Monday, 24 February 2014

Review: Bill Callahan and Alasdair Roberts, Heimathafen February 15.

Bill Callahan often prefers seated theatres to clubs as the better environment for his music as it moves, album by album, away from the taut, tension laid songs of his previous alter-ego Smog. So Neukölln’s Heimathafen theatre / ballroom space – tonight, standing only – is the perfect environment for a Saturday night show by this revered writer-musician. Every show at HH seems to have its own special atmosphere and while any show there lacks the grit of a Festsaal event, its becoming one of Berlin’s favourite venues.

The softly spoken Alasdair Roberts opens the show, his lilting Scottish singing voice matched by his speaking voice, in which he introduces the songs and talks to the audience in German (he was born and raised here), something that is well received. Roberts is another artist who demands your full attention and he also deserves a certain setting for the contemplation of the beauty and purity of his personal vision of traditional folk music. Architecturally, Heimathafen works for him, and the response is generous, but the loud murmer of conversation during his set is less that ideal for listening to the sparse detail of his songs. While exposure to his special craft of song writing and reinterpretation will hopefully win him a new audience tonight, ultimately, much of his set is lost in the room.

Much of what swamps Roberts’ set is the anticipation for Callahan himself. Having not performed here since 2011, he divides the set mostly between his most recent album – ‘Dream River’ and its predecessor ‘Apocalypse’. Callahan is a prolific artist and not prone to crowd pleasing – Dress Sexy at My Funeral, from Smog’s ‘Dong’s of Sevotion’ album gets cheer, but ultimately the rather meandering version performed doesn’t satisfy, the desire to rearrange the song to fit Callahan’s now more open way of expression not fitting the song’s simple, Velvets / Jonathan Richman inspired rhythmic form. The intensity is kept for those more recent songs – where Callahan has moved away from the often twisted vignettes and stories of Smog to the more introspective and universal emotions expressed by the material that bears his own name.

His deep, half spoken vocals hold a deceptive amount of feeling as much as they do his observations on the human condition, and he almost walks on the spot when he hits his stride, looming over his seated backing band. Matt Kinsey’s guitar playing alternates from sounds effects of distortion to inspired lead playing, the latter style of which features heavily on the more recent of the two albums. Looking at other reviews from this tour, clearly it's America, from ‘Apocalypse’ that is the most immediate and effective song of the set. A halting, haunting rhythm piece that takes off in varying directions, the centre piece of which sees Callahan ruminate on his own journey as a musician – one never having to serve for his country like Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson – and America’s allowance of the reinvention of the individual. Riding from The Feeling and One Fine Morning from the same album are given space to breathe. Similarly, songs from ‘Dream River’ are presented with less instrumentation than found on the album, but this creates a focus for the band to explore the musical spaces between Callahan’s words and add to the sense of longing, regret, and coming to terms with ones emotions that the words so succinctly relate.

The sound at HH is never as loud as other venues, but tonight it was at least perfect in its quality – warm bass tones, the drums percussive and light and the guitars sharp and distinct. An epic concert, at once uplifting and draining, Callahan and band creating an emotional space unlike any other contemporary artist exploring American life and emotions. He name checks (and covers) Martin Gaye, and Leonard Cohen comes to mind, but there’s not another individual like Callahan in modern music – and the attention he was given and the response he received reinforces that status.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Preview: the week ahead (24th Feb - 2nd Mar)

Gary and I went for a walk today and saw snowdrops by the Landwehrkanal. Spring is around the corner. Can you feel it? If not, the gig calendar should give you a hint at the impending blooming season. That or the hayfever that has also started hitting me this week. A tradeoff I am happy to accept.

  • The Notwist at Heimathafen Neukölln: The Notwist have been around and busy since seemingly forever. If not as a whole band than at least in different projects and collaborations. They got well known for their catchy indie-electro and still can rely on a respectable fanbase. Now they play at Heimathafen Neukölln, which is quite a nice venue to present their new record.
  • TV Ghost and The Magnetix at Monarch: TV Ghost appeal to most people I would think. You like TOY? Tick. You like Joy Division? Tick. You like The KVB or Moon Duo? Tick. You like The Soft Moon? Tick. Tick. Tick. See this up and coming band in a small setting. Highly recommended.

  • Sajjra and Royal Tijuana at Das Hotel: Friends of experimental noise want to head to Mariannenstr. in Kreuzberg this Thursday, when Peruan experimental noise artist Chrs Galarreta will perform at Das Hotel. Not for the faint-hearted and a rare opportunity.

  • Speedy Ortiz and Jealousy Mountain Duo at Magnet: Speedy Ortiz are a band en mode. Grungy post-punk à la Hole and some earlier Kill Rock Stars catalogue, they are capturing folks with their honest sound and attitude. One to look out for.
  • Delta Love and Rico Repotente at Antje Öklesund: Berlin based psych-folk duo Delta Love are well worth a visit this Friday. And since we’re mentioning psych, support will be Rico Repotente, another Berlin band that plays “psychedelic swamp rock”.
  • Young Fathers, James Pant, and Jameszoo at Kantine am Berghain: Care for some hip hop this weekend? Check this out, Young Fathers released some stuff on Anticon in the US, a label that stands for ambitious and experimental music on a very high level. Also playing will be James Pants and Jameszoo, who both collaborated with renowned artists and musicians.

  • B/B/S at West Germany: We wrote about this newish Aidan Baker trio more than once (read one of our reviews), here they are again, playing at one of our favorite venues.
  • Of Montreal at Lido: The last time I saw Of Montreal, it was at Admiralspalast, in their “small” room, and the room was half-filled. The band was given their all, the performers that they are, but a half-empty room is a half-empty room. So imagine my joy when seeing them announced at Lido. This is going to be great. Quirky and wavy pop, a circus-worthy show, costumes and all, a party crowd. You are getting it all this Saturday. Hooray for Of Montreal!

Monday, 17 February 2014


Stopping off in Berlin once again, this time apparently filling in a gap in their schedule supporting Depeche Mode on tour (the DM have a history of great taste in cutting edge openers, bless ‘em). Berghain is the natural choice for them at this stage, it's always a big statement to take on this imposing space, but their nonstop touring regime means they are ready for the challenge. It's February, Berlin has been quiet, and everyone is ready for this kind of show.

Mueran Hermanos open the evening, and this Argentinian duo have made Berlin their base and have developed a cult following that deserves to grow as their sound develops and their live show grows. Their aim tonight is to mesmerize and create a feeling of tension that builds with each layer of sound, with a rhythmic combination of analogue synth and bass guitar.  The room fills up with people as they play and the sound, which is mixed perfectly, gets louder in volume as the set progresses, showcasing how immaculate the p.a. here at Berghain can be when in the hands of the right engineer… Tomas and Carmen are also given the benefit of some fantastic lighting and their set ends as if they were the headliner – the show belonging now as much to them as The Soft Moon.

The best place to watch a band here at Berghain, if you can grab a spot there, is in that space behind the p.a., next to the stage, where you can get up close and personal, transforming any show there into a more intimate experience. Despite being known for its debauchery on club nights, Berghain can be a challenging space for a band to create an energy and a good vibe – Festsaal is sorely missed for that – but sure enough, the Soft Moon bring their metronomic beat to the dancefloor, and the folks at the front at least begin to throw shapes. There’s been comments elsewhere that the set was too short – but they delivered a blast of throbbing noise pop that captivated with its shards of distorted guitars and dark vocals. Thrilling and fun, The Soft Moon are a step away from being an essential band.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Preview: the week ahead (17th - 23rd Feb)

We are struggling. Yep. When I started The Craze, my employer had gone under and I was left refiguring out my life. Lots of friends passed through town and doing a little music guide for them seemed like a fun project, a good hobby, something to keep my mind off serious matters. Years later and the hobby, loved very much, has become a bit of a burden. Working full-time all week, there is little motivation to spend at least another 4 - 5 hours on the computer at the weekend. Updating the calendar, trailing through event invites and emails, coordinating competitions, writing the preview, posting reviews - all this takes a lot of time. If anybody feels like joining in for no gain but the fun of it, do drop us a line. All hands on deck!

  • The Garden and Fluffers at West Germany: The week rolls in with some seriously exciting stuff at West Germany. The Shears twins, aka The Garden, also known of Enjoy, produce rhythmic cool sounds for the move hungry. Yes, you can dance too, but mostly jumping around, running, just shaking it out of you comes to mind when listening to their energetic punk sounds. C*’s gig of the week. Come aplenty!

  • Frédéric Bourdil at Fahimi Bar: Next door, at Monarch owned Fahimi Bar, Frédéric Bourdil, not the actor but indeed Fredovitch of King Khan & The Shrines, is going to give a piano concert. This is going to be the kick-off evening of a regular Wednesday night bar event with piano music at Fahimi. Sounds swell.
  • Die Nerven at Monarch: German post-punk on Münster’s wonderful This Charming Man label, in a cosy setting, for you to rock out. Sweet Wednesday evening treat.

  • Dirty Fences and Love Lanes at Schokoladen: Dirty Fences are great fun to watch. I was under the impression we reviewed them for The Craze before but perhaps we were lazy and did not. If you like The Babies and other lo-fi pop-rock wonders of the sort, you will like Dirty Fences, easy as that. I reckon Schokoladen is the perfect venue for this. Meet you there after work on Thursday.

  • Tera Melos and Abrakadabra at Marie-Antoinette: You liked Die Nerven on Wednesday? This is the American equivalent so to say. Post-punk with quirky elements. Less noisy mind you. But very good fun. Dance away!

  • Fenster and Aloa Input at SchwuZ: It’s finally come - the day that Fenster bring out their new record. We are very excited, of course we are. Soon, our local starlets will travel to America to showcase at SXSW but before such endeavours, we will party with them the way one should. This Saturday. At SchuZ’s new Neukölln location. Yeah!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Preview: the week ahead (10th Feb - 16th Feb)

If you're not too busy with watching Berlinale movies all week long and still have a little times on your hands to go to a live show or two, here are some suggestions for the freshly started week.

  • The Soft Moon at Berghain: Cold Wave Post Punk in the most adequate venue for that sound and mood. We already mentioned The Soft Moon a few times and they're still one of the most interesting bands that jumped on the 80s sound wagon.

  • The Estranged + Blank Pages at SO36: Our second competition and you can still win tickets for this show! If you enjoyed the Soft Moon gig on monday but prefer it less synthi-driven and with more punk influence, this is your show to be.
  • New Dog + Mother Of The Unicorn at Schokoladen: New Dog is a new project by members formerly of the bands Metal Hearts and Travels. Think of stripped-down instrumentation, a delicate guitar riff, distant horn touches, and a hesitant, playful piano synth. Support will be Berlin based indie rock band Mother of The Unicorn, whose live shows are supposed to sound like a mixture of melancholic vocal melodies, echoey guitars, choppy beats, cut and paste samples and warm fuzzy keyboards.

  • Bill Callahan at Heimathafen Neukölln: Bill Callahan plays intimate lo-fi singer songwriter music. You may know him better as Smog under which name he released numerous records since around 1990. In the beautiful surroundings of Heimathafen Neukölln this is definitely going to be a memorable evening.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Competition 2: The Estranged + Blank Pages

Portland based wave punk band the Estranged return to Berlin to play SO36 and we've got a guest list spot +1 to give away! If you're into raw and cold 80s guitar music and early post punk this is definitely your place to be! They just released a new record on Sabotage Records which they will be presenting on the current tour.

The show takes place on Thursday (Feb 13th) and support will be Berlin based Blank Pages who fit the bill perfectly.

To win the tickets, just send us an email to until Wednesday (12th) 6pm and tell us your favorite 80s guitar band.

Also the Facebook event with more info etc. can be found here.

Competition 1: Happy Jawbone Family Band + Jimmy Trash & Big Daddy Mugglestone

Today we have two competitions for you, I'll put them in two different posts just because.

First off we've got a guest list spot for you +1 for the Happy Jawbone Family Band show at West Germany this Wednesday (Feb 12th), presented by the lovely Eine Welt aus Hack! They play an intriguing mix of weird folk and lo-fi music and they sound great! Think of a trippy campfire mood with flutes and stuff. If you're into Woods and the like you'll love this, don't miss it! Support will be Jimmy Trash & Big Daddy Mugglestone.

All you have to do to win is: send us an e-mail until Tuesday (Feb 11th) 6pm to and tell us your favorite song about family.

Check the Facebook event here for more info, links, etc.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Preview: the week ahead (3rd Feb - 9th Feb)

Is it just me or did January went really by that quickly? I haven't been to that many shows yet but chances are good that this will change during the next weeks. Have a look at our calendar for more stuff and as always: here's our preview for the week.

  • Mombu + Ovo at Schokoladen: Prepare for a noisy evening at Schokoladen. Mombu from Italy are an "AfroGrindJazzCore" saxophone + drums duo. Listen to them, their hectic, loud and crazy! Ovo, another Italian duo, sound more experimental but are also influenced by metal and noise rock. 
  • The Hidden Cameras at HAU: The Hidden Cameras just released their new record 'Age' and are now on tour presenting it. Fluffy and quirky indie pop with beautiful melodies and songs.

  • Hiss Golden Messenger at Monarch: Yet another folky night at Monarch. Hiss Golden Messenger plays unpretentious singer songwriter acoustic guitar music. He reminds me of a melancholic Herman Düne.
  • Turbostaat + My Kung Fu at Schokoladen: Turbostaat are by now a band that kind of outgrew Schokoladen's capacities when it comes to the audience numbers they attract. However that does not stop them to pay them a visit and do a Schokoladen soli/charity concert. They actually play FOUR nights in a row and have already sold out Schokoladen, Lido and SO36. You might still get tickets for the Bi Nuu show on Thursday but hurry up.
  • Thee Irma & Louise + Anaheim at Tiefgrund: A very interesting evening at Tiefgrund. Thee Irma & Louise play dark and a bit psychedelic wave-punk and Anaheim do a mix of folk instruments and hardcore music that they call Doomgrass. 

  • Paper Planes + The Wind-Up Robots Killed My Cat at Schokoladen: Paper Planes play fluffy instrumental postrock/indie. If you are into beatiful melodies and poppy playful tunes, this might be your thing. And even though The Wind-Up Robots obviously killed someones cat, they play a very groovy kind of instrumental music. 
  • Aidan Baker & Jakob Thiesen + Crystal Shipsss at Ackerstadtpalast: Aidan Baker teaming up with experimental electronic musician Jakob Thiesen could definitely get interesting. Support will be Berlin based lo-fi psychedelic pop project Crystal Shipsss. Check it out.