Thursday, 29 December 2011


Sorry we were/are lazy busy, so hopefully you got along without the preview for this week. But you probably were able to decide for yourself between the five concerts we had in the calendar this week.
In the next days there's Palais Schaumburg on Friday, the Schokoladen Silvester concert and party with Solemn League, Ampl:tude and Robotron on Saturday and there's Austra on Sunday.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

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

It being the Christmas week and all, there isn't much going on around town. You may have guessed. So here are a couple of things worth your attention in the run-up to Christmas. 

Indias Indios at Madame Claude: Experimental music, influenced by ethnic music, but quite out there. Last time this man performed with this solo-project, he supported High Wolf. This should give you an idea. 

Blockflöte des Todes at BKA Theater: Anyone who sings about Fair Trade cocain trade in Berlin or an allergy to girl's hair makes me smile. This is something between singer-songwriter music and comedy, very clever and well worth your Monday night planning. In German lanuage btw. There are several videos I would like to share with you, but just youtube it yourself. Here is the one with my favourite lyrics:

Phantom/Ghost at Flamingo: Anyone who likes Dirk von Lowtzow's slightly ironic lyrics, in German when singing with Tocotronic, but in English in this project, will love Phantom/Ghost, where he is merely accompanied by Thies Mynther on piano. Thus his lyrics really carry weight in this chanson set up. Absolutely mesmerising. I hope there are still tickets available!
William Fitzsimmons at Heimathafen: The maestro of atmospheric singer-songwriting is making a Berlin appearance that is so highly anticipated, Heimathafen had to add a second date. Take that. Should be good.

Chuckamuck at Festsaal: Probably gig of the week. Fun German lo-fi garagy indie rock that will get the room swinging. Yeah baby!

William Fitzsimmons at Heimathafen: This second date was added because of the high demand for the man. If you didn't get your ticket yesterday, today is your chance.
Peter and the Test Tube Babies and Deaf Kennedys at Lido: UK punk veterans PatTTB are making in appearance in Berlin and this girl might just go there. Ever since I heard Blown Out Again on the Birdhouse video The End, I have been hooked on this band. Just believe me, you will dance your little ass off. As an additional bonus: Who doesn't like a good old jig to your favourite classic punk songs? Deaf Kennedys are a fun cover band and maybe exactly what you need to let your hair down in the run-up to Christmas. Extreme fun!

Jonny Freedom at Schokoladen: More comedic songwriter music in German language for you, this time less folky and more chanson-like. And very funny. And really, what else were you going to do on Christmas Even, huh?

Mexican Elvis coming to town!

I had entered this date into the calendar incorrectly. El Vez, man of my youth dreams ever since he performed on Alternative Nation, is performing at C-Club tomorrow night, making you laugh, dance and think, yes, even think. He's the man and I love thee!

Here is a video showing the Mexican Elvis in full effect:

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Saturday night: grand Raum Opening

Loophole, Raum 18 and Raum 20 have been on the search for a new location. The search is over. The opening party is this Saturday. Go to Ziegrastraße 15 from 11pm if you like it noisy. Live concerts will take place from 11:30pm until 2am.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Quick review: Bare Wires

What can I say? This was sweet, albeit not new, and we enjoyed ourselves. The boys in Bare Wires do know how to rock out and get a crowd moving, not making any annoucnements in-between songs but just rocking on, from one song into another. And it was all very fun, garage rock with Ramones influences. 

But I didn't come away in awe. I loved the evening, I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but it's just not new or innovative. I may have forgotten about this gig in a year's time. Unless they come back and rock even harder. And that's entirely possible.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

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

Christmas is getting closer and events in the calendar scarcer. But don't despair. There is fun to be had.

Total Control and Diät at Marie Antoinette: Total Control are good! They're from Australia and play nice Synth Wave Punk. Diät from Berlin play something not so different but without synthies. Think of an evening with punky Joy Division/Warsaw music.

Das Racist at Festsal Kreuzberg: In the mood for nice hip hop stuff? Check out das Racist, they're from New York and do great indie/alternative hip hop that's both funny and musically good.

Black Lips and Sponges at Lido: Garage rock at its best, with surfy guitars and played by good-looking blokes. Really, you can't go wrong.
Hush Hush and Novo Line at Madame Claude: Hush Hush is an extremely dancable 80s inspired (think Prince) solo music project that will get everyone to party hard. It's a shame this is happening on a Tuesday, the weekend would be more appropriate, but don't let that stop you moving those bodies! Novo Line will get you in the mood with more abstract electronic tunes.

Omar Souleyman at Kesselhaus: If you went to Group Inerane a few weeks ago you probably also want to go here. Omar Souleyman is like a Syrian pop star. He plays a notable mix between traditional arabic folk music and crazy dance elements. He's getting hiped big time for a while now, worked together with Björk, released stuff on Sublime Frequencies and played several tours all over the world.
Buke and Gase and Bachelorette at Monarch: It's official beautiful music night at Monarch. Beautiful tunes in a beautiful setting; let's hope the PA plays along.

Clayton Thomas at Altes Finanzamt: I saw Clayton Thomas when he played together with Chris Corsano at Festsaal Kreuzberg (read the review of the concert here) and they were awesome together! If you're in the mood for some free jazz experimental music, get your asses over to Altes Finanzamt this evening. I'm pretty sure it's going to be worth it.

Clayton Thomas and Axel Dörner at Exrotaprint Kaserne: Your second chance to see Clayton Thomas this week, this time together with Axel Dörner, an experimental trumpet player I saw a while ago supporting the Ex, read about it here.

The Chameleons Vox and Frank the Baptist at Festsaal Kreuzberg: The problem with reunions from once great bands is that they just suck most of the times. The songs and the musicians probably stay the same, but the spirit doesn't and being ripped out of it's temporal context it's just "not the same" anymore. The Chameleons Vox are somehow a reunited version of the Chameleons and the Chameleons were seriously awesome. They were a dark wavy british post punk band founded in 1981 and originally existed until 1987, then reunited for a short while in 2000. Now their singer Mark Burgess recruited a new backing band, slightly changed the band name and goes on tour again. They already played Berlin in January and I went to that show not sure what to expect. It actually turned out pretty nice, they played most of the songs from their Script of the Bridge record and in the end I didn't regret going there. So, especially if you're into the Chameleons music and/or like bands like Interpol, Editors and stuff like that, you should consider spending your Sunday evening at Festsaal Kreuzberg.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Review: Thurston Moore + Carla Bozulich

John Maus on Saturday, Hot Snakes on Sunday. Nothing could possibly top this. Think again. Monday night, J. and I went on a date at Volksbühne, where Thurston Moore would make this an unforgettable evening for us.

People have been wary of his solo endeavors. What if they would be too experimental? Or in contrast, what if he would just turn into an old ex-punk folk dude? And isn't Beck the producer on Thurston's album? What if he's turned LA funky? But his solo album is wonderful and one of the best albums of this year. Mr Moore's soothing voice, dark folk tunes, noisy endeavors and all spiced up with a good portion of Beck's production genius. However, we were unsure as to what was going to await us in terms of a live performance.

Our worries were dumbfounded. Once Carla Bozulich had given a startling performance with her two-people-project and an array of instrumentation, Thurston Moore took the stage with a full band consisting of a harp player, a violinist, a drummer and an additional guitarist. The man himself needed exactly five items to perform: two acoustic guitars, between which he would alternate throughout the set, a microphone, a music stand and a lot of water. Neatly dressed with a suit jacket and tie (but jeans and trainers), he immediately made an impression on the audience that was intently listening to every word he would say or sing. Yes, he is admired. Rightly so, I may add.

The darkened room at Volksbühne and the comfortable theatre chairs made me a little sleepy. But the moment this man entered the room and grabbed his guitar, he received my fullest attention. His music is as youthfulness as his looks (there is something odd about looking 15 years old for your entire life, and who knows how he does that). Yes, it is folky but kind of dark, and at least every second song would turn into a noise fest, which sounds great when a harp and a violin are involved. And you can hear Sonic Youth in there, intentionally or not. Inbetween songs, he would sometimes read out beat poetry. I assume he wrote those words himself or I presume he would have credited the author. This lyrical component to the evening made the performance more interesting, not that it needed it. But it made you realise that there is a true artist in front of you onstage.

Thurston Moore is so unpretentious. He doesn't need a guitar technician with him; he just stops the song and tunes the guitar. He made sure to introduce his band to the audience, twice. And then there were those encores. He played a fairly long set, then came back twice for encores. But no, this audience wasn't going to let him go. When the lights had already been switched on, when the first people were already leaving the room, the majority of the audience was still clapping and shouting so much, he actually came back for a third encore of two songs. Now that is dedication!

When I left Volksbühne, high from what I'd just witnessed, I was surprised by another performance that took place outside on the steps of the building. A three-piece, of which I never got to know the name, were playing with a guitar, a drum set up and some computer/keyboard equipment. It was freezing cold outside but a considerable amount of people had gathered around this group and were dancing and celebrating this rhytmic post-punk music. I stayed for two songs and loved it. All of it. The really good music, the fact that it was so unexpected, outside in the cold, the fact that people were actually stopping and dancing despite the weather, the fact that this was taking place in the centre of Berlin.

John Maus, Hot Snakes, Thurston Moore, and spontaneous music on the steps of Volksbühne: people of Berlin, we are so privileged.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Review: John Maus + Gary War

John Maus has come some way. Within one year, he's gone from a sold out West Germany gig to selling out Berghain's Panorama Bar. There is a hype around this man that's reminiscent of the way people were following Daniel Johnston in the late 90s.

This hype was apparent when I arrived at Berghain well early but the queue for the cloakroom was so long, I had to skip it if I didn't want to miss Gary War. And I didn't. I saw Gary War a couple of years ago, when he supported Child Abuse, whose performance was so disappointing that it made Gary War look really good. I wondered whether Gary War was as good as I remembered or whether Child Abuse could take all the credit for that impression. The man had justed started playing when I arrived upstairs. He plays a whole bunch of pre-recorded and sampled music to which he rocks out with his guitar. It's a one-man-show that makes you wonder slightly why he doesn't get a band together to support him, the way Ty Segall does. He looks sort of lonely on a relatively big Berghain stage, just him and his guitar. But musically, I always enjoy his mix of rock and noise and psychedilica that's unique and fun to dance to. The perfect opening act for John Maus.

The break between both artists was incredibly long. Or so it seemed anyway. Tension was building up and space was getting scarce. And this is where I started to hate John Maus' popularity. The hip youth surrounding me, pushing from all sides in a hope of getting closer to their hero, was either not used to attending rock concerts, or plain rude. I was pushed, trampled, had cigarettes held in my face and had to listen to some of the dumbest conversations in a long time. I was getting sufficiently aggressive, and when some girls tried to squeeze into the non-existent space between myself in 2nd row and the folks in first row, I saw red and pushed the two girls, with their cigarettes and their closet friend, sternly ahead. I was getting dirty looks, but boy, this group of people was really getting on my nerves big time.

I was glad when John Maus eventually came on stage. Finally, the tension was going to be unloaded. The man that is John Maus looks like your average math student or maybe someone working at a car rental agent. But as soon as his first pre-recorded song starts, he goes insane, scares his audience with antics from screaming at people to pulling his hair to almost ripping his clothes. It's just him and a microphone on that stage, there isn't even a mic stand in sight. But you never miss a thing, indeed, it's what makes this performance more impressive. Imagine you were in a museum and this was performance art you'd be watching and you get pretty close to what John Maus does. But this is Berghain and there is a gig audience that is reaching its hands out to this performer as if he was a preacher, their messiah. It's incredible to watch and discomforting at the same time.

I didn't stay for the encore. As much as I was mesmerised by the performance and as much as I love the songs, while you are incredibly impressed for the first three to four songs, by the tenth, you've kind of seen it. He doesn't vary or add to his performance. It is what it is. I was sick of people and made my way down the big metal staircase that I love descending so much. I always feel like Cinderella leaving the ball early. And it's almost what it is.

A friend told me a few days later that John Maus still remembers his performances at West Germany and almost wishes he'd never played anywhere else in Berlin. I can sympathise.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

BATALJ this Friday. Oh yes!!

J. found out that "oh nice, Batalj (+ Mr. Marcaille + Sergant Dennis) are playing at Köpi this Friday! They're awesome live, if you like edgy noisy and chaotic hardcore (think of the Locust or An Albatros) check them out!" We like indeed!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Review: Hot Snakes

Whew... I won't say much about this. My expectations were quite high but I didn't get disappointed!
The support band kind of sucked though. I mean, I don't get why so many bookers let bands play together that sound so similar. It's like first having to stand through a boring rip-off of the band you want to see, before that finally happens.

At least I secured a nice place on the balcony again, which was a good thing because Festsaal Kreuzberg was packed and stuffed. But it was still okay and not unpleasant and I sort of expected a sold out venue, considering the facts that Hot Snakes only played two concerts in Germany on this tour and haven't played a single concert for about six years. I also had the feeling that more or less everyone I know also attended this concert...

After a lengthy stage rebuild and pause, Hot Snakes finally came on stage. Let's say they're not the youngest anymore, but neither was their audience, and all my fears this could go wrong went away when they started playing. They're still very energetic and tight and played a nice mix of songs from all three records. I have no idea how long they played but it seemed like a while, they came back twice to give encores and I left happy and sweaty and am glad to have had an opportunity to see Hot Snakes live. The band also seemed to have fun, so chances are good that they might come back.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

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

OK, so the week ahead is not the most exciting that this city has seen. But Thurston Moore and Battles should make up for it. And there are a couple of small gems in there, too. If you want a night out, this town is not going to let you down now, is it?

Yximalloo at Madame Claude: If you like absolute chaos, this experimental electronic one-man-project is for you. It's music that got ADS on speed. And puppets. Be prepared.
Fruit Bats and Gold Leaves at Comet Club: To be honest, I'm not too fond of Fruit Bats, your typical college indie band. But Gold Leaves, who do a modern country kind of thing, are sweet and worth your attention. Question is: is it worth forking out the cash for the double bill? If you have no other plans tonight, yes. Gold Leaves should make it worth it, if you like your indie music to be folky and country and if you like long-distance drives on the deserted highways of the mid-west.
Thurston Moore, Carla Bozulich & John Eichenseer Duo at Volksbühne: I ran my Sonic Youth competition for a reason. To me, Sonic Youth have always been the perfect band, one that would live their art, that are likeable and cool at the same time, that would push bounderies and stay accessible. The fact that their break-up is looming makes this c*-girl ever so sad. But don't despair. Because Thurston Moore has been pursuing solo endeavours for some time and those are folky, darkish and good. Worthy support comes from Carla Bozulich. So join us this Monday at Volksbühne to honour one of the great musicians of our time, for the gig of the week, for a real treat.

The Sonics at SO36: I am not that big a fan of seeing old men do what they used to do when they were young. But I'll probably make a difference for The Sonics, just as I did for Jimmy Scott a few years back. Some old men have had so much influence in their youth that they are worth honouring with your attendance in their old age, if you know what I mean.

Battles, The Field and Walls at Postbahnhof: Battles' third appearance in Berlin this year. Read our previous reviews from their gigs at Festsaal and Berlin Festival if you need to know more about these geniuses. Two Kompakt label artists are supporting.

Widowspeak at Monarch: This is going to be sweet I reckon. This lady and her gang play indie, with tuned down guitars and at times a tad folky and even psychedelic. Beautiful voice!

Sir Simon Battle, Björn Kleinhenz and Talking to Turtles at West Germany: Sir Simon Battle is joining German-turned-Scandinavian multi-instrumentalist Björn Kleinhenz for a relaxed musical evening in your favourite living room. See our previous review of SSB's gig at hbc for an impression of one of his gigs.

The Lovely Eggs at Gretchen: A matinee show by the lovely and fun lo-fi Lovely Eggs. See our review from their last performance in Berlin to get an idea of what you can expect. Because Lovely Eggs are playing early, you can then make your way over to Monarch afterwards.
Bare Wires at Monarch: There is a lot of good stuff happening at Monarch at the moment. And with the nice atmosphere and close proximity to our homes, we are not complaining. Bare Wires sound a bit like late 60s Beach Boys at times, like Slade at other times, but just like pure garage rock most of the time, garage rock in the classical sense. These guys are gonna rock hard; I'm excited about this one! Get your red lipsticks and leather jackets out!
The video I have chosen for this one is not their hardest rocking one but rather their poppy number; I just like the video content.

Review: The Death Set + Marceese

I was a huge Beastie Boys fan when I was 14-16 years old. Don't get me wrong, like most people on this planet I still admire the Beastie Boys greatly. But when I was a teenager, they embodied so much of what I believed in at the time: having fun, being conscious about politics, the importance of art, rebellion, not having to be too straight about one thing or another - just go for whatever takes your fancy. Especially the punk songs of the Beastie Boys were my favourites. There is something about them.

The Death Set must have felt similar because that is exactly the spirit they convey. As an additional bonus, they also sound like the punky Beastie Boys, but with a drum computer and sample machine. Last night, I was thrown back to my 1990s teenage self.

Before all that happened, my neighbour happened to be the opening act, which I had only found out two days prior to the show. Marceese is a folk singer with a varied set. His repertoire spans across the folk spectrum and he sings in English as well as in German. Some songs reminded me of Digger Barnes, others of Bob Dylan, and there was even an instrumental thrown in the mix. He doesn't do anything nobody has done before but he does it nicely and with a world conscious spin. I have to say though, with only 3 hours sleep the previous night, a mellow folk performance really set my energy levels to low.

Thank goodness for The Death Set, famous for their partying, and their ability to get everyone to party with them. Already on their way to the stage they motioned the relatively small crowd to join them at the front. And guess what? With their charme, everybody followed suit. The set started with a Jackson Five sample and everyone getting into a party mood and then went straight into a fast fun number in the typical Death Set manner: drum machine, sample, drummer and guitars. I forgot instantly that I had been tired at some point that day. I was wide awake, a teenager again and about to have fun, no matter what.

They jump, they dance and they're so damn cute you want to take them home as pets. The set was compact and a lot more of the same antics described before, plus a Nirvana cover. Yes, f'real. Everybody danced and laughed and followed the boys' instructions "to spazz out". What a fun night. 11pm, the show as over, and I was out of there and on my way home, happy I had chosen The Death Set over a variety of acts that were playing Berlin that night.

Here is another Death Set video for you, which captures nicely what I mean with feeling like a 1990s Beastie Boys fan again:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Preview addition: Crave tomorrow

French experimental electro-noise tomorrow night at Madame Claude. I totally overlooked this one and I'm glad I've noticed it last minute. Crave are definitely influenced by Health, my favourite contemporary group. A promising night.

Review: JEFF The Brotherhood pt. II

I have been to some crazy gigs in my time. Punk rock gigs in a small-town library, in a front yard facing the sea, in various churches, in my friends' living room, in a hay shed, in the back room of a Greek snack bar. And crazy shit has happened. The band and audience going naked, the band throwing up on stage, nazis being beaten out of the venue while the band was playing, the performer getting pissed off at the audience, all sorts. But there is always something new to add to the list. After weeks, months really, of anticipation for JEFF The Brotherhood's return to Berlin, this evening turned out to be super weird and, really, a bit of a joke.

I had actually bought tickets in advance. Yeah, yeah, laugh at me. But I had. West Germany had been packed at the start of the year when JTB played one of the best gigs Berlin has seen this year and their best gig of that tour, according to insider sources. So I assumed all those people would show up again at White Trash Fast Food, and maybe more. The album was released in September, they have continuously toured and they're about to tour the US with The Kills in the new year. They've been busy and I thought this could pay off with a packed gig.

I don't learn, do I? This was White Trash, and I have not yet seen a packed gig there. They do little in terms of promotion it seems and people just don't show up there. I remind you about The Strange Boys and about Wavves, two gigs that should have been absolutely rammed but weren't. We arrived at 9:20pm, which was ridiculously early since White Trash shows traditionally start late. The ticket read 9pm and we just wanted to be on the safe side, Sunday night and all. But, apart from one couple at the bar, we were the only guests thus far. And here is the first curiosity of the night: we were told that the gig had started at 8:30pm, that the support band had already played, and that JTB were about to go onstage. With no audience?!

We made ourselves comfortable and anticipated what would happen, certain that there was going to be a delay while everyone was waiting for more guests. Instead, after a 10 minute wait, the lights onstage went off and the cold lights in the main room were switched on, without an explanation. Confused, we approached the tour manager of the band, who was able to inform us that the band had been offered to play upstairs in the restaurant instead. Their reservation at playing to a dining audience was answered with the promise of an Arte film crew. What?!

So we moved to the restaurant, where the cover for the gig was now a mere € 3 instead of the € 13 I had originally forked out, and seated ourselves at one of the tables at the back, where we ordered drinks and food to help us get through the originally booked local band that was to play for the following hour. They wanted to be the Foo Fighters but they didn't quite manage, if you know what I mean. It was atrocious. When finally, near midnight, JTB took the stage, spirits were low. The set up was poor, with no effort having been made to remove the tables right in front of the stage. The band was very drunk by now, having sat around for six hours. The tour manager had no opportunity to sell merchandise, sure to make a loss that night. And the dining audience couldn't care less whether one of America's best current rock groups was about to blast them away with the loudest gig that restaurant had probably ever seen. What a shambles.

So imagine this: Those that had actually showed up for JTB were about 20 people, which were now scrambled in a very small space between dining tables and the entrance door. Between the audience and the small, low stage was a camera crew of three people with big TV cameras and lights. And the band was not able to play half their songs because they were simply too wasted. Could this possible work out OK?!

The surprising answer is: Yes! Of course JTB could not show how great they actually are, not to the audience and not to the filming cameras. They simply weren't given the chance. And of course the guests couldn't show how much they loved JTB. We also weren't given the chance. But somehow we all made it work. The band gave their best to get the rest of the restaurant involved, with loudness and direct address; the small crowd gave their best to dance and ignore the cameras, despite the fact that I got nearly knocked over three times by one of the camera crew. And somehow it all worked into a very rock'n'roll kind of affair. We actually enjoyed ourselves, and I think to some degree, so did the band. It was all absurdity at its strangest and JTB made sure to play as loud and as rebelliously as they could. Good on them!

I did complain to White Trash and asked for at least a refund of the difference in entrance price. They laughed at me. I have since written to the promoter Trinity. Yes, we did have fun and laughed at the absurdity of life. But really, from the perspective of the band and the audience, this night was a shambles. I'll add it to my list of crazy gigs I've attended and look forward to seeing JEFF The Brotherhood again in a more appropriate setting.

Quick review: The Kills + Weekend

This was my fourth Kills performance this year, and my third Weekend one. Was I going to see/hear anything new?? Yes for that matter.

Already at The Kills' soundcheck, I was wondering how Weekend were going to perform on the massive stage at C-Halle to a room full of Kills' fans that had probably never heard anything like Weekend in their lives before. But hey, my faith in Weekend received another boost last night when Weekend played their best. I loved their gig at Comet, I thought they were quite good in London, but they really killed it last night. What a great band that should become massive just so that they can only play these huge stages to big audiences. They can do it and they deserve it.

The Kills have padded out their show. Not only is the set now longer than it was at the start of the year, they also bring with them four drummers and two gospel singers. The drummers do a choreographed routine while playing, the gospel singers do what gospel singers do. It all works really well. I was surprised and delighted because, I admit it, I had grown a little bored of their two-people-show. I mean, they're amazing live (trust me), but by the 6th time that you see them it's all a little familiar. So the additional people on stage really made a big difference to the overall experience. The set was also very rock'n'roll and probably the best I have seen them perform so far. A big difference from when I saw them at Huxleys in April. Just wow.

We hung out for drinkies afterwards and moved on to 8mm bar, which celebrated its 9th anniversary last night. I'm a little sad to know I won't be seeing them again in the nearest future, these nights just pass too quickly. Next year may come and bring new things for The Kills, and for Weekend, too.

At Soundcheck