Monday 30 June 2014

Late Review: Chain and The Gang

As it was an entertaining and well-received show, I thought I should do a quick late review.

One of the warmest nights in June, this was another sweaty gig in cosy little Privatclub, which was quite packed that night.

The Opener was Skiing. A Berlin-based trio very much influenced by 50s rock'n'roll. You may be familiar with them as they seem to play frequently around town. Their rather dreamy and tame poppy sound rather reminded me of some good '77 power pop on record. Live, however, it was sped up and a lot of the songs turned into fast punk rock numbers. The very high and juvenile vocals by the singer/guitarist as well as of the backing drummer are quite impressive. I do not think many grown-ups manage to sing that boyish. It can even be a little intimidating. At the end of the show, an audience member entered the stage and played some sing-a-longs with one band member. I have no clue whether this was spontaneous or planned and what exact covers they played. My bottom line: Entertaining yes, musically okayish.

More people filled the small room when Chain and the Gang entered the stage. Nicely uniformed all dressed in the same silver glitter rock jackets, I pittied them immediately as they must have sweated heavily (hope the tour money pays for some extra dry-cleaning). Ian Svenonimus, mastermind behind the group, reminded me of Jerry Lewis as the nutty professor. Like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Ian was and is a polarizing person, a love or hate figure. He was dancing and jumping on the stage, but it all goes along with the music, which is energetic rock'n'roll infused by bluesy parts and gospel-like backround choirs. Overall a convincing concept that worked out very well.

Like a soul or gospel singer, Ian is an entertainer who communicates with the audience to lead over to the next song. And even this communication worked well with tonight's audience, which was rather cosmopolitan, as well as willign to follow the master of the ceremony. Most songs started low with spoken word parts and sparse instrumentation. Then the guitars and keyboards would enter the mix, and it would climax in a soul explosion. People would dance wildly, enjoyment all over their faces. Well done!

I left early but right at time before the nice shower-gel smell of my frontman vanished and the thin air was filled with some more unpleasant smells. It was a quite extra-ordinary performance, I think they convince with a cool retro-rock'n'roll sound which is not dusted and highly entertaining.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Quick review: INVSN (+ Against Me!)

A few weeks back, INVSN invited me to their show at Lido in support of Against Me!. Naturally, I complied.

In my Refused review I have elaborated on my relationship to and love for those Northern Swedes, so need to go into detail here again. INVSN is a multiple reincarnation of Dennis Lyxzén's (Refused, International Noise Conspiracy) original solo project The Lost Patrol Band -> Invasionen -> INVSN. Since 1999, the project has gone from singer-songerwriter melancholy to punky pop to Swedish indie to wavey rock'n'roll, the current sound. It's evidently an outlet for Mr. Lyxzén to showcase whatever he feels like and with whomever he feels like at a particular moment in time.

I have always enjoyed this project and its many forms but the current line-up and sound is by far the best yet. Not only that, it is also refreshingly current and well-written. The album is an absolute favourite of mine at the moment. However, this was not so until I saw them perform the songs live the other day. With six people on stage, a lot more raw rock'n'roll, and an extrovert frontman performance, this was one of the best live shows I have seen so far this year. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and so were the two teenagers I had with me that evening. Since then, INVSN is played on my record player rather frequently.

It goes to show that live music is still the way to discover music. The emotion it evokes can make you feel so much closer to the music and its performers. It's the way I discovered punk and hc, the way I discovered garage rock.

The best part of the evening was seeing my friends of course and seeing the very positive response they got from the Against Me! crowd, many of whom were turned to fans that night, no doubt.

If you want to know what the Against Me! gig was like, read my review from last time - though some band members have changed (incidentally, the former bass player of International Noise Conspiracy is now the bass player for Against Me!), the show was pretty much the same.

Monday 23 June 2014

Competition: Ratttengold + Safi at SO36

If you are remotely into Deutschpunk, the name Jens Rachut will ring a bell. If not so, the names of his numerous bands from the last 30 years will makes things clearer: Angeschissen, Blumen am Arsch der Hölle, Dackelblut, Oma Hans, Kommando Sonne-nmilch, N.R.F.B. The earlier of these bands definitely gave direction to many many following bands and remain to be important reference points to many people. 

Unfortunately though, most of these bands only existed for a relatively limited stretch of time, Rachut has a habit of breaking up bands just to start new ones with slightly different line-ups. Now after he played a great one-time reunion show with Oma Hans at SO36 this year, he'll return to the same location this Saturday (June 28th) to do something pretty neat. He's going to perform songs from most of his former bands together with Ratttengold, a line-up of people who used to play in these exact bands: Andreas Ness, Armin Nagel and Wieland Krämer.

Thanks to SO36, we're giving away two guest list spots for you +1. All you have to do to win one of these is send us an e-mail to until Friday (June 27th, 6pm) and tell us your name. We'll randomly select two winners and let them know via e-mail.

Friday 13 June 2014

3 Points Review: Pink Mountaintops

1) Reminded me of The Rolling Stones, minus Mick Jagger, but with J. Mascis and his distortion. Not necessarily what I expected, with many hippie-ish acoustic videos to watch online. But it was good, no doubt, albeit a little middle-of-the-road sounding.

2) Third-best bassplayer dance moves I have seen, the first two winners of course being the bassplayers of PTTRNS and Health.

3) It was way too hot to stay for more than 5 songs. Considering this, the turnup was not bad at all.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Competition: Tragedy + PISS + Mülltüte at SO36

Presale tickets for this show are already running short so if you're planning on seeing Tragedy, PISS and Mülltüte at SO36 on June 18th you've got two options: Hurry up and buy a ticket or take part in our competition and win 2x2 spots on the guest list!

All you have to do to win is send us an e-mail to until next Tuesday, June 17th at 6pm and make up one (in the best case scenario funny or creative) sentence that contains the words Tragedy, Piss and Mülltüte

Monday 9 June 2014

Preview addition I: Lower + UV Glaze

A quick treat for you: This Thursday, Monarch is turning into a punk den with Danish quartet Lower gracing Berlin with its presence. These guys are punk, but you know, accessible. Think late 70s, early 80s punk à la Joy Division. Intense stuff. They are signed to prestigious indie label Matador, which has proven good taste and taken a chance on punk and HC music for a while now. UV Glaze supporting and these regulars seldomly disappoint. An all-round promising night at Monarch and the perfect opportunity to avoid the football madness. See you there!

Thursday 5 June 2014

Review: Batalj + Brutal Blues

After seeing Batalj perform a very good show together wih Zeus and Retox at West Germany last summer, I was pretty excited to see them again at the same location. Surprisingly, West Germany was not packed at all tonight, which did not bother me all that much. It allowed me to stand close to the stage without having to battle my way into the middle of a sweaty crowd. 

Batalj was up first. They have a new keyboarder who shared the vocal duties with their guitarist. Her vocals match those of the singer-guitarist well - a nice addition to the band. For lack of a better comparison, I can like their sound to that of The Locust, but with a lot of reverb on the vocals, which adds a Black Metal eerie darkness. It actually reminded my of some very good Black Metal demos, which have that kind of chanting over the top vocals, and this produced a big smile on my face (check out the "Wrath of the Tyrants" by Emperor and you know what I mean). I do not know the band personally, but the former keyboarder was apparently dancing in the first row motivating her fellows by passing around a monster Jaeger bottle. I think they are doing a pretty good job managing not to end into total sound chaos by keeping some balance of the individual instruments. Plus the drumming still gives everything a basic structure and makes it really enjoyable for the experienced and willing listener. Usually I like such acts short, but this time I was really sad they played a short set. Batatj had me drawn in and I wanted more.

Brutal Blues rather follow the traditional metal grindcore path and turned out to be a very worthy follow-up for Batalj. Fast attackers, their concept of just guitar and drums and dual vocals worked out well - a bass guitar was not necessary here - just guitar was fine. At times, it was a bit muddy mixed under the very prominent drums. But the guy is definitely a fast drummer knowing how to blast beats with highest precision, which produced the next big smile on my face with very good memories of some old English grind heroes. You could tell these two guys are not new to thrashing out grindcore; I was impressed at how relaxed but ultra fast they played. It was all over soon because of some physical exhaustion on the drummer's part I presume. After one of the first songs a somewhat displeased listener yelled something and was immediately answered by the drummer saying "It's grindcore, we play short songs". 

If you are into short, fast, and loud grind core, there was not much to complain about. The answer to whether you liked the show or not is a question written all over the walls at Monarch: "Are you Metal?" Yes, I am!

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Review: Wolf Eyes + Bill Kouligas

Last years Wolf Eyes show at Festsaal Kreuzberg was so good that I just wanted to see them again at Urban Spree this Monday. Not much changed concerning the band, there is no new record and I didn't hear of any plans to release one in the near future, but the show itself still felt different. Probably even better than the last one.

When we arrived at Urban Spree, Bill Kouligas was already playing a DJ set outside of the venue. I really liked the concept of having somebody play music outside before everyone was about to squeeze themselves into a dark, hot and sticky room for over an hour. Kouligas played a really cool set, mostly consisting of older dub tunes. I really liked it and the music was perfectly for hanging out outside.

At some point however it just got a little cold, so we decided to go inside where Wolf Eyes also were about to start playing. The room was just dimly lit and completely filled with fog, which created a nice creepy atmosphere that was a perfect fit for the upcoming music. Wolf Eyes started to play and I immediately liked it. Their set was mostly built on minimalistic and monotonous beats with the additions of noisy layers and heavily distorted and processed guitar. The gnarly and nagging vocals did their part to complete Wolf Eyes' harsh industrial sound. While their show last year mainly had consisted of songs from their last record, I had the feeling that improvised parts and more free structures played a huge part in this night's set. The sound was great, a point where Urban Spree never seems to disappoint. There also was an uncomfortable  light show with strobe lights flashing and moving around, that somehow suited the music but was a bit hard to look at most of the time. Wolf Eyes stage presence was definitely more engaging, probably due to the fact that Urban Spree's stage is lower and the whole setting is much more intimate than it used to be in the rather large Festsaal. The combination of the dreary, dark music with their Mad Max like dystopic appearance was really intense and impressive.

All in all this simply was a great show. It definitely wasn't unchallenging but I knew before that it wasn't going to be since Wolf Eyes is a band that challenges the listening habits of their audience. They're a band that transcend limits of genres and anticipation. Their sound is offensive but in the end I definitely prefer a band that's offensive and arduous to one that's just boring and complaisant.

Monday 2 June 2014

Preview: the month ahead (June)

Bonjour sun worshippers. It's the start of the month and that means time for our first monthly preview. Enjoy and meet you around town.

  • Mon Jun 2nd: Wolf Eyes + Bill Kouligas at Urban Spree: We pre- and reviewed Wolf Eyes before when they played at Festsaal Kreuzberg last year and they’re well worth mentioning again. If you’re into industrial drone harsh ambient noise music, Wolf Eyes will probably ring a bell for you anyways. Add Bill Kouligas, known for his solo project Family Battle Snake (read a review here) and his label PAN, to the bill as supporting DJ and this makes for a nice start in the new month.

  • Mon Jun 2nd: Merchandise at Berghain: Very en vogue at the moment, Merchandise do a danceable wave thing and remind me of poppier New Order meets The Smith, but then again, what do I know. 
  • Tue Jun 3rd: Shonen Knife at Roter Salon: Japanese punk band that rocks hard. 
  • Thu Jun 5th: Condominium + V at bei Ruth: Bizarre Hardcore Punk on Sub Pop meets Dark Wave from Berlin. Sounds like a neat combination. V used to play in Batalj, if you haven’t seen her solo project yet, this is a good opportunity of doing so.
  • Fri Jun 6th: Tara Jane O'Neil + Yohuna + Lugene Verna at West Germany: Tara Jane O'Neil is very slow, very intense music that is a pleasure to listen to when you really want to get back down to earth. This lady has got me through some difficult times with her guitar and mellow voice. A treat.
  • Sun Jun 8th: Daniel Bachman at Monarch: Daniel Bachman is an acoustic guitar player who mainly draws from folk and country influences. He's amazing to watch live and we're excited to see him again. Read a review about a former show of him here.
  • Tue Jun 10th: Pink Mountaintops at Privatclub: Yes, they are a bit hippie-ish but that's also what we like them for. And they rock hard. This show is going to be rather special in such a small space. Pink Mountaintops are going places, you know. Looking forward.
  • Tue Jun 10th: Quicksand at SO36: Another reunion from a band that many of us know from our early punk/hardcore days. Quicksand, featuring Walter Schreifels of Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools, had their peak time between 1990 and 1995. They released two records that are still fun to listen to nowadays. Like always, I have no idea if this is going to be either brillant and nostalgic or a total letdown. 
  • Fri Jun 13th: Jeffrey Lewis & The Jrams at Kantine: C* & Gary have their tickets and are super extra excited. The man sticks out from the mass that is singer-songwriter music. 
  • Fri Jun 13th: Las Kellies + DJ Marcelle at bei Ruth: This is a promising night at bei Ruth. Las Kellies play minimalistic post punk influenced dancy music, think of a mix between ESG, Delta 5 and the Slits. Afterwards DJ Marcelle, by now bei Ruth’s resident DJane, will play. She’s amazing live! So if you’re in a dancy mood, head over to Neukölln on this Friday the 13th

  • Wed Jun 18th: Chain & The Gang at Privatclub: Ian Svenonius, one of our all time darlings, returns to Berlin with his gang, playing 60s/70s influenced garage punk that’ll make your booties shake.
  • Wed Jun 18th: Tragedy + Mülltüte + Piss at SO36: Tragedy, Portland based crust-punk/d-beat veterans don’t tour Europe that often. If they do so, their shows are usually packed and loaded and this one won’t be an exception. Tragedy continued what they started with His Hero Is Gone. Their members are or were also involved in other notable projects like Union of Uranus and From Ashes Rise. Musically, Tragedy play thick sounding dark in-your-face hardcore punk with political and critical lyrics. Support will be locals Mülltüte and Piss.
  • Sat Jun 28th: Ratttengold at SO36: Ratttengold is sort of a ‘best of’ project of Jens Rachut, who’s going to present songs from his former and recent bands Oma Hans, Dackelblut, Angeschissen, Blumen am Arsch der Hölle and Kommando Sonne-nmilch. All of these bands played music in the vein of Wipers influenced Deutschpunk without being dull or blunt. Instead they always had a humorous and ambitious approach. Definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in finding out where all these newish ‘Deutschpunk’ bands got their influences from.