Monday, January 4, 2016

Gina

Gina, June 2001

In the morning of the 30th of December 2015 I was sitting at the gate at Düsseldorf Airport on my way to Scotland to enjoy one of the happiest days of the year when I got the message that my beautiful friend Gina's cancer tortured body had given in. Her heart had stopped beating. She was only 49 years old. 

The message did not come as a surprise. Gina had stage 4 ovarian cancer for 7.5 years at this point. I also know a bit about cancer and could read the frightening signs for quite a while already when a common friend informed me around Christmas that it would be any moment now (Thank you, dear Diana, for messaging me - it meant a lot to me). 
So I knew. But I also knew that knowing means nothing. It cannot prepare you for the cold hand that is clenching your heart when it happens. It cannot stop the feeling of emptiness that opens up around your soul. There is no way around but just one through it. 

Of course in a moment like this the first reflex is hiding. You want to be alone and cry and think about the person trying to get hold of the fading memories buzzing around your brain. You do not want to go on a fun trip. But then again ... if there was ONE fitting way to celebrate what we had and what had brought us together then it was traveling, seeing friends, seeing the favorite band and just ... LOVE DEATH AWAY
Everyone who was with me might now understand even better how happy I was when the Biff opened the night with "The Captain" and allowed me to sing along the finishing line that is also tattooed on my arms from the top of my lungs into the cold Scottish night. 

But I do not want to just talk about cancer and death. That is not who Gina was and not who she was for me. Let me introduce her to all of you a little bit more:
Her name was Gina DePalma and for many years she was the pastry chef in Mario Batali's Manhattan Restaurant Babbo. For the European ones ... the guest list there holds name like Bono, David Bowie, Matt Bellamy and many, many, many more famous and rich people ... just to give you directions that this is not your "around the corner pizza place". In her profession she was a super star - just google her name and see all the articles that were posted about her last week. She also received the James Beard award (like the Oscar just for chefs) and many other awards. She released a wonderful cook book, worked on a second one, wrote a part of one of Batali's book and articles for several websites and her own blog.
She was smart and had a big heart. She was opinionated and honest. She loved her family and friends, her cats, her work, she loved traveling, Italy ... and she loved music. A lot. 


Gina and I were friends since the late 90ies. Back in the days I was a student. There was some crazy thing coming up called "the internet" and I thought I better take a class to figure out how that works. So I did and while my co-students had trouble to understand what an attachment is I figured out how search engines (Alta Vista at the time) work and I typed in ... the name of my favorite band. OF COURSE I DID and it was "The Black Crowes" and boom .... a whole new world opened up - a  website and a miraculous thing called "Message Board" filled with crazy people just like me. People who would go to gigs together, trade tapes, share band related news. That was the day my friends started to live in my computer ... my still to day friends Jason and Sanae, who I met on the site as well, will remember our early days, when we were chatting from the computer rooms of our schools.
One of the people I met on this message board was Gina. We became friends, wrote long emails and soon it was not just about music and bands but our lives. I know that many people still find it weird when people meet each other over the internet but see .... we are all just human beings. Yes, some people might pretend on the net to be someone they are really not, but just like always in life that does not carry you far. You won't make real friends that way. But if you are yourself, if you invest in your friendships, when you make the effort to take it past the net .. it can be all real. 


It was so real that my family together with Gina organized a trip for me to visit her in New York as my graduation gift. It was supposed to be for the double headliner show of Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes and The Who at Madison Square Garden. Sadly that never happened because Jimmy Page had to cancel due to back problems. I am still heartbroken about this. 
We postponed the trip to the next tour which was The Tour Of Brotherly Love of The Black Crowes & Oasis in 2001.  We did see the show at the Radio City Music Hall. To be honest .... I have seen better Crowes shows and Oasis were the most boring band I have seen all my life, BUT ... that does not matter. 
What matters was the whole trip itself. I was in my 20ies and I had not much travel experience at that time and I had never been to the US before. You can imagine how excited, nervous, scared I was to fly all alone to New York to turn a computer friendship into a real life one and ... I mean .. NEW YORK! 

I am absolutely terrible with memories. One of the main reasons for me to have this blog is to write down memories to not lose them. I am a very "now and here" person and have trouble looking back even if I really want to. But that week in New York .... I still know almost everything about it. 

I remember that we shared a giant pizza the first night we spent in her apartment on Long Island - directly at the beach - where she lived at that time. I freaking loved that beach - I guess more than she did, but she needed a break from Manhattan for a little while. I remember having my first ever bagel for breakfast and taking a long walk along the waterfront with her and how bewildered she was that I went bare-feet in the sand. 
I remember how she kicked me out of bed at 5 am the other day because the Empire State Building platform is best right after sunrise and ... how right she was. I remember walking around the Uptown skyscrapers with her and having a hot dog at the corner of the Central Park. I remember how much we LOVED watching the polar bears diving into the pool at the Central Park Zoo. 
I remember when she showed me the East Village and where she had lived in exactly the house that is on the front cover of Physical Graffiti. I remember how she took me to China Town to eat weird stuff at a crazy busy Chinese place where all the high scale chefs would go for food late in the night after their shifts and how we went for my first "real" american burger down in Greenwich Village. 
I remember me hanging my head out of the car to look up to the tip of the World Trade Center only weeks before the towers came down at 9/11. I remember us driving back to Long Island one evening and me climbing around in the car because behind us the sun set and put the skyline of Manhattan on fire and in front of us over the salty emptiness of Long Island and the sea a huge silver moon was rising. It is to date one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. 
And finally I remember very well the day we cruised around on Long Island checking on tattoo parlors until we found one that was neat and clean and had nice folks with very decent books with great designs who would take walk-ins. A guest artist from California called Corey listened to us how we described  the guitar tattoo we both wanted and designed it for us. He then put on "Amorica" by The Black Crowes and I got the tattoo in black on my left upper arm and Gina got it in red. The same design. A bond that never breaks because a tattoo will never go away. I am so glad we did because it stays with me still now that she is gone. We celebrated the big event in the evening going for dinner in a fancy sea food restaurant and laughing about our awkward moves with our sore, wrapped up arms.

That trip changed me. I did not even realize it then, but when I look back now it very much was the starting point in the process of becoming the person I am now and formed the way I live my life. The Hogmanay celebrations only hours after her passing are probably the best possible proof for it. 


After the trip our friendship went on via the internet before it somehow faded out a bit as it happens often when life moves on. We never forgot each other or completely lost contact though. When I one day learned she had moved to Rome I wrote her and invited her to come to Munich so that I could show her my place now that she was so close (compared to New York). It never came to it because not much later she was diagnosed with this terrible cancer and had to stay in the US for treatment. 

Thankfully I had the chance to see her again. I visited her a few years ago in her apartment and we could even go for a longer walk together and chat and simply hug each other and enjoy being together in person. We also went for dinner the next day and it was fantastic. Great food, great talks - like the over 10 years between my first and second New York trip never happened. The following year I saw her one more time. She was in remission and even went back to work for a little while. We went after her shift together with my friend Gabrijela to a restaurant and talked about her second cook book and our travel plans and all kind of other things happening in our lives. Although she was tired after work she was very lively and I keep that picture of her talking with her hands describing recipes for her new book in my mind. 

My last email from her is only a few weeks old. I had told her about my plans for my future which are in the end also inspired by her and her decision to make her dream true to go to Rome. I wrote to her about my upcoming big surgery and how scared I was. I also told her that I had made the decision for the surgery together with my docs to not only solve of a long running health issue but also to get rid of the significantly above average chance to develop a certain type of cancer.
She wrote back immediately and encouraged me so much. She told me that I do the right thing and that I would be totally fine and even better than before and that I should not worry. It helped me tons. I read her email again right before I went to the hospital. And she was right ... it was rough, but now I am fine, the health issue is gone and so is the bigger than normal risk to get seriously ill and it is fantastic. She left me on a high note doing what she had done for me so often - encouraging me to be brave and strong and do what is best for me. She was very good with that. She really was. 


Thank you for listening and reading about a person that most of you never met and now can never meet. I would be very happy if you would take this as an opportunity to hug your friends and tell them that you love them and think a moment about the footprints they are leaving in your life. 

Wiser Time / The Black Crowes 

No time left now for shame
Horizon behind me, no more pain
Windswept stars blink and smile
Another song, another mile
You read the line every time
Ask me about crime in my mind
Ask me why another road song
Funny but I bet you never left home

On a good day, it's not every day
We can part the sea
And on a bad day, it's not every day
Glory beyond our reach
Seconds until sunrise
Tired but wiser for the time
Lightning 30 miles away
Three thousand more in two days


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris

TOUR DE BIFF - Paris, November 2013

Today several of my friends - friends I met through our shared love for music - are traveling to gigs. They keep going and it is the right thing to do. We go to shows because we love music, because we love sharing the experience of live music, because we love to travel and meet our friends and new, like minded folks. This is how I met lots of my friends. When we do this and become friends with our gig mates we do not care which country they come from, if they are rich or poor, young or old, black or white or anything else and in between nor which religion they have. Just like it should be. 

So in the name of those who lost there lives last night we will keep going, we will sing and dance together with our favorite artists and not let the darkness win. Because ..... LIGHT SHALL BREAK AND BRING A BRIGHT SKY!

And while we are on it ... what we have seen last night and much worse is what those refugees are fleeing from - threatened and chased away from their homes and loved ones often by the very same terrorists. Do not forget this and let humanity and not fear and hate win.

You cannot take this away from us ...

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Journey

On Saturday it finally happened .... for the first time since the "refugee crisis" started washing over Germany I had a real life discussion with one of those "I do not want to be seen as right wing, BUT ..." people. Crazy enough the person wasn't even German but a first generation immigrant. I should maybe not be too surprised as the story of Akif Pirincci - the Turkish immigrant who became one of the most popular speakers of the right wing anti refugee movement - nicely proofs that this obviously not a contradiction for some people. 

That discussion cost me tons of energy I do not have at the moment still recovering from my surgery and busy turning my own life upside down but there are situations where it's just not an option to stay quiet and not fight back. What it did though was confirming my decision that who ever comes up with talk like this will be removed from all my social media and my personal circle - close and far - with no further warning. It's a zero tolerance thing. I also decided to tell you a - true - story and I call it ... 


The Journey 

In the shine of a lamp a young woman is packing, packing to leave her home.
She had to think carefully what to pack, because she just could take what she could carry herself and it wasn't just for her, but also for her three little boys. The journey would be long and very dangerous, but her home was not safe anymore. It was war - a long, terrible, exhausting war that turned the country into rubble and ashes and the enemy was close. Very close. If she would not leave now it would be too late. She was alone because her husband was away fighting - like many others as well. She did not know if she would ever see him again. 


So she packed as many warm clothes as possible, little things for the boys and a metal box with some family pictures and a few important documents like the birth certificates. She also wrote a letter she left on the kitchen table begging the enemy's troops not to destroy her home. 
The woman was young for a mother of three. She was smart, but she had not much education - just a few years of basic grammar school - ... normal for 'just a girl' in that small town out in the countryside. Because sex was "not something to talk about" she had no idea when she - still a teenager - met that handsome young man who quickly got a bit more "close"  than anyone else had been before. Soon she found out she was pregnant and got married to the father of the child because that is what you do. She almost died giving birth to a big baby boy a few months later and the doctor told her she would never be able to have children again. She believed him and so she very soon was a mother of two and a few years later - with less surprise this time - of three boys. 

The following day she finally left the house with her children trying to get to their first destination:  The shore

The only realistic way to leave was the sea, but when she arrived at the harbor there were much more people trying to get on a boat than space available. So she counted herself lucky when they could finally make it on one of the ships together with some neighbors from her hometown. At some point during the passage those neighbors asked if she wanted to come to the other end of the ship but the kids were tired and she decided to stay where she was. 
She never saw them again, because all her biggest fears came true only moments later when the ship sank. There were only very few boats - by far not enough for the screaming, panicking mass of refugees aboard. The woman had not much time to think and at least try to save the lives of her children and herself. So she dropped her bags - the small pieces of her belongings she was still carrying - and ran with the boys towards the side of the ship were the boats were. The kids were screaming because they were so scared. They did not want to jump from the ship into the ice cold water so the young mother had no other option than throwing the crying children over board. Then she pressed the metal box with the birth certificates - the last proof of who she was - against her small chest and jumped as well. 

They survived. All of them. They were cold, sick, traumatized, homeless, penniless but alive when they arrived on save ground. Were they welcome? No, they were not. The people in their new hometown were overwhelmed by all the refugees and they had a lot of problems themselves and did not feel like they could deal with so many new people arriving. The young woman had no choice though than getting herself and her children registered and asking for help - clothes, food, a place to live, a chance to survive and rebuild their lives and hoping her whole family would be able to come together again. It was a new beginning anyway how hard it was ... 

Let me guess the pictures in your head. You think of the shores of Lesbos covered in bright orange life jackets. And you think of the woman carrying her kids towards a safer life like some of the Syrian mothers in the picture below. 


Image source: http://www.unwomen.org/

That is understandable, but you are wrong. Here is her real picture: 





That's the mother in the story - many years later obviously. Her name was Erika and she was my gran - my mother's mother. The little boys were my three uncles. 

So remember where you come from. Remember who build this country you are so comfortably live in now. Take a few minutes and think about what YOU would do to safe your life and the life of your children. And also remember why there was this war that forced my grandmother to leave her home. I was born in Germany several decades after the Nazi regime and I - as the individual person I am - do not feel guilty, BUT I feel that we have a responsibility to make sure that we keep our mindset free from that poison. 

And to those who come with the argument of "These people now have another religion" another anecdote from my family chronicles:
When my parents wanted to get married my other grandmother (roman-catholic) called the priest and claimed she was dying of grief because my dad wanted to marry a "heathen" who would not praise the Saints. My mother was ... gasp ... a Protestant.  It is all a matter of perspective.
I also understand that it was a bit of a different situation because my grandmother was German and she escaped "just" to another part of Germany, but that Germany was bombed to pieces and in a far worse situation to take care for refugees - German or not - than we are now. 


This is a difficult situation and that is even more true for the refugees than any of us. It is a big challenge on many levels and one of the things that most upsets me is the fact that so many other countries in the European Union pretend to be not in the same responsibility like Germany. That is not how a "Union" works. Calais for example is a place of shame and there are many more.
But just like my grandmother had no other option than leaving everything behind, we have now no other option than remembering what humanity means and act accordingly. And if we want that the at the moment so often quoted "Christian values" are & will be the base of your society we need to live after them - in good days and in bad. 


Soon we celebrate Christmas. Probably a good opportunity to read that story again. You know the one of that man and his pregnant wife who were forced at winter time to leave their home and go on a long and exhausting journey; the one about them not finding any other shelter than a stable when the woman was about to give birth because nobody would let them in; the one about nobody giving a shit about the newborn except for a handful of animals, some shepherds and three wise men from .... oh wait right ... the orient.  



PS: Any hate comments on the blog or social media will be deleted and the sender blocked. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fear - The Sequel

A few weeks went by since I posted "Fear" and I think I owe you an update, but before I tell you what happened in the meantime, I first need to say THANK YOU!

The feedback I received on the first "Fear" post was mind blowing ... so much traffic, likes, comments and personal messages - and I loved every single one of them. 

Some of those messages were messages of love and support from friends close and far ... people I talk to every day and people I haven't talked to in a while. It was and still is so heartwarming and it really carried me through some of the roughest days. 
And then there was another type of messages - and I really did not see those coming when I posted the blog - and these messages were from people who shared their fears and their struggles with me and I feel so blessed by the trust and openness. Those mails are showing me that I am not alone with my feelings - something I of course rationally knew but getting that feedback so directly is a very different thing. I also realized that fear is a bit of a taboo. It is not easy to show off your weak spots in a world that is all about being strong and hanging in there, but in reality we are all scared and it is a relief to admit, share and talk about it. 

And now ... let's follow up on the events: 

The time before surgery was insane. I felt completely overwhelmed because everything had to happen at the same time ... I tried to work ahead in the job and prepare the hand over, I had to negotiate contractual stuff, put some things in place for the longer term future and also clean my house and shop and organize a home help / cleaner for the time after hospital and because I was so bored my landlord sent me an email that there was some work scheduled in our basement and I had to clean out my storage before my hospital check in. It just seemed to pile up and pile up and pile up. I clenched my teeth, tried not to cry with just limited success and pulled through it. When I was finally in the hospital the nurses checked several times on me in the days after surgery because I was so quiet and did nothing but sleeping and watching TV. To be honest ... I was so burned out it was really all I had energy for. 

The surgery itself ... I made it through it. It all went well - no complications, but I would lie if I would say I am fine and that my fears did not come true. It hurt much when I woke up with a 20 cm incision and when they made me get up the first time in the evening it felt like somebody stabbed me with a hot burning knife. There was a lot more pain which got only more bearable when the nurses decided to change the pain medication, but it didn't and still doesn't go away easily. They cut through the muscles and nerves, you know. They had also to do lot of work on the inside and put in a lot of sutures to close vessels they cut right through and stitched things in place - and to be honest with you - it feels exactly like that. No fun folks, no fun.
I am recovering now and I never adored my body more. It is a really big job to get things right again - to actually heal - and I can see and feel the steps forward every day, but I am not there yet. The scar still hurts and I often lie in bed on my back like a bug you kicked over and have no clue how to turn without causing a stinging pain in the scar.
I am also struggling with the weakness. I am not my usual running around self. Every time I pretend to be normal, take some pain killers and do a walk to the mall or something, I am shattered afterwards and need to sleep. It turns out healing is exhausting and everything on top is pretty stressful. The doctors were not kidding when they said it takes at least six weeks. Today I am three weeks in and it really doesn't feel more than half way through. 

Never the less .... even now when it turned out that the fears were justified it is STILL better to be in the situation and dealing with it than awaiting it in fear. I find that is generally true in almost all situations: the fear is worse than the event itself. That's something to really keep in mind when your fears try to unfold their paralyzing effect again!

The work situation -  I made my decision. As some of you know HP sold Snapfish - the company I am working at for eight years now. I had to decide if I would take the transition offer or not. After some consideration I opted for the transition and since October 1st I am no HP employee anymore. It feels a bit weird after such a long time, but it was one of the things that had piled up in front of me and while we will still have to see where this all leads to - I made my decision. That episode is behind me as well and new one just started. 


Speaking of just starting  ... I also managed to discuss and clarify some very important things for the project "big change / fresh start" that is on the schedule next year. When the paperwork is done which will and needs to happen before the end of the year, I will clarify what this is all about. It's still scary but also very awesome and I cannot wait! So stay tuned  ;) 

End of the year ... that was another keyword and this is so absolutely not about fear but pure joy!
Right before hospital I booked my flights to Scotland for the end of November to see Mike Vennart live at King Tuts. And while life feels better already with one flight to Glasgow booked it feels even better with TWO because: 


BIFFY FUCKING CLYRO 

A long year without the Biff comes to an end and Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) will be spent in Scotland. I could not think of any better and more fitting way to start 2016!

So ... I walked down my road despite all the fears - some were resolved, some came true but turned out to be manageable and some more challenges are ahead but there are also some things to really look forward to.

I am wrapping this up with a song from the last artist I saw live before the surgery - Mr. Frank Turner:


Cast off the crutches, cut off the cast
REJOICE, REBUILD, the storm has passed

(Frank Turner / "Next Storm") 





Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fear

Yeah ... as you can imagine this one is neither about noisy rock shows nor fun trips to pretty and exciting spots on the planet. So if that is what you are looking for - and I totally do not mind if you do - maybe you better come back next time. 

Today I am talking about an uninvited guest who is hanging out too much at my place lately - fear.
Before the ones closer to me worry:  I am fine. I am not depressed nor am I having panic or anxiety attacks. I am blessed to be healthy when it comes to that, very blessed. 


Still ... this is all kind of new to me. I am more used to considering myself quite fearless. That is not because I am super badass and free from things that scare me. Clearly not - neither one. I just think that a certain fearlessness I could call my own is/was the result of getting through some things somehow successfully (more or less): 


I watched helplessly how people I loved died and I dealt with the loss .... not without grieving - obviously - and suffering and not fast and not easy, but .... I am okay. 


I survived heartbreak. And I mean real heartbreak when you realize that finding a soulmate does not need to mean at all that there is happiness ever after and that you sometimes have to part ways with someone you love. That was damn hard. But ... I am okay, I fell in love again - more than once. 


I worked myself out of a pretty long and dreadful period of unemployment a good decade ago with all the horrible things that it does to your self-esteem and finances. 

I also asked for help when I needed it and decided on my own when it was enough. 

On a lighter note ... 

I also did quite some fun stuff that requires a bit of courage like flying alone to the States (well ... I did that several times) to explore New York on my own and also Pittsburgh. It is actually a fun thing to remember how I was there alone and how it is now filled up to the Pennsylvania-blue sky (I am not sure the PA folks ever realize that their sky has another blue than elsewhere) with people I adore, love and dearly miss.
I recall as well that time I flew to San Francisco for work and went a few days early to rent a car and drive down half way towards LA to spend a weekend in a small town somewhere in nowhere - also on my own.
And we do not even start to make the effort to list all the gig trips that started out of the blue and ended in odd ends of the planet. 


There are also the many daily challenges of life like moving a couple of times, finding new jobs, managing mostly alone all the million things that just need to be done.


Nothing of this is really extraordinary. It is just life. Everyone of us is facing these challenges every day and sometimes it's okay and sometimes it's not so much. It's every-day-braveness and basically everyone has it. While a lot of this is not easy, the fact that we in the end deal with it gives us the confidence that it will be all right and that we can do it. 

Until ... it doesn't. 

This year feels different. Maybe it is because I am facing quite a few things that are out of my control and I really do not like to have no control. 

In a few weeks, in mid September, I will have a quite big surgery. It is a routine thing that the surgeon likely could do half asleep. It will fix a health issue that I fight with for over 15 years for good which is good news. Nevertheless it is a big surgery. I know I will feel like crap afterwards (I had a similar one before and when I woke up I felt the worst ever in my life) and I will be in recovery for 4 to 6 weeks. I am scared of the pain and even worse I am scared of feeling weak and limited in my actions for so long. I absolutely hate that. 

That nicely joins deeper running more abstract fears. My dad was basically my age when they told him he was dying. Same with my mom when she was first diagnosed. While I am rational enough to know that what happened to them is not directly effecting me (as in not heritable health issues) it sometimes feels like you hear the soft cracking of the ice below your feet and it is scary. It makes it an effort to not stupidly freak out over the little failures an aging body is producing. That sounds like I am 100 years old and suffering from thousand things. I am not - thankfully I am not. I just have a moody back and had to order reading glasses to accompany my driving ones. It's silly. But fear is not rational.

My work set up is changing, too and while nothing dramatic is happening at this point it is a transition period and nobody can yet say what that will really bring. I have to see and wait and things will be different and I cannot foresee properly how and ... it's scary. 

I also have plans - really big plans - for next year that will change a lot of things in my life. And damn ... does a shitload of fear come with that. Change is good, they say, and it's true and I really need it, but fear is on the backside of the medal. It's the price you pay. I fight it with planning and very good prep work early on. I won't be able to avoid all trouble and obstacles but I can definitely reduce some of it and that helps. It also entertains one of my best friends endlessly when I tell her about my latest Excel sheets with lists and cost calculations. She is the opposite of me and would never do that.
Just the biggest fear I have is not what could happen on the way - I will solve those, I am sure. My biggest scare is ... that it is not going to happen. That SOMETHING comes in the way and stops me. That would be really my worst nightmare. It is also the reason why I stay cryptic here. Some people close to me know what this is about. Sorry to the others ... I really just do not want to jinx it. I will share my adventures here when it is the time.


Speaking of the worst nightmares ... just a few nights ago I dreamed extremely clearly and vividly that a whole bunch of people I really adore would turn their back on me. They even tried to convince a really good friend to do the same. The poor pal was totally confused and called me to ask what the hell was going on. Very, very scary! It was so clear that when I woke up I still half asleep and panicking searched for my cellphone and double checked if my friends lists still looked the same. You are allowed to laugh at this point. I did the very same thing once I was fully awake later finding my cell next to my pillow. 


So yes ... 2015 is scary shit. What I am doing about it? First of all I believe that saying it out loud is half the win. Said aloud and written down things look much less dramatic as they would do if I would let them nicely and uninterruptedly develop to monster size in the weird parts of my brain. And if you made it to the end of this blog post here I also thank you kindly for sharing the ride. That helps, too.

And beyond that?  Well, I just follow knowledgeable advice:

DON'T LOSE HEART, DON'T FALL FOR PANIC.
(Sucioperro / "Fused" // Listen here.) 


Monday, July 6, 2015

Mix Tape - Loud noise in a silent year

It's a silent year. No really ... the lack of Biffy and Medals shows to travel to is so weird after being on the road so much for the last two years and I feel like there is no music in my life but that is not really true. Although it is definitely less action I am still out quite a lot to catch the one or other band and because I did not blog in a long time I have a lot to report on:

Arcane Roots / Enter Shikari


Arcane Roots
I would not have bought an Enter Shikari ticket without Arcane Roots supporting to be honest, but with the Roots boys coming along I of course did.
It was almost a bit of an undercover show for AR in a slowly filling up venue, but it was a lovely set and the new songs sound absolutely awesome. The new album will be HUGE and as usual with Arcane Roots full of big sounds and a lot of fabulous guitar trickery. Little did I know that it would be my last chance to see Daryl drumming but with my knowledge now I am even happier that I went.

I know that sounds grandma style, but if I was 20 years younger I would love Enter Shikari. The boys are nice and fun - they were even hanging out at the merch before the show to take pics with fans and the energy on stage is amazing. It just isn't my music (anymore) and a few songs in at the front I was developing a serious strobo light / staccato beats headache. So I left my barrier spot that I had claimed for Arcane Roots (I had arrived a good time after doors and just went because nobody was there yet) shortly after the photographers when the first a bit slower song allowed me to make my way out. I grabbed the girl behind me that was shoved around a lot by the wild crowd and put her in my space and made her day ... one for the karma points ;) and watched the rest of the show from the back. Not my cup of tea but definitely a great band.


Enter Shikari

Young Legionnaire / Idlewild 


Idlewild
The next stop was super exciting. Sottish legends Idlewild would play the first show of their European tour - the first in many years - in my little Bavarian town at Strom. Idlewild ... basically in my living room. No barrier or anything.

To make things even better Young Legionnaire joined the Scots as support band and played an amazing show. I absolutely loved it. I regret a bit that I did not use the chance to speak to drummer Denzel after their set to squeeze him out a bit about Mike Vennart's solo record, but I was too busy with sneaking forward and finally made to the second row. Sadly I had a total asshole in front of me who was filming most of the show with his giant tablet but oh well ... what can you do.

The show was fantastic but some folks in the audience struggled. It's the classic type of problem ... a band moves on but not all the fans can do / want to follow - it is a natural process. I mean ... I know where they were coming from ... My fave Idlewild tune is "Actually It's Darkness", too. The difference probably is that I did not expect to hear it or at least not in the way we were all used to. When you know a bit about what for example solo projects they did in the meantime and listened to the new album it was pretty clear the sound of the band would be different ... a bit more folky, a bit more mellow. And so it was .... but it was great and I loved it. I wish I could do it again. I actually cannot wait to do it again as soon as possible.

After the show I sat a bit on the stairs near the merch - I was not in a hurry. When most people were heading for the doors already Roddy Woomble came out to the sales desk. Nobody really cared or looked up. I was like "Ohhhhh .... okay.", got to my feet, took a deep breath to play it all cool while I was totally fangirling on the inside and went for a lovely wee chat and got my ticket signed. There is a good chance that this will be never that easy again.

The Twilight Sad 


The Twilight Sad 

This show is for now clearly the highlight of the year. It even felt "right" because I jumped on an airplane to make it there.  I kind of had waited until last minute with deciding to go because the trip did not really fit into my schedule, but I wanted to see them headlining a club show so badly and Cologne was my only chance. It was SO worth it.
This band is magical ... intense, special, beautiful. We just had a discussion on Facebook in our Twilight Sad group if  the "miserable (dark) songs"  would also make us feel miserable as well, but - for me - they clearly don't. Yes ... it is not happy go lucky, sunshiny stuff but it is wonder- and powerful music full of emotion and passion. And the darkness .... if I am in the right mood it has more a soothing, relaxing effect. I spent for example and hours long train ride up to the North on a rainy day with my eyes closed listening to the Twilight Sad and it was not depressing at all. I just went inside and relaxed and not every music can do that.
And live ... so special. The band is able to bring this very unique and special type of energy on the stage and the audience LOVES it.  The club in Cologne was packed and the crowd was clearly under the Sad spell - in the very best way.

After the show we met James at the merch and traded Glasgow music stories and shared laughs. It's been amazing and he is truly the funniest and nicest singer of sad songs one can imagine.

Dry The River / Bear's Den


Dry The River

Both bands were not on the top of my wishlist but strongly recommended by good friends of mine. Dry The River are the favorites of my friends Helen and Samantha and also supported Biffy before. Good reasons to go and check them out.
The poor boys had a rough day after having trouble with the German police who found a van full of funky dressed, long haired English people suspicious but it did not stop them from delivering a really beautiful show between smashing rock songs and fragile melodies. I really enjoyed it a lot.

Bear's Den were recommended by Anita and Steffi and were labeled by lots of people as "Mumford & Sons just better". I had my doubts because Mumford & Sons do absolutely nothing for me and I would lie if I would say I left the place as a big Bear's Den fan but it was still a good show. The lads are skilled musicians who write nice songs and play with passion. The show was sold out and it is always so nice to see a band who cannot believe that they play a packed house so far away from home and enjoy it so much. The amount of high end fashion styled hipsters with beards and nerd glasses was hilarious though.

Friska Viljor


Friska Viljor

It was supposed to be a little thing, you know. Just a few tiny club shows. Just Joakim and Daniel without the band. Just short sets to test the new material. Well, that did not work out. The clubs were indeed small and that caused serious ticket panic. The kind of when you refresh Ticketmaster to the exact minute and still see "No tickets available" and then you see some but before you can check out they are gone. Thank god it worked out though. I had a ticket to see Friska Viljor for the ... Uh .. wait ... I think 6th or 7th time? Something like that. And I got them delivered basically to my home - to Strom ...again.

Usually I am standing on the bass player side - in this case Daniel's - but although I got there early my usual front row spot was taken this time but I settled nicely in with Jocke on the other side. Logically the sold out place was packed with an euphoric crowd of "usual suspects". These guys have very loyal fans and we all knew we were in for a treat. 

The show started with one of my favorite songs - especially acoustic - called "Useless" but that was for quite a while the pretty much only old song because the purpose of the tour was to introduce us to the stripped down versions of the new songs from now released 6th album "My Name Is Friska Viljor". Although that means the famous Friska sing alongs had to wait the atmosphere was great and the brand new material more than well received for a good reason. I think this is their strongest album since quite a while. A lot has happened in the last few years ... the two of them have families now and added together five kids. The band is playing bigger and bigger venues especially in Germany and all that still without major label support. All the new impressions and changes found their way into the music and while it is still the lovely, uplifting Friska sound you can tell how serious they took the song writing task this time. Under the surface those new tunes are more complex and more thought through than much of the older material without losing that special Friska charm. 

After about an hour the duo declared the show for over but that was not accepted ... and of course it was not really the end but just the intro to another hour of greatest hits and much singing. And it was glorious. This video is from Vienna but Munich was the same ... no ... better ... because we (audience) did the  "And we will carry on ... " for almost 10 minutes, a-capella, concerted, with varying volume. Not even kidding .... 

  

WE WILL CARRY ON ....   See you in November!!!


And before I finish this up ... we have an encore here as well:

New records you should buy ...  



Friska Viljor - My Name Is Friska Viljor

We talked about this already. It's good for you. It is also good for them. You know .. you do not feed five children on Spotify fees. You just don't! 


Order a hard copy or at least get a proper download







Mike Vennart - The Demon Joke

FINALLY some spotlight again on the shadow man ... the man that plays on tour guitar with Biffy Clyro. As most of my dear readers here know Mike and also Gambler (Richard Ingram - keyboard with Biffy on the road) were part of Oceansize. And so was Steve Durose who you can hear on this record as well (drums by Denzel from Young Legionnaire as mentioned above already). Yet ... this is Mike's album and no Oceansize record. And beat me ... I am happy about that. Although Oceanize were amazing and all that it is not 100% my thing. But ... time has passed and hanging out with three certain Scottish lads obviously had some effect and if it was just for putting a bit more love for a catchy chorus into Mike and the result is fantastic. THIS is EXACTLY my thing. "The Demon Joke" is a "no skip" record. One of those when asked for the fave tunes you cannot do other than list at least half the tracklist (Operate, Infatuate, Retaliate, the lovely A Weight In the Hollow and the super awesome Duke Fame for me). It is also so nice to hear Mike's amazing voice doing more than just backing vocals. SO GOOD!

Order with the online or offline record shop of your choice or go here

  


The LaFontaines - Class 

When The LaFontaines came to Munich last fall I mostly went because I was just back from Glasgow and had a massive post travel and post gig depression. I was tired and in a bad mood and almost stayed home. I did not and not much later I was a happy, jumping, smiling, sweaty mess ... just that what happens as a Fonts show. It was the best depression killer ever.
My condition lapsed though after the show and to cure my sadness I flew to Glasgow again only a bit later, went to another Medals show and right the next day also to my second LaFontaines gig ... this times SLIGHTLY bigger at the sold out O2 ABC and that was HUGE. That was the band spreading their wings and those wings are big and ready to take off. 


The LaFontaines - still skint and unsigned (that's a quote) - now managed to release their first full album on their own and what an album it is! I am listening to it ALL THE TIME at the moment.  It keeps me going when I am tired and distracts me when I worry and makes me dance when I have a good day. That Fontaines mix made from Hip Hop, Rock and yep ... "earwormy" pop melodies is just so much FUN. Get on it!

(In)Famous last words for today: 

Please, support all these bands and all your other fave musicians with buying real records or at least a regular download and if you have a few spare pennies also merch and concert tickets! Especially the ones who are not topping the charts (yet) need YOU to keep going. 

These people chose their passion over knowing how to pay next months bills - it is as simple as that - and yet produce something that brings all of us so much joy. So if you can, do your part as well and honor all the hard work, creativity and investment with properly paying for the product you love so much. Thanks! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Still operating ...

I abandoned my blog. I had a few longer breaks before but none of this extend. So I can only hope you are still with me or come back ... or find this place just now. 
It is not that nothing happened in the last few months. It is more that too much happened ... and at the same time not enough yet. I thought I went through much transition in my life already in the last couple of years and that this would be more of a bit calmer hiatus like time, but I could not have been more wrong. Everything is in motion. Really everything. And while I am quite adventurous and spontaneous sometimes this is only easy as long as the base is stable and familiar and all that.
The things that are happening now though hit the core - the base stopped being stable. I know .. change is good and life is made of ups and severe downs and in the end ... light shall break and bring a bright sky, but holy shit ... this is hard and scary

Sorry for being so cryptic and not telling you what's up but it is not the time yet, but I promise to stick more to the blog again and once things are decided and I know where my path is leading me you will read the stories here. That will take a while though. Just one thing is for sure ... same day next year things will be very different. And while I am seriously freaking over this I reached a point where I would be a bit disappointed as well if I would find myself against all expectations in the same place doing the same things feeling and thinking and living the same way as of today. 

In such emotionally exhausting times it is very important to slow down a bit and take some time to just breathe. Because of all the other wild and crazy things that formed the last years I did not make it since 2012 to the place where I can breathe best .... Croatia or better to be exact Dalmatia
Lucky enough our yearly all hands meeting from my work this year took place in Split and we had a long bank holiday weekend right before which in sum had me being enjoying my favorite summer residence for almost a week. 
It took not long for me to realize how much I missed this place. Over 20 trips to the land of the Croats burned the love deep into my genetics and the first tears of happiness were shed already in the plane when we sank down through some light clouds towards Split airport and I had the full view of the Kornati Islands and the coast line and then Primošten and finally just before touching ground .. Rogoznica
And it is really funny how fast things were falling in place again ... the familiar smell of stone and sea and sun, they way things work, the language (I was delighted to learn that my Croatian skills - although obviously massively declining without the continuous practicing - are still easily good enough for all the things of daily tourist life!!!), the food, the crystal clear sea ...  it was just amazing. 

Although the weather was a bit mixed up especially in the first few days and the water still a bit too cold for a dip in the ocean, Dalmatia did its magic. I felt pretty bad - physically and mentally - the days before the trip but it took only a few hours in a beach chair staring at the Adriatic Sea to realize that a lot of my issues were just pure stress and would ease with every breath. There is no better place for that than Dalmatia and you can bet that I won't allow it to be years again before I come back to rest my soul. 

The business part of the trip was cool as well. I have to say that the Radisson Blue Ressort Split which is usually not the type of accommodation I choose being more the holiday apartment type (and budget) was super awesome. I mean seriously ...  



It was as dreamy as it looks like and I did swim in this - unheated! - pool. It was cold, but it was awesome as well.
For many of my coworkers this was the first trip to Croatia ever and it made me so proud to see how much they liked and enjoyed it. I am pretty sure my favorite sunshine land gained a lot of new fans over the few days we could spend in Split

I leave you with a few more pics and will be soon back with another music blog post. I have seen LOTS of amazing bands over the last couple of months and need to really give you at least a quick overview.