Schlagwort Archiv: live review

Reeperbahn Festival 2019

Sasami live in concert @Knust Hamburg Festival

It’s that time of the year again: the famous Kiez of St. Pauli buzzing with sounds, words and music fans during the 14th edition of the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. Four festival days packed with numerous talks, awards and meetings – Same procedure as last year? The answer is both yes and no.


Taking part at the annual RBF almost feels like a very pleasant class reunion: meeting up with dear old friends I only get see once a year like Dino, who works for Redeye Distribution in Berlin or my dear colleague Alice from Aachen. She runs the fabulous blog Offbeat Music and also cares for music in her radio shows for ByteFM and NovumFM. And of course, there’s loads of music to hear and to discover! Sometimes too much at once with 90 venues on board for 600 shows. Not really a bad thing, right?

W.H. Lung

I wasn’t at all familiar with the first band I watched on Wednesday evening and had no idea what to expect. W.H. Lung hail from Manchester, played as a five piece and mix several goods from the 70ties to 90ties: some kind of motorik synthie-pop, combined with a shoegaze guitar sound and a slight dark wave attitude. Imagine Stone Roses married to Neu! while flirting with Joy Division. It was a wild combination, groovy and forceful. The lanky singer of W.H. Lung exposed some versatile skills in body balance while his bare feet showed a daring collection of colourful toenails.

Bobby Oroza

Another flamboyant detail popped up later this evening when the Finnish soul singer Bobby Oroza played his showcase at Angie’s Nightclub. He presented his soul-soaked tunes in a matching wardrobe from head to foot with classy dark suit, pocket square and shiny black shoes. All topped up with magenta-coloured socks! Oroza’s handsome appearance and sentimental sound may feel like being caught in a long-lost time warp, but that’s fine. His heartfelt crooning was perfectly harmonized, relaxed and comforting, sometimes refined with jazzy guitar chops and an up-tempo rhythm section. At one point he apologized: “I only got love songs. I hope that’s alright?”. No doubt about it, Bobby Oroza’s a humble artist with exceptional style and talent.

Sasami

Thursday for me at the Reeperbahn Fest was a bit of a dilemma. Three showcases I wanted to see shared the same time slot. Bummer! In the end I chose Sasami and I think this was a pretty good decision. The classically trained indie-songwriter Sasami Ashworth is anything but ordinary. She’s an artist making her own way and transformed her songs to an inspiring live experience as a trio. Sometimes I worried her long hair might get tangled up between the strings of her guitar. Her performance was raw and powerful with a refreshing and healthy “fuck this!” attitude. Sasami never intended to please the crowd. But she’s on a mission and she cares for female empowerment. Again and again she mentioned the hashtag #empoweringwoman. Right on! Some people in the audience were overwhelmed, if not disturbed by her statements, and she obviously touched a raw nerve.

And here’s the thing: The Reeperbahn Festival signed up to Keychange, an international initiative who cares about gender equality in the music industry. This year’s line-up was indeed progressive, lots of female artists included like Sasami from California and her excellent female rhythm section. But the harsh truth is: the venue for her was only half-filled and the audience mostly male. Sasami definitely deserved better.

The Stroppies Melbourne live in concert @ Molotow Hamburg RBF#19

The Stroppies

My next musical highlight happened on Friday, shortly after midday. Australia was this year’s focus country and thankfully not only big names like Feist were thrown into the festival field, also the less known Indiepop act The Stroppies played two shows.

The stage at Molotow for The Stroppies was tiny and the PA system wasn’t the best. Nevertheless, the four-piece from Melbourne managed to play an enjoyable and charismatic set of old school jangly guitar tunes. I quite liked the enthusiasm of the drummer, who sang along all the time although he had no mike. The bass player was super cool and her deadpan vocals added a light post-punk feel in to the mix while the other singer changed between strumming the guitar or dealing with the vintage keyboard. Sometimes on his knees and with his head on the keys. Above all, it was fun and fresh. The Stroppies finished off with delights and the brooding vibe of Cellophane Car – this alone was already worth doing the festival trip to Hamburg! But hold on, there was more good stuff to follow.

Penelope Isles

When the Brighton quartet Penelope Isles released their debut album on Bella Union this year, I worshipped a few tracks. But live, they were incredibly impactful and impressive. With up to four voices in the mix, Penelope Isles presented a super tight and powerful performance of harmony-laden indie rock galore and beyond. The band acted like a solid unit, easily managed to shift between instruments and genres. Maybe it’s because the two singers and songwriters are brother and sister – it’s a family affair with a deeper understanding for sonic aesthetics and expression. Their song Gnarbone ended up as a ten-minute adventure of captivating heavy psyche-rock dynamics. At some point the track ended, but suddenly they start again and the audience just went crazy. It was one of these special goosebumps’ moments, a rare treat in live music these days.

Thank you Penelope Isles and thank you Reeperbahn Festival 2019. It was a real pleasure again.

 

27th September 2019

Teenage Fanclub performing the Creation Years

Teenage Fanclub live review Creation Years London Birmingham

I have a lot of love for chiming guitars and music made in Scotland, particularly for Glasgow’s Teenage Fanclub. October 9th in 1990, I was one of nine people in the audience, when the band played their very first gig in Hamburg. A billboard sign outside the Motolow announced “Teenage Fanclub from England”. To make things clear, someone crossed out the term England and wrote Scotland in capital letters. It was a night to remember.

Techno & Tequila

Despite the small crowd, the performance was powerful, the sound quite raw and the hair pretty long(ish). After the show I went to a bar called Sparr and bumped into the crew of young Scotsmen again. Somehow, guitarist and singer Norman Blake spotted my English textbook and started talking to me. I explained to him I had a test in school early next morning and still need to learn some stuff. That night I definitely brushed up my English. But I missed the exam because me and my friend Sonja ended up hanging out with Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley for a few more hours.

There’s no curfew in Hamburg and we cruised up and down the legendary Reeperbahn. We drifted into pubs and bars, danced in a shady techno club, drank way too much tequila, had awful coffee in the morning and played a round of Trivial Pursuit in the tour van before parting ways around midday. At that point I had no idea, that Teenage Fanclub were about to produce some of the finest records ever and that I’d still be friends with them almost three decades later.

Gerry Love Dave McGowan Teenage FanclubFor some reason, Teenage Fanclub have never failed to deliver the quality. They proved to be a cherished constant in turbulent times, survived the ups and downs of the music biz, the era of grunge and Brit-pop by just carrying on doing their own thing. But the idea of celebrating the sublime years and reissues of Creation Records with a three-night concert series seemed very ambitious to me. Some songs never played live before had all to be learned from scratch. Furthermore the original drummers were invited to get back into action. Do they actually still know how to keep the tempo?

On top of all, it was announced that bass player, songwriter and vocalist Gerard Love is parting ways with the band right after this tour. It’s the end of an era, but not the end of Teenage Fanclub. However, there was no way I was going to miss this very last chance to hear the three distinct songwriters performing their irresistible, much loved harmonies.

Blow away the cobwebs

In retrospect, I’m glad I went to the three-night residency in Birmingham and not only to the London shows. The O2 Institute in Birmingham was a mid-sized venue, packed with devoted fans from all over the world and offered a more intimate environment compared to London. The first night was all about Bandwangonesque (1991) and Thirteen (1993) They played both complete albums in the original order, only interrupted for a small break between sets. And when Teenage Fanclub kicked off with The Concept, the magic happened: hearing the spirit of 1991 is like receiving the holy grail. It’s an overwhelming feeling, a throwback into youth and not only a thing of nostalgia: the band sounded better than ever.

Also, it was a joy to see the original drummer from the early years, Brendan O’Hare. He may not be the most formidable percussionist, but he created a great sense of fun and played an unexpected role during this series of concerts. I suppose I wasn’t the only one who went to these shows with mixed feelings. There was a delicate sense of uneasiness in the air knowing Gerard will soon separate from the band for good. Whenever things turned a bit awkward, Brendan had a charming way to deal with it. Like when a small crowd on night two in Birmingham kept singing a slightly annoying version of Haddaways What Is Love for the soon departing Mr. Love, Brendan saved the situation by stepping on stage, frankly saying: “On behalf of the band – shut the fuck up!”.

Goosebumps

Night number two was all about GrandSetlist Teenage Fanclub Prix (1995) and Songs From Northern Britain (1997) and presented the most successful episode of Teenage Fanclub’s back catalogue. Here, we had Paul Quinn back on the drums. He delivered a tight backbone to the songs and enjoyed playing along with his old pals again. But I wondered what it’s like for Francis, having to clear his seat most of the time for Brendan and Paul. Francis MacDonald nearly disappeared in the back behind a pile of instruments and almost secretly added whatever was needed. He filled all gaps by playing along and singing harmonies and showed he’s a pretty versatile all-rounder.

Just like Dave McGowan, who also added some salt into the mix and necessary extras to the sound of Teenage Fanclub. It’s obvious, how much he enjoys playing with this band and how he’s eventually stepping away from acting just in the background.

Hearing the third and final night in Birmingham for me was probably most exciting. I always thought Howdy! (2000) was a hidden gem. Plus, I had no idea what to expect in the second part filled with numerous B-sides. Some surprises and highlights were played and a very emotional moment happened in the end while the band performed the mantra-like ballad Broken – the audience joined in and kept singing on while the music slowly faded out. Just the right amount of goosebumps.

London vs. Birmingham

The three nights in London were magnificent as well, but the huge Electric Ballroom (capacity 1500) was tightly packed and the sound system appeared a bit dodgy. I found myself squeezed in between tall guys who wholeheartedly sang along all the while. They knew every word and had strong voices – I didn’t hear much of the singing coming from stage. Which was fine, really. Another special thing about these Teenage Fanclub shows is seeing, how dedicated and devoted the fans are. There was happiness and passion all around and many broad smiles. The enthusiasm seemed unlimited.

Raymond McGinley Norman Blake Teenage FanclubThe Fanclub-way

While Birmingham had a cover version of Madonna’s Like A Virgin, the London show was finished off with their debut single Everything Flows. And yes, it’s not really a song from their Creations catalogue but it made perfect sense. Choosing this anthem-like tune as a farewell and presenting it in a “charismatic, shambolic Fanclub-way” (to quote Brendan here) seemed appropriate in the context of the event.

Visiting these shows, was a joyous, intense experience. I’ve seen this band countless times in many different stages and cities. But hearing some songs for the first time live was remarkable. It showed again, how much good this music evokes. And that there’s so much more incredible stuff in the Teenage Fanclub back-catalogue. Sidewinder, a song with Brendan on vocals was a true highlight. I had this song in my head for many days. Norman Blake’s very stripped-down acoustic performance of If I Never See You Again was sublime and emotionally resonant. Furthermore, Thaw Me and My Uptight Life by Raymond McGinley were stellar and left a lasting impression on me. I’d love to hear these songs again in the future, when they carry on without Gerard Love. Of course, Gerry’s presence and songs will be deepy missed. But after all, Teenage Fanclub life goes on! For next year, the band announced plenty of tour dates for Asia, Australia, North America and Europe. All German dates in April are supported by my beloved radio station ByteFM. See you there?!

 

4th December 2018

Reeperbahn Festival 2018

Reeperbahn Festival 2018

Reeperbahn Festival 2018

The Reeperbahn Festival in my hometown Hamburg is always a spectacular event. Drifting along the Kiez of St. Pauli, checking out various live acts in different venues and meeting lots of wonderful people like my dear colleague and friend Alice Peters-Burns (Kaleidoskop/Offbeat) is simply hard to beat. Although it’s not always easy to take a decision on what to do as the four festival days are more than packed: music-related events in the fields of photo exhibitions, literature and films compete with networking events, meetings, award ceremonies, parties and numerous concerts around the Reeperbahn. Of course, I set a focus on seeing live shows. So, here’s a short summary of what I like to share with you.

Anna Burch

Detroit based singer-songwriter Anna Burch played in a venue next to my beloved radio station ByteFM and surprisingly she changed her bob hair into a simple short cut. With this new look she could’ve easily been mistaken for Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos. Only Anna Burch has a different, rather cool charisma. Besides that, she presented her upbeat dreamy slacker-pop with the elegant upright posture of a dancer and did a good job. Everyone seemed happy when the minor hit-single Tea-Soaked Letter resounded by the end of the show.

Halo Maud

Halo Maud live Reeperbahn Festival 2018 Angies's Night Club HamburgAlors mes amis, the music scene of France got some extra attention during this year’s Reeperbahn Festival with exceptional talents like Halo Maud from Paris. Her debut album Je Suis Une Île is a hazy mixture of proggy French pop and psychedelic. It really makes no difference whether Maud Nadal sings in her native tongue French or switches to English. She clearly found a voice of her own and developed a memorable style. Seeing the band live as a four piece, it was more than easy to get into it. The rhythmic power drew you into the songs while the performance created a pleasantly seamless sound experience. Fact is, the dynamic of a show slows down and people’s attention quickly drift off due to re-tuning or change of equipment, but not here: Halo Maud have put some good thoughts into their live set and kept the energy flowing from start to finish.

Okkervil River

Some other extraordinary venues were added this year to the thirteenth edition of the Reeperbahn Festival, beautiful locations with pretty difficult sound qualities: The show of Okkervil River was set up in Hamburg’s largest main church, the Michel. Up to 2500 listeners fit into this place and the reverb of this huge building is just as overwhelming. Therefore simply too much for electrified music! The band tried to adjust and played a stripped-down version of their songs – nevertheless the sound was awfully blurry. Only when frontman Will Sheff wandered amidst the community, singing unplugged to his battered looking acoustic guitar, my ears were delighted.

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread

I also expected Michaul Nau to play a cosy acoustic set, as his late-night performance was due in the St. Pauli church – but he and his backing band The Mighty Thread played a pretty solid and straightforward show. Compared to the famous Michel, this neighbourhood church is a modest building. Luckily the reverb here was not as harsh and suited well to the rolling organic vibe of Michael Nau. With his crazy hair and reddish full beard, the songwriter from Maryland had the looks of a classical Russian author of the 19th century. But he’s a contemporary master of profound laidback songs. Not sure if the seated situation worked best that night for Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread, but for me it was ideal sitting down at the end of a long festival day and quietly tapping my foot along to the soulful, meandering melodies.

Liza Anne

Liza Anne live review Reeperbahn Festival 2018 @ PrinzenbarAnother good thing about the Reeperbahn Festival: it works without headliners. Only a special guest was shortly revealed on Friday – the British rock band Muse. While they played music for the masses, the real pleasant surprise happened next door at the Prinzenbar. In this dimly lit, tiny little room in Baroque-style I witnessed Liza Anne, a songwriter from Nashville TN. She got on stage with a pink overall and a red beret. Her three band mates all had work clothes in red. And yes indeed, they were hard workers: they played a tight show with a great energy and really nailed it. I walked home thinking that the future of indie rock is definitely female fronted.

Generally, with up to 600 shows in the mix, there’s a lot to see, but also much to miss out. However, it’s a small comfort knowing the Reeperbahn Festival will be back in 2019. Then, the musical focus is set on Australia – another thing looking forward to!

28th September 2018

Andy Shauf live review

Andy Shauf live Winterthurer Musikfestwochen

Andy Shauf @ Wintherthurer Musikfestwochen 2017

 

Last weekend I took the train to Winterthur about 90 minutes NE of Bern, to pay a visit to the city’s annual Musikfestwochen. The name “Musikfestwochen” sounds like an earnest classical affair, but don’t worry: this neat and predominantly free festival started in the seventies as an alternative music event and proudly celebrated its 42nd edition this year with 12 days of music and a nice selection of local and international acts. Thankfully the rainfall stopped in time and the sun came out again when I found myself in the historic center of Winterthur on Saturday to watch the Canadian singer-/songwriter Andy Shauf. He released the most impressive concept album last year based on a party, filled up with sophisticated string arrangements and mesmerizing melodies. Furthermore I was curious to hear, how this intimate, soul-feeding gentle pop works out on a Swiss festival stage.

Of course, you figured out by now that the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen is not a common festival. Apart from some notorious hipsters the audience is pretty mixed, more like a social event for all ages. And the whole setting is nice and comfortable, with many stalls to get your beer from the local “Chopfab” brewery or traditional Swiss food. All this works well for Andy Shauf. When he enters the stage, long haired and coupled with a trucker cap, he looks like the young J Mascic of Dinosaur Jr. But this first impression on Andy Shauf from Regina, Saskatchewan is leading to the wrong path: instead of furious feedbacks he prefers tone over volume and creates an emotionally resonant and captivating performance from the first minute to the end. His narrative style is accompanied by a full band which includes not only one, but two clarinet players and they capture the studio sound of the record surprisingly well: all the subtleties and melodic lines sound perfect and the audience pays decent attention, although most of them probably had never heard of Andy Shauf before and want to see the other acts of the following evening.

While the sun sets down, the Irish songwriter Glen Hansard puts on a solid one man show for the lovers of more roots inflicted singer-/songwriting tunes. Thereafter it’s time for another renowned artist from Canada: Feist is closing the night with a glamorous show, performing songs from her latest album Pleasure. I’m surprised how relaxed she keeps chopping her guitar and how she enjoys talking to the audience in-between songs. But when I head back home, it’s the empathetic sound world of Andy Shauf that keeps spinning in my head.

Anyhow, it looks like I’ll be getting on the train again in August 2018, when another round of music and celebration hits the lovely town center of Winterthur.