Sunday, August 16, 2015


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:

(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 

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. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Do you believe in magic?

The fairy mom preparing my birthday
cake on Christmas Eve. 
"Do you believe in magic?" 

- the finishing line of "Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave" is very likely after quotes from "Machines" the most tattooed Biffy line of all times. And why is that? Because we all answer this question wholeheartedly with a big YES! 

We believe in the magic that unfolds when some friends come together and find a way to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences in music
Of course you could explain rationally what music is - how instruments work and how harmonies work and what a rhythm is and how notes can be put into a logical system and how you hit them or not - depending on your talent and skills.
But can you explain what it does to our souls and why? There is no way to capture that and that's the most wonderful magic right there. 

Or take a sunset like it happened Saturday evening in both of my favorite places - in Scotland and in Pittsburgh - were mother nature ended the day in a color orgy in red, orange, pink, violet and all shades of color in between. Of course you can explain what weather is needed to break the light in these colors of the spectrum, but ... who cares? What counts is that it made people coming out of their houses and stopping for a moment in their daily run to appreciate the unlimited beauty around us. That is magic, too.

I could name so many more examples ...
the magic in people crossing path in the most unlikely ways just to find out that in the one or the other way they belong together.
The magic of the fresh spring green winning the war against the grey and the cold year after year.
The magic in a book when the characters are more alive than some of the grey faced people who sit next to you in the commuter train to work.
You can go on and add to this list whatever is magical for you ... 

I know there are people who have no sense for magic and I am seriously sorry for them. Very sorry. And that is exactly where the story kicks in I want to share:

A few days ago the phone rang and I had my five-year-old niece on the line. After discussing all the details of her Frozen costume for carnival that I just completed with sending her the right tiara for her hairdo she told me in a very upset voice that she had a really bad fight with her kindergarten friend over Ilsa

Ilsa is my niece's fairy. She lives in the fairy house and garden (check the link for much cute and the first part of this tale) my niece, my sister and I had painted and set up together over two years ago. The fairy wears a brown dress, has shimmery wings, green eyes and pointed fairy ears (the description was and is always the same since Ilsa moved in 2012!).
The problem? My niece's friend does not believe in fairies and when she heard about Ilsa she said my niece is dumb and called her a baby for believing still in such things like fairies. She even said she does not want to be friends with my niece anymore because of that.
Our reactions? My sister - RAGING. Me - RAGING. My niece - RAGING

Don't misunderstand the situation here ... my niece is very smart and she knows a lot especially for a child her age about how the world works because she is an excellent observer. The point just really is that for her whole life already she DECIDES what she wants to believe and she wants the world to be magical and so it is. She understood what many adults either forgot or - like her friend obviously - never learned:
There is no such thing as the one reality. The world is made of so much more than what the ratio is able to capture. Not understanding this fact is like being able to see only two instead of three dimensional.  

My niece fought for Ilsa but she could not win - the other kid did not understand. So my sister and brother in law talked to her and so did I. We told her that the only thing that can be done is feeling sorry for her friend because she doesn't get magic and that it is not worth the energy of the fight. If somebody does not want to believe you most likely cannot change it.

Thankfully not all kids are the same and a few days later my niece's best friend stopped by for a visit. Still dealing with the fight my niece asked her if she was believing in faires and this young lady only irritated by the weirdness of the question just said "OF COURSE!" and moved on playing. Her fairy is out of town at the moment by the way because it is too cold. She is vacationing in the much warmer fairy land but everyone is looking forward to her return in spring. 

By the end of our phone conversation my niece was not so upset anymore, but came to the only logical conclusion:

"Oh well ... She just doesn't have fairy fantasy, does she?"


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mixtape - Hometown Shows

Before my nomadic tendencies break through and I hit the road again I better update you on a couple of shows that happened right here in Munich in the last couple of months.

The first few months of 2014 were awfully boring before finally the first couple of decent gigs were scheduled. Thankfully 2015 started much better ... with a quite big boom:


I had seen the lads already at T In The Park where they easily rocked the giant King Tut's Tent and so I was looking forward to the fairly small club show they would play here in Munich.
As usual I was lucky that the folks here take gig life so easy. I arrived after doors at the sold out venue ... and still could just walk straight to the barrier and secure myself a spot right in front of the stage where bass wizard Mike Kerr would stand very soon.
But before I could watch and listen to Mike and Ben we got the US band "Mini Mansions" featuring QOTSA's Michael Shuman (I wish it would have sounded a bit more like QOTSA but it really did not). The music wasn't terrible, but I did not like the vocals at all. I did not like 80ies synth pop with all those high note vocals when it was the actual 80ies and I am not starting now. The songs were quite catchy though and the audience seemed to really like them.

Then it was Royal Blood time. You can say what you want ... complain about them being hyped (I see that and I am worried for them) an overplayed but these guys do play a damn hot Rock 'n' Roll show and I love how much music just drums and bass can be. They do not reinvent rock music - actually they do quite the opposite. My personal musical roots are in blues and classic rock and that is what I hear here. Nothing makes me want to practice some blues scales more at the moment than listening to Mike Kerr. To me they are two people who dig to the ground of what they are doing - to the roots - and take what they find and make it their own. That worked great on record and works even better live. What a great first 2015 show.

We will need to see where this band goes from here. There is a lot of pressure and I do not want to be in their shoes for album 2. I hope they will find their way ....

Royal Blood 

Back to 2014 

Let's go backwards from here ...

December 12 - only days after the Big Weekend I went to see Mastodon. To be honest ... I cannot say how it was. Sure well ... it was pretty good. The venue was packed, the band rocked like hell fire and theoretically I loved it, but I was still absolutely DEAD on the inside. It was unlucky but the show was too close to the most wonderful music weekend I ever had and it would have needed hugs from Eddie Vedder or something on that level to wake me up. So my happiest moment of the night was when the merch guy of Krokodil spotted my "Biffy Fucking Clyro" shirt, smiled, waved and shouted "MON THE BIFF".

Krokodil ... that was the other reason - despite the greatness of Mastodon - because I was not really happy. I was much looking forward to see Daniel P. Carter and his bandmates and I was even more looking forward to hear "Sun Riders" live - even without Simon, but nope .. did not happen. 
I was at the venue at the time of doors and joined a long not at all moving queue. Time passed by - not moving. I had a print-at-home ticket (NO box office pick up - print-at-home) but at the venue they did not have any scanners and every single person with a print-at-home online ticket had to go to the box office, they would look for name and ticket number on a huge huge list and mark the ticket as used. You can imagine how long that took? It was ENDLESS! End of the story?  When I was finally in Krokodil just finished the last tune. Ugh :(

Still ... if you have the chance go see Mastodon - it's a huge show!


My fave Munich show in the second half of 2014 definitely happened at Kranhalle / Feierwerk because: Scottish people in town! 
I FINALLY managed  to attend my first Twin Atlantic show and they brought the equally awesome The Xcerts along as their support.

The venue is small - about 400 people - and when we arrived there was no barrier .. pure club show feeling!  It's always weird when you see a band through the Scotland / UK eyes and then realize how small they still are in your own country. Hydro (almost 15,000 people) in Glasgow for Twin Atlantic, Kranhalle in Munich ... and it was not sold out. As much as I wish huge international success for Twin and The Xcerts as much fun it was to enjoy them from so close by.  VERY close by ...  

Barry McKenna - Twin Atlantic - No Zoom

As usual the people of Munich were late and the venue only filled up while The Xcerts were playing already. Sadly the audience - minus the "traveling with the bands" front row (and us) - did not exactly rock along too much with Murray, Jordan and Tom. The bright side: IF you sing along then you get a big band hug at the merch stand ;) - worth it! I cannot tell since I did not travel to other shows on that tour if Germany would already make sense for The Xcerts to tour by themselves like Arcance Roots did in early 2014, but I hope so. I would love to see them coming back for sure.

Twin Atlantic were much much fun on stage and after the show (thanks for the really great chats!) although the gremlins were out quite a bit, the sound not ideal and Sam pretty sick. Even if they come back to Munich in spring (I would logically go) I might travel to then to the one or other show in some more rocking cities though because the audience as so often here was not exactly the most enthusiastic one. Of course the best place for a Twin Atlantic show is Scotland and I was playing with the idea of going to the Hydro show but now I will have my friends and our Swedish boys from Friska Viljor coming over for that weekend so that trip won't happen. Next time then .. hopefully.

Murray McLeaod - The Xcerts

Sam McTrusty - Twin Atlantic

And finally there was Kasabian. I jumped on the train kind of last minute when a friend had a spare ticket. I am not a Kasabian fan, but they had Pulled Apart By Horses with them on the road and I SURE wanted to see them and those guys really did not disappoint.

Again we were lucky ... about 30 min before doors the queue was still no longer than maybe 30 people - something UK fans can only dream off. We just walked in and went to the barrier ... not center barrier though (we both had no interest in getting boots in our necks) but at a super cool spot three steps up (PERFECT sight) almost side stage.

Pulled Apart By Horses are not yet very well known here, but they rocked the house. I hope some of the kids down in the mosh pit memorized their name and we can get them back to Germany soon!

A pretty big portion of the people I met on the road are pretty big Kasabian fans but that's not exactly me. It just does not do much for me - even if I try. Still ... I was there to enjoy the show and so did I. Kasabian sure know what they do and it was a good show and very solid performance (btw mostly from the rhythm section most people seem to overlook being so focused on Tom and Serge). It was entertaining though with a lot of big pose and laser lights. After a while I was a bit done with that dance party rock sound but the crowd and my friend were enjoying it a lot and it's always great joy to see happy people celebrating a show of their favorite band. 
One of the best things of the evening btw was the venue. I was never at the Kesselhaus before and it's very pretty and the sound is much better than at the rotten awful (and bigger) Zenith just across the street. I would not mind seeing more bands there.

Pulled Apart By Horses


Enough now with looking back and on to the next ones ....

Monday, December 22, 2014

Last words ... of 2014

'I was not looking for music
I was almost over it'
(Slightly amended lyrics of "I Used To be A Dancer" by Medals) 

Sometimes I miss the silence in my heart. The peace and painless numbness. And yet ... I let it go for the sound I hear.


.... go, listen & dance. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

You shone a light on my life - Trip to Biffyland December 5-7

Biffy Clyro

I know, I know ... if there was a contest for the sappiest blog post headline of the year I just made myself a strong contender. But you know what?  I don't care. I gave up on being cool a long time ago, I love "Semimental", it was the first time ever I heard it live and it damn fits for the whole experience of this weekend. So there was that and now on to the trip of the year

The road to the Barras started already on a summer day earlier this year when some cryptic messages peaked into the announcement about all of our wildest music fan dreams coming true:

Biffy Clyro would play their "heart and home" venue - the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow - for three days in a row for album shows with fan selected setlists. The majority of tickets would be given away in a very restricted presale to make sure  that - as much this is possible - the core group of the fans would get access to these once in a lifetime shows. BOOM!

The nights were structured like this:
Friday, December 5 - Blackened Sky & Puzzle + b-sides
Saturday, December 6 - Vertigo Of Bliss & Only Revolutions + b-sides

Sunday, December 7 -  Infinity Land & Opposites + b-sides

And there we were ... HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM!  The first week of December is the busiest week of the year at work and taking time off is a no go. There was just no way that I could make all three shows .... two if I was lucky. I had to make a decision which one I would not do and it was music wise one of the hardest decisions ever but I went for Friday and Saturday. Well knowing that the Sunday setlist would feature a lot of favorites I will likely now never hear on stage (b-sides mostly), I HAD to see Blackened Sky live. I really had to and in hindsight I cannot even think of how I would have felt missing Friday. So although Sunday was a bloody painful day - sad, exhausted from traveling, lonely with almost all friends still at the Barras - it was the right decision. 

Barrowland Ballroom
Before we look at the breathtaking celebration of music in detail, let's get a couple of general facts and observations out of the way:

The setlists:  Biffy Clyro played in 3 nights 86 different songs. 12 of these songs were live premiers and a lot more were not played live for many, many years. The amount of work that went into preparing these shows was obviously enormous.
The setlists for each night were simply amazing ... covering it all from popular fan favorites to really rare tracks. It was a great joint effort of the band and the voting fans to put those together. I cannot count how often I saw people in the crowd over the weekend pressing both hands on the heart, giving up the fight against the tears and just singing as loud as possible. At some point every single one of us got his / hers song. The ONE that means everything. 

Steps with Biffy lyrics
The venue & set up: Once they let us in I guess every one stopped dead for a second whispering "My god ....." looking at the stairs going up, because every single one of them was showing off lyric lines from Biffy songs. It was the most heartfelt welcome to a venue ever.
I am also madly in love with the Barras. For all the local fans it was nothing surprising but it was my first Barrowlands gig and I just love this type of old places that breathe the vibe of countless shows. It might be old, it might be worn out, but when the wooden floors below your feet start to swing it's priceless.
I was also utterly impressed with the sound. I know that the whole Biffy crew took a giant effort in preparing the room and it definitely paid out. On Friday I was in my usual spot right in front of James and also in front of the big speaker set. Usually this is where you SEE extremely well, but the sound is .. well ... problematic at times (depends on the venue).  But for these shows it was just outstanding. I never heard every single instrument so well and so balanced, I never heard the voices of the  twins - and Mike's - better than here.
The stage set up was - with full intention - nothing fancy. No big production, no laser show, no effects - just some relatively simple but effective light settings and that was it and it was perfect. This was about the music, the band and us ... nothing more and nothing less. 

Simon Neil & his audience
The crowd: The audience is probably the biggest reason why I am somewhat fine with having no Biffy shows happening for the next at least 12 months. I have been to a few really good ones in small clubs, some really big and impressive ones and some ... well odd ones, but nothing will beat this ever ... until we might come together again in a few years for something similar - hopefully.
It was so much fun to be finally in a crowd that really knows the lyrics and sings the guitar riffs, that knows where the hand claps are in tunes like "Wave Upon Wave" (I was not there for this one but there is video proof) and that hits the delayed beats in "Living Is A Problem".
I will miss you - all of you - when the new album is out and we will all be back on the road and have to deal with 'normal' audiences around the planet (I know that sounds terribly snobby but there is a very real difference). Good to know that I have my crew and will be always surrounded by our own little crowd anyway who is behind us!

The friendship: This is a big part of the game ... the friendship that holds our group of gig pals together - far beyond just the gigs. The shared rides, the long hours before the show, the way of helping each other out with tickets, the hugs, the laughs, the stories - all that just works with the right folks.  Music does bring people together .. like minded people across borders, language barriers, people off all ages and backgrounds. It's magic and it's awesome. 

Blackened Sky / Puzzle

Biffy Clyro

Click to enlarge
Friday night ... after all the wait it was finally there. Although we did not queue in the cold much and made a trip to the merch first my friend Anita's and mine usual spot in front of James was still wide open when we entered the venue. It was not directly the barrier anymore but 2nd row just behind friends of us and that was more than fine.
The final moments before the show were strange and familiar at the same time ... Churd doing the final checks .. the playlist with Twilight Sad, Manchester Orchestra and LAU, but our knees felt weak and the excitement level was on 1000%.

Then it was time and the band came on stage logically starting with "Joy. Discovery. Invention" in the very beginning ... with the first song from the first album directly followed by "Living Is A Problem". A friend watching more from the back said it looked incredibly funny to see 2,000 people tilt their heads right on the - very tricky - beats. I can imagine it was because ... that is what I did, too! 
The rest of the setlist was just stunning. It is so hard to name any particular highlights. I think for me it were "27", "Christopher's River", "Breatheher" (YES!), "Justboy" (I will never get tired of this one), "I'm Behind You", "57" (best screaming with James ever), "Semimental", "A Whole Child Ago" (But, dear Simon, you still owe me one more round of MY song next tour because ... that is NOT how the lyrics go, it really is not.) and "Hope For An Angel".  And then ... there was ... "Love Has  Diameter". I love that song so much (lyrics!!!) and it turned out to be THE song of the night with the most epic sing along. Watch and listen ...

"Scary Mary" closed night one and it was so so so good. It was all I had hoped for and so much more. 

Now you would think it was time to take a breath, stand around a bit, get a drink and slowly leave the venue, but that wasn't us. 
A lovely bunch of about 200 souls was rushing out of the Barrowlands, grabbing coats, organizing shared car rides (thanks to Emma, Kirsty and everyone else who packed the car full with people), hurrying to get over to a little venue called Broadcast at the other side of the city center for the next chapter of this really long day of awesome....

One Dragon or Halfadukeduke

Dragon - Picture by Helen Schofield

Dragon's Duke setlist

The reason why we were rushing?  We were excited to see the late night set of Medals at Broadcast and before that another really rare highlight:

Dragon - one half of the legendary Marmaduke Duke - would play an acoustic set with Duke songs!
Just exactly what the doctor ordered for an absolutely BUZZING post Biffy crowd.

The show kicked off with "Kid Gloves" - an absolute favorite of myself and basically everyone else in the room. Since The Atmosphere (the other half of Marmaduke Duke aka Simon Neil - for the ones not so firm with the story) and his pals had helped us so nicely to warm up our voices earlier the night the crowd picked up with the singing and "Mon The Dragon" chants right away.

From the moment the extra set was announced I had spent a bit of time thinking about which songs from "The Magnificent Duke" could work under these circumstances as this is not exactly a light fare. I guessed right with "An Imposter and A Magician" and "A Curse and A Coyote" while "The False and The Cinematic" was a lovely surprise (my guess would have been "A Conspiracy and A Devil" btw but that was probably a bit too obvious although beautiful nonetheless). 
The question was now: How to make crazy dance tunes like "Music Show" and "Rubber Lover" work in an acoustic set? Well, it needs a guitar, a Dragon and a crowd that's ready to sing and yell "Girl, you're making me SCREAM" in the right moment and you got the magic going!

Finally there was the one song on the set list I had wished to hear live for a long time. It's the one Duke song that especially keeps my head above the waves even on the worst days because I cannot help it but laughing latest when the chorus kicks in: 

"Skin The Mofo"

And YASSS... that was FUN ..... F# G F#!!! (Thanks to Luciana for recording!) 


Medals - Picture by Anita Ivanković

Click to enlarge
This was my 5th Medals show and it is really hard to name a favorite since every single one was special for the one or other reason. King Tut's was already quite awesome when it comes to the audience but I am thinking that this night was even a bit better. 
One reason was for sure that a crowd definitely cannot better be put into the right mood for a fun show than by an over 2 hrs Biffy gig plus a Marmaduke Duke set. Who is not dancing and singing by then is very likely ... dead. 
The other reason was the special combination of people in the audience. While there were a lot of familiar faces at the front this was also the one occasion when many Medals fans from other countries (France, Poland, Ireland, Germany, ...) could finally make it to their first show and enjoyed it a LOT.
And then there was also a bunch of people who had booked the tickets more out of a mix of curiosity and socializing as Broadcast was kind of THE place to be for the aftershow party .... and all of them ended up dancing and loving it (at least every one I talked to after the show or the next day)!

The setlist was the party mix of Medals tunes, selected Sucioperro classics, the super fun covers of "XO" and "Lapdance" and Marmaduke Duke's "Silhouettes".
The combination of "Dialog On The 2" and "Sit Back Down Judas" really rocked the house with the Judas sing along becoming more and more one of the set highlights.
Definitely also worth mentioning: fancy guitar work from all three Dave, Marianne and JP including impressive frontman rockstar poses ;), Mike's dancing moves and shoes (!) as well as the killer rhythm section performance of Gus & Mike for "Valleys"

After the Medals set I hit my "24 hrs on the feet" mark and was so exhausted that I was not even tired anymore and felt the urgent need of a nightcap or two. Big thumbs up here then for the barkeeper upstairs at Broadcast who's definition of "Whisky Ginger Ale" is a good double whisky with such a tiny splash of ginger ale that it was not even enough to make it slightly fizzy. It was gorgeous and cheaper than the ginger ale without any alcohol would be in Munich. I love you, Glasgow!

PS:  Fast forward to Thursday, Dec 11. We, our lovely group of gig pals from all over the planet, were spending the evening together - virtually - hiding from the world in our little corner of Facebook that had turned from a travel planning group into a post gig depression support group. We were just busy moaning about how bleak the outlook on the new year was searching desperately for an excuse to all meet in Glasgow like "When is the Vennart tour? Not before spring isn't it? Sigh.", when this tweet hit: 

@medalsmusic  ·  Dec 11
Can't wait to get out and play again. Trying to set up a Glasgow show for end of January for more good times.

It was quite fascinating to see how the group conversation immediately changed from collective grieving to "Wait, I get my calendar .. yes ... January is looking good." That is what I love this bunch of people for .... always ready for the next act of crazy and fun! So the game is officially on and we all hope it works out. Dear Medals, I guess with the Broadcast show you officially adopted a bunch of temporarily 'under worn' gig nomads to take care of. 

Vertigo Of Bliss / Only Revolutions 

Ben & James - Picture by Danni Casey

Click to enlarge
The level of exhaustion that 26 hours of travel and music left in my old bones was skyhigh and so Saturday started late with a big breakfast with friends that was basically directly followed by tea with more friends before we walked up to the venue again.

When we arrived shortly before 6 pm at the queue it was already to feel that there was a different buzz in the air. I did not think that it was possible but there was even MORE excitement. I think it was half logistics - many fans could not take the Friday off and arrived only for the Saturday show and were now totally super ready to join the fun - half Vertigo Of Bliss ... the favorite album of many early and die hard fans.

I went for a walk along the queue and later around the venue and I had no idea before how many people I know! There were so many friends and fellow gig travelers as well as people I only knew through social media before but who stopped me now along the way to say hello (Always great to leave the purely virtual level behind and replace it with real hugs and hand shakes - it was lovely to meet you all!). 

We had decided beforehand to not head for the front but watch from the back, jump into the fun from the sides at some point and in general just to have fun without looking for "the perfect spot".  Neither VOB nor OR were my favorite albums and so I was looking forward to the show a LOT but not with the same excitement as the night before ... and was wrong ... so so so wrong. I was so not prepared for what would happen next: 

At 8.30 pm Biffy Fucking Clyro did not went but BURST on stage with "Bodys In Flight" followed by "Boom, Blast & Ruin" followed by an absolutely glorious "Help Me Be The Captain". We just looked at each other with a big bold "What the ...?????"  Barely 15 minutes in it was clear that this band would burn that precious house down this night and that the fans were their ecstatic henchmen. Friday was amazing but Saturday???  INCREDIBLE!!! 

It was wild and heavy, it was sweet and soothing and then it was a happy slap in the face again. The floor wasn't swinging ... it was bouncing. It is really, really, really hard to describe what happened and I still have not processed it properly. 
What we witnessed was nothing short of the very best Rock 'n' Roll show I have been part of, sang along, bounced, jumped and cried through my whole life (and I am going to gigs for over 20 years) and I am pretty sure that for a long, long time nothing will come close.  And I am by far not alone with this feeling. It is what basically everyone says who was there and even Mike Vennart tweeted after the show:
"Possibly the best gig I've ever played in my life. Thank you, if you were part of it. X" 

Setlist highlights are even harder to make out than for Friday because what mattered was not a special song in particular but the way this whole beast of a show blew us off our feet. I did not expect to hear "Robbery" live at all though but it was amazing fun. Mid set "Mountains" was so good even with the totally unavoidable pun of Simon saying "Thank you & good night" afterwards. "Bubbles" we spent in the queue for a much needed drink but even that was fun because the whole bar queue was bouncing like kids in the bouncing castle and the sing along for "All The Way Down" was deafening. I also spit out some swear words for "God & Satan" (damn it ... still not a single show for me - except Friday logically - without that ... thing) and rolled my eyes a bit to "Many Of Horror" (lovely song but I can do without it now) but the singing was beautiful I have to admit. 
I guess the moment that broke us all came quite unexpected. After "God & Satan" there was suddenly some unusual movement on the stage. It was Ben climbing down from his drums joining his brother, who had put down his bass, in front of the microphone. And then they were standing there - arm in arm: "I just wish we all could betray, I just wish we all could betray, I just wish we all could betray .... ". "Diary Of Always" never used to be one of my favorite songs but Saturday night everything was upside down anyway and that was very special and touching. 

The crowd was outstanding all night ... singing so loud along with the music and just every single word of the lyrics, the pit was wild, the whole venue bouncing like mad and so was the band. A breathless James checked for a reason sometimes midway through the show "Are you alright? This is a fucking battle!" It sure was and it peaked in the most epic way:

Following the tradition the set finished with "Now The Action Is On Fire" - and it ended how it had started ... with "bodies in flight" when every single musician on stage - including Mike and Gambler - took a run and JUMPED into the crowd. Just have a look yourself - it's great, great fun: 

For me this was the end of the road ... all over and like almost everyone I just stood there barely able to move. I have to thank my dear friend Mark for the big post show hug right in time when I really lost it unable to speak and unable to hold back the tears any longer. 

At lot has changed in my life since I listened to these guys for the very first time and it all came together in these two nights  - perfectly rounded up with the Duke & Medals sets - and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for these shows. 

For the rest of the night we were riding out the wave  ... meeting friends at a bar where we were having a drink together as well as another epic sing along to Biffy - this time from the bar stereo - and we finished with a little tour through the nightly Glasgow simply because we were still too much on adrenaline to sleep. 

Sunday was terrible. I would have given everything for being able to stay but it was just not possible.

As I was not at the show I cannot review Infinity Land / Opposites. I know it was great and very emotional because it was the last night. I have also seen the setlist and it is packed with songs I would have loved to hear - especially the various tracks from "Similarities" including my love "Thundermonster" and the heartbreaking, acoustic version of "Break A Butterfly On A Wheel" as well as songs from "Infinity Land" like "The Kids From Kibble" or "Wave Upon Wave".  Here is the setlist: 

Click to enlarge

In a related note: Ahead of the shows a group of friends I am happy to be part of created books full of our Biffy memories, pictures, stories as thank you gift for the band and Neil. They were handed over by Lawrence, who had done a great job before collecting everyone's contributions and payments and getting the books done. Thanks a lot also to Monika who had the idea in the first place. Lawrence did not come back from meeting the lads with empty hands but with this video below and yes, I am thanking my parents for giving me such an international easy to pronounce name: 

And here we are now ... Biff-less for at least a year. It does make sense. After these shows we are all unable to attend a "normal" Biffy show for a long time. The band needs a break from all the travel and time to spend with family and friends. A new album needs to be recorded. It just the logical way life goes and it is good. It won't be easy though. 

Nothing more left to say besides one thing:

As much as we all adore the gentleman in the picture below ... for the sake of our lost souls ... he needs to DIE. We promise in return that we'll be the most insanely dressed funeral party ever! 


PS: There are plenty of videos from the shows on YouTube and some of the best quality ones can be found at the channel of Natrix Video

PPS: All my pictures from the shows can be found here, but there are not so many. I was too busy singing to handle my camera much. 


You did not really think I would post a Biffy blog post about live shows I attended without a proper James Johnston shot? No? Good ... because here you go (Ben as usual has his cymbals covering most of his face in all the pics - so no good drummer shot):