akademie der Künste: German electronica, ambient and dreamlike, at the art academy. Sophisticated start to the weekend.

Ritalin War Dance, Neurosis Orchestra, Istari Lasterfahrer, Somtek, and Slow Pete at bei Roy: Anyone looking for some experimental electro stuff? This is probably what you're looking for. Five live acts doing something between dubstep, drone and noise playing at bei Roy, an old industrial complex. Sounds good? Sounds good!

Weekend at Comet Club: Wavey music, at times noisy, at times almost ambient, and definitely appealing to Crystal Stilts fans like me. I'm going to see them in London in a couple of weeks but will most probably be going to this one as well because I'm excited about this tour. See you at Comet!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

missed Mokkers

I missed this coming Saturday's gig of the wonderful girls in The Mokkers off the preview. A little while ago I came across this fantastic Berlin based girl band when looking up venues in my neighbourhood. A chance discovery and a love to stay. I adore their 60s garage rock and Chrissie Hynde like vocals. Might meet you at Bassy Cowboy Club on Saturday, yes?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Chain & The Gang + Kellies

Months! Months of anticipation. And what can I say? It was all I wanted it to be. Friends, music, performance, dancing, "yeah". Best live band in the world. Hands down.

photo by G Walker

Kellies played as support, a three piece girl band from Argentina, who kind of cover the whole genre of girl music over the past thirty years and wear cool outfits while playing. They were really good fun to watch and I highly recommend these ladies to you. A fun suprise and a good support for Chain & The Gang!

(BTW: I missed Electricity In Our Homes because I enjoyed myself too much. Sorry, next time.)

Review: Crystal Stilts + Blank Dogs

Here is a lesson in how to take the wrong choice. Tune-Yards, No Joy or Crystal Stilts? Well, I took Crystal Stilts at Festsaal. Oh well.

There is a good part to this. Blank Dogs played as support and I got a positive surprise. They sort of reminded me of a happy Joy Division or a depressed Devo, whichever way you look at it. Wavey dark music with an upbeat disco beat. They got Festsaal dancing. What a fantastic start to the night. I was getting into the spirit of things.

And I got let down. I've seen Crystal Stilts before, at the former Bang Bang Club, and it was great. I listen to their first album non-stop. I had high expectations. But no, this was not to be. It was such a hot evening and the band obviously got a in mood over this, making sarcastic remarks like "Can you please turn the heat up and the lights down". Maybe it was meant to be funny but it's not like anyone could change the weather for Crystal Stilts and when the singer is onstage with a jacket on, you are not that impressed with their heat problems. But it wasn't just the attitude that left me unsatisfied with this gig. There seemed to be no passion or heart in this performance. They played songs, one after the other, some old some new, and they didn't sound nearly as good as on record. It was just dull. I waited for my favourite song and left.

Funny thing is, I am still listening to their album everyday. Who knows what went wrong that night, maybe really just the heat, but I wish I would have gone to see the amazing Tune-Yards or maybe saved some money and enjoyed No Joy at Monarch. I wish.

Preview: the week ahead (13th - 19th June)

We're barely surviving the Karneval, in which the craze girl happens to live, and therefore, we are grateful for a more or less quiet week ahead.

Aidan Baker and thisquietarmy at Bis aufs Messer: If you missed their great gig at bei Roy last Saturday, here's your next chance. They both play drony ambient guitar noise. Be sure to go there on time, Bis aufs Messer concerts usually have to be over quite early.

Herman Düne and Wye Oak at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Herman Düne plays catchy and cute indie folk with adorable lyrics. Live, it's almost something between a concert and a comedy act. Wye Oak do something comparable but somehow more earnest. Anyway, if there is a decent way to spend a Tuesday evening, it's a Herman Düne concert!

Deep Sleep and Levitations at bei Roy: Deep Sleep play fast and melodic hardcore punk. They play with Levitations, a new all girl punk band from Berlin. Check them both out, I think this will be fun live!

Tame Impala at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Psychedelic music from Australia? Why not. These kids are experiencing somewhat of a hype but deservedly so. I'm especially looking forward to their more rocking numbers (see video below). Festsaal has been our second home lately and it looks like this is not about to end. So many good gigs at Festsaal just now. We might start our weekend with this one.

Wooden Wand and Alexander Tucker at Monarch: Monarch will be perfect for this double bill of talented singer-songwriters. I'm especially excited about Alexander Tucker, whose guitar tunes are admirable. What a sweet way to end your weekend!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

sad news

One ouf our favourite venues, the wonderful Schokoladen, is being intimidated by neighbours and from now on all concerts at Schokoladen have be over by 10pm. :(

There is going to be a minute of silence in front of Schokoladen this Thursday at 7pm, go out and show your support!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Review: Digger Barnes + Purple Eyelid

You may find this hard to believe, and indeed I do so myself, but this was my first gig at bei Roy. Therefore, I wasn't accustomed with how to get into the venue and my way there was fun and exciting. When I got out of the car I could hear really loud Turkish music from a disco next to bei Roy and this followed me until I was at the door of the building that bei Roy resides in. A person was sitting in the dark alley that leads to the building and wasn't sure where exactly bei Roy was but told me to climb the stairs and look for door number 20. He could have just said "follow the candles up the stairs until the top floor". The top floor of this disused factory building is shared by some form of DIY dance club and bei Roy. Instead of Turkish music I was now entertained by electronic music.

Once inside bei Roy, all outside sounds were blocked out and I entered the most relaxed and dream like atmosphere. Purple Eyelid were already playing and the beautiful voice and acoustic guitar, at times reminding me of Spanish guitar, paired with video projections of skies, instantly put me at ease. The audience was seated on sturdy wooden benches, on the windowsill or on the floor and everyone seemed to enjoy this together. Really, Purple Eyelid wouldn't usually be my thing, it's very well done but conventional girl singing to accoustic guitar kind of music. But the situation was perfect: the venue, the people, the performance. I was getting into the mood for more.

OK, stop right there. Here is something I've been meaning to tell you for a while: we are spoiled! People of Berlin are spoiled because so many good performers come through this city, sometimes staying here for weeks or months, and offer us these amazing concerts and events. And we have high standards because of this. But I also sometimes feel that we don't fully appreciate how wonderful and special this is. I have lived in big cities (London) and I have lived in smaller towns (Umeå
-->, Aachen) and nowhere have I been able to watch an array of musical styles being performed at such high quality throughout the year, every year. And really that should mean that my standard is high and really, I think it is. And yet, I have been to some of the most amazing and emotionally touching concerts in recent weeks. We are indeed spoiled.

You may have guessed by now, Digger Barnes fell into the category of "most amazing and emotionally touching concerts" last night. I had missed his concert with Austin Lucas a few weeks ago and didn't really know what to expect apart from folk music in the style of Lee Hazelwood. And musically, that is actually what we were served. If you like the Trouble album by Lee Hazlewood, you are bound to like Digger Barnes. In-between songs, Digger would tell little anecdotes about life on the road, which would always lead to the next song lyrically. It was like listening to someone tell a story with the help of songs. Everything works together well: the way Digger dresses, his middle America accent, the instrumentation (stripped down drums he plays with his feet only, a guitar or banjo according to song, a blue harp), the voice, the stories. You feel transported into the open wide plains of America. And the man is from Hamburg!

But it was the projection show that made this perfomance so special. Digger Barnes had with him Pencil Quincy, together naming themselves The Diamond Road Show. Pencil Quincy is an artist who works with conventional materials like paper and photographs and records and whatnot to create a projection show like none other. The projections are moving with the help of a revolving turntable he uses as part of this set up but there are also still drawings of the people Digger sings about. As far as art performance goes, this is one of the best I have probably ever seen. It will stick in my mind for a very long time. J. took some pictures with his proper camera and I hope to be able to share some of those with you in due course. Because it's hard to explain - you have to see for yourself.

Now the atmosphere was magic. The voice and tunes of Digger, the wonderful projections, a very appreciative audience and the surroundings of bei Roy all added to the most mesmerising concert I have attended in a long time. I don't know how long they performed, it must have been fairly long, but it passed very quickly. When J. asked me afterwards how I felt I was speechless.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Preview: the week ahead (6th - 12th June)

Summer's here! We are social these days, making the most of Berlin's parks and bike routes. I can see a day at the pool and some outdoor cinema evenings coming up, too. And I think going out to gigs is so much more fun when it's hot outside. And lucky for all of us, there are a few sterling events to match this week. A few mind you, June is almost a let down in terms of live music compared to May. Ah, just as well - gives us all more time to catch up on other things.

Grass Widow at Marie-Antoinette: Right, so my last review didn't make it sound like you should go to this one. However, I do think that the evening was probably simply jinxed the last time these ladies played Berlin and I'm willing to give it all another go. And so should you. I bet this is going to be a great evening with rocking girls playing catchy pop tunes and a well dressed audience.

Julianna Barwick at HBC: What would it sound like if elves made music? It would probably sound like the music of Julianna Barwick. This lady from New York creates dreamscapes with the help of her voice and ambient instrumentation, altered with beautiful melodies. You may want to go to this, and take your loved one, and drink wine and be amazed.
Strange Forces and Chateau Laut at Knochenbox: I've not yet attended a gig at Knochenbox. In fact I didn't know of its existence until earlier this week when my counterpart at Blitzgigs told me about this crypt under a church in Friedrichshain. That alone sounds worth attending this. But Strange Forces, residing in Berlin, have caught my attention, too: psychedelic rock music with wave elements. This should please those folk who like to express the darker side of themselves.

Chain & The Gang and Electricity In Our Homes and Kellies at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Aaaahhh, could I be more excited? Probably. But this rates pretty high on my list of wonderful things to happen in June. Ian Svenonious, entertainment mastermind, is going to teach us a thing or two on the subject of politics and dancing, and we are all going to go "Yeah" and no doubt the night is going to continue with some serious disco dancing afterwards. Before all this madness happens, the attractive post rockers in Electricity In Our Homes are going to move us. And even before that the girls in Kellies are going to amaze with garage rock the way we like it: raw and female. What a night ahead!
I have posted Chain & The Gang videos before, and you should get the gist by now, so instead I'm giving you this documentary on Ian's former group, the Make-Up. Incidentally, James Canty, who was a member in the Make-Up, is currently playing with Chain & The Gang.

Nadja and thisquietarmy at bei Roy: I have written about Aidan Baker and his ability to turn experimental music into something accessible and amazing. Ironically, I have somehow missed all of the numerous gigs he's played in Berlin in the past year. He is playing for another two times in June so the opportunities aren't ceasing to go watch him create his magic live. This time, however, he is performing as part of his outfit Nadja, a project of dark and mesmerising music, which requires your full attention when watching. Even though you may not feel like going out dancing afterwards, Saturday night and all, I recommend this to you.