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Friday 13th Album Releases: Warhaus and King Krule

Friday 13th of the year 2017 gave us not one but two gloomy and broody albums that we could listen to in our bedrooms when it’s already dark outside and your minds starts to wander off…

 

The releases I’m talking about is the second album by Belgian songwriter and Balthazar-frontman Maarten Devoldere under his new solo name “Warhaus”, which is also the title of the follow-up after his debut album “We fucked a flame into being”.

The other release comes from London wunderkind Archy Marshall, also known as King Krule. “The OOZ” is also his second release under the alias King Krule, while “A new place to drown” came out under his birth name. As the name King Krule had started to collect dust, it was time that he came back with a string of festival appearances and a new record to defend his niche in the world of music.

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I will start with the Warhaus album, as it was the album I listened to first on Friday. The first two songs on the record had already been released as singles before and therefore made a good introduction into the rest of the album. First song “Mad World” already is a banger and shows us that Warhaus will continue exactly where they left off. “It’s a mad, mad world if you wanna get it on”, says it all. “Love’s a stranger” is not so mad, but still full of lustful longing and implied indecencies.

“Well Well” also shows a familiar side of Warhaus: the jazzy drums by Balthazar drummer Michiel Balcaen combined with rogue but groovy basslines and the harmonies of Maarten Devoldere and the second vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. Later in the song, the listener also gets to hear guitarist and producer Jasper Maekelberg’s crispy and sharp guitar riffs that always bring a certain discrepancy into the mix.

The fourth song “Control” has already been on many Warhaus live setlists and it’s a pleasure to finally hear a recorded version. It is also an early highlight of the record as has its own magnificent climax. It’s my personal favourite of the record. After this central song of the album comes a quieter song, mostly sung by Sylvie Kreusch.

The second album of Warhaus can be described as a road forward. Maarten Devoldere did not have to change anything of his musical style and just added some more string parts and more depth in some songs. Warhaus are definitely one of the most interesting acts in Europe right now.

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King Krule is also a very interesting character that I always admired but never could fully grasp. The same goes for “the OOZ”. I loved his collaboration with Mount Kimbie on “Blue Train Lines” which reminded me why I liked his voice in the first place. It was also quite an experience seeing Archy Marshall performing this song with Mount Kimbie at Dockville Festival. Around that time the first single of the upcoming album was released. “Czech One” which resembles the track “Neptune Estate” on the first album “6 Feet Beneath The Moon”. It also contains a line of lyric referencing “A new place 2 drown”.

Other song titles like “Lonely blue” and “Half man half shark” remind me of songs from his first album, in these cases “Baby Blue” and “A Lizard State”, even though the songs sound different.

 

Both Warhaus and King Krule are touring UK/Europe this fall.

 

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Live: Carnival Youth in Hamburg (DE), 10.05.2016

When people think of the country of Latvia and music together, Eurovision is probably one of the first thing that comes to their minds. But times are changing and right now indie-fourpiece Carnival Youth is one of the hottest exports from Riga. They are so hot that they have just recently won the EBBA (European Border Breakers Award) Public Choice Award. This led to them touring through Europe this May and stopping at the Knust in Hamburg on May 10th.

Before the show started we had the chance to sit down with the band (or well, ¾ of them since their bassist was sick and sleeping off his illness) and eat some self-made “Fischbrötchen” (a local dish consisting of a salmon in a bread roll). The (identical) twins Emīls and Edgars and their bandmate Roberts were down-to-earth and friendly boys who definitely impressed us with their German skills. Our conversation mostly revolved about typical German or Latvian things, tour life, professional golfing and music festivals. After good 45 minutes the band went on a quest to find a post box for their postcards and we got ready to catch the support act.

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Perry O’Parson alias Marcel Gein (©A. Hachmeister)

The opening act was Perry O’Parson (or as he is known under his real name Marcel Gein) and he serenaded the crowd with heartfelt acoustic folk music. It was pleasant to listen to him and his guitar but what made most of his performance where the stories he told between the songs. The singer-songwriter performed mostly songs in English but for the last two he switched to German lyrics.

When Carnival Youth took the stage thirty minutes later the crowd (probably 80% female…) edged closer to he stage. The set up was rather unusual as the band stood in a half circle so that every member, even the drummer, could be seen. This formation fits their music best as Roberts, Emīls and Edgars all share singing duties and all four members and their respective instruments come across as equal in their songs. Carnival Youth don’t have a frontman in the traditional sense – instead they have three, the drummer, the guitarist and the keyboarder. This opened up their musical style and made the concert even more interesting.

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The half-cirlcle (© A. Hachmeister)

Due to his sickness bassist Aleksis had to play while sitting on a chair fort he whole gig. As his bandmates explained he was completely drugged with antibiotics. We have to give the band credit for not letting this affect their performance in any way.

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Melodica Fun! (©A. Hachmeister)

The setlist consisted of songs from their two albums (released in 2015 and 2016) and sprinkled with “hits”. Already the first bunch of songs got the crowd dancing along. Among them were two of my favourite songs from the first album, Brown Eyes And All The Rest and Octopus. For the latter the disco ball was turned on and the sparkly reflections illuminated the venue, perfectly fitting the keyboard melody.

In between songs the band entertained the crowd with German phrases such as “Mein Lieblingsessen ist Kartoffeln mit Fleisch” and “Mögt ihr Tanzen?” or their general goofy behaviour on stage. They left the crowd with their single Never Have Enough, which was accompanied by a beautiful sing-along from the crowd before they returned to the stage to play Sometimes as an encore.

All in all it was a wonderful concert where everything fit together perfectly. Paired with the energy of a live concert and their friendliness, Carnival Youth’s already brilliant songs get even better. I would totally recommend going to their upcoming concerts or investing money in one of their records.

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Q&A: Telegram

The 5th of May was Ascension Day, it felt like the first day of summer and everyone had BBQ at the park. Except us – we were sitting in a bar next to the train tracks of the U1 interviewing Matt Saunders, the singer of UK newcomers Telegram. Later that evening the London based fourpiece would have their second German gig ever after the Munich debut the night before. Despite of the weather there was a decent amount of people who didn’t want to miss this historic event.

Telegram just released their debut album Operator in February featuring their hit single Follow amongst other rough, catchy, punkish songs. With this record they fulfilled the high expectations the debut single had set. Live on stage it wasn’t hard for them at all to recreate the unpolished sound of the record and they played a tight and fast paced set.

During our talk with Matt we got a glimpse of the creative process behind both their music and the accompanying art and visuals.

You just released your first album Operator. We noticed that it sounds almost like a live recording, very raw and unpolished. How did this decision come about to record it that way?

We recorded it on a boat down Docklands, which has a studio inside of its hull. Rory Atwell, our producer, has a quite “live” style anyway. Being a live band, we kind of wanted that energy on the album. It would have felt strange to people who have seen us play before to have a polished album, that wouldn’t feel right. When you release your first record, you’re still at a stage where you need to get people to come to your shows and check you out, so I think it should be a sample of what you’re like as a live band.

Were you consciously trying to find a middle ground between having a lot of rawness and noise on the one hand and quite catchy, accessible melodies and guitar parts on the other hand?

Yeah, you’ve got to be careful and find the right balance. When we write songs we start with an initial structure that is based on a simple melody and then we add noise and effects… I think if you start the other way around it’s not really working.
I love a lot of good pop as long as it’s real and you can believe the person that it’s coming from. As a band you are constantly told that you need to have one or two songs which will get you on the radio, which is the only way that you will get booked for festivals as well. You have to think on a different level about what you’re doing. We are trying not to let it get to us but it’s still how things work.

What are your thoughts on how the second album is going to sound like? Anything about the debut album that you want to depart from?

The first record is fast, it has a lot of pace in it. A lot of the new songs we are writing at the moment have that as well, but we don’t want to make a complete follow-up to the first record. We want it to be quite different, to be a little groovier in its tempo.

There is definitely a big consistency between your sound and your visuals. We noticed that all your music videos have the same intro for example. What’s the concept behind it?

I’ve got a VHS camera that we shot the first video for Follow on and I had a clear idea in my head how I wanted it to look. I used to work at a location for photography and film, which had two rooms with wooden panels on the walls. One was cream white and the next one was black, so we would do the same set up and click from one room to the other.
The credits in front were also made with that VHS camera. It has a controller where you can type in the credits and they come up on the TV screen, then you have to make sure that everything in the room is dark to film the TV screen. The problem is, if the thing breaks… (laughs) So I’m trying to copy all the letters so if it did happen we could just cherrypick letters digitally and pop them in … though it’s cheating a bit.

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Matt Saunders ©Nora Lee
Speaking of technology – you named your band Telegram and your album is called Operator. Is there a background to it, such as a retro technology theme?

Yeah, I think this aesthetic has a sort of dystopian, sci-fi theme – things like Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard, that imagery is quite attractive to me. The name “Telegram” came about four years ago, when I was looking at a newspaper which had a list of releases for record store day. I was just circling words that would be good for a band name, and there was a re-release of Telegram Sam by T-Rex. When that word came up it just felt good, satisfying in a way.
Operator was going to be called Telegram originally, which was lazy. We would always talk about calling it like a constellation or some other spacy thing… The name Operator came about because I was working on the artwork at the time and using a telephone as the basic back of the record as a theme – a telegram is being sent via a telephonic machine that you would press certain numbers on. This was maybe a day before we had to decide the title. As I was going through images of buttons on the telephone, one of them just sat staring at me, it said “Operator” and I thought “Ah, that’s perfect!” That sums up a lot of things that we’re about.

So you also did the artwork yourself?

Yeah, I went to art college for like four years and art is still a hobby of mine. I’ve also got a little studio space. For me the idea of somebody else doing the artwork is like getting another person to buy a birthday present for your girlfriend or boyfriend, giving them a couple of ideas what they’re into and then they go off and buy something for them. But if you find somebody to collaborate with that you can really trust then that’s worthwhile and I’m totally up for that. I mean there’s limits and boundaries and at some point I’ll have to get help, maybe.

Let’s talk about the lyrics a little. Do you focus on telling a story or is it more abstract…?

I imagine a lot of the lyrics are rather sentiments, as opposed to stories, in the same way that you might feel angry or upset or interested or bored or in love or whatever it is you’re feeling, and of course there is a story about it, and then I abstractly write about it.
There are so many lyrics that are just a repetition of the same themes and lines, about love or missing someone or this or that… It’s just not very original, so I try to be more abstract to make it interesting. I’m a big fan of Leonard Cohen for example. He’s really good at creating lines of abstraction, and then there is one line that is really straightforward and very simple which ties it all together and gives it a meaning, before it goes back to strangeness again.

Do you put personal experience into your lyrics as well?

Definitely. There will be one line that’s very specific to something from experience, and the next will be more of a general feeling about time, or space … it’s quite mixed up.

We read that you crowdfunded your album. Is that something you would do again?

I mean, it was really hard work but at the same time – it worked. We had a record deal with Sony but after nine months of nothing happening, it fizzled out, and then we went that way instead. Initially I was a bit skeptical, I didn’t like the idea of crowdfunding. To me traditionally, growing up, that’s not how a band puts a record out. But actually I think the simple method of a fan buying a record upfront – paying for the record before it’s been made – is a really clever way to do it, because you’re not asking for anything more than the cost of the record you would pay for anyway, it’s just reversing the order in which it happens. And if we did it with a label they would take 80% and we would have 20%, of control over things as well. All of that nonsense disappears. I would recommend it, and we would do it again.

Live: Everything Everything + Inner Tongue in Hamburg (DE), 29.11.2015

A British band that have recently released a top 10 album with two hit singles, have played Glastonbury and Jools Holland and fill big venues in their motherland? Surely they would play a bigger venue than Hamburg’s small cult club Molotow! Well, not in the case of Manchester’s finest Everything Everything, who brought sweaty dance moves to the 300 people in the sold out venue with their futuristic electro-pop.

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(© S. Prahl)

Their support, too, was quite the entertaining act. Inner Tongue from Vienna captured the crowd with their dreamy and spacey electronic vibes, steady drumbeat and the thin voice of their frontman. Every song took you to a different dimension. The five-piece were so ecstatic and lost in their own music on stage that you didn’t really know where to look because so much was happening at the same time.

Also worth mentioning: the band had so much equipment and instruments that the stage was completely full and the band members had troubles getting on and off stage and to their respective instruments.

Everything Everything had a much cleaner stage plot. The quartet brought an extra keyboard and effects player who, let’s be honest here, had the time of his life on stage and danced harder than anyone in the crowd. The rest of the band were also in a good mood, welcoming the small and intimate feeling at the club as a nice alternative to the big arenas they fill in the UK. Especially singer and guitarist Jonathen Higgs was more talkative than I had expected and even cracked a joke about the weather. All in all the band really seemed to be enjoying what they were doing and that’s the best thing an audience can get (apart from all their favourite songs getting played, of course).

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(© S. Prahl)

Everything Everything played a set that didn’t leave you bored or your feet still for a second. Not only their hits like Regret, Kemosabe, Cough Cough or Spring Sun Winter Dread got the crowd going.

And not only the crowd but also the band themselves seemed to enjoy the concert in the small club. You would often catch them grinning at each other or making funny faces.

For the encore the band treated their fans with No Reptiles and the smash hit from their latest release, Distant Past. It was only shortly after that the four Manchester boys came out to hang with fans at the merch stand. It was nice to see that the band’s new rise to indie stardom hasn’t gotten to their heads.

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(© S. Prahl)

Live: Ezra Furman & The Boyfriends + The Blood Arm in Berlin (DE), 27.10.2015

Ezra Furman may have been around for a while, yet the Chicago songwriter has been one of my musical discoveries of the year. His third solo LP Perpetual Motion People (after three albums with Ezra Furman & The Harpoons), with its hit singles Restless Year and Lousy Connection, has become an unavoidable part of the indie radios everywhere, while his previous works flew a bit more under the radar. Maybe it’s because he’s lately been embracing pop music more fully, though not straying from his own brand of country-punk’n’roll completely and still valuing classic singer-songwriter skills; perhaps also because his appearance has become significantly more memorable: These days, the genderfluid musician usually performs in a dress, makeup and a pearl necklace.

I had not only fallen for his music, but also had gotten a hint of his great live shows via YouTube snippets. As a result I was looking forward to this gig like I haven’t often been doing lately. Also the support band was a treat: The Blood Arm, probably still best known for their ridiculously overplayed mid-00s hit Suspicious Character. Anyway, the LA-gone-Berlin group are relentlessly still around, and their glamorous indie-showtunes presented by exuberant frontman Nathaniel Fregoso somehow fit it remarkably with Ezra’s own extravanganza. Interestingly, the audience seemed to almost make a point of not particularly caring when they started playing their one big hit – it’s still too soon for 2000’s nostalgia, it seems. Or I just stood too far in the back to notice the diehard fans going down.

ezra 2 editAfter the support had finished, I managed to sneak up close to the front. The Lido was well full, but the crowd was a paradigm of laid-back-ness. No one pushed around or moshed – not that I mind that in general, but it was super relaxing to just direct your full attention at the stage and not at the people around you. Also, it’s probably quite obvious that Ezra Furman won’t pull a reckless dudebro audience. The petite singer, who had been seen standing in the crowd enjoying the set of his friends in The Blood Arm, looked like some punked-up forest fairy with green/blue hair and bright red lipstick, stomping, jumping and crouching across stage or into the audience, screaming out his lyrics like mad during punk-ier uptempo songs like 2013’s I wanna destroy myself or Tell them all to go to hell, or going all soft and gentle for the ballads such as Hour of deepest need. Without a doubt he was one of the most charismatic performers I’ve seen, who was able to draw the crowd in so completely that not one moment of boredom ensued. Of course, this was also thanks to his amazing backing band The Boyfriends, above all the incredible saxophonist who actually made you wonder why a saxophone is not a prerequisite of any rock band, that’s how awesome he was. But also the piano and guitar did a great service to shape Ezra Furman’s signature style, which is somewhere between anti-folk, garage punk, country and piano-pop. It was obvious that everyone was having a great time, both performers and audience, and Ezra seemed truly touched at the turnout. I was at the brink of bothering him with my feelings about this gig – one of my highlights of the year, clearly – when he was at the merch afterwards, but after his impressively long set had ended and I had collected my coat, it was already 12 o’clock on a weeknight and I had to avoid the shuttle service and go home the long way round, so I ended up not making a fool of myself this time.

LIVE: The Vaccines in Hamburg (DE), 09.10.2015

The Vaccines and Hamburg are not an easy combination. The band had to cancel their appearance at Hurricane Festival two years in a row before they debuted there in 2013. This year they also showed up at the festival and additionally played a headline tour in Germany to support their third album “English Grafitti”, which had come out earlier this year.

But before the quartet could take the stage at the swish Mojo Club on Reeperbahn, their support band Kid Wave tried to warm up the crowd. The four-piece from London needed a few songs before the crowd was feeling their music. After that there was nodding along and swinging from one feet to the other to their dreamy indie-pop with some rougher elements. What dinstinguishes this young female-fronted band from similar bands is the combination of the prominent bass guitar and the upbeat and precise drumming of their drummer, who seemed to enjoy herself the most of the band.

Kid Wave are too big to all fit in one picture ( © A. Hachmeister)
Kid Wave are too big to all fit in one picture (© A. Hachmeister)

Even though the concert didn’t sell out it got quite cramped in the basement club when The Vaccines opened their set with their first single from the new album. The crowd happily danced and sang along to Handsome and weren’t given a second to breathe as the band raced through Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra), Ghost Town and Dream Lover. All during the set, Justin Young gave proof of his frontman qualities as he put a lot of emotion and exaggeration in his facial expressions and body language.

The Vaccines were everything I had expected (© A.Hachmeister)
The Vaccines were everything I had expected (© A.Hachmeister)

The concert was basically everything you would expect from a really good concert. The band played all their many hits, such as Post Break-Up Sex, Teenage Icon, If you wanna, I always knew,  as well as a good bunch of new ones from English Grafitti,  communicated with the crowd, did a special acoustic version of No Hope and pleased the crowd with a three song encore finishing with Norgaard. Especially for this song some fans had prepared a banner saying “Are you ready, Freddie” which Justin Young threw over guitarist Freddie Cowan during the last song.

All in all it was an entirely satisfactory concert experience.

Festival Season 2015: Lollapalooza Berlin (DE)

The first European Lollapalooza looked to be a success: The two-day festival on Berlin’s defunct Tempelhof Airport –former site of the Berlin Festival– sold out shortly before opening its gates on September 12th. And that despite raising its ticket price quite spontaneously to 139 Euros, making it more expensive than e.g. the Hurricane Festival, which lasts three days and offers camping. Of course, Berlin’s Lollapalooza differs in size from its Chicago counterpart: Four stages instead of seven, two days instead of three, a capacity of 50,000 instead of 160,000. Obviously the headliners Muse and Macklemore were not exactly Metallica and Paul McCartney (Lolla’s 2015 headliners) either, but still it was an overall good line-up (especially if you had only paid the early bird price like myself).

Show women walking on stilts across the festival site
Show women walking on stilts across the festival site

Apart from the music programme, Lollapalooza attempted to stand out from the German festival landscape by offering a special kids’ area, a ‘fun fair’ (with showmen, can knock down and a glitter make-up stand where you could queue for hours), a ‘Grüner Kiez’ (green neighbourhood) with charity and environmental stalls, and something they called ‘Fashionpalooza’, which turned out to be one (1) sponsor stand by a fashion online shop.

One of many games of skill on the fun fair.
One of many games of skill on the fun fair.

While the ‘Kidzapalooza’ was clearly embraced by the visiting families and the special kids’ tickets sold out as well, I still don’t really see why it has to be encouraged to drag your little child along to an event like this. It’s loud, people there get drunk and ruthless and throw things, and crowds are generally not a safe place for children. I think festivals should allow the audience to “go wild” without having to fear that they might trample on a child.

I suppose enough has been written about the disastrous  water-pipe burst which led to insanely long toilet queues on Saturday, and about the insanely long food queues as well, so I won’t linger on and finally get to the musical performances.

Colour-coded goodness: Everything Everything.
Colour-coded goodness: Everything Everything.

After a quite strenuous procedure of trying to enter the festival site at the same time as thousands of other visitors, we caught some glimpses of Joywave and Parquet Courts, the former sadly having to replace the dropped-out San Cisco, who I’ve never seen and was really looking forward to. The first band we actually watched, though, were Manchester’s Everything Everything, who I’d lost track of a bit despite quite liking their 2010 debut albumIt turned out their third and latest LP had spawned at least two venerable hits, Regret and Distant Past, and they were drawing a reasonably sized crowd as well. As ever, the quartet appeared in matching stage outfits – luckily these ones were a step up from the beige overalls I saw them perform in the last time. Like any good girl group’s outfits, these ones were not uniform but differed in details. The set was good fun and the perfect way to open our festival, the crowd was into it and even though I only recognized two of their early songs, I could also dance to the rest of them.

I saw James Bay while passing the main stage and was surprised he didn’t sound whiny and instead really ‘rock’, knowing him only from his detestable radio hit Hold Back The River and for being a shameless Jamie N Commons cosplayer. Also a 3 pm slot seemed kind of shitty for a successful bloke like him, but that was only one of many weird running order decisions.

MS MR did not, however, match their outfits in advance.
MS MR did not, however, match their outfits in advance.

Up next for me were MS MR, a New York electropop duo that I completely missed out on until I heard their melancholic 2012 song Hurricane on the radio quite recently and instantly liked it. Unfortunately I hadn’t listened to anything else by them, and didn’t know virtually all of their tracks were apparently lively, upbeat 70s/80s style synthpop. The members Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow were both extremely outgoing and self-confident and danced around crazily in their 70s/80s glitter outfits. I didn’t even know they had a huge following as well. Unfortunately I had to leave right before they were about to play that one song that I knew, which would maybe have made me enjoy at least a little bit of their set.

Then we attempted to get food. Oh my. I thought there was enough time – like 45 minutes – until Hot Chip would start. In the end, I missed almost their entire set queuing. There were tons of food stalls really, but it just wasn’t enough for 50,000 people (who couldn’t just go to the non existent campsite and make some canned ravioli). Hot Chip also had a really shitty 5 pm slot, which made me feel a bit sorry for them, but I can’t really talk about their set because I spent the rest of it sitting on the floor eating. (It should be mentioned that even the headliners already started at 9:30 pm, as the curfew was 11 pm due to noise reasons, so I suppose there was little other choice than cramming even high profile acts into the afternoon.)

Ron Mael (70) of Sparks showing Franz Ferdinand's Nick McCarthy and Paul Thompson that he's got the moves.
Ron Mael (70) of Sparks showing Franz Ferdinand’s Nick McCarthy and Paul Thompson that he’s got the moves.

Finally, FFS, the supergroup consisting of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, formed one of my personal festival highlights. I have to admit I didn’t know Sparks before at all, and I did not expect the two members to be 66 and 70 years old – which one would never have thought, with how agile both of them still were on stage. Singer Russell Mael looked like an aged emo kid, only really cheerful, in a funny looking poncho, while his brother Ron Mael sat stoically behind his keyboard just to suddenly get up at one point and perform crazy dance moves. Franz Ferdinand, on the other hand, don’t seem to have aged a bit, physically, since appearing on the scene 10 years ago, and with the self-titled FFS album they have once again proven themselves incapable of writing a bad song. Their stage performance was fun as ever, be it four of them playing a keyboard at once or inviting the crowd to tell the person next to them to “Piss off” when the track with the same title came on. They even performed a few songs from the respective bands, which were especially celebrated by the crowd.

I then tried to watch some of Chvrches‘ set but I only knew ca. two songs – one of which I also saw – and quickly lost interest, trying to find a toilet instead and almost freaking out at the size of the queues (but it was possible to sneak into the broken ones and use them, because security was apparently unable to block access to them).

Deichkind crowdsurfing in a giant barrel.
Deichkind crowdsurfing in a giant barrel.

Of course we couldn’t miss out on Deichkind, the Hamburg hiphop/electro collective known for their spectacular live shows. It was already the third time I saw them perform at a festival and they never disappoint, whether presenting perfect boygroup-style choreographies, dressing up as old ladies, wearing Daft Punk like LED helmets or giant brains (to illustrate song title Denken Sie groß – ‘think big’) or surfing the crowd inside a giant barrel waving a “Refugees Welcome” flag and wearing sweatshirts with the same slogan (which are also sold in their online shop to support refugee aid organisations). The themes in their music range from dumb party-and-booze songs to criticizing the status quo, the latter being done quite cleverly in recent hits Denken Sie groß and Like mich am Arsch, however trying to fashion an entire song out of advertising slogans and then declaring that ‘We only want your money’ is kind of like the musical equivalent of Banksy.

Finally our Satuday ended with The Libertines, who had to play the third-biggest stage for some reason – presumably because the Main Stages 1 and 2 were so close together that the sound would have interfered even more than it already did (halfway through the set Carl Barât asked if ‘those German hiphoppers’, meaning Deichkind, were still playing, as he had probably heard Macklemore & Ryan Lewis all the way from Main Stage 1). The Libs had had to cancel their previous two gigs due to health issues – they later released a statement that Pete Doherty had suffered an anxiety attack – and indeed the scandal-ridden singer seemed a little unfocused for someone who is allegedly clean, so he might have been on meds. Also his microphone was turned off for large parts of the gig, so often one would only hear the crowd chanting along. They mostly dismissed their new album Anthems For Doomed Youth, their first in 11 years, which had only come out the previous day, making this their first gig since the release. Their comeback single Gunga Din, however, was celebrated just as frenetically as classic hits such as Time For Heroes, Boys In The Band or Can’t Stand Me Now. Due to the set being obviously packed with bangers like these, their performance was one big party, with a very dedicated crowd singing along loudly despite the competition of the headliner playing at the same time (but then again I doubt their fanbase intersects much with that of Macklemore).

After all three final acts ended at exactly the same time, the entire festival attempted to leave the site to either get home or to somewhere where you could party. Of course, the underground stations got blocked and an atmosphere of hopelessness spread. Somehow we managed to get to the next crossing and escape in a bus, but it was clear the organisers had not put any thought at all into how to get everyone away from the festival site. For Sunday it looked like there would be shuttle buses to replace the U-Bahn, but I had still prepared routes of getting home with the help of regular buses, as it would take years to try and get on one of the train service replacement buses anyway.

On Sunday the toilet situation had been resolved, and we got food quite early on so I only needed to get a snack later for which I didn’t have to queue so long. Unfortunately the running order for Sunday left us with hours of nothing to do (apart from watching Stereophonics or something), and the lone fashion stall had run out of colours to design gym bags with, so we couldn’t even burn time on that.

Wolf Alice opened the Main Stage on Sunday.
Wolf Alice opened the Main Stage on Sunday.

Our day had begun with Wolf Alice, who I’d seen previously at the Libertines’ 2014 gig at Hyde Park long before their album was released. Knowing most of their songs now, it was definitely more fun. The stage presence of the young Londoners was still quite timid but their grungy sound and singer Ellie Rowsell’s witch-like screams definitely made it an interesting experience.

Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch had fans dancing on stage.
Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch had fans dancing on stage.

After a long period of doing nothing much, we headed over to Belle & Sebastian, a band that I had never seen, but that I appreciate in a  kind of passive way because the amount of albums they’ve put out is too intimidating for me to really start listening through them. The Glasgow collective, which has been around for two decades, definitely turned into a highlight for me despite not really knowing any songs. But singer Stuart Murdoch’s stage presence was so endearing and their calming, cute indie pop simply matched the sunny afternoon perfectly. At some point Murdoch decided to get a female fan on stage to dance with him, and then continued to bring at least a dozen people up there who all seemed to be having the time of their life. He also talked quite a lot, among other things about how embarrassed he was that the UK didn’t take in any refugees.

Afterwards the Beatsteaks were on, a popular Berlin band who play punk-infused rock with English lyrics. I watched most of their set from the ‘Grüner Kiez’ area, which offered stacked pallets with grass on top and flowers growing in the bottom, allowing you to sit on them and still watch the Main Stage 2 sets on the screens. And sitting was definitely necessary whenever possible after  standing/walking almost for the entirety of Saturday. The Beatsteaks are famed for being a great live band, but I’m kind of indifferent towards them so I didn’t feel like moshing in the crowd. I could however enjoy their set as I recognised most of their songs.

Due to lack of alternatives (the only other option really being Sam Smith, another of those abominable radio people taking away slots that could be filled with like actual good acts), we ended up watching Little Dragon next, a quite crazy Swedish indie-electro act, but I didn’t know anything by them and their flashy live show didn’t really convince me at all.

Again due to lack of alternatives, we then attended Seeed‘s set, another hugely famous Berlin act playing dancehall with mostly German lyrics. I have to admit that while I never cared about their music, they put on a really good live show. The three frontmen were accompanied by a large brass band, the sound was great and they threw in some clever cover versions/remixes – e.g. their own Berlin anthem Dickes B to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back – that really spiced the thing up.

"I love big black balls." - Ariana Grande
“I love big black balls.” – Ariana Grande

I left Seeed’s set earlier so I would have enough time to queue for toilets before Muse came on, but somehow I didn’t have to queue at all and ended up sitting in front of the main stage for over 20 minutes. Well at least I could see a little bit of the stage like this and not just the screens… Muse is another tricky band for me. I mean, I could have watched Tame Impala, who for inexplicable reasons were playing at the same time despite target groups definitely intersecting, and many fans being mad about this, but I had seen them several years ago, other than Muse who I’d been waiting to see since 2005 or 2006, so I had to take that chance. In the ten years since, I had however gradually lost all interest in them as their musical quality seemed to steadily decline. But as they are famed to be such a great live band, of course I had to form my own opinion. At first, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed; partly for sure because I didn’t know a lot of songs, but also because in my opinion there are many major bands who put on a just as good light show (but maybe a festival gig isn’t comparable to their own headline show). Well, that was before they let the toilet paper rain down on us (actually just long strips of white paper, along with a bunch of confetti, but it looked awesome). And let loose gigantic black balloons into the crowd. And this massive crowd singing Our Time Is Running Out and Starlight. I will still hold up that Muse are not a ‘better’ live band, show-wise, than say The Flaming Lips or Deichkind. But it was definitely fun to have seen them once, and I will surely meet Tame Impala a second time in my life. So in the end I stayed for Muse’s entire set, and then hurried to that bus stop where I managed to get on one that was less than half full, because apparently no one wants to go west anymore, and got home by a super long detour, but I was glad I had made it at all.

Despite some organisational mishaps, I still think the festival itself was neat (at least for the early bird price I paid), but not so great that I would blindly buy a ticket for next year. In parts the line up was too mainstream for me, but this can be said for the US Lollapalooza as well. Still a good alternative to the completely-gone-electro Berlin Festival.

New single & video: The Libertines

libs anthemsEven the last skeptic has to admit it’s happening: Yes, we are indeed getting a new album from The Libertines. Named after a World War I poem, Anthems For Doomed Youth will be the band’s third longplayer and the first since 2004. The release date has now been revealed to be September 4th of this year, along with the album cover, and most importantly, a first single and video. Gunga Din picks up surprisingly close to where The Libertines left off eleven years ago. “It feels like nothing’s changed”, sings Carl Barât, and indeed the four members seem just as prone to rowdy nights out as ever, if one is to believe the new video. Filmed in Thailand, it shows Barât, co-frontman Pete Doherty, bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell tumbling through the streets of Pattaya, Thailand, drinking, passing out in hotel rooms, as if they weren’t ten years older now than in the prime of their career. Luckily, the youthful exuberance has not gone missing from their music; The Libertines still know how to write a huge sing-along chorus, and still spit out their lines with as much vigour as ever. Gunga Din definitely gives us high hopes for album no. 3, and we’re looking forward to their Lollapallooza Berlin performance in September, which we will be covering for you as well.

(Our visitors from Germany can watch the video on VEVO)

Festival Season 2015: Lunatic Festival, Lüneburg (DE)

We said we would, and so we did:

Those two of us that were spending the weekend in Lüneburg were also busy working at this year’s campus festival, which has been steadily growing every year since 2004. Therefore we weren’t able to really see any of the acts playing. But the two days (Friday and Saturday) were still enough time to realise that it’s impeccably organised (even though literally all the work is done by students of Leuphana University in Lüneburg, so props to them). It’s not even really the music that counts at this event, even though you can barely escape the beats and riffs floating over the festival grounds. There’s graffiti artists, DIY-lemonade stands, a 360° performance stage for comedy, screenprinting workshops, information tents about social and political issues and every piece of food and drink is vegetarian. Sustainability is in every corner, and that’s what counts. Even the festival merch is organic, and beautifully illustrated as well. It’s a small festival, easily overlooked, and I’m having a lot of fun simply listening to bands like Bergfilm, Carnival Youth and Balthazar from the press lounge where I’m editing my pictures between my time shooting bands on the smaller stage – the Spielwiese (lit. “play meadow”. Yes. It is a meadow. But it’s small and nice and there are no barriers in front of the stage).

We’ll simply leave you with a little gallery from the first June weekend (at which we had temperature peaks of 31°C and no rain). I’ll do my best to be shooting at Lunatic next year as well.

(Click on a picture for large view)

All photos © by S. Prahl

Album review: Cayucas – Dancing At The Blue Lagoon

cayucas-coverIf you’re a fan of sun-drenched, dreamy indie pop, you may have come across Cayucas already. The twin brother duo, made up of Zack and Ben Yudin, have named themselves after their sleepy Californian hometown, and already had a hit with namesake track Cayucos off their 2013 debut album Bigfoot. Their new longplayer Dancing At The Blue Lagoon (released on June 19 in Germany) continues in the tradition of the first by skilfully delivering the soundtrack to lazy summer days. This does not mean, however, that the album was monotone or forgettable: songs like the first hit single Moony Eyed Walrus or Hella will make you stir up the sand between your toes as your chilled out beach day turns into a dance party.

With the euphoric strings on Champion or opener Big Winter Jacket, Cayucas prove they can add original ideas to the slightly overdone genre of ‘tropical indie’ while also bringing a welcome melancholy into their songs which lends them depth as well as a thick sense of nostalgia. Even if you’ve never been to the town of Cayucos or the mythical Blue Lagoon, you will probably feel some sense of a place, real or imaginary, while listening to this album. It is also one of those records that start revealing their layers with time, and are therefore worth listening to several time to fully grasp them.