Friday, 30 August 2013

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

Our trainers will still be hot from dancing at Torstraßen Festival tomorrow, when next weekend brings us Berlin Festival. I am a regular attender, though I have to say that the line-up is getting duller by the year. Look forward to my separate preview later this week, when you will get more detail on my views on the matter. For now, here is what else is getting us excited this week:

Jeffrey Lewis & The Rain at Monarch: Politically fun singer-songwriter Mr. Lewis is back and delighting me with his appearance outside of a festival of some sort. Just me and him. Oh, and his band. And some other audience members. Originally booked into Festsaal, this is bound to be super cramped at little Monarch. Be there early. Better even, have a ticket.

Blake Schwarzenbach, JAN, and M(o)ck at bei Ruth: Everyone has got those few records that have stayed with them from their youth all the way into their mid-30s adult life. Dear You by Jawbreaker, their only major label effort and ironically the one that killed them, is the one for me. Later, when Mr. Schwarzenbach formed Jets to Brazil, that record would be played on repeat for months on end in our household. There is a certain quality to the songs of Blake Schwarzenbach that makes them so darn addictive. A treat live, I have raved on about my admiration for Mr. Schwarzenbach in my Forgetters review. So what else do you want me to say? My love for the man is unbroken.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Melting Hearts, and Long-Sam at Merkezi eV (Adalbertstr. 5, Xberg): Following the performance at Torstraßen Festival, Finnish wunderkind Jaako Eino Kalevi is bringing funky retro pop, along fellow Finnish musicians, to this headline gig at a social club. This man will go far one day - be there now to witness it in a small setting. Highly recommended.

Messer at Schokoladen: German post-rockers Messer are making an appearance at cosy Schokoladen and you should be there at 7:30 pm latest if you are up for stuff.

Strand of Oaks at Privatclub: Singer-songwriter material that most clearly is for those who like Songs:Ohia. Yes, I agree, nobody is a match for Jason Molina, but Strand of Oaks is at least in the very same vein in terms of tempo and subject matter and rather nice.
Cam Deas at Monarch: Guitar virtuoso who does not look it, you may think, but who’s got it in him. Recommended!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Super late review: Mikal Cronin + The History Of Colour TV

I will get there eventually, I will catch up with all those outstanding, ancient reviews and The Craze will finally be up-to-date and en vogue again. It sounds like I am trying to make up excuses, and there are no real good ones really, but ever since March, when I moved house, started a new job, and went into the final phase of the album campaign of one of the bands that I manage, I just could not keep up. Things have calmed down, thankfully, and here I am, writing about a Mikal Cronin show that happened in mid-May.

Ironically, it is the reviews of gigs that I enjoyed the most that I am struggling to do in a timely manner. You can write a quick review slashing the shit you just witnessed but it takes time to truly honour a good performance, to do it justice. By now you may have guessed that Mikal Cronin falls into the latter category.

There is a wave of music from California at the moment that could loosely be called punk rock. One might argue it all started at an LA venue called The Smell and with a band named No Age, but I have my doubts. I think they were just the first to appear on a TV show in a political T-Shirt and get famous for it. They are also a really good band. Since No Age sold out West Germany to the rim while people were queuing down the pavement of Kottbusser Tor, many affiliated acts have passed through town since, not seldomly playing beloved West Germany, sometimes getting an upgrade to Festsaal. Ty Segall, Kurt Vile, White Fence and many more have passed through town and always delivered good shows. 

There is a distinct 60s feel, as well as serious songwriter qualities, to these musical projects, but overall, they just know how to rock out. And this brings us to Mikal Cronin, regular collaborator of afore-mentioned Ty Segall. Mr. Cronin had been on my radar for some time and I was getting rather excited when I heard he was going to perform at our favourite local venue.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Preview: the week ahead (26th Aug - 1st Sep)

I hope this late message reaches you on time. There is actually a really good gig tonight, so head on over to Bassy spontaneously upon reading this. Pick up dinner on the way.

Cosmonauts and Alpha Waves at Bassy: A real treat tonight. Cosmonauts bridge Public Imagine Ltd. and surf garage rock. I know sounds wild but it’s not that weird really, just really good guitar music. Come on out and play.

The KVB and The Blue Angel Lounge at Kantine: The KVB do a Moon Duo similar thing but the former are from the UK and I have reviewed them before. Kantine seems like the perfect setting for this duo. Definitely worth the trek over there.
OPA, Black Heino, and Anal Mustard at West Germany: German night at WG, with our locals OPA playing their last show for a while. Entry is free but donation welcome. A fun evening at Kotti.

Bonaparte at Kater Holzig: The circus at the circus. No further words needed. You want mayhem - you get mayhem. The venue is perfect. If you like Bonaparte, I presume that you are in possession of a ticket already.
Listener at Privatclub: There is a lot of good choice this Friday. Listener could loosely be categorised singer-songwriter, however, it is so stripped down, spoken word half of the time, punk too, and a comedy element is never far off. Maybe I’d compare it to Henry Rollins stuck on a desert island.
The Hex Dispensers and Modern Pets at Cortina Bob: Gig of the week, hands down. Don your dancing shoes at Cortina Bob tonight, with two sterling dancable punk bands playing for your pleasure. You like your punk rock old school, but you also like the current wave of West Coast punk rock, like Ty Segall and his friends? This show is a must for you. Modern Pets have been praised by us before as well. Just go already!

Terrible Feelings, Ichübenackt, and St. Genet at bei Ruth: You enjoyed dancing the night away at Cortina Bob last night? Well, keep on dancing at bei Ruth tonight as our favourite Swedish punk starlets are back in town. We have previewed them before, so ‘nuff said.

Torstraßen Festival
at several locations on Torstraße: There is so much going on again this year, and really, you cannot miss out. The full line-up and program can be read up on their website. My personal picks this year are: Mueran Humanos, Awesome Tapes From Africa, SchnAAk, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, and of course PTTRNS. But I am only scratching the surface here. See you around on Torstraße!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Quick catch-up review: Dirty Beaches here and there

I have reviewed Dirty Beaches three times over this past year and it's getting boring, for me and for you.

He is amazing every time, I am transfixed and in love every time. I hope he will become the superstar he deserves to be one day!

So there is not much to say about the Teenitus performance by Dirty Beaches, other than that the new material was even better in the darkness of Festsaal than it was in the bright day at London's ATP.

However, while I was at it, I did want to tell you a little about Teenitus Festival since J. and I are big supporters but never gave you a review, even though we both attended, on separate days: I love festivals that are held across several venues of one city. Camden Crawl, Popkomm, ZXZW are just a few examples of such fantastic events. The folks of Teenitus and Festsaal were attempting something similar, with holding the three day event at Festsaal, Monarch, and West Germany. The timing was difficult as spring is so very busy in Berlin and there was competition from high attendency gigs on all nights. But the eclectic mix still worked and we loved walking between the three venues, catching up with friends inbetween. I feel Berlin needs more festivals like this original from Erfurt.

Not that much later, the performing arts festival Foreign Affairs was staged by the folks of Berliner Festspiele. It showcases a lot of theatre, naturally, and some other performing arts. Dirty Beaches was booked to perform for free for two nights, bringing friends with him. We headed over to Haus der Berliner Festspiele on the second night. This was not a regular Dirty Beaches show but a more experimental affair. The intensity of his freeflow guitar performance was enhanced by the atypical audience, which consisted of a theatre crowd that had stumbled into this gig at the bar. People were quite clearly impressed and transfixed and mesmerised. It was intense and amazing to witness how the audience got drawn into this wonderfully stretched solo guitar performance.

Since then, summer has come and will be gone soon and it all seems so long ago. But I tell you the truth when I say that I get shivers down my spine when I think back to those two events. Shivers.

Both pictures of Dirty Beaches were taken by Joel Schalit and we are grateful for this! Check out his excellent online magazine, where you will find more pictures, writings and sound projects by Joel and his collaborators.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Super late review: Savages + Johnny Hostile

There is a big hype around Savages that has been buzzing for months and will not trail off. The album is one of the best records to hit stores in a long time. It's the band of the moment. With big support gigs at Citadel and upcoming Berlin Festival, attending a performance at a relatively intimate space such as Lido appeared to be a treat. But would it live up to the hype, the expectations?

Evidently yes. This started with the best support act I have witnessed in a long time. Mostly, I either know the opening band and I am there for them or I don't know them and they don't impress me. Sure, this is a self-absorbed and horrible thing to say. But I am talking about experiences here. Knowing that Savages was well sold-out and that an early showing was in order, I was sure to be there in time for the opening slot and, boy, was I glad. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

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

The Festsaal folks have picked the best week for their benefit show because there is really not a lot that is getting Team Craze excited this week. See you all on Thursday at Postbahnhof!

Roller One and Man Meets Bear at Monarch: Singer-songwriter music from Double Bass and Acoustic guitar duo Roller One in the cosy setting of Monarch. A nice, relaxing evening.
Lydia Lunch at White Trash: I know, right? White Trash? Well, I am not exactly sure of the numbers, but I am certain at the height of her career, White Trash’s Diamond Lounge may have been size of venue bathroom. So this is a cool chance to see Ms. Lunch in an intimate setting. 

Wife, Joane Skyler, and Puce Mary at Naherholung Sternchen: I would loosely fit Wife into the genre of dance music but your dancing would have to happen in slow motion. People are talking about this UK project and I think the reason must be that, despite using fairly common dance music elements, their music has something unsettling, too. A life performance could go either way really but I reckon this could be interesting and worth your visit to Sternchen this week.
Phoenix Festsaal benefit show: Look at the Facebook event to see the eclectic line-up for the benefit show, which is aimed at raising funds to start a charity for the rebuilding of Festsaal. I pick out King Khan & BBQ as my recommendation for you. But it could be anything else. This is going to be fun.

Chris Corsano and Jenny Gräf at Monarch: We have reviewed drumming sensation Mr. Corsano on several occasions before, e.g. here, here, and here. He is teaming up with experimental artist Jenny Gräf for this special night. So read up and head over to Monarch on Sunday.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Review: Bohren & der Club of Gore + Julia Holter

I was quite excited when Puschen announced Bohren & der Club of Gore to be headlining day two of their Puschenfest this year. They kept the support act a secret for quite some time and when the news came out that it will be Julia Holter, I admittedly was not that excited about it.

This concert was not only my first Julia Holter show but also my first time at Heimathafen Neukölln. It's situated on Karl-Marx-Straße and even though unimpressive from the outside, the main room itself looks quite fancy. It's an old ballroom now functioning as a public theater. Besides the occasional concert, a lot of theater plays, music theater, lectures and other performances take place there. Luckily, they had put up chairs for this concert, because watching a Bohren show while standing... well let's just say it's quite a challenge.

Despite the fact that the room was supposedly air-conditioned, it was already pretty hot and sticky when the staff closed the side doors and Julia Holter came on stage to start playing. It gradually got hotter and hotter, which didn't make her performance more bearable to me I have to say. I wasn't really familiar with her music before. It just wasn't of interest to me but I thought I'd give her a chance, after some friends of mine tried to convince me her records are good. She played melancholic and rather dark piano pop music that was very theatrical. She was supported by a drummer, a cellist, a violinist and a saxophone player. Her support band added a classical and sometimes jazzy touch to her music while she sang and played the piano. Now that all doesn't sound too bad, and it also probably wasn't. My actual problem with their performance was - it was just way too nice. So nice actually that I found it rather bland and eventually just boring. Yes it was all very professional and clean but there wasn't anything holding my interest. There were no rough edges, no irony, everything was smooth and everything was pretty. Too smooth and too pretty for me. So I had to sit this out somehow and waited and sweated until they finished.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

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

The bad news is: U.S. Girls has cancelled her Berlin gig this week. The good news is: This means we won’t have to decide between U.S. Girls and Molly Nilsson, which was always going to be a tough one. Still, I’m a little heartbroken, I cannot deny it.

Jackson Scott at Monarch: Dreamy, shoegazy indie pop by a 20-year-old wunderkind. Mr. Scott’s only show in Germany. Hang out with the hip crowd at Monarch this Monday!


Molly Nilsson and ManMachine at Naherholung Sternchen: I have previewed Molly Nilsson so often, I feel like I have written a book about this music project. But you know, for fans of John Maus and stuff. Still my local favourite and, now that US Girls is not playing our town, my choice this week.

Die Heiterkeit at Badeschiff: Girls from Hamburg rocking out in the most fun of all settings. Don your bikini and get dancing!

Massenger and The Mokkers at Schokoladen: Fantastic indie punk reminiscent of 90s bands who you miss even though you wish you didn't. Hear my favourite song of theirs via this link and dance around your living room before heading out to Schokoladen. Berlin’s finest all-girl garage outfit is supporting. Meet me there for sure and be early, like 7:30pm, it’s Schokoladen!

Friday, 9 August 2013

LA Report: B52's + X

Does this sound like the most unlikely line-up? It gets better: The concert took place at the bowl of the Orange County Fair! I am not kidding you, we were sitting open air in an amphitheatre while seeing the fairground rides in the background. It was definitely one of the oddest, as well as most fun, settings I have been to see a band play.

Naturally, the main reason we had undertaken the long trek from Sherman Oaks to Newport Beach (2.5 hours due to bad traffic) was X. The original 1970s punk legends from Los Angeles are still playing and I suppose everyone should have seen X play once in their lives. We have a photograph of a live X performance on our living room wall - it would be daft to miss out on the real thing. 

Truth be told, it was awe-inspiring to see such music legends play live. But I did also get a little bored after a while. I know I know, I should totally not admit that. I should tell you how incredible the show was and all. And I will still tell you that. However, the band are also known for their individuals performing separately from each other on stage. There is not much of a rapport between the band members or any type of show as such that would keep you entertained. Unless you know the songs really well and that is what you are there for, there is nothing much beyond that to draw you in. Of course those songs were good though. The energy in them is still there, they are definitely timeless pieces of music.

What I did really enjoy, however, was the audience. I realise that X have a different standing in California than they do in Berlin. Despite that, I did not think for a second that such a large amount of people would have coughed up the considerable amount of cash to see X as a support band. Suprised I was. A large part of the audience had quite clearly primarily showed up for this LA quartet, cheering the band on and knowing the lyrics to the songs. Nobody was seated in the seats-only venue. It was quite a party and I was impressed as well as entertained by the middle-aged rock audience X had drawn. The band was quite clearly humbled by this attention, thanking people for having showed up so early for the show. The placed was packed.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Finally - let's rebuild Festsaal Kreuzberg!

Since Festsaal Kreuzberg burnt down on 20 July, all I have been waiting for has been a note on how I can actively help to bring it back to life. It may be selfish but I just cannot imagine life in Berlin without Festsaal. Being a Kreuzberg resident myself, as well as having come to love the people who operate Festsaal, probably adds to the emotional attachement I feel with the place. But I think I am speaking objectively when I say that the loss of Festsaal is a tremendous loss for Berlin.

So I got very joyful when Festsaal posted the following statement on their website today. It is in German, so to summarise for you in English: 

1) There will be a benefit concert evening at Postbahnhof on 23 August. Your presence is requested. Details will follow in one of our previews nearer the time but, really, who and what is playing is totally beside the point. Just show up to celebrate and support.

2) An account you can donate money to has been set up: Verein für Demokratische Kultur e.V. (BLZ 100 205 00 Acc # 321 96 01). These donations will be used to set up a charity for the reconstruction of Festsaal Kreuzberg. Once this has been set up, you can join the charity as a supporting member and receive all information first-hand.

I say, let's do it!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

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

Strangely this is a week full of "festivals" and also a week full of "old" bands. Bands that existed once and that exist again now. Bands that already existed quite a long time ago and that still exist. Some of those bands are probably no good anymore. But then again some of them may be just as good as they were back then...

Circle Fest w/Circle and Janne Westerlund at NK: As Norman already wrote last week, this is one of Circle's rare visit to Berlin, check NKs website for more info and don't miss this!
Iggy and the Stooges at Zitadelle Spandau: What can we say? It's Iggy Pop!
Circle Takes The Square, Code Orange Kids, Full of Hell, Henry Fonda / AfterLife Kids (Split Set) at Cassiopeia: An evening of heavy and chaotic hardcore and screamo. If you want a ride down memory lane straight into the late 90s plus a musical punch in the face, Circle Takes The Square could be for you.

Circle Fest w/Pharaoh Overlord (feat. Hans Joachim Irmler of Faust!) and Warm Graves at NK: The second night of NK's Circle Fest and the first Pharaoh Overlord show in Berlin ever, this time featuring Hans Joachim Irmler from Faust on drums!
"Black Flag" at Lido: As important as Black Flag have been as a band, this "reunion" is just wrong on so many levels... Apparently now Greg Ginn is even suing the members of the second incarnation of this band (which is just called "Flag") for copyright infringement (read about that here).
CatharsisMagrudergrind, Coffins, Panzerkreuzer and Coke Bust at Cassiopeia: Another Cassiopeia line-up based on a band you know from back then and another evening of heavy and in your face hardcore. Catharsis originally existed from 1994 until 2002 and now sort of reunited again and if you are into bands like Neurosis or His Hero is Gone, this is a must see!
Kolophonium + La Bande A Joe + Kenny Lump at bei Ruth: An interesting evening of psychedelic music and Krautrock influences. Expect lots of reverb and delay and epic long songs. Perfect music for the hot weather!

A L'Arme Festival at Radialsystem: The A L'Arme Festival features some amazing artists from Thursday till Sunday. Check out the complete line-up and time tables on their website. Some noteworthy acts are Anthony Braxton, Thurston Moore, Peter Brötzmann (read a review from us here) and FM Einheit, so prepare for a long weekend of great experimental music.
Erfolg at Broschek: Erfolg is the new solo project of Johannes von Weizsäcker, formerly active in the Chap. He played a couple of shows in Berlin already and this time he'll visit a small cozy bar in Neukölln and will perform together with a female choir, whatever that's supposed to mean exactly...

Die Goldenen Zitronen at about:blank: The Pudel Club, based in Hamburg, is joining about:blank to do a benefit party for the "Fight Racism Now!"campaign. This is not only a cause worth supporting but also a great opportunity to throw a party. Die Goldenen Zitronen are probably one of the most relevant bands around here, their lyrics are clever and witty but also have a political ambition. In addition there are lots of DJs and two other live acts, you can find the whole line-up in this facebook event.

Ex Best Friends fest w/Ex Best Friends, Agatha, Bathtub Theory, C.B.A., Cat'n'Guyen, Respect My Fist, You're Only Massive (plus food, cakes, haircuts) at bei Ruth: Berlin based band Ex Best Friends are breaking up and are throwing a fest as their farewell. They invited "some of the friends and bands we shared the stage with in those past years" and rightly state "It's all a bit sad but hey, we can still dance!" See the Facebook event for all info here.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Review: Woods + Emperor X

Although I've already seen Woods a couple of times over the last years, their live shows were never the same. And despite the fact that I expected something slightly different from this evening, this was still a good show.

During the last few months, Emperor X played in Berlin quite a lot but I've never actually seen him live. This was about to change, as he supported Woods at Berghain Kantine this night. I listened to a couple of his songs online before and I was expecting something very experimental and weird. What he actually played differed quite drastically from that. He played relatively straight forward indie singer songwriter folk music, mostly reminding me of bands like Polite Sleeper. Equipped with not much more than a guitar and a microphone that effect processed his vocals, he presented a rather extrovert performance, wandering around and away from the microphone, changing between very loud and more quiet parts of singing and playing and involving the audience in what he was doing. He combined lo-fi music with witty and often funny lyrics. All in all I think this just wasn't really my cup of tea musically although it also wasn't bad at all...

As I said, I saw Woods more than once (see my latest review from 2011 here) and I love many (meaning: most of) of their records. Actually, the fact that I found Bend Beyond, their latest album so great eventually convinced me to go see them again. They changed their line-up and instrumentation a couple of times during their band history, this time they played in full rock band outfit with electric guitar, electric 12-string guitar, bass and drums. Seeing no acoustic guitar was a first surprise for me (although the newest record also doesn't sound very acoustic guitar based), and when they started to play they sounded very heavy and full - something I also had not expected. I always loved Woods for combining a lo-fi attitude and sound with a quirky and weird way of expressing themselves. They always managed to break with certain rock-stereotypes without declining them completely and although their influences - sound wise ranging from the Beatles over Neil Young and Pink Floyd to more contemporary punk or rock acts - were never really hidden, they still always sounded like Woods. 
What happened this night was something like a shift from the weird lo-fi folk they used to play (and that I also kind of wanted to hear/see) to a significantly heavier sound, loaded with psychedelic-rock influences and endless guitar-solo and noise passages. They played their songs almost twice as fast than on their records and they seemed a bit reserved and distant. Maybe that was due to the fact that this was their first show of the current tour and they still had some equipment trouble, but I don't know...

Still this was not a bad show in any way. Like I said, I may have expected something different but that doesn't change the fact that they still sounded like Woods and that they also still included all those things I like about them. After having played mostly newer songs throughout their set, they returned for a single encore and played Rain On, one of my personal favorites and it was great to hear yet another version of that song live.

thanks to Nina for all three pictures!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Circle Fest

Okay, time for a pre-preview, because our friends from Planet Rock are celebrating something really special next week. Finnland's biggest export hit Circle are coming to Berlin for a 2-night show and let me tell you this is a damn rare thing.

Circle, formed in 1991 is a finnish avant-rock band who have constantly reinvented themselves, playing hypnotic mantras out of exacting krautrock beats, heavy guitars, arty noise, dark psychedelia and soundtrack-like ambience.

Now these legendary characters will play a two night residency at Neukölln's NK - playing as Circle on 6.8.13 and as their prog-rock alter ego Pharaoh Overlord, who have never played Berlin before on the following day.

Hard facts:

Tuesday, 6.8 Circle
Wednesday, 7.8 Pharaoh Overlord

at NK, tickets are 10€ for one night and 16€ for both. See who else is coming here.