Sunday, 29 January 2012

Preview: the week ahead (30th Jan - 5th Feb)

In case you were wondering about this curious white stuff outside: Winter has finally arrived. Maybe we should all have gone to California for some weeks... But there's this Club Transmediale/ Transmediale thing going on this week and there is going to be a bunch of stuff really worth watching. You should have a look at the whole program here and I also put some things I thought worth mentioning in the preview as well (check the links to the CTM description pages). There's also some more things going on besides CTM, I guess you won't be bored this week...

Kylesa, Circle Takes The Square, Ken Mode at Magnet: case you need something more in your face before the artsy rest of the week starts. I was also surprised to learn that Circle Takes The Square still exists, I don't like their newer stuff but I guess if you are/were a fan you could take your chance to see them (again).
ctm: Conrad Schnitzler (piano works) at HAU2 (free entry)

ctm: Conrad Schnitzler (Cassette Concert conducted by Wolfgang Seidel) + Borngräber & Strüver 

ctm: Koehn + Qluster at HAU2 (yep it's the Krautrock Cluster)
This is a boy's club at Café Stage (Haus der Kulturen der Welt): this is an experimental project involving unusual sounds and sources like contact microphones on a typewriter and EEG brainwave recordings. It's worth a visit!

The Men at West Germany: Now this is going to be good. I hope it gets some attention besides the ctm overflow. The Men from New York play a noisy and raw mix between post punk and post hardcore. Check out the video, I think they'll be fun! There's apparently no support band but there will be screenings from Network Awesome and some DJing before and afterwards.
Ludger at about:blank: it's like poppy and sophisticated Deutschpunk from people who used to play Deutschpunk, then did something different and now want to play Deutschpunk again. sounds good.

ctm: Iamthatiam, Stellar OM Source, Heatsick, Ital + DJs at Berghain Kantine

Obstacles and Town Portal at Schokoladen: It's like instrumental evening at Schokoladen, two bands and no vocals. Obstacles play edgy and raw music, tight rhythms meet nervous beats. If you're into bands like Maserati you'll like this. Town Portal don't sound all that different, it's probably a bit more rocky. Remember: show starts at 8pm sharp!
ctm: The Joshua Light Show + Oneohtrix Point Never at HKW

ctm: Grouper + Jeffre Cantu-Ledesma at HAU2: this is interesting. Grouper and Jeffre Cantu-Ledesma collaborate and do a seven hour (!) non-stop sound environment performance. Could be either totally overstraining or pretty good. I saw Grouper when she played in Berlin in 2009 and she was awesome. So I'm certainly not going to miss this one.

ctm: Shrubbn!! & Transformia, Christian Vogel, Oval + DJs at HBC (matinee show!)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Preview: the week ahead (23rd - 29th Jan)

There is literally nothing at this start of the week that we can recommend. But to make up for it, the end of the week looks wild. Yay!

The Sun and the Wolf at Bassy Cowboy Club: See my review from the other night. I am totally happy to give this another shot. Plus, I've been told that members of Crocodiles will be giving a guest performance. Yay!

Verity Susman and Marzipan Marzipan at Ausland: Verity Susman of Electrelane fame is playing solo this Thursday and I think that's going to be sweet. Meet me there!

Rocket Freudenthal and Sissters at Kater Holzig: Rocket Freudenthal = minimalist in-your-face punk with great German vocals. Some slower numbers, too. Oh yes, children, you'll enjoy this one! Sissters are our firm favourites and you know that by now.

Sunday is a tough one this week!
I Am Oak at hbc: We have featured the Dutch one-man-project I Am Oak before, and we'll do it again. It's very beautiful, slightly melancholic folk pop music that will make you feel warm inside. Beautiful vocals and instrumentation and perfect for this winter weather. For fans of Beirut.
Reggie Watts and Wiotch at Festsaal Kreuzberg: Reggie Watts, now here is an exciting evening at Festsaal! The Seattle based solo artist uses his own vocals (beat box and melodies) and a sample machine to create the instrumentation for his soul and funk dance numbers that are oh so much fun! Kind of if Tune-Yards was into Hot Chocolate, with a lot of humour, if you can imagine that. This is going to be a night of big hair and a lot of dancing!!

John Duncan, Bill Kouglias, John Wiese, Eli Keszler at NK: This is going to be a noisy electroacoustic experimental evening at NK. I saw Bill Kouglias playing as Family Battle Snake (review here) and really liked his dark ambient sounds. If you're into drony, creepy and from times to times a bit harsher noise stuff you should check the other artists out and head over to this show. You're not going to regret it and you'll definitely love John Wiese. There are going to be visual screenings starting at 7.30pm and the concert itself is supposed to start at 9pm sharp.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The impossible has become reality

Refused have reformed and will not only play the Californian Coachella Festival, but will also perform at the Monster Bash Festival in Berlin on 27 April 2012. Apart from their official statement, the band refuse any comment or interview at this stage. And I will join them.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Senses overload

I went to White Trash Fast Food on Friday night to watch The Sun And The Wolf perform upstairs in the restaurant. I am not that big a WTFF fan, so usually you wouldn't see me wait for a table for over 1,5 hours in that place. But our friend has recently joined the band on bass, and we were looking forward to a fun night, eating burgers while watching the band.

Well, all I can say, after my bad experiences at the JEFF The Brotherhood show, this wasn't that much better. The place was over-packed, the waiting times silly, the pole dancer mediocre, the DJ okayish. For me personally, call me an old fart, this was alltogether too much. Everywhere you look in this place, you are being overloaded with moving images: be it the blinking picture of a dog, a band onstage, a big TV showing old films, the pole dancer in the window, the skimpily dressed waiters. You don't get a rest. 

It was a wild and fun night out, but this tourist trap is and will always be overrated. Truly.

BTW, while the classic rock that TSATW play is not necessarily my kind of thing, a few songs exceeded my expectations by far. Interesting. They are playing at Bassy soon; I may just go and give them another shot in a more appropriate setting.

Preview: the week ahead (16th - 22nd Jan)

The "What's in store for 2012" preview really got us excited about live music again, after the slow days over Christmas and New Year's. So this week is letting us down, with very little happening around town. You may see it as the calm before the storm.

Charles Hayward, Barberos and Ultraspießer at NK: you should head to NK and start the week with this show. Charles Hayward was the drummer in This Heat, definitely one of my favorite 'post punk' bands ever. Nowadays he plays solo shows that look and sound like the video below, I'm pretty sure this is going to be rad! Then there's Barberos from the UK playing, check the link above (also a video) to get the idea. It's basically two drummers and two guys on synthesizers in costumes, it's fast and hectic and strongly reminds me of the Locust. Ultraspießer play something like very noisy ambient and collage style. It all fits quite well together and I'm really looking forward to this.

And the Wiremen and Squid Libets at Schokoladen: And the Wiremen from New York is a band around Songwriter Lynn Wright. They play smooth jazzy indie pop, probably think of a less depressing  version of Tindersticks or the Black Heart Procession, although they tend to let every song sound quite different from the other. Squid Libets from Berlin play something like weird surfy post hardcore. Remember to be early!

Hanna & Kerttu and Joe Hansn at Madame Claude: Hanna & Kerttu are Berlin-based, albeit originating from Scandinavia. Theatrical singer-songwriter music is the best description I can come up with. It's special alright and Madame Claud probably the best venue for this.

the Black Atlantic and Rue Royale at HBC: I never heard of both bands before. They both play dark indie pop music with acoustic guitars and wide ambient sounds. Check out the video below of them performing a song together and you pretty much get an impression of what to expect.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Quick Review: Veronica Falls + Candelilla + Sizarr

Ok, this is a super high-speed review. Basically, last weekend, I went to the Queer Beat Festival, where Candelilla, Sizarr, Tubbe and Veronica Falls were playing. 

Candelilla do a female post-punk thing, obviously influenced by bands like Sleater Kinney and Erase Errata, and sing in German, as well as in English. They had been highly praised to us prior to the gig, and did live up to it. But it was all too perfect for me in some way. They were really good, but lacked some grit and originality for me. I can totally see them do well in Germany in the coming years though. So do watch out.

Sizarr may be known to some of you. Famous for electronic pop à la Phoenix, they mostly played bland indie rock live. It's totally the kind of things major labels love, so who knows, they might go some way, but it wasn't for me.

Veronica Falls did more or less the same thing they did when I saw them a few weeks ago at Roter Salon. Their current singles are really strong pieces of songwriting and have been played a lot on the radio. I was therefore surprised that the festival was poorly-attended. One would have thought, Veronica Falls alone would pull a crowd. Then again, at € 20 to get in, not everyone is prepared to spend the cash. But Veronica Falls were good, and since they will be returning to Berlin again in March (third time in four months!), there is another chance to see them if you like your twee and post-punk music.

Finally, Tubbe had only started, when I left. I thought this was going to be electro clash, innovative and with a punk element, but turned out to be your standard electro club music, for which HAU2's PA was definitely far too quiet. No thank you.

What's in store for 2012, pt I

The year has barely started and J. and I are already curious what's going to happen in the months to come on the Berlin live music circuit. So we went and asked the booking agents of the town what they have planned for the next six months. Of course, this list is anything from comprehensive but should give you some ideas. Those entries marked with an asterix are those that we are hyperexcited about.

This month
Reggie Watts

The Men
*The War On Drugs
I Break Horses
Wild Flag
*Future Islands

Des Ark
Fenster's record release party
*Earth + Mount Eerie
*The Chap
Lazer Crystal
Austin Lucas
Cass McCombs
*Prinzhorn Dance School

*Jacuzzi Boys
*Xiu Xiu
*Great Lake Swimmers
*Kammerflimmer Kollektief + David Grubbs

*The Spits

I also have an inking that *Moon Duo will play this spring/summer.

Summer Festivals hints

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Preview: the week ahead (9th - 15th Jan)

Most likely, you won't be seeing us going out this week. The weather is off-putting and the calendar not inspiring enough to get us out the house. But if you feel the urge, there are a few things you may do if you feel so inclined:

Pierce Warnecke and Andreas Stoiber at Madame Claude: You like Max Tundra? Go to this. You'll love it. Electronic dancy, slightly wacky tunes from this Berlin based artist.

Eli Natali & The Moustaches and The Dropout Patrol at Monster Ronson's: I like the Spiel that's published on about Eli Natali: "singer-song writer recording artist, Stella Veloce, an electric cello player and composer, and the drummer Elisa Abela (also guitar player with Joey Lally from the notorious band Fugazi)" Sounds good, ja? The Berlin-based Dropout Patrol is supporting.

Cymbals Eat Guitars and Yesterday Shop at Privat Club: Indie rock, easily digestible, non-offensive, good-mood guarantor, for the post-emo kids.
Warren Suicide, Oval and String Theory at Volksbühne: Probably gig of the week, for Oval alone, master of electronic soundscapes. A real treat at the start of the year. Warren Suicide, who are hosting this evening, should be known to most of you - electro clash of the finest variety. This is an evening worth attending, if you can get a ticket.

J. put Marc Almond in the calendar and I find that so highly amusing that I am featuring him in the preview right now. Mr Almond is a legend and a dance music queen. We admire him so. Go dancing wild and go see Marc Almond at Huxley's on Sunday. Yay!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Review: Austra

Sometimes, missing out can be lucky. When you then get the perfect performance later on. Which is what happened to me with Austra.

Not only had I missed about a million of their previous Berlin shows but I also wasn't able to watch their performance at the Berlin Festival. It looked like Austra and I were never going to happen. To my delight, they were this year's choice for the legendary New Year's concert at Volksbühne. And lucky for me, my boyfriend had secured tickets well in advance. It turned out that despite hangovers, people had showed up in great numbers. Volksbühne was sold out and people were not only occupying all the seats but the stairs as well. It was that busy and the atomosphere that electric. Well, when I say sitting...

So what is it about Austra that makes people ignore their headaches after a night of New Year's Eve dancing? What can possibly draw that big a crowd on New Year's Day? To summarise: for me, Austra do everything right that Zola Jesus doesn't. Now I realise that many people love Zola Jesus and, as J. likes to point out, she is involved in many interesting projects. I'm not here to diss Zola Jesus, far from it, even if I didn't enjoy her concert. But Austra and Zola Jesus are often named in the same breath, given that both artists make dance music with dark theatrical vocals. For me, this is where the similarities end, because Austra do it oh so much better.

Austra is actually a Canadian three people project, consisting of singer Katie Stelmanis, drummer Maya Postepski and bass player Dorian Wolf. However, they triple their number for their live show, adding a keyboard player and two singers. In addition, when available, and it was at Volksbühne, Miss Stelmanis plays the piano on a couple of their downtempo numbers. Given this is dance music, there is an unexpected amount of stuff going on onstage. And that's why this group is so much fun to watch. You get the beat to dance to but you are also offered a feast for the eyes. Turkish inspired costumes and perfomance dancing by the additional twin sister singers really added to show. Take note, dance groups.

Volksbühne was already bubbling with excitement once Touchy Mob had played. This Berlin-based one-man project isn't my cup of tea at all, too much "teenager who likes to experiment in his bedroom", but the audience seemed to be appreciative. When Austra came on, first with a piano number, then moving on to their trademark dark dance music, people didn't stay in their seats for long. Very quickly, the first people got up and jigged freely, and by the fifth song nobody was seated any longer. The entire room was up and dancing. Some sang along to the lyrics. The reception Austra received was heart-warming and contagious.

They played a relatively long set with a piano encore. And we were happy. What they do right is that they include live instrumentation in their dance music, and that they appreciate the visuals as well as the music, which they perform extremely well. They are likable and anything but off-standish, despite the success they have achieved in a relatively short span of time. But mainly, what makes Austra stand out is their talent to write really good songs and to be able to perform them convincingly. Talent does count for a lot after all, especially when paired with good performance ideas and an appreciation for art.

I admit, I left positively surprised. I never expected anything but a good performance, but I was maybe a tad wary of gothy dance music, of a seated concert, of yet another female voice backed by keyboards sounds. We didn't get any of these things and I for one will watch this band very closely. I also have to give credit to Volksbühne, who provided such a nice setting and perfect lighting.

A sterling start to the year. May many amazing concerts like this one follow in 2012.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Preview: the week ahead (2nd - 8th Jan)

Did you all have a good start to the new year? We spent our evening in the warzone that is Neukölln, dodging fireworks and gunfire and dancing late into the early hours. Here is what to do if the party urge is still within you.

Paula & Karol and Coldair at Madame Claude: Polish night at Madame Claude. Paula & Karol play sweet acoustic guitar pop that will appeal to the twee crowd, but also those who like singer-songwriter kind of tunes. And true enough, Coldair does just that.

Messer and Ecke Schönhauser at K19: Messer play noisy but poppy punk. Ecke Schönhauser are from Berlin and play something that strongly reminds me of early Blumfeld and I really like early Blumfeld! Could be a nice way to spend a Wednesday evening.

Paula & Karol and S ND Y P RL RS at Schokoladen: Another chance to catch Paula & Karol if you missed them on Tuesday.

Woodpigeon, Sawoff Shotgun and S.c.u.m at HAU2: The Queer Beats Festival is taking residence at HAU for the second time. The first nights features folk music from Woodpigeon, theatrical noise pop from the sisters in Sawoff Shotgun and electro guitar dance pop from S.c.u.m. A nice mix indeed.
The Saddest Landscape, We Were Skeletons and The Tidal Sleep at Lovelite: Noisy screamo HC night at Lovelite. The Saddest Landscape are rhythmic and brutal but also very 90s screamo, if you know what I mean. We were Skeletons are more for the dance-hungry crowd and will get you moving with their spazz rhythms. Tidal Sleep are a bit more post-punk with lyrics that are more spoken than screamed.

Infinite Livez and Wizard Ashdod at Madame Claude: This sounds fun. Infinite Livez = computer game music samples with hip hop vocals from London. Yes, you heard me. Wizard Ashdod = experimental sounds from Israel. 

Veronica Falls, Candelilla, Sizarr and Tubbe at HAU2: The second night of the Queer Beats Festival at HAU. British twee pop from Veronica Falls (see my positive quick review from their last Berlin performance), rhythmic post punk from Candelilla, electro rhythm pop from Sizarr and electro dance music from Tubbe. Something for everyone, yeah?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Austra tonight. Yeah baby!

Austra in an hour at Volksbühne. See you there!
(this sounds almost like a fugazi cover, which it is not)

C*'s Top of the Year 2011

This year, I made sure to draw up a list of the best gigs throughout the year instead of trying to remember it all in late December. And would you know it, again, I was struggling to whittle it down to a mere 10. So you get a lucky Top 13. 
Berlin is a great place for live music. It's not world-famous for it, and people here don't always realise, but we have such a great eclectic mix of artists come through this town and the audience is generally pretty swell, too. This year was possibly my best year for live concerts ever. I've been to amazing shows, have discovered many new groups and looking back, it feels as if 2011 was just one big party. May 2012 be just as amazing! Happy new year everyone!

My Top Berlin gigs list 2011:
1) Thee Oh Sees at West Germany in May
2) Moon Duo at Festsaal in October
3) Digger Barnes & Pencil Quincy (The Diamond Road Show) at bei Roy in June
4) Health at Berlin Festival in September 
5) JEFF The Brotherhood at West Germany in January
6) Electrelane at Festsaal in August
7) Thurston Moore at Volksbühne in December
8) PTTRNS and Make Out! at Schokoladen in February
9) Skeleton$ and Thank You at West Germany in May
10) Chain & The Gang at Festsaal in June
11) Low at Lido in May
12) Abe Vigoda at West Germany in May
13) Hot Snakes at Festsaal in December

Apart from Berlin, I've also been to LA, Austin and London this year, where I got to see some pretty amazing shows, too. 

My out-of-town highlights 2011 are:
1) Lightning Bolt at Mohawk, Austin (April)
2) Brian Ferry at a wedding in England in July
3) The Kills on the Conan O'Brien show in Los Angeles in April

What a year, oh wow!!

My favourite pic this year: with J. at the Abe Vigoda gig

J.'s Top of the Year 2011

I always struggle with top of the year lists. I tend to forget many concerts I went to, many records I listened to, and I'm way to lazy to keep an ongoing list of things during the year. I also don't even find it that important, but somehow it was interesting to think about where I went and what I liked. Browsing through the things I posted here really helped me with that and it also helped me to get a different perspective on the shows in retrospect. I really saw a lot of shows this year, many of them being good, some of them also being bad. And there were so many more shows that I ended up not going to, maybe I should keep track of these as well next year.
I'm not even going to try to reduce this to a top ten, so you have to deal with a "slightly" larger list. This is also absolutely in no particular order...

  • Oneida at Festsaal Kreuzberg: they saved Puschenfest for me! Awesome band, I hope they come back really soon!
  • Low at Lido: everything went right, support band had to cancel, so Low simply played two sets. Another great show from one of my favorite bands.
  • Liturgy at Levée: Mi Ami were disappointing but Liturgy were great. Also one of my favorite records of the year.
  • Anika at Festsaal Kreuzberg: this was just good. I love the Anika record and I loved that show.
  • Former Ghosts at Levée: it was much much better than their previous show at Festsaal Kreuzberg.
  • Chris Corsano with Clayton Thomas at Festsaal Kreuzberg: my third Corsano concert and they were getting better and better.
  • Schnaak at bei Roy: Schnaak are just plain awesome. Such nice guys and such a great band! 
  • Datashock at bei Roy: Good music and seeing some friends again, this was nice.
  • Distraction + Maxime Bobo + Hai Noon at Altes Finanzamt: such a big surprise! I had no expectations at all and went home totally euphoric.
  • Monopeople at bei Roy: they saved a totally messed up weekend for me. 
  • Zs at West-Germany: This was also just really good. Nice one.
  • Batalj at bei Roy: Another nice surprise, no expectations, been blown away.
  • Super Seaweed Duo and Vocuhila at bei Roy: awesome people and great show(s). Hope they'll be back soon.
  • the Ex at Marie Antoinette: this also turned out fun, even though the evening started with me not really being in concert mood. So they most probably did something right there.
  • Sewn Leather at bei Roy: destroyed everything, it was fun!
  • Digger Barnes at bei Roy: hands down, best live visual stuff I have ever seen at a concert. Amazing.
  • Sissters somewhere...: I saw them a lot this year and they were always good.