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Live: MS Dockville 2016, Hamburg (DE)

Zum zehnten Jubiläum legte das MS Dockville sich ganz besonders ins Zeug: ein Line-Up, das in der Spitze wie in der Breite zu überzeugen wusste, ein wie immer atemberaubend schönes Gelände und die entspannte, ausgelassene Stimmung machten 2016 zu einem der besten Dockville-Jahre in letzter Zeit.

Die Acts: Von den zehn Ausgaben seit 2007 war ich bei ganzen sieben; zuletzt war es aber immer wieder das mangelhafte Line-Up bei stetig steigendem Ticketpreis, das mich von einem Besuch absehen ließ. Dieses Jahr war das Dockville ein Festival der positiven Überraschungen: Gab das Line-Up bei einem vorherigen Hördurchgang nicht viel her außer bereits bekannten Favoriten wie Foals, Bilderbuch (die ich aufgrund des Timetables nicht sehen konnte) oder Unknown Mortal Orchestra, erwiesen sich die großen Lücken in meinem Zeitplan letztlich als Segen: Acts wie Faber, Isolation Berlin oder Die Nerven gaben einen hervorragenden “Zeitvertreib” ab. Dadurch verzieh ich auch das Booking gruseliger Formatradio-Verbrechen wie Matt Corby, Frances oder der furchtbar unlustigen Klaas-Heufer-Umlauf-Band Gloria.

geländeDie Besucher: Das Dockville-Publikum ist durchschittlich etwa 20 Jahre alt, trägt genderunabhängig Blumen im Haar und Glitzer im Gesicht, sowie in 80% der Fälle einen Turnbeutel mit witzigem Spruch der Wahl auf dem Rücken. Außerdem ist es äußerst ingenieurstechnisch begabt, wenn es darum geht, ein einzigartiges Erkennungs-Maskottchen zu erschaffen, das an einem hohen Stab über der Crowd geschwenkt wird, um die eigene Freundesgruppe zusammenzuführen (Highlight: ein seifenblasenspuckender Affenkopf mit LED-Augen). Als Wahlberlinerin fiel mir zudem auf, dass alle Hinweisschilder etc. am Gelände auf Deutsch gehalten sind: Das Dockville ist trotz weiterhin steigender Bekanntheit anscheinend immer noch ein lokales Ereignis.

Die Politik: Die Hamburger AFD legte jüngst Beschwerde bei der Kulturbehörde ein, wieso man ein Festival finanziell unterstütze, bei dem angeblich linksradikale Bands wie Slime oder Feine Sahne Fischfilet auftreten würden. Als Reaktion wurde ein riesiges “Fuck AFD”-Plakat am Gelände aufgehängt. Junge Teenager, die aussahen wie die Unschuld in Person, trugen “Niemand muss Bulle sein”-Beutel oder schwenkten Antifa-Flaggen bei den Auftritten von bekennenden linken Acts wie Sookee oder eben Feine Sahne. Auch weniger explizit politische Bands machten den Mund auf; etwa Faber in seinem Besorgte-Bürger-Song Wer nicht schwimmen kann, der taucht oder Isolation Berlin, die eine Textzeile zu “Er schnauzt mich von der Seite an, ob ich nicht stolz sei auf dieses Land” änderten. Ausschreitungen, Aggressionen und sonstiges Arschlochverhalten waren meiner Erfahrung nach vollkommen abwesend vom Festival.

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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.

SONY DSC
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: 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.

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

Live: Captain Casanova in Hamburg (DE), 19.04.2015

Last weekend, we had the honour to present our first concert with Indie Pen Dance! We had the lovely Captain Casanova playing at little Komet Bar just off the bright lights of Reeperbahn. And since a picture is worth a 100 words, we’ll leave you with the highlights in photo format…

(all pictures © S. Prahl)

Live: Pale Honey + Light FM in Berlin (DE), 09.04.2015

On a Thursday night, I was drawn to the lovely Schokoladen in Berlin-Mitte, a small, cosy and very reasonably priced cultural centre off polished Torstraße. Being a good place to discover new or underground artists in a small setting, the venue had two promising indie bands on that night: Pale Honey, a grunge-y girl duo from Sweden, and LA indie-pop trio Light FM.

lightfm
© D. Prahl

Curiously, the former were playing second, the ‘headliner’ spot, despite not even having an album out (their debut is scheduled for May 5th), while Light FM have been around since ’99, putting out five albums in their career. But apparently, hype beats longevity in the minds of the bookers. With their Fiction EP and latest hit single Youth, Pale Honey have definitely gained some attention for the upcoming self-titled debut album. Light FM, meanwhile, were touring their recent Pointless EP, which had some catchy, shoegaze-y tracks to offer. The trio, comprised of Josiah Mazzaschi on guitar and vocals, Nicki Nevlin on bass and Alexa Brinkschulte on drums, played an enjoyable set of synth-heavy indie-pop full of strong melodies.

The club only really filled up when Pale Honey came on, though. Which was a shame because personally I liked Light FM’s set much better. Despite the strong singles they had put out, Pale Honey’s show seemed lifeless, the music bland and interchangeable. I tried to listen for a few tracks, but eventually decided to call it a day and leave early. The rest of the audience didn’t seem to mind – maybe it just wasn’t my kind of music.

Live: SoKo in Hamburg (DE), 20.03.2015

Do you ever go to a concert without any expectations? Not necessarily in a bad way, just… no expectations whatsoever. The night is a blank white page. Whatever happens, you will not see it coming.

Spread legs, not lies (© S. Prahl)

That’s how Yours Truly enters Molotow Club on a chilly Friday night, in the exact moment Parasite Single start. Tonight, they’re the support act for singer SoKo, who plays only two German dates on her European tour, this one in Hamburg. Experimental electronic beats sound from the drum computer and MacBook, but they didn’t miss to bring a guitar, too. The Hamburg-based band is excited to play and is lucky enough to look onto a packed club by the end of their set. The gig apparently sold out in the course of the evening, and I’m ready to leave right after the first three songs I’m allowed to photograph tonight – I need to be up at 6 AM on the next day.

"I can't find vegan burgers to eat here. So I'm gonna eat vegan… something else." (whispered:) "Pussyyyy." – SoKo, everyone. (© S. Prahl)
“I can’t find vegan burgers to eat here. So I’m gonna eat vegan… something else.” (whispered:) “Pussyyyy.” – SoKo, everyone. (© S. Prahl)

SoKo is actually a Polish-Russian-Italian-French lady born and raised in France named Stéphanie Sokolinski. Back when her debut album was released, she sported a hippie look with a long brown mane. As you do. Now, with her new album “My Dreams Dictate My Reality” out, along with her soft guitar sounds, the hair is gone. She’s become gradually more ‘white goth’, as she says herself – taking the stage with a dirty black-rooted blond bob, old leather jacket and red eyeshadow. And she’s so ready for this. SoKo has brought along her four-piece backup band – two guys and two gals, including her brother Max. They race through newbies like “Ocean Of Tears” and “My Precious”. In between songs, SoKo ponders on the lack of vegan burgers, legal weed in Amsterdam, and simply changes the setlist the way she wants to. Four girls have the honour to be asked to come on stage for “I Thought I Was An Alien” and animate the crowd to dance from up there – which they do, very gracefully. It is decided that an alien’s best name would be Jake.

Hair Envy: Max Sokolinski (© S. Prahl)
Hair Envy: Max Sokolinski (© S. Prahl)

This is just one of the unpredictable things SoKo likes to do on stage – before “Bad Poetry” she’d like someone to come on stage and recite poetry, later she lifts her shirt and informs us that her view on feminism is that ‘everybody should show their tits’ … when nobody but one girl volunteers to free themselves of their tops and bras and dance onstage half naked, she’s severely disappointed in the Hamburg crowd. Are we especially conservative? Who knows. Not really.

By now you might have noticed that I have, indeed, not left after the first three songs. There is no way I would miss the rest of this set just for a couple hours more sleep.

After a fun dance party for “Who Wears The Pants” (including the splits behind the synths – no biggie!) and multiple shared kisses with her bandmates, for “Lovetrap”, the singer introduces us to a virtual version of Ariel Pink – phrases recorded by the L.A.-based musician on different buttons on her drum computer. It’s maybe the most experimental duet I’ve ever witnessed.

As fun as the night starts, as melancholic it ends. SoKo’s songs get gradually slower, sadder and more quiet. During “For Marlon” she even interrupts herself and tells the bartenders collecting empty bottles to ‘shut the fuck up’. For another song, she asks her dear friend Ryan Karazija from Low Roar to come on stage and sing a song with her – their voices perfectly in harmony, and the whole room as quiet as it could possibly be.

Some dancing aliens called Jake (© S. Prahl)
Some dancing aliens called Jake (© S. Prahl)

It’s not getting any better after the encore: “Nervous Breakdown” is a short intermission with SoKo herself on the drums, while for “Keaton’s Song”, a beautiful track dedicated to fellow singer/songwriter Keaton Henson that wonderfully channels Henson’s own melancholic melodies, the bass is exchanged for a contrabass. As if we weren’t in love with the whole band enough already.

If I’d had any expectations, they would definitely have been exceeded. And for an experience like this, I happily give up part of my sleep. My last words of wisdom: Even if SoKo plays at 2 AM on a Sunday at any festival, if you’re there, go watch. You will not be disappointed.

Q&A: Cold Acid

Es ist Dienstag, als wir vor dem Pooca auflaufen. Zusammen mit zwei anderen Bands spielen Cold Acid aus Berlin heute Abend in der kleinen Bar auf dem Hamburger Berg. Die drei Jungs machen teilweise seit Schulzeiten zusammen Musik. Ihr tanz- und mitgrölbarer Indierock lässt jeden auf die Tanzfläche strömen, und das alles quasi im Selbstmanagement. Cold Kids Don’t Need Agencies, oder so. Wir landen also mit Daniel, Christopher und Eric beim Italiener, um uns bei Pizza und Bier zu unterhalten, untermalt von den ewig sich wiederholenden Klängen von “Time To Say Goodbye”. Irgendwie ironisch. Wir lernen uns doch gerade erst kennen.

Sänger Daniel, der eigentlich meistens bei Interviews nicht reden darf weil er immer Quatsch erzählt, blüht heute ganz besonders auf. In der nächsten halben Stunde erfahren wir, wie man Bandmitglieder per Bestechung rekrutiert und warum die Jungs nie mit Scooter touren würden, aber dafür gerne mal mit Helene Fischer.


IPD: Fangen wir mal von vorne an: Wie habt ihr euch überhaupt kennengelernt, seit wann gibt es euch?

Daniel: Eric und ich sind zusammen zur Schule gegangen. Ich hab damals schon Musik gemacht, seit ich 14 war, und Eric hat Schlagzeug gespielt. Immer wenn ich mit meiner damaligen Band nicht geprobt hab – weil unser Schlagzeuger sein letztes Geld für doppelt frittierte Hühnchenbrust ausgegeben hat, anstatt sich Sticks zu kaufen – haben Eric und ich dann geprobt. Wir kommen eigentlich aus Brandenburg, haben dort unsere erste Band gegründet, sind dann beruflich bedingt nach Berlin gezogen und haben unsere Band in Brandenburg verlassen. Das hatte für uns auch keine Zukunft musikalisch. Wir wollten beide weitermachen, mussten aber feststellen, dass wir keine Leute finden. Lustigerweise haben wir mit unserer alten Band auf einer Anti-Nazi-Demo gespielt, wo auch Christopher mit seiner Band gespielt hat. Der war zumindest Fan von uns, weil wir Turbonegro gecovert haben und er eine Turbojugend-Jacke anhatte. Auf der Suche nach einem Gitarristen ist Eric und mir dann nur noch Christopher eingefallen, der komischerweise sogar bei mir um die Ecke gewohnt hat. Und dann haben wir uns mal zu dritt getroffen, mit zwei Gitarren und ‘nem Schlagzeug.

Christopher: Ich wurde mehr oder weniger dazu genötigt!

Eric: Wir haben uns auf einem Konzert getroffen und haben ihm ganz viel Bier gekauft.

Christopher: Gaaanz viel Bier! Dann hieß es so: ‘Ja, du hast auch Bock auf so Schweinerock?’ Ich wurde mega abgefüllt und auf einmal hieß es: ‘Hey, hast du nicht Bock bei uns in der Band zu spielen?’

Eric: Das war der erste Abend, wo wir zu dritt unterwegs waren. Wir waren aber bei Myspace connected und haben uns auf ‘nem Hellacopters-Konzert getroffen. Und ich glaube, dann haben wir auf der Warschauer Brücke auf dem Rückweg vom Konzert darüber gequatscht.

Daniel: Auf jeden Fall haben wir dann versucht, weitere Leute für die Band zu finden, weil wir keinen kannten. Übers Internet war blöd, so ziemlich jeder, der sich da reinstellt, hat eine verzerrte Selbstwahrnehmung von sich als Musiker. Irgendwann saßen wir in einer Kneipe, schon mächtig einen im Tee, und haben gesagt: Wir haben jetzt ein Jahr lang nach ‘nem Bassisten gesucht, das geht so nicht weiter. Dann wurde halt entschieden, wer von uns Gitarre spielt. Die Wahl ist auf mich gefallen und Christopher musste sich einen Bass kaufen. Hat er dann am nächsten Tag gleich, für 70€ auf eBay.

Daniel: Beim Gesang war es dann halt so, dass jeder mal probiert und der, bei dem es am wenigsten scheiße klingt, der macht es dann halt. Vor unserem ersten Konzert hatten wir sechs eigene Nummern und wollten einfach mal gucken, wie es so wird. Und wir hatten noch nicht einmal in die Saiten gehauen, da kamen schon drei Leute an, die uns – bevor sie uns gehört hatten! irgendwelche anderen Konzerte andrehen wollten. Da waren wir dann auch ein bisschen verdutzt. Wir haben dann angefangen, noch mehr Songs zu schreiben und Demos aufzunehmen. Danach ging alles recht schnell: Mitte des Jahres haben wir nur mit einer MySpace-Seite erste Konzerte gebucht und ein Fotoshooting in einer Kita gemacht.

Christopher: Das ist echt schon fünf Jahre her.

IPD: Und dann habt ihr weiter gemacht.

Daniel: Und wollten unseren Sound verändern. Anfangs war das so Hellacopters-Rock’n’Roll-Krimskrams, aber es gab halt so viele Bands, die genauso klingen, also war es schwierig, da rauszustechen. Wir haben dann auch privat unseren musikalischen Horizont erweitert.

Christopher: Wir haben ganz viel Black Rebel Motorcycle Club und Picturebooks gehört.

Daniel: Mittlerweile sind wir wieder an dem Punkt, wo wir uns noch weiter entwickeln und ein bisschen an der Schraube drehen wollen.

Christopher: Wir haben zum Beispiel 2012 unsere erste Platte aufgenommen [‘Cold Kids Don’t Need Acid’], im Studio von The BossHoss. Das war eigentlich ‘ne ganz gute Zeit. Wenn du reinkommst, siehst du halt die goldenen Schallplatten überall und bist schon ein bisschen überwältigt. Und wir haben echt wenig bezahlt dafür, dass wir dort so professionell aufnehmen durften.

Daniel: Was uns im Wesentlichen von anderen Bands unterscheidet ist, dass wir nie so viel Geld ausgegeben haben wie alle anderen, nie Kredite aufgenommen. Wir haben immer gesagt: ‘Wir brauchen halt Zeit.’ Um eine gute Platte aufzunehmen, braucht man schon Geld, aber man braucht vor allem gute Songs. Wir arbeiten alle noch nebenbei und stecken schon so echt viel Geld in die Band, da müssen wir nicht auch noch einem relativ Fremden Geld in den Hals stecken. Letztendlich trauen wir eigentlich überhaupt keinem.

IPD: Habt ihr mal über Crowdfunding nachgedacht?

Christopher: Bevor wir die Platte rausgebracht haben, gab es  zwei Angebote von Indie-Labels, aber wir dachten, wir können das alleine genauso schaffen. Wir haben in drei Jahren 150 Konzerte gespielt, in Österreich, Tschechien und Deutschland. Wir haben selber Konzerte gebucht, selber die Platte pressen lassen, und die Releaseparty organisiert in einem Club, wo 180 Leute reinpassen. Im Endeffekt haben da über 200 Leute Eintritt für bezahlt. Wir haben selber Plakate geklebt, auf der ganzen Warschauer Straße, und es hat sich ausgezahlt! Wir brauchen keine Agentur, kein Label, jedenfalls nicht jetzt. Irgendwann kommt aber der Punkt, dass du den nächsten Schritt gehen willst, z. B. vier Wochen am Stück auf Tour sein und irgendwann Zeit für ein Album haben. 2011, 2012 und 2013 haben wir jedes Wochenende gespielt, einfach um präsent zu sein.

IPD: Wie weit seid ihr mit eurer zweiten Platte jetzt?

Daniel: Wir sind, wie gesagt, dabei, uns musikalisch ein bisschen zu verändern. Letztendlich muss man abwägen, was wir für Möglichkeiten haben für die Platte. Ich glaube nicht, dass wir diesmal total viel Geld dafür ausgeben werden. Alle Leute in Agenturen machen nichts anderes als wir: telefonieren, E-Mails rausschicken… dafür braucht man sich nicht in Agenturen einkaufen. Uns geht’s jetzt erst mal darum, Demos zu veröffentlichen, die uns musikalisch wirklich weiterbringen.

Christopher: Wir haben ja schon bei der ersten Platte gesagt, dass uns eigentlich jemand fehlt, der daneben sitzt und sagt, wo wir noch was verändern können. Wir haben aber schon Demos aufgenommen und Ideen gesammelt. Da geht was.

Daniel: Es wird von uns ja auch nicht erwartet, jedes Jahr ein Album rauszubringen. Wir sind jetzt auch keine Band, die, wenn einer grad mal keinen Bock hat, sich sofort auflöst.

IPD: Gibt es andere Bands aus Berlin, die ihr im Moment gut findet?

Daniel: I Like Ambulance.

Christopher: Stop Eating Robots! Ich persönlich mag sehr Coogans Bluff. Es gibt aber keine Berliner Band, die so gut zu uns passt, dass ich mir vorstellen kann, mit denen auf Tour zu gehen.

IPD: Mit welchen Bands würdet ihr denn gerne mal touren?

Daniel: Ich glaube, das wäre jede Band. Einfach jede.

Christopher: Du willst doch nicht sagen, dass du mit jeder Band touren würdest. Mit Scooter zum Beispiel würde ich nicht touren.

Daniel: Na klar würdest du.

Christopher: Vielleicht würde ich’s wirklich machen!

(alle lachen)

Daniel: Aber nur fürs Geld dann.

IPD: Angenommen du kriegst kein Geld und dürfest dir eine Band aussuchen?

Daniel: Wenn ich jetzt zum Beispiel mit Black Rebel Motorcycle Club touren könnte, wüsste ich, dass ich jeden Abend eine geile Show sehen würde. Ob die Typen nett sind oder nicht, kann keiner wissen, aber ich würde sie trotzdem mega gut finden für eine Tour.

Eric: Bei Black Rebel wäre ich auch dabei, die Tour spiele ich mit. Ich wäre aber zum Beispiel auch bei den Arctic Monkeys dabei.

Christopher: Ich würde gerne mit Cloud Nothings touren… Blood Red Shoes… Brody Dalle… Ich möchte mit Brody Dalle touren. Ich lege mich fest.

Daniel: Ich würde auch mit Helene Fischer touren, wenn sie die O2 World voll macht. Vor 17.000 Leuten? Natürlich. Weil du Musiker bist und in deinem Leben nie die Chance hättest, sonst so viele Leute zu erreichen.

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Heute Abend spielen die Jungs nicht vor 17.000 Leuten. Eher vor 17. Als die ersten beiden Bands durch sind, ist die Mehrheit der Gäste schon weg, aber das hindert Cold Acid nicht daran, trotzdem eine großartige Rockshow abzuliefern. Inklusive Drummerwechsel und Medley aus den besten Indie-Hits der Nullerjahre. Und wer vom Publikum übrig geblieben ist, bereut es ganz bestimmt nicht, noch länger geblieben zu sein.

(all photos © S. Prahl)