Tuesday 28 February 2012

Review: Dirty Beaches

I was a Kater Holzig virgin until last Saturday. But wow, I like. My first thought was along the lines of "this is what going to the Moulin Rouge for the first time back in the day must have felt like". What a fun venue with its theatre decor, integrated boat, various quirky buildings. And great sound, too.

Beforehand, I had been struggling to decide on which concert to choose; it was one of those nights again in Berlin. And really, why were Dirty Beaches playing at Kater Holzig on their own, while mere feet away, Gauntlet Hair were performing? This would have been a more than appropriate match. I chose Dirty Beaches in the end simply because that's where my man wanted to go most. You need some criteria on a night like this. And no regrets!

When we entered the circus atmosphere of the sold out Kater Holzig that evening, we knew immediately that the night was going to be special. There was a buzz and an exciting feel to it. I'm guessing that quite a few people had shown up to be seen but I didn't care really. This was fun already. To the bar for some drinks, to the merch stall for a tour-only 7", and the band already came onstage. There is something to be said for no support bands.

In case you are not familiar, Dirty Beaches is essentially one man, Alex Zhang Hungtai, but he has brought a percussionist and a saxophone player with him on this tour. I say percussionist but I'm not sure it's the right description - he basically plays with drum sticks on a drum pad and uses an old school hi-hat in addition. Just for the record: I want a drum machine like his for Christmas. Anyway, the trio worked well, the focus being off Alex a tiny bit but instead distributed among the three performers. But Alex is of course the front guy, walking into the audience to hug people and just generally grabbing the attention like a gospel preacher.

There are certain records that sound like they were just written to have sex to. Sonic Youth's Experimental Jet Set is a very fine example. Dirty Beaches do that for me, too. There is definitely a very rhythmic element to this, distorted vocals and shoegazy melodies that are fun to dance to but could as well be enjoyed with a glass of port in a living room with a view of the city lights. I was very positively surprised of how energetic and mesmerising the live sound was. I didn't want the concert to end; and neither did the rest of the crowd, screaming for more. The band had to return to the stage twice.

This was Dirty Beaches' first performance in Berlin and they couldn't have chosen a better venue, couldn't have received a warmer welcome, couldn't have given a better performance. We went home with a warm feeling in our tummies and a longing for more.

Monday 27 February 2012

Preview: the week ahead (27th Feb - 4th Mar)

It's been such a drab week here in Berlin's Southern centre. The weather, the chores, you name it. So this week, we are going to have ourselves some evening program to regain our spirits. For me, there is Tune-Yards on Tuesday, Fenster on Friday, and let's see where else the week will take me - possibly to Babylon for some Metropolis. Anyway, here is what we recommend to you for the coming week.

tUnE-yArDs at Festsaal: The one and only. I have previewed and reviewed her a couple of times before. Let's just say I am a fan and I think this woman will put me in awe once again. Magic.
Fag Cop and Catholic Spray at Cortina Bob: Ok, so the name is terrible, but US band Fag Cop do play a really fun alternative fuzzy punk rock. Very energetic. You need. Catholic Spray from France are just generally one of the most promising bands on the punk rock circuit just now, in my eyes. Stylish, old school (Dead Kennedys fans listen up) but also with new wave and surfy elements. Good stuff.
The Jon Cohen Experimental at Madame Claude: I know what you're thinking - Mme Claude, bandname with Experimental - it's another crazy experimental noise fest. Wrong! This one-man project actually plays pretty mellow and upbeat music that is pop yet alternative at the same time, maybe a bit Paul Simon in the late 70s meets Violent Femmes. Highly recommended!

Des Ark and Sissters at Marie-Antoinette: Aimée Argote on tour with band and charming her audience left, right and centre. If you like a beautiful voice, punk attitude and accoustic guitars, you will not be disappointed. Support comes from our favourite Berliners.
Slow Magic and Selebrities at West Germany: WG is turning into a disco tonight. Slow Magic do mellow dance music, for those that admit to liking MGMT, Pocahaunted or Coco Rosie, but with a twist. I like. A lot. Selebrities = pop music with an 80s sound. Moody but super dancy. Disco disco.

Fenster record release party at Marie-Antoinette: Our local indie stars are finally releasing their first album and they are celebrating in style, with Mary Ocher, Hush Hush, Cape and Tusk supporting, DJs and whatever else you need to have fun. Find more info on the facebook event page. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will be spending their Friday night at Marie-Antoinette this week. See you there.

I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream and Paro at Knochenbox: Local shoegaze ensemble IHNMAIMS have a stupidly long band name, named after a science fiction story, but are not that spaced out but rather indie schmindie. This is going to be sweet and inoffensive and the right event to set you up for your Saturday night out.

Saturday 25 February 2012

let's get drrty

Dirty Beaches are playing at Kater Holzig tonight. And that's where you'll find me. They managed to fend off stiff competition from Gauntlet Hair (Marie-Antoinette) and Pterodactyl (West Germany). But you can't have it all. Let's get drrty.

Monday 20 February 2012

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

C* is being sued for insulting Lady GaGa. J. has been holed up in his study. We haven't been particularly social or fun. Time to change. Here are some fun things to do this week.

Father Murphy and Les Rhinocéros at White Trash: this now seems to take place at White Trash, although originally announced for Monarch, which I think would have been a far better location, but whatever. This one is going to be good nonetheless! Father Murphy play some rather weird but also great music. It's hard to describe but think of Xiu Xiu in their more experimental phases and you get a hint. They're awesome live! Les Rhinocéros play something slightly different. They are on John Zorn's Tzadik label and play something you could call groovy jazzy experimental world music. I'm no good at describing, just listen to them. This show is definitely worth a visit although it takes place in one of my least favorite Berlin concert venues...

Lambchop at Babylon Mitte: A classic. In a classic place. And one of those bands you either love or hate. Wikipedia says: "Lambchop, originally Posterchild, is a band from Nashville, Tennessee. Lambchop is loosely associated with the alternative country genre." You get a second chance to see these dinosaurs tomorrow.
Future Islands at Berghain: There's not much to say about this, Future Islands are good and I'm sure they'll be good at Berghain. Crazy to see how "big" they got since playing a more than sold out Schokoladen last year.

Modern Pets, Levitations and Kenny Kenny Oh Oh at Köpi Hausfest (22 Jahre Köpi): Modern Pets are from Berlin and play garage punk stuff. They play with Levitations and Kenny Kenny Oh Oh who are playing the first show of their beginning twin tour that night. They both play cool melodic punk. 
Sun Worship and Mika Risiko at West Germany: We have featured Sun Worship here before on the craze. Fuzzy noise. Yum. Mika Risiko is one half of Sissters, our Berlin favourites. Mika does a very 80s inspired performance. You will like.

Pterodactyl and Bodybuilding at West-Germany: Pterodactyl are good. They play psychedelic and melodic music. They're on JagJaguwar, so if you like bands like Women, Oneida or Ponytail, you should check them out. Bodybuilding are from Berlin and play noisy post punk stuff.
Gauntlet Hair and Skiing at Marie-Antoinette: C*s current indie tip. She absolutely loves this band and has high hopes for their live performance of dancy, shoegazy, wavey music. I think Gauntlet Hair could go far; it's arty and clever yet digestible enough for the masses. You shouldn't miss this!

Sunday 19 February 2012

LA Report: Strange Boys + Reigning Sound

This event seems ages ago to me now. So much has happened since, so many adventures. Nevertheless, I think I should tell you about my first evening in LA real quick, when we went to see Strange Boys and Reigning Sound at Alex's Bar in Long Beach.

I have only seen Long Beach by night and off-season. But I have a feeling it's not my kind of place. There is nothing particularly wrong with it, a lot of yachts, youth hanging out bored outside the SevenEleven, girls in short skirts queuing for a restaurant spot. But it's a world I just don't really feel home in, if you know what I mean. 

Anyway, the bar was in the predominantly Latino part of town, definitely more up my street. We had some good Mexican junk food first, then went to the concert. Alex's Bar is actually your average kind of garage rock / rockabilly venue, with kitsch pictures on the walls, a big bar and people dressed accordingly. Let's just say, we felt home immediately albeit slightly out of place since we a) didn't look like garage rock kids and b) were in the minority as we were there to see Strange Boys rather than Reigning Sound or one of the other two garage bands (of which one was British, to our surprise).

Strange Boys started the set playing most of their newly written material that out due later this year. They've toned it down a notch, the songs are less catchy and more melancholic. Not bad, mind you, but less aimed at a live audience I think. With more than half the audience very drunk and expecting some serious garage rock, Strange Boys weren't faced with the most appreciative audience overall. However, those that had tracked out to LB for these cute Texans were making sure to show their support and the gig was actually quite nice, if not at all comparable to their set in Berlin two years ago. By the end of the set, they dug out more of their older upbeat material, making sure not to play Be Brave. We really enjoyed ourselves but were thinking it would have been more fun in a different setting. I did also miss the saxophone a bit, I never thought you'd ever hear those words from me, but it's true.

Reigning Sound are some sort of heroes of garage rock and had the audience rocking the minute they entered the stage. Their very charismatic singer makes for a great show but overall, the rawness is missing. They are tight as f**k and don't really rock out but stick to what they know - playing instruments. It's kind of what you wish a lot of indie bands would do but with garage rock, you sort of want dirt and rock and show. It was good but it wasn't Thee Oh Sees at West Germany, if you know what I mean. The highlight of their set came when they asked a friend onstage to jam with them. She had rhythm flowing through her veins, and for that one song, the band really loosened up and the audience went with it.

A good night out that enhanced my Cali trip. But I cannot wait for Strange Boys to return to Berlin in April.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

oh yes, please!!!

There are not too many reunions I care for. But this one could really work. In fact it will. Chain & The Gang are one of the finest performers around, Canty still support Ted Leo in his band in the most wonderful way. There is just no way this could fail. This will rock. Let's hope they'll make it to our town. Please, oh yeah yeah, please.

Sunday 12 February 2012

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

Okay, Whitney Houston is dead despite of promising me that she will always love me. Nonetheless here's a preview for next week.

Blouse at Comet Club: Blouse play cold and wavy electro pop music with an apparent 80s touch. It's nice but it's not really my cup of tea.

Also there's this kind of absurd thing on Monday, where Peter Hook, bass player for Joy Division and after that for New Order, performs Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures together with his band the Light. I just wanted to mention it.

Astronautalis and Bleubird at about:blank: this is going to be good. If you are anyhow into independent hip hop stuff far from the stereotypical annoying stuff that's been called hip hop now for some time, you have to attend this show. Seriously.

I think we already said some things about Aidan Baker here. When he doesn't play under his real name he is one half of Nadja and his solo stuff kind of takes the same direction. It's drony ambient guitar music, sometimes more post rock and sometimes more experimental. He plays at West Germany this Wednesday.

Black Fag at Monarch: If you're in the mood for a gay Black Flag tribute band, this is your chance. And I mean come on, how could anybody NOT be in the mood for a gay Black Flag tribute band?

Cats and Cats and Cats and Oh! Pears at Schokoladen: That's a lot of cats for a Thursday evening. This cat band plays something you could call a mixture between math rock and indie pop. It's catchy but not ordinary. Oh! Pears also play some sort of indie music with a sort of classic music approach.

Toby Goodshank + Phoebe Kreutz at Weserstraße 58 (starts 8pm sharp!): It was a bit difficult to find reliable info on this, but Blitzgigs is also listing it so I kind of suppose I got it right. Phoebe Kreutz played Berlin before some times and she plays humorous and catchy folky songs that tell funny stories. Toby Goodshank plays in several bands (Double Deuce, the Tri-Lambs, Moldy Peaches) besides doing solo stuff. You can listen to his whole new record on bandcamp (check the link above) and it's really great poppy indie folk stuff. Check out the video below, this song got stuck in my head for days...

Monday 6 February 2012

Club Transmediale Review from Bis Aufs Messer

Check out the Bis Aufs Messer blog for a nice review of some Club Transmediale shows. Their blog (as well as the store of course) is in any way well worth a visit, there's plenty of nice stuff to explore there!

Sunday 5 February 2012

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

I'm a bit in a hurry so this is going to be a bit of a quick preview. Nonetheless there's good stuff going on this week, as usual check the calendar on the bottom for more stuff going on!

I Break Horses at Comet Club: It's a bit like shoegaze for people who like Coco Rosie and My Bloody Valentine. Sounds good.

2 Saxophones & 2 Drums 4tet at Altes Finanzamt: Check out this facebook event page for more details about the participating musicians. It's going to be a bit free jazzy and certainly worth a visit at Altes Finanzamt!

Wild Flag at Lido: Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater Kinney with their new indie pop punk band. You'll probably already know the deal.

Alpinist, Patsy O' Hara and Quiritatio at ZGK (Scharnweberstraße 38, Friedrichshain): dark and heavy hardcore, like a melodic version of bands like Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone and comparable. This is a nice package and I'm sure it's going to be good.

Arms and Sleepers and Kirrin Island at Schokoladen: Arms and Sleepers play nice electro-indie stuff. They sound a bit like a jazzy ambient mixture between Radiohead and Gregor Samsa. And make sure to support Schokoladen, they're still in trouble and are threatened to be evicted on Feb 22nd, check the website for more info! They need your support!

Soap & Skin at Volksbühne: if you're into all this dark ambient music with great female vocals, like Zola Jesus and stuff like that, this is for you. It's opulent and sort of pathetic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing I'd say.

Review: Grouper and Jeffre Cantu-Ledesma

You know how the appropriate length of a concert is something highly subjective. I've been to 20 minute shows that I found too long. I've been to two hour shows that I found too short. But I have never been to a seven hour concert before, so this was sort of a premiere. But was this even a concert after all?

I seriously love Grouper. Her records are awesome. Her collaborations (the Xiu Xiu split 12" for example) are great. The last time I saw her live at West Germany some years ago was a memorable experience. So it was sort of clear to me that I would have to attend this. The show was announced as a "seven hour non-stop performance / sound environment," which, to be honest, sounded a bit 'not sure if interestingly awesome or totally not worth a visit' to me in the first place. Thus I did not really know what to expect when I arrived at HAU. I was surprised that everything was so empty and quiet. There were literally no people in the staircase, no people at the bar, just two security guys and the guy who took my ticket to let me in. I didn't even hear the music trough the closed door. But upon entering the concert room I realized it was pretty much filled with people lying on the floor on big white cushions. Grouper and Jeffre Cantu Ledesma were sitting in the middle of the room in front of their instruments, surrounded by the audience. 

I mean sure, it was a concert somehow. There was an audience. There were musicians playing quiet and drony ambient music. There were dark abstract visuals fitting well to the atmosphere and the music. But to a great deal I think this was more the conceptual opposite of a concert. Like an anti-concert, sort of. There was just nothing happening. There was this audience resembling mass of people lying on the floor in this huge black room. There was this constant drone and noise from the speakers. Sometimes there may have been a slight hint of a melody. There were people leaving the room and people coming in. There were people sleeping. But all in all it seemed like everything was in a state of stagnancy. It was impossible to capture somehow. Everything seemed decelerated to a maximum extent. There were no "songs." Just slight structures of loops and repetitions you sometimes could try to get hold of in order to follow this constant flow of music. There were no pauses. Just phases of increasing or decreasing "speed" and volume. There was no clapping. You couldn't really tell if the audience appreciated or disliked what they were witnessing. And it didn't even matter, because somehow you were in this on your own.

I guess what I'm trying to point out is that this was an intense experience.

I did not stay until the very end and decided to leave after about four hours. The cold and snowy outside did it's part to fit my mood. Good thing I went here and I really hope Grouper comes back again.

...I'm just still wondering if somebody who stayed until the show finished demanded an encore...