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.

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