Friday 30 September 2011

Review: EMA + Ganglians

Ganglians and EMA is actually an odd pairing. Perfect for me though. I just love love love Ganglians and I've always wanted to see EMA live. So a ticket for this one was quickly purchased.

We arrived fairly early because playing times at Festsaal have lately been a little unpredictable and we certainly didn't want to miss Ganglians, who were the main reason for me to spend my evening at Festsaal. The venue was practically empty when we made our way in at 9:30pm. Hmmm. It was a bit of a déja-vu because last time Ganglians played a full set in Berlin nobody had bothered to show up (read about it here). Luckily for us and the band, by the time Ganglians came on stage, Festsaal wasn't super busy but had filled enough to create an atmosphere and show the group some appreciation. And just as well because the band always looks like they really enjoy playing their songs.

Ganglians had presented their new album in Berlin a few months ago in an accoustic session at Monarch, and we hadn't really been able to tell what the new songs sounded like (see review). I was therefore very curious to hear the new material live with a full band. And this was interesting, to start with, let's say during the first half of the set, the old songs seemed to please me more. The new material is overall a little less poppy and a little more surf and I was not really getting it. Yet. Because about half way through the set I was suddenly finding myself warming to those new tunes and by the end I was loving it. All of it, old and new. 

Ganglians have done it again for me. This troupe really hits my heart. 

After quite a long in-between break, in which Festsaal filled up nicely, EMA finally hit the stage. And now here was a surprise. I was thinking of dancy tunes with sort of dark female vocals and a grungy guitar influence. Don't ask me why. We were getting elaborate guitar sound scapes, low key drumming and a Violent Femmes cover. The most amazing part of the performance was by far the violine player, altering his play between guitar-like and classic voiline. Interesting. But not quite enough. While I did enjoy what I saw, it didn't live up to my, admittedly high, expectations. I lost interest halfway through the performance and went to hang out outside with friends. And to be honest, there was a bit of a crowd hanging out outside. I guess EMA and Ganglians just doesn't draw the same crowd and those that were there for Ganglians couldn't make it through a whole EMA set, like myself.

Nevermind though. It was a wonderful evening with amazing Ganglians and a likable EMA and friends. Many went to the aftershow at Monarch but I headed home. There are just too many gigs just now for me to make full nights out of each and every one of them.

Quick review: Zola Jesus

I admit, I didn't really know what would await me, I wasn't that familiar with Zola Jesus. Goth and Dance mixed together maybe? I knew, however, that Zola Jesus is big business.

Berghain's Panorama Bar was sold out and packed and we little people only got a spot right at the back. The pre-gig mood was lively and loud. The audience appeared to consist of students, students and some more people who were primarily bland. 

Zola Jesus came on with a bang, smoke, projections and a far out light show that matched her theatrical singing. At first, I was taken aback by a pretty full on start to the show. But after about two songs I got thoroughly bored. While her operatic singing is impressive and would enrich any great song, the actual songs were lacking something special. It was all very commercial, unintelligent light disco pop, not enough rhythm to get you dancing (in fact, nobody in the audience danced), but not melodic enough to catch your attention.

In addition, the sound was disappointing. I am a fan of Berghain as a venue because of it's amazing ambience. But what's that worth when you can only hear bass and drums and hardly any keyboards? 

I'm not sure what to make of it all. Disappointed and in wonder why this is receiving the amount of attention it is, I think there are a several artists who are doing a similar thing, albeit maybe not as professional, who deserve this attention more.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Review: Greg MacPherson

I almost missed this one and only found out that Greg MacPherson was playing at Roter Salon in the Volksbühne, because friends of mine asked if they could visit me on an extended weekend to see the show on Monday. I saw Greg before several (four, to be exact) years ago and I like a good deal of his records, so I went with them and didn't regret it.
We were quite early as I thought Volksbühne is more strict with their schedule. So we hung out in front of the building a bit and waited until the entry was open. Surprisingly there was nearly no one else attending, so everyone of the only about ten (!) people who came could get a nice comfy armchair directly in front of the stage. Roter Salon really lives up to its name with red curtains, red chairs and red light and I have never came so close to a real life Twin Peaks experience than in this room. The only things missing were the backwards dancing person of short stature and the Twin Peaks music...

There was no support act, so it was just Greg MacPherson with a microphone, guitar and amplifier. But this gig wasn't just reduced to the essentials, it was also very intense and good. Greg enjoyed the intimate atmosphere and chatted with the audience, from which he funnily knew most of the people. He filled several song requests and told some background stories behind the songs which was quite nice.

All in all this was a pleasantly relaxed concert. I heard all the songs I hoped to hear and had a good time so I didn't mind paying a relatively high entry price of 10€ for just one solo act. But despite Roter Salon being a seriously beautiful venue, I somehow wish he had played somewhere else. This didn't seem to be the right surrounding and I think in another venue there would have been a lot more people attending. I also think Roter Salon/Volksbühne isn't particularly great in promoting small concerts like this... As I said, if it wasn't by chance I would have certainly missed this. Hopefully next time he plays under better circumstances.

Quick review: The Specials

I was invited to see The Specials. Lots of my favourite songs are Specials songs, so it was indeed special to be able to see this group, these heroes live once.
What can I say? A quick positive / negative comparison does this the most justice:

  • Played all the hits except "Ghost Town"
  • The sound was good
  • The singing was second to none
  • 10 people on stage
  • No local wanna-be Ska band supporting
  • Lots of dancing and partying by the entire audience
  • Terry Hall in a bad mood and not part of the encore (which was not really an encore anyway, thus growing anger in the crowd)
  • Show way too professional for me - it was almost like watching a show on Broadway - it is the band's source of income, not their means for creativity
  • Skinhead fans all have ADS and no sense of rhythm
  • No "Ghost Town", hence angry fans (although the flying beer cups could count as a positive)
  • Columbiahalle being Columbiahalle
We had a really good time, no doubt, but it wasn't like going to see your favourite band in concert. It was like going to a big event, with all the ins and outs, including brezels on sale outside after the gig (reminded me of the hot dog salesman who follows Homer around). 

Monday 26 September 2011

Review: Einstürzende Neubauten, Wire, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker

J. spotted this one way before anyone and we were quick to respond. And so it happened that I was standing on Köpenicker Str. in the early hours of the evening, waiting to be let into Tresor. Einstürzende Neubauten, Wire, and the Caspar Brötzmann Massaker were going to play a free gig for the benefit of a TV recording.

The management of this part of the evening was atrocious. A large crowd of people had assembled on the pavement and only a few people at a time were let through the gates. This meant that a lot of pushing ensued and for a moment I felt like giving up and abandoning the concert as my evening entertainment. But it was too late. There was no getting back, with the crowd pushing from behind. By the time I was finally through the gate, having nearly been trampled, and my name had been checked off a list, I wasn't in the mood for a show.

But my mind changed quickly. The building with its bare industrial feel is quite magical. I'm not much of a techno club goer, you may have guessed by now, so I didn't know Tresor and its interior. Very nice indeed. We grabbed a drink and tried to position ourselves well in the gig area. Now this was an unusual set up: three stages facing each other in a triangle and the audience in the middle. For the purpose of filming, a camera was zooming back and forth above our heads, held by metal rods. We were told by an instructor that it had never dropped and wouldn't do so this evening either. Good to know.

The format was as follows: each band was to play two short sets (about 2-3 songs each), with some short interviews with the groups inbetween. The presenter was unexpectedly Silke Super, of MotorFM fame. I guess she must have left the station when they changed to FluxFM. 

Einstürzende Neubauten started. A word of caution: I am by no means a fan. I recognise the contribution Einstürzende Neubauten have made to music and I appreciate their aim to combine art, poetry and music. But I find their records pretty much unlistenable. And I know what I'm talking about; I used to live with someone who had an EN tattoo. No kidding. 
But I was sufficiently impressed this night. Blixa Bargeld looked old but still sang beautifully and overall, the group performed as if the 80s had never ended. Their self-made industrial instruments were amazing to watch and perfectly placed in the factory setting that we were in. And I guess they must have played their most digestible songs, because I enjoyed the music too, to my own surprise.

The interview Silke Super was attempting with Blixa Bargeld didn't go so well. In fact, Mr Bargeld was unnecessarily rude to the poor woman, who was just trying to do her job. I know it's his image but this was over the top and no fun to watch. I was glad when more music followed.

The next group, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker, seemed to have brought along some die-hard fans who were rocking out hard, but couldn't convince me. It was like combining hippie guitar solo stuff with industrial music. Sounds great? Well, it wasn't for me. But it could be good in the right setting for the right people. Presumably, it is. 

We made sure to position ourselves appropriately for Wire. At least for me, this was the highlight of the evening. I had missed them at Berlin Festival (and now I wish I hadn't) and I was going to make the most out of this one. And what can I say? They were really good. I'm assuming that you are either familiar with Wire or are going to research this right now. It's basic music lover's knowledge. But basically, Wire have set the precedence for so many bands that would follow after them. And I felt that they really lived up to that without being pretentious. I was ever so impressed by how good they were and how well they'd aged. A great performance.

To end the event, all three bands played a song together, originally by Einstürzende Neubauten. By that point, the format of the program really reminded me of Later with Jools Holland, a British live music TV show that I can recommend to any music fan. And fair enough, why should Germany not have its own Later with...

We were told that the program is going to be on TV (ZDFNeo) in early December. So watch out for that if you want to see it all for yourself.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Ben. Alright!

I've just found out that Ben Butler and Mousepad is finally playing in Berlin again on 7 October. Alright! This is exciting news for this little fan!!

Saturday 24 September 2011

Preview: the week ahead (26th Sep - 2nd Oct)

Oh boy, we've had a busy week. You'll hear from us soon on that. And there is more to come... autumn is here alright. What a week ahead!! 

Greg MacPherson at Roter Salon (Volksbühne): I almost missed this one, but it's more than worth mentioning. Greg MacPherson is a seriously talented singer songwriter with a great voice and fantastic stories to tell. I don't know whether he's going to play with a whole band or, more likely, just solo with guitar, but in any case he manages to create a great atmosphere and leave an impression. 

Herman Düne at Festsaal Kreuzberg: the amount of great 'singer songwriters' this Monday is definitely too damn high. We already wrote lots of good things about Herman Düne so it's up to you now...
The Fresh & Onlys at Antje Öklesund: It's lucky for you that we do our preview at such short notice because this means that we can include this spontaneous gig. You'll enjoy their digestable but clever indie rock à la My Bloody Valentine, Lush et al. This is going to be sweet. 

Haossaa and Don Vito at Knochenbox: Clever and rhythmic noise. You know the craze girl likes Lightning Bolt, Health et al. Well, the craze girl likes Hoassaa. But it's a tough one because Wednesday is offering too much choice to Berlin live music fans. Yet again.
Rvivr + Sissters at about:blank: Melodic indie punk rock from Rvivr, clever post-punk from our Berlinians Sissters. This is going to be good and adds to the difficulty of deciding where to spend the evening on Wednesday.
Purling Hiss at Monarch: You like Ty Segall and Wavves? You'll love Purling Hiss. Fact. 70s inspired rock the way they played it in the early 90s. It's having such a revival and I'm loving it. Meet me, C*, here on Wednesday and let's rock out!

Zola Jesus at Berghain: Zola Jesus is presenting her new album and what better venue to choose than Berghain? Danceable hi-fi dark wave dance music. If you know what I mean. This is the for the sophisticated indie music lover and most likely it's going to be an awe-inspiring music event, given the surroundings.
Pantha Du Prince and the Bell Laboratory at Manalese Gallerie: Pantha Du Prince is curating an art exhibition called Kunst Als Klang at Manalese Gallerie. As part of this, there is going to be a concert this Thursday. Expect greatness.

Shokei and The Falcon Five at Schokoladen: Rhythmic danceable punk, for fans of Team Robespierre and Death Set, and just as funny, too. Shokei are one of the funniest live bands ever and the crowd typically goes insane. Go to this if you want to have a good time on a Saturday evening. The Falcon Five do post-punk and they do that well. Make sure you show up early enough (Schokoladen = 7pm!) to catch both bands.

Tim Schmidt at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Originally Swedish singer-songwriter of the folk variety and reminds me very much of Digger Barnes, or vice versa. His website actually says "With a perfect blend of American and English folk traditions, sophisticated fingerpicking and earthy voice, Tim Schmidt seems to incarnate Nick Drake, Michael Hurley and Bob Dylan all in one body." and I reckon that's a pretty good way of describing Mr Schmidt's magic. Amazing voice and lyrics. Let's hang out mellow on Sunday night at Festsaal.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Abwärts next month

So very tempted. Should I go?

15th October at SO36.

Review: Screaming Females & The Lovely Eggs

11 months ago I went to see Screaming Females at the then called Bang Bang Club and was given a positive suprise (read my previous review). This time round, when I was heading to West Germany on Monday, I knew what to expect. However, I didn't know that they were going to supersede my expectations. 

Apparently, there is a Grunge revival going on. If there is truth to this, and there may well be judging by the forthcoming Soundgarden reunion tour and the amount of Dr Marten's models available in mainstream shoe shops these days, the main beneficiaries of this trend should be the cotton industry, Marc Jacobs, Courtney Love, and maybe, just maybe, Screaming Females. Because if there is a revival going on, this should be your soundtrack. They're the only contemporary group worthy of the title because they just know how to rock.

But first things first. The support was given by UK outfit The Lovely Eggs that night. I didn't really know what to make of this group ahead of the gig. I listened to some songs, I watched some video footage but it all looked somehow improvised and not like I was getting the real deal. But, surprise, it was the real deal. That's because The Lovely Eggs are technically a band as in they play instruments and write songs and sing and tour, you know. But this two-piece manages to make you smile all the way through the performance. It's like going to see a lo-fi punk gig but a comedy performance at the same time. And all the while they are stylish, too. And so very British. I like. 

Screaming Females played all their hits. Screaming Females rocked out. Screaming Females had the room dancing. See my old review if you want to know what they sound like or stuff like that. Just take it from me that if you get the chance to see this group live, make sure you take them up on the offer. One of my favourite live bands, hands down. You won't see another lady work the guitar the way this one does. Yum!

It was a Monday night but people had come out to rock and I was glad I had chosen thee Females again as my choice of evening entertainment. You just can't go wrong.

Tomorrow - crazy Thursday

Have you checked out the calendar for tomorrow? No? Well, here is a quick overview of all the live music events happening this Thursday night. I felt like giving you an addition to our regular weekly preview, just because tomorrow is so silly. I want to be everywhere in the below list at the same time. Damn you Berlin booking agents!


EMA and Ganglians at Festsaal: see our weekly preview.

Zachary Cale and This Frontier Needs Heroes at Schokoladen: Singer-songwriter material with a beautiful voice and a melancholy that will pursuade a few of you. Remember gigs at Schokoladen start at 7. Also, Schokoladen have their court case the next morning. So celebrate with them tonight and support them at court tomorrow.

Emeralds at West Germany: Extremely productive and loved by Pitchfork among others, this Cleveland group will have you dance and sway with their dancy and dreamy synth melodies.

John Vanderslice at nbi: Theatrical singer-songwriter material of the very American variety. The man has been writing and producing music for a long time and is worth your attention.

Let's Wrestle at Privat Club: Post-punk, poppy, light and nerdy.

Now is that silly or what? Maybe our little overview will help you make up your mind or maybe it will have the opposite effect. See you around town tomorrow night for sure!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Preview: the week ahead (19th - 25th Sep)

Oops, sorry we're late! Hope you didn't miss the Screaming Females gig on Monday without the reminder? Let's see what the rest of the week has to offer and don't forget to check out the calendar at the bottom, there's way more stuff going on this week!

Screaming Females and The Lovely Eggs at West-Germany...

Pashly, Cherry Sunkist and Chra at Madame Claude: this is a nice mix between dark and wavy electronic stuff mostly with female vocals. If you like stuff like Zola Jesus you should definitely give this a try.

EMA and Ganglians at Festsaal Kreuzberg: C* mentioned Ganglians here often enough that I suppose they don't need further advertising. EMA consist of member(s ?) of Gowns and play  dark and wavy electro pop stuff. Again an event worth attending if you're into Zola Jesus, Esben and the Witch and comparable bands.
I've done a special preview for Thursday only. Check it out here.

Cam Deas and J. Krawietz Goes Electro at Madame Claude: Cam Deas is awesome live! Check my previous review of him supporting Sunburned Hand of the Man and add the nice setting of Mme Claude to it. This could be good! 

And now for something completely different, Problems and Blank Pages at bei Roy: in the mood for a hardcore show? Problems are members of Poison Idea and Pierced Arrows, that's probably enough information to know what's expecting you here. Blank Pages are from Berlin and play something like wavy punk like Buzzcocks meeting Wipers.

Friday 16 September 2011


For all of you excited to go see The Specials next week: The gig has been moved to Tuesday (20th September 2011) instead of the originally announced Monday.

Soo... see you at West Germany on Monday and at C-Halle on Tuesday. ;)

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Chris Corsano (and others) tonight!

Anybody in for something experimental tonight? Amongst others, Chris Corsano is playing at NK (check our venue list on the right) tonight. I saw his last Berlin concert at West Germany and this guy is amazing! If you are anyhow into drumming and/or experimental music this is a definite must see! Corsano worked and played with shitloads of great musicians. For this concert he's collaborating with Dennis Tyfus who is not only responsible for founding Ultra Eczema and some great artworks and illustrations but also plays interesting free noise music.
Check out this video of them both playing together to get an impression on what to expect live:

Further artists to play tonight are Ghédalia Tazartès, a french musician who somehow mixes experimental and "ethnic"/"world music" and Dracula Lewis.

Check this facebook event for more video links and further info.

Monday 12 September 2011


When I was asked recently what the best band on the planet was in my opinion, I answered HEALTH without hesitation. I'm not talking historically, that remains to be seen. But HEALTH are my favourite band. Love.

Review: Berlin Festival Day 2

Did I really have to go to the festival on day 2, now that I had seen Health the day before? Good question. It turned out, yes, it was well worth going again.

We spent most of the day hanging out with our friend who was in town for the festival. Therefore, we unfortunately missed Tune-Yards but I am certain she did a wonderful job as always. By the time we had picked up our AAA wristbands ("We are on the Bloody Beetroots guest list" "Well, are you now? I have heard this one before!" Goodness, what an attitude!), Beirut were about to come on to the main stage. We could see straight away: a lot more people had showed up for the festival this day and the atmosphere was more lively than the previous day. 

I have been a Beirut fan since the first album and I am an avid supporter of the theory that Zach Condon is indeed a musical genius. But last time I watched Beirut, when he performed at Astra, I wasn't impressed. Of course, Astra being Astra, the sond and set-up of the gig weren't ideal either, but the band also didn't seem as enthusiastic as their music calls for. Jazz and Balkan influenced chanson-like pop songs, melancholic but uplifting at the same time. You really want the performer to convey this feeling. And this time round they did. Beirut came with an array of instruments, incl. a tuba, a double bass, a horn, two trumpets and an accordeon, just to name some. They had also brought along a sense of humour and it appeared that the group thoroughly enjoyed itself. Fascinated and drawn in, I watched the whole set, which I don't necessarily do at festivals. The audience was extremely appreciative, and for a split second I thought there was even going to be an encore. In the meantime, I received a text message informing me that Pantha Du Prince were convincing everyone on the other stage. I wish I could have split myself in two.

We caught a little bit of Boys Noize, a single DJ playing Prodigy influenced techno music, on the main stage. He had already played last year and let's just say it's not my thing, to say the least. Eugh. But everyone was dancing. It was impressive. We made our way backstage to grab a beer and a banana and spend some more time with our friend who we'd come for in the first place. When we tracked back to Hangar 5 to see The Bloody Beetroots, we passed by the main stage, where Beginner was playing. I am not too familiar with hip hop, especially German hip hop, therefore, I don't know why Absolute Beginner go under the name of Beginner these days (or since 8 years I have been informed). But I recognised them straight away. I hadn't heard their songs in 10 years and yet it was so apparent this was Absolute Beginner. How about that.

The Blood Beetroots & Dennis Lyxzén
It was time to see the group we had come for. On the one hand, my friend sings for The Bloody Beetroots these days, on the other hand, I had heard so much about this group, good and bad, from various sources, that by now I was extremely intrigued to watch the madness for myself. The first thing that I noticed was the average age of the audience in front of Hangar 5 stage, I guessed around 19 years of age. We considered this funny. After all, the Bloody Beetroots reference a lot of music from the 90s and this means that the audience is basically too young to understand these references. This puts in interesting spin on the concept and performance of the Bloody Beetroots. For instance, Dennis Lyxzén, once singer of cult hardcore band Refused, has been called in by the band to sing on their rendition of New Noise, a Refused song. His part in the group has since been extended to three songs he performs with the Italian disco noise outfit. But of course, most of the audience won't recognise him. Similarly, they had previously engaged Justin Pearson, of The Locust and Swing Kids, to sing and perform with them on an Australian tour (btw: this month Pearson is releasing a book about that tour). From what we had been told, we imagined punk influenced electronic madness and a crazy live show. Looking back, people have either been exaggerating, have not been to real crazy punk shows or this was not their best night. I am not sure. But essentially, the Bloody Beetroots wore suit jackets and masks not unlike those of The Locust. They played songs that were more standard techno than I expected but did sample music from various genres. I really appreciated the live drummer onstage, but the interspersed guitar playing didn't appear natural. I can see how it added to the dynamic but at the same time, an extra technician was needed to put the guitar on the band member and off, and on, and off. Dennis Lyxzén gave his all and it was great to see how he is still a top notch performer, and a professional I guess. But overall, I was thoroughly disappointed in the gig. I think my expectations had been too high and I had been promised something else to what we were delivered.

We left the Bloody Beetroots early to catch some Mogwai, a band close to my heart for many years. There couldn't have been a bigger contrast. I instantly felt at ease when I heard Mogwai's tunes. We took a seat outside the hangar and just soaked in the sounds and projections. It was the perfect musical end to the festival.

The festival was not yet over for us, however. There was a spontaneous birthday celebration to join in the dressing room of the Bloody Beetroots. Some champagne and sweets later...

This was my second year at Berlin Festival and I enjoyed every minute of it. If you are not a festival person, like me, you should definitely consider putting this in your calendar for next year. It's the festival for non-festival people. Can't wait for next year!

Sunday 11 September 2011

Review: Berlin Festival Day 1

When the price for the +1 VIP ticket that I had been promised was doubled, I should have guessed that something was up. And as soon as I arrived onsite, it was apparent that not enough tickets had been sold to really fill up the festival. To my surprise, this didn't impair the energy of the festival. 

Berlin Festival is the only festival I actually like. It's independent from weather, you don't need wellington boots (although some girls chose to wear those anyway), it's eco-friendly compared to a lot of festivals, the food is amazing and the line-up is always great. And only bands that have played Berlin Festival can say they've performed in Hitler's airport. That's some claim to fame I guess.

But really, the whole setting of a listed airport building and the crowd that shows up (few drunk people, lots of dancing) just make this an experience I enjoy.

the craze affiliate G. Walker photographing live art
When I arrived in the late afternoon, I first stumbled into the Yelle gig, which is basically two drumming session musicians and a French girl singing / dancing. It was OK but kind of too average pop for me, so we ventured to see The Rapture. Now, I remember when they were on Gravity records and released an album that sounded exactly like The Cure, from start to finish. These days, they do a funky dance thing with percussion, similar to Radio 4. I have seen Radio 4 live and they are an amazing live band, with a lot of energy. The Rapture didn't impress me nearly as much. I can see this working in a club setting, but on a big festival stage, this just didn't really catch my attention enough. We went for a cup of tea instead, after we had caught a little bit of Rainbow Arabia (drummer, keyboard player and American girl singing / dancing) and Oh Land (drummer, keyboard player and Danish girl singing / dancing). By that point I had kind of given up on independent music: was this all this was - backing tracked pop music?

Luckily, there are indie pop gems like The Drums out there. They are too sweet and pop for some, but I appreciate them. While they had already delivered the goods at Lovebox festival (see my review), they really convinced at Berlin Festival. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance, which was attended by a large crowd. The sound was better and the energy and humour of the band really carried across. I almost didn't want to leave the set half-way through but I basically didn't have a choice because my favourite band was about to play...

Remember how I referred to Lightning Bolt as a band that makes me emotional? Well, it goes even a little further with HEALTH. It's almost a physical feeling. And after all that dance pop, their noise intro really shook not just me but the entire crowd I think. We all needed some serious guitar noise, in your face rock. And as an added bonus, Health are more danceable than most of the dance bands that had played so far that day. The beauty of a Health gig is their ability to build up from song to song. It starts OK but by the 5th song, people are going insane, almost trancelike. Health played 40 minutes instead of the allocated hour (not that anyone expected them to play a full hour) and I left exhausted but happy. I made my way across to catch the last two songs of CSS, only to be disappointed. CSS had blown my mind in Pomona but this time round, the sound was weak and the performance mediocre. I suspect that CSS are just not a festival band, or maybe it was an unlucky day. I needed dinner - chips "Schranke".

Chips in hand, we checked out Battles, who were playing the main stage. I hadn't expected that and wondered whether they could pull it off. Could they! Battles' performance was a lot stronger than the one at Festsaal. Eccentrics that they are, a big crowd probably suits them just fine. The reception was good and a lot of dancing was the result. The only shame was that the light show onstage clashed with the video projections that Battles use instead of a live singer these days. Oh well.

We skipped Primal Scream (I saw them perform Screamadelica when it came out and it didn't impress me then) and hung out with our friends in Austra and some very bony fish backstage instead. But we made sure not to miss Suede, because, let's face it, who didn't dance to Beautiful People in 1996? But some things are better left alone. Brett Anderson could not hit the notes this time round and killed all the hits, while the rest of the band was lifeless. We left after three songs, which is totally unlike me.

Highlights of the day: Health, The Drums, Battles. Chai tea lounge. Live art. Mobile Disco (a disco on a movable platform that goes around the festival, being followed by dancers. Brilliant).

A photo exhibition onsite adding the Berlin's tourism debate

Preview: the week ahead (12th - 18th Sep)

The weather for the coming week is looking very temperamental. But we are tired from Berlin Music Week anyway and are grateful for some mellow hang out time. However, looking at the calendar, there are a couple of nice gigs going to happen this week, if you are into experimental music that is.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Paul Clipson and Bill Kouligas at West Germany: Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is going to send you into daydreamland with experimental electronic ambient soundscapes, while Paul Clipson is going to project Super 8 film. This will appeal to those of you who like to hang out at Madame Claude on Mondays, among others.

Marzipan Marzipan and Dorothea Münsch at Madame Claude: Pop music with a twist and an accent. Very sweet but also grown-up. I think this will appeal to you if you like Stereo Total for example. But I am not sure Marzipan Marzipan would appreciate this comparison, if you know what I mean.

Einstürzende Neubauten, Wire and Caspar Brötzmann Massaker at Trafo: For free. Yes. If you registered, which these craze folks have. And you would have known about it if you would have followed our facebook group. Not to worry, we'll report to you dutifully.
Chris Clavin at Bei Roy: What do you do when your band just doesn't tour enough to meet your desire for travel and play? You just go out on your own and travel and play. Well, I don't know whether this is Chris Clavin's motivation for his solo tour but given he will play some of the songs of his band project, Ghost Mice, too, it could well be. Anyway, this could be good fun.

Le Corps Mince de Françoise, MIT and Fuck Art, let's dance! at Magnet Club: Finnish girl pop rock. Not amazing, not offensive and definitely dancable. This will get you in the mood for your weekend.

Thursday 8 September 2011

tomorrow, outside of festival world

Berlin mega-group Fenster are playing at Antje Öklesund tomorrow. Sweet and I might pop over there when I'm sick of festival folk and expensive pizza.

More information on the facebook event page.

berlin festival pick

We at the craze are not your typical festival folks. But I live walking distance from Berlin Festival and I appreciate this special event in Berlin's annual music calendar. Here are my picks for you:

15:30 Austra at Main Stage
18:00 The Drums at Main Stage
18:30 HEALTH at Hangar 4 or CSS at Hangar 5
19:30 Battles at Main Stage
21:30 Santigold at Hangar 5

16:00 Tune-Yards at Hangar 4
19:30 Beirut at Main Stage
20:00 Pantha Du Prince at Hangar 4
21:30 Deus at Hangar 4
23:00 Mogwai at Hangar 4 or The Bloody Beetroots at Hangar 5

Of course there is so much more going on all around town but the airport is where I'll be most likely. Maybe see you there?

Saturday 3 September 2011

Review: My Disco + PTTRNS

I am very lucky because I got to know PTTRNS as a live band before any recordings were even released. As much as I love the album, it just doesn't compare to their incredible live events. I have made many friends of mine listen to the album and people just don't get it the way they do when you take them to a PTTRNS gig.

PTTRNS, stepping into the footsteps of American dance bands like Radio 4, but adding their own special magic, shouldn't need an introduction to readers of this blog. We have always been very frank and open about our love for these cute guys from Cologne. Also, my previous review of a PTTRNS gig is still one of our most read posts on the craze. If you are yet unfamiliar with the group (unthinkable!), you can read up a little there.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to this night like no other night in recent weeks. When we were all in our late teens and travelled to HC and punk shows all across Europe, we had our own groups that we knew and at whose gigs we would always meet the same people. There was this "we" feeling, which youngsters who join subcultural youth movements crave. Of course, now in our thirties, our needs have shifted slightly. But every now and so often there is a PTTRNS gig and it gives you that same warm feeling of having an alternative family, like you experienced back in your youth.

As an added bonus, the weather was lovely on Thursday night, so that everyone could hang out outside, enjoy one of the last summer nights with a chat with some friends and a drink in hand. The atmosphere was extremely relaxed and I almost didn't want to go into a smokey venue. But of course, I knew what was to come and obeyed the call when the gig started.

In theory, PTTRNS are supporting the Australian group My Disco on this tour. Realistically, people came out to see PTTRNS and thus, the running order was switched. My Disco could be summarised as post-punk but with added drum and rhythm elements. The band started with a drum intro, then some rhythmic guitar parts and I was getting very much into it. But somehow, my attention wasn't held. After a few songs I decided that I would probably appreciate their music a lot more if I was a stoner or less impatient. Or both. I ventured back outside.

However, I made sure I was going to be at the front for PTTRNS. It pays off really, let me tell you. PTTRNS tend to distribute instruments to the crowd and join the audience for some dancing. You just don't get the same experience somewhere at the back, with some couple on a first date chatting away or something. 
And well, what can I say. We danced, we smiled and we didn't want the gig to end. The boys played reasonably long and mixed old with new material, which doesn't vary too much from the old material and therefore worked well. Overall, everything I have written about them in my last review still holds true. Except for Lovelite being a much more airy kind of venue, compared to Schokoladen. There was actually space to dance. It made for an even better experience.

My date and I briefly wondered whether we should stay for some post-gig dancing but decided to go home happy and sweaty and spend some other night dancing and most likely the next time PTTRNS are in town. I'm already excited in anticipation!

Preview: the week ahead (5th - 11th Sep)

It's Berlin Music Week & CTM this week, so there are enough music events for you to enjoy. In addition, the Berlin Music Festival is taking place next weekend. Whoa, one big party week in Berlin. Aside from all that madness, we have picked out a few gems for you as well:

Les Jolies, Liberty Madness and P.U.F.F. at bei Roy: This is like a wavy garage punk package. Les Jolies from France play a mix between garage and post punk. Sounds like they could be great live. Supported by Liberty Madness (who play more like a mix of hardcore and garage punk) and P.U.F.F., this should be fun!

Datashock, Pretty Lightning, Awe and Laser Poodle at bei Roy: This is going to be good, trust me. Datashock are getting quite a lot of media attention lately after the release of their newest record "Die Pyramiden von Gießen." They've been around for quite some time now and although (or maybe it's because of that) they've been changing their line up and musical style, they've always been good both live and on records. If you are into things like ambient, experimental, Krautrock you seriously can't miss this! Pretty Lightning is another project of two Datashock members. They play more straight forward guitar and drums music, it's like a mixture of psychedelic blues rock and lo-fi folk. Check them out. Awe is a project of some people from Altes Finanzamt. They play electro acoustic ambient noise music, using traditional and "exotic" instruments like sitar and electric guitar processed with effects. Sounds good. Laser Poodle is another project of the guy doing Fyoelk. It's more or less experimental electronic music. This is a really nice package and you shouldn't miss it!

Zachary Cale at Bis Aufs Messer: For all of you who like the weekend to end with some sweet mellowness, we recommend Mr Cale to you instead of the TV. That's because his voice will mesmerise you and when you are back at work or school on Monday morning, you will be strangly relaxed and you just won't know why. Magic.
Remember the early playing times at Bis Aufs Messer, and see what Mr Cale looks like in a record shop in the following video: