Monday, July 31, 2006Berlin Festival
This Saturday I went to Berlin Festival, set a good 20 miles out of the city's limits in a place called Paaren im Glien. It was a festival like no other, just as Berlin is a city like no other. When we arrived at 2pm there were only about 50 people there. And when we went in search of the second stage, due to open at 6.30pm, we instead found a variety of farm animals; pigs, deer, goats, guinea pigs, pigeons with feathered feet, peacocks...strange. The beer and food were also very reasonably priced, we could take bottled water into the arena, cigarettes were given away free (!?) and there weren't any hippies or stupid hats...an altogether different experience to the overly commercial, over-priced British festivals. Of course, the line-up wasn't nearly as grabbing as the likes of Reading, V, or T, but it was a good chance for music fans in Germany to see smaller bands all in one relaxed weekend auf dem Land.
It all kicked off with Humanzi, a scruffy Dublin five-piece. Respect to them for playing with as much gusto as they would for a packed-out club, but their music, bar a few songs, left me cold. It all seemed a bit meat-and-two-veg down-the-line rock to leave any real impression. Kubicheck were up next and sported a good-looking bassist and some good, danceable indie. Amusement Parks On Fire did certainly not set the festival on fire, rather sent the forming crowd back to the bars and the animals in search of something better to do than listening to this boring boring boring dirge whiny rock. It was so bad that my blogging cohort and visiting friend both said it reminded them of the now-deceased JJ72. A bad thing.
Luckily Berlin's own Powers brightened up the day, the first band on the second stage, which was essentially an abattoir with a bar, stage and lighting in it. Powers are Paul Fielding, Jessica Normann and Joe Dilworth, an amazing photographer and established drummer. They played atmospheric indie-rock, with synth driven melodies, scratchy guitar and powerhouse rhythms. Jessica sung on some of the songs, which made the songs sound fuller. They are still early in their career and I hope that there will be more singing to come! Check out the songs on their MySpace, they are very nice.
Hot Club de Paris were a surprise gem on the line-up, and the first band to really get the crowd going. They entered Stage 2 and beckoned the
The Raveonettes were the band of the day for me, I've loved them for three year and was so happy to get another chance to see them live. Everything about them fits what I like from a band - darkness - check! Pop perfection? check! Thorough aesthetic image? Check! Beautiful and well dressed? Check check! They make me weak at the knees with their surfy guitars and cool vocals, sunglasses and black clothes. I've come across a lot of bands who make music because they like making music - which is fine - but the Raveonettes seem to be the kind of band that make music because they have a love affair with music, other people's music, other era's music. I listen to Chain Gang of Love and I think it could have easily been recorded in the fifties or the sixties, such is the depth of their for this era in music. Their cool is so effortless and classic, they don't need to do or say anything, they just are. Sadly they didn't play any new songs, but they did play lots of old ones. I'm still smiling from their performance.
The Klaxons had the crowd of mainly ex-pats dancing like crazy to their energetic performance. The bigger stage and me not bring drunk made it seem less frantic, exciting and original, but the songs were still good fun, and Atlantis to Interzone is an undeniable anthem.
Stereo Total were the last band I saw before I ran out of energy and took the shuttle-bus back to Spandau. They were brilliant - a multi-lingual, multi-national, multi-sexual carnival of good times. They were clearly a crowd-favourite, now almost at 50% capacity and smiling as Françoise Cactus pulled over-the-top facial expressions and they bantered away in French, German and English.
It was an altogether enjoyable festival, mostly due to the aspects which others might describe as shortfallings - having space to dance, the lack of bands and therefore lack of clashes, the funny location and animals. It felt fresh and those organising it seemed to be having a good time. I hope it runs again next year - there's a lot of potential and if they get more "crowd-drawing" acts, then they should hopefully meet the balance between a nice, relaxed atmosphere and getting more paying punters out to Paaren im Glien!
Monday, July 24, 2006BERLIN FESTIVAL
The countdown to the Berlin festival is now on - 5 days til the event. The line-up is now confirmed and the stage times are now up on the website. I'm most excited about the Raveonettes who are in the process of writing and recording their new album, so the festival will be a prime chance to hear some of their new songs. They have been posting up demos on their MySpace and they even have one about Berlin. I hope they play that.
Other draws should be the Vice party victors, The Klaxons who will play their first public show in Germany, and hopefully the first of many. It will be great to hear them with a proper good festival soundsystem, rather than Rio, which isn't really designed for bands. It'll be good to catch Hot Club de Paris, excellent new Glasgow band, My Latest Novel, Islands who are a new Montreal band including two members from the amazing, beautiful and sadly shortlived Unicorns. And, of course, Berlin's own inmates, Powers who are the first release on 8mm records and Stereo Total who were dining at the Punk Pizzeria at Senefelder Platz last week on the same night as me. Believe it.
Tickets are still on-sale, from Koka36, 8mm and Schoenes Hoeren. See you there!
Saturday, July 22, 2006It's da sound of da police!
So, in continuation of my Vice Party documentation, I would like to introduce to you The Klaxons, who are a fairly new London band making music that makes you want to jump around and go crazy. The NME have tried to market it as the new, cool thing because all their boring urchin bands are imploding, and now, not one's to miss out on what's what, The Guardian are writing about it, it's NEW RAVE, so called because we've already had Nu-Wave and No-Wave and New Wave and Old Rave and sometimes you just need to give the inexplicably good things in life a name, otherwise how will people namedrop it at dinnerparties, right? Exactly. The Klaxons play an energetic blend of souped-up melodic indie basically, it's really poppy with some really danceable beats and spiky guitar lines. It has elements of the mid-90s trance that I unashamedly liked when I was 12, but most central to their exciting sound is simply an ear for a good dancey tune. Forget these silly labels.
The scene which it comes from is perhaps what's really creating the most A&R hubbub - there are squatparties, arts collectives, illegal parties, people are having fun without paying £10 to get into shitty corporate indie clubs and spending £3 on a plastic beaker of flat Carling and this is worrying the bigwigs. So expensive raves are now being put on, like Vice magazine's ill-fated Tales of the Jackelope festival to bring it to everyone. I'm moving back to London in 3 weeks and I hope that there are still exciting parties so that I have some semblence of the Berlin nightlife to get me through my final year. The names on everyone's lips are !wowow! who put on many of the parties and Teens of Thailand, who I think are DJs. I'm sure there's more, but that's all my surface-skim has revealed.
The Klaxons are a really good live-band, they wear brightly coloured clothes, theres lots of jumping, pointing, pulling shapes, playing keyboards. They are all very young and very nice chaps. Go over to their MySpace to get some FREE LEGAL downloads of their songs. You really won't regret it.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006Polka-dots Are Everyone's Best Friend
They've done it! My little new favourite band from April 2005 have finally brought their debut album out. That's right! The Pipettes could have gone either way - to indie obscurity, playing Barfly after Barfly to learing boys in leather jackets - or to pop superstardom, dressing rooms, record contracts, top 40 singles. Luckily fate would have it that they would follow the latter path and here they are, doing instores at HMV, playing Camden Town's magnificent Koko in September and finally getting to live their dream of making a Phil Spector-esque wall-of-sound glory of an album with its lush strings and layerings. Compared to their lovely tinny 7"s it's another world and a bit of that DIY charm is lost under the glossiness, but subsequent listens convince me that this is their calling and they have executed it with finesse. Their album, We Are The Pipettes is OUT NOW in the UK, so go and buy it. It will be out in the rest of Europe on 14th August, and 11th August in Germany.
To celebrate here's a selection of photos from some old gigs:
the ica, london, 25th april 2005
barfly, london, 9th may 2005
tuffnell park boston arms, london, 8th august 2005
mean fiddler, london, 4th march 2006
And the original version of Judy for your downloading pleasure:
Monday, July 17, 2006Did you know there's another band called the Horrors?
When I was in first year at university I stayed in a horrible halls of residence. It was called Ramsay Hall and was just off Tottenham Court Road. The place was full of home-counties-hussies and public-school rugger buggers. I hated them and their arrogance and loud garage music. But I found a good few nice people with good music taste in there and could enjoy being so central in a city with so much to offer. One of those folk was Josh who is now a guitarist in London's second( ...tune in in a few days to find out who's the most exciting) most exciting new band, The Horrors, a meticulously dressed bunch of 'orrors who met hanging out in seedy indie-clubs in fair-Londontown. Their music is dark and brutal, sleazy and sinister - they have a song called Jack The Ripper after all!
The good people at Vice have taken a liking for the fivesome and brought them over to Berlin for the Vice Germany's first birthday party. It was a riot and Rio thanks to the free bar and the free, excellent bands. Singer, Faris, stalked the stage, his hair covering his face, his chilling screams not to deterring the party people from dancing. Their live set was blistering and delivered with much more feeling than I could have imagined. Their backlash started as soon as they formed; "another urchin band", "style over substance", blah blah blah. But these guys mean it and a live show will convince any doubters of that. Josh told us after the show about their show with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who had hand-picked them to play their show at the Forum in London, saying that Nick Zinner was interested in working with them. Now there's a good sign if there ever was one.
They are playing White Heat Scotland later this week with The Low Miffs who are absolutely brilliant and whose singer, Leo Condie, was in my year at school. So if you are in Edinburgh or Glasgow you totally have to the glub (it's the new word for a gig/club, pass it on!) and wear an "I know Robbie" T-shirt. Or not. Some of my pictures from Vice Party craziness can be seen here and here.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006Planning To Cover
Nouvelle Vague released their eponymous debut album in 2004. Their name is French for New Wave and Portuguese for Bossa Nova and, cunningly, their art is Bossa Nova interpretations of New Wave classics. Importantly, they are French (very), and are two men, Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, who get French female vocalists to sing only songs that they are not familiar with to ensure that the vocal interpretations of the songs are as fresh as possible. The album was a quasi word-of-mouth success, unsurprisingly, as it is a truly wonderful 40 minutes of music as soothing as it is chilling. I, for some reason, had thought that it was a one-off project and was surprised to see a tour date for Berlin at the beginning of June. It turned out they have a new album out, Band à Part, which follows the same formula as its predecessor.
It lacks some of the naïve charm of the debut - there are some brilliant versions, such as their cover of Echo and the Bunnymen's The Killing Moon, Visage's Fade to Grey and the Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen In Love, where you really feel something has been added, rather than Heart of Glass which feels half-hearted and lacking the unimaginable New York cool of the original. But I think there should be a law against Blondie covers. But live they all worked much better, I guess it's like a phonecall in a foreign language versus a physical conversation, gestures and expressions make the comprehension of a message much easier. There were three singers in total, Camille, however, no longer plays with the band now that she is a chauntesse in her own right, and they were all french, petit, nicely dressed and tres charmant etc!
It was somewhat hypnotic, like three sirens enticing the enticed audience back to their 20s parisian boudoir. Or something. I read some other attendees thoughts on a messageboard later and many were undecided whether it was simply eroticised performance with little impetus on the music, while others left the hall with baguette cravings and indulging in their high-school french (check! check!). There will always be a divivde in opinion on Nouvelle Vague - music for winebars or fresh interpretations of the songs that defined a generation? Sickly sweet frogism or a clever musical experiment? Cashing in on their debuts success or doing what they love? All I can say is that if you like the albums then you should take the chance to see them live.
Friday, July 07, 2006Hot Gossip
Pssst...The Gossip are hot stuff. They live in Portland (blatantly the coolest place in America), they play the rawest southern-soul-filled dancefloor-filling angular-punk you could imagine. They released their third album, Standing In The Way Of Control earlier this year, and it has suddenly brought them to the attention of clubs and magazines and widespread acclaim that would have been totally unexpected seven months ago. NME's top photographer, Andrew Kendall had even been specially sent over for the gig in Berlin (photo in this week's NME, my my friend Sabrina and I also pictured!). It's mainly thanks to the album's title track, an undeniable slice of sweaty, power pop, with a hook that cannot be fought and a beat that can only lead to extreme dancing.
The sold-out crowd at Magnet was certainly feeling the band, causing the band to remark on the sheer heat coming from the sweaty crowd as they danced their way through the hour-long set, often grasping for the stage to find balance. Beth Ditto is an amazing frontwoman. She is instantly likeable and open in a way that only a laid-back Southerner could be (she and guitarist, Brace Paine, are originally from Arkansas), talking about her nether regions, humming along to herself between songs, pulling her tights off midway through the steamy set...she gave her all and the crowd loved her for it. Her voice has similar soul-baring qualities, as rich as it is strong, her vocals are unlike any others in the world of indie-rock. It's the tunes, however, which have really helped the Gossip's rising popularity; their unforgettable choruses and melodies appeal much more broadly than their earlier material, which was just as passionate, but not as melodious.
They are an amazing live band and you'd be a FOOL not to see them while they are in Europe this summer. The dates are:
8-Jul DE Weinheim Café Central
10-Jul DE Hamburg Molotow
11-Jul DE Offenbach Hafen 2
12-Jul DE Munich Atomic Café
13-Jul DE Berlin Ostgut
14-Jul DE GrŠfenhainichen Melt Festival
15-Jul BE Herk-de-Stad Rockherk
16-Jul BE Dour Dourfestival
17-Jul uk London Kings Kollege
18-Jul uk Manchester Night & Day
19-Jul uk Glasgow ABC2
20-Jul uk Newcastle Academy
21-Jul No Slottfjellds Festival