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):

Monday, October 6, 2014

Guest blogging - My Mixtape Monday

I did some guest blogging for the awesome Pittsburgh blog everybody loves you ... lately and the post is now online. Alex invited me to write something for his music series "My Mixtape Monday" and I of course did! I love sharing music and put together a playlist of some of my fave Scottish tunes

The blog post features songs by Biffy Clyro, The Xcerts, Twilight Sad, The LaFontaines, Sucioperro, CHVRCHES, Twin Atlantic, Medals, Frightened Rabbit, Paws, Carnivores, Marmaduke Duke & Fatherson!  Every song comes with a comment and a link to the video. I quite like how it all came together and I hope you do as well!

Go here:  My Mixtape Monday - Scotland The Brave 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Medals in Glasgow

Medals at King Tut's - Photo by Jessica Newell

So .... FINALLY let's pick things up where we left them after last weekend's Scotland blog post and that was here: 

After the two really short notice stunts to see Medals live in Irvine and at T In The Park we finally got a show with a bit more time to prepare and plan for ... very relaxing especially if you have a couple of miles to travel. And when I say miles to travel I do not even refer to myself - I had a good time anyway vacationing in Scotland - but to my travel group with Anita coming over for the long weekend from Germany and my dear friend Villate, who easily beats everybody else's mile counts with coming over from Philadelphia, as well as lots of people from all over the UK. It was a lovely gig-travel-family meet up and great to catch up one more time before we'll almost all meet again in December for the big Biffy adventure at the Barrowland (Friday & Saturday for me - sadly not the Sunday)! 

The set up at King Tut's is ideal for a relaxed gig night. We met hours before doors to eat, drink, chat and laugh and when it was time we just went up the stairs and that was it. I wish all gigs were that easy.
Tut's was packed but even though it was close to sold out I could walk around a bit and say hello to more friends arriving (it's so much fun to be so far away from home and nevertheless spent a night surrounded by people you like so much) before it was finally time for Then Thickens who would support Medals that evening. 

Then Thickens

There were two groups of people in the audience. One group was like "Is there a support band and who is it?" or "Then Thickens? Who's that?" and the other group was like "Yaaaaaaaaaaay.......THEN THICKENS!" Count me in for group 2.
I could not have been happier when I heard that Jon-Lee Martin's new band would come up for the show. I love their album "Death Cap At Anglezarke" a LOT and was considering to travel to see them live anyway. Seeing them finally together with Medals was what we call at work a "best case scenario".
The Then Thickens set was great and group 1 was getting smaller and group 2 getting bigger song by song while we in our "bass player side / front of stage corner" were singing along. I was an especially happy camper because my fave song "Any Other Thing" had made the set list and the live version was awesome. The crowd enjoyed the show a lot and it was a perfect start for the night. If Then Thickens come to your neck of woods make sure you do not miss them! 

Medals - Photo by Jessica Newell

Medals ... 
I think I wrote this "review" a dozen times in my head already and nothing seemed to be right, but I am giving it a try now anyway. If I say this band is getting better and better every time I see them it kind of sounds like the two other shows I have been lucky enough to witness were not as great and that's definitely wrong, but then again .. they ARE getting better.
The more appropriate way to tackle this is probably to start with the fact that every show I went to was a completely different beast. The first one in Irvine was just a couple of days after the "jump into the cold water" Biffy gig, the first ever headline show for Medals and an acoustic gig which always brings a special kind of intensity. It was a magical, one of a kind night and won't properly compare to anything else anyway.
T In The Park then was the first ever full electric show which brings a completely different dynamic to the songs. Yet a big festival with so much going on at the same time is a special challenge: it is for a new band more an opportunity to get new people having a first listen than partying with fans and friends. The time is short - all energy needs to be squeezed in very relevant 30 minutes and it is kind of unforeseeable how it goes. In the case of Medals it went great and ended with a happy audience dancing away appropriately to "I Used To Be Dancer"

A few weeks later now at King Tut's it was again a different situation - headline show, on home turf and in a packed club full of super excited, happy Medals / Sucioperro fans so ready to rock ... and that makes all the difference. I had goosebumps easily half a dozen times that night just from hearing people sing a long so loudly - the most probably for "Sit Back Down Judas" (I did not really see that one coming but it was great.). Medals are a bunch of super talented people with many years of live experience and so it's not exactly a surprise that they played a fantastic show from the top to the bottom of the set list and took it all to the next level, but it was sure extra nice to watch everyone around on and off stage being so happy and having so much fun

Musically there is definitely a progression that comes naturally with the band being together for a bit now and playing more shows - and JP never stops working anyway ... there will be always new ideas and twists and tweaks to it. For me personally the biggest jaw dropper was "Silent Movie House" which caught me (and not just me but others around me as well) completely off guard. The new version - with Marianne playing the violin - is so condensed to the emotional substance of the song that it is just heart shattering. 

Besides all the good not yet mentioned stuff from "Disguises" like e.g. "I Used To Be A Dancer", which is becoming a proper radio hit, or my all time favorite "Tastes Like Glass" we got Marmaduke Duke's "Silhouettes" and Sucioperro's "Dialog On The 2" as additional highlights.  A Sucio song with a Glasgow crowd is quite a thing .... let's just say we all knew that tune quite precisely with all the breaks and stuff *JUMP* ;) 

It's been a glorious night including a much fun after show party with more hugs, talks and laughs, too! If we just could rewind now and do it all again ...

Next shows for Medals as known to date are:

30/10 Stereo, Glasgow
21/11 Opium, Edinburgh
27/12 Ironworks Winter Showcase, Inverness

GO if you can! 

PS: Very special thanks to Jessica Newell for letting me use two of her awesome pictures. Have a look at more of Jessica's photos featuring Medals, Twin Atlantic or Frank Tuner's Mongol Horde at her site "Drumbeats and Heartbeats"


The new EP "Dancer" by Medals is out now!  Get 4 awesome tracks for as little as € 2,99 on iTunes now and HERE

Monday, September 29, 2014

The bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond and more Scottish awesomeness

Loch Lomond

While I am at work fast and straight forward with making decisions (I hope at least) I have a tendency to over-think things when it comes to myself. In this case I had booked a long weekend in Glasgow for the Medals show a while ago already, when I realized that I would for a couple of reasons come out of this summer without a decent holiday. Not good. Really not good. So what to do? Probably extending the stay in Scotland?
It was one of my best friends in the end who asked me what I was even waiting for and she was right. Once the decision was made I went on tour organizing mode and in half a day a short gig trip had turned into a full week of vacation. It was the best decision I made in a long time - my week in Scotland was pure magic. It was so magic, that it did not even rain. I had to put on sunscreen basically every day. In Scotland. In September. 


My first stop was Edinburgh for the simple reason that my flight was arriving there very late in the evening and well ... why not having a look when there anyway? So instead of heading west immediately (it was too late for the last bus to Glasgow) I had booked a hotel in the center of Edinburgh just off the Royal Mile for the first night.
The next morning I was ready for my Scottish adventure and took a first careful look out of the window ... blue sky, some little white clouds ... sky in Saltire colors.
It was an absolutely wonderful morning I used for a walk around the city center. I knew I wanted to go the castle later but for now I just walked around random streets. In my amazing talent to turn weird corners I came into a small side street and ended in front for a very special shop ... a pipe maker. In the big shop window I could see an old gentleman handcrafting bagpipes. I did not take a picture - that would have been rude - but it was so lovely and impressing to watch him work.
After that little encounter I walked along the Royal Mile and climbed up to Edinburgh Castle. The castle is amazing and the view over the city is beautiful and I loved it up there, but good lord ... SO MANY PEOPLE. I wish I could go one day when pretty much nobody else is up there (not realistic though). When I was in the museum part it was so crowded that I got stuck in traffic squeezed in between dozens of Chinese tourists in the room about the Union with some voice from tape explaining it over and over again. If I would not have been in the YES camp for the Scottish independence already I surely would have been after that experience.
After lunch at the castle cafeteria where my American table neighbor declared me a specialist for the referendum - what I was clearly not, but I tried my best - and asked me thousand questions I walked back down the Royal Mile, hang around the Grassmarket area a bit, listened to Jim Murphy from the NO camp (he was screaming all time - very uncomfortable) and finally went to get my luggage and head to the main station. Off to Glasgow I was ... 

Hillhead, Glasgow

My first stop was the West End of Glasgow - an area that although it is looking differently felt like a mixture of Lawrenceville and Squirrel Hill (two really nice neighborhoods in Pittsburgh), which means I loved it. The West End has it all - shops, restaurants, cafés, record store and so on. Yes, it also has a bit of the Larryville hipster vibe, but I honestly do not mind.  

Botanic Garden, Glasgow

The first morning in Glasgow I went over to the beautiful Botanic Garden that is placed in a lovely park in the West End. Right there wandering from greenhouse to greenhouse passing playing kids and art students working hard to capture details of either the plants or the fantastic greenhouse architecture I felt for the first time the stress of the last couple of weeks ... months ... lifting a bit, but it should get significantly better than that not much later: 

Beach, Ayrshire

One of the biggest advantages of the Glasgow area is that within the radius of about an hour train ride from the city you can visit many lovely places. So when the sky started clearing up I took the train west to the coast to do what I was looking forward to the most: taking a long, long, long walk at the beach. In the sun. Barefeet in the water and the sand. Staring out into the sky and the open horizon.
Every human works differently, but for me this is the best thing ever. A couple of hours at the shore and I feel so so so much better. It's even nicer when - like in my case - the day at the beach ends with gorgeous beer and fun talks in the evening sun. Vacation life at its best. 

Loch Lomond

The day after the trip to the beach the sky was even brighter and I jumped on the train again to take the short ride out to Loch Lomond. The lake is called the "Gate to the Highlands" because the one end is still in the more flat Lowlands while the upper end is already in the mountains. The landscape is simply stunning.
I love doing boat rides and that is also kind of the obvious thing to do when you are at a loch and the sun is shining. I got a ticket for an hour long tour which theoretically could have been beautiful. I had a sunny first row seat on deck and sat next to an absolutely lovely Scottish lady who lives now in Glasgow in a retirement home but was originally from the Loch Lomond area. She was a darling and told me how her kids gave her a flight with the waterplane over the loch as birthday gift and how much she enjoyed the adventure. She also gave me lots of tips how to explore Glasgow and everything around on low budget. I would have enjoyed her company even more if the rest of the people on the boat would have not been a big pain in the ass.
Behind us we had a family with a small kid and that woman - the mother - did not shut the fuck (SORRY, but it was that horrible) up for one bloody second. She made me so incredibly stabby

But that was not all .. additionally we had another family from India aboard holding about a dozen people and every single one of them and then all of them again as a group and then all of them AGAIN in small groups of various combinations wanted to take a picture on the top deck of the boat where my Scottish lady and me were sitting. The procedure took an hour which equals the complete length of the boat trip. But ... that's not all ...still. At some point the boat trip got boring for kids in said family and the parents fixed the situation with passing on their cellphones to the kiddos who then started watching Bollywood dance music videos. Without earphones. I felt like cyring. Badly.
After 2/3 of the time I had scenes from "Natural Born Killers" in my head. You know the one with the glorious moment when Rage Against The Machine kicks in with "Killing in the name of"  ....
I looked at my little Scottish lady and excused myself for being rude and pulled out my cellphone and my earbuds. She just nodded approvingly and I am pretty sure she was quite jealous I could escape. I did what I always do in situations like that: I put on Sucioperro's "Fused" and with "River Of Blood" muting the cacophony of noise around me I calmed down and managed to kill no one. YAY!

Off the boat I still had time and decided walk towards the Loch Lomond shores and found myself a QUIET place to lay down in the grass (with my rain poncho as blanket ... that is all what it did in Scotland til now), put on some music and closed my eyes just blinking in the blue sky every now and then. I did not move for about 90 minutes. When it was time to get back to Glasgow, I stretched, got up and almost died of a heart attack because there in the shade - for me totally out of the blue - sat now an old gentleman grinning at me asking in the biggest Scottish accent if I had a good snooze. Yes, Sir, I surely did. 

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow

With returning from Loch Lomond the (mostly) hermit part of my vacation ended because my lovely friend Villate had arrived from the US and the next day my friend Anita also arrived from Cologne and we explored the rest of the city together by bus and foot. George Square, Merchant City, the University of Glasgow, Barras and more .... all great sights and we barely scratched the surface. There is really a lot to do in Glasgow and the next couple of trips will be busy, too.
We of course had a bit of a special look around since we all are Biffy fans. With big interest we checked out the Hydro because there is no doubt that this is where we will queue for the album 7 arena tour one day and ..... we of course made embarrassing noises of excitement when passing by the Barrowland Ballroom. Great things will happen there very soon and at least Anita and me will be there.

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow

I think my favorite place of all the sightseeing things was Kelvingrove Museum. The exhibits are sorted after topics rather than clear historical contexts, but I love when things leave the theoretical order of logic and linear story telling and so the almost anarchic concept of the Kelvingrove totally rocked.
The museum features also the famous "Christ of Saint John of the Cross" by Dali, which is weird enough because it does not really fit the collection. The piece itself is amazing and hypnotizing. I loved it although I am despite my deep love for modern and contemporary art not a Dali fan usually.
I will be sure back to the Kelvingrove another time and have another run through. There are so many funny and weird and interesting things to see that you can go again and again.
It's also totally fascinating that the hall in the picture above looks SO MUCH like the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.
And while we speak about Pittsburgh and Carnegie: most of you might be aware anyway but just to point it out again ... good old Andrew Carnegie was a Scotsman and just like in Pittsburgh (and other places) he also paid in his old homeland for museums and libraries and such places which now sport his name. So if you run into an Andrew Carnegie Library in Scotland you did not make a space / time jump to Pennsylvania ... it's just the same thing at the other side of the world. 

Necropolis, Glasgow

My other favorite was the Necropolis - the Victorian garden graveyard by the cathedral that overlooks the city. The combination of the amazing view and the tombstones and monuments creates a very special atmosphere. I would definitely love to visit again on a more gloomy fall day - I bet it is amazing.

Finally it was very exciting to be in Scotland so shortly before the referendum for independence. In the streets of Glasgow you would have never guessed the NO camp even had a chance and in the end Glasgow indeed voted YES, but too many people in the country did not.
Nevertheless it was great to be around in this special time for Scotland and I know I can speak here for my friends as well - the spirit of it all made Scotland grow closer to our hearts even faster.

More pictures of the trip you find here and on my Instagram

The best thing about this week  though is not in the pictures ... it's the time spent with my "travel group" and all the great people we know / met in Glasgow. I loved all the talks and laughs and HUGS and it is pretty priceless to sit on a couch with an Irn Bru in your hand, the river Clyde right in front of your window while you are watching your very favorite Biffy interview on Youtube, which is the favorite simply because it is so hilarious, with everyone knowing all the words like when watching a classic Monty Python movie:

"It doesn't start like dah da da da dah or doooz it?"

And then there was THAT NIGHT this trip was all about in the very first place, but that's an extra blog post!