Wednesday, July 5, 2017

America

Heart still skips a beat over this sight at the end of the tunnel

There is still one chapter I need to write to finalize my series of catching up blog posts and what day could be better for this one than the 4th of July?  

Looking back a few months I openly confess that at first I underestimated the impact of what was happening in the US. I will not go too much into detail here, but while I was not a fan of Clinton (and no ... not her emails ... her foreign policy was my problem) I of course thought that the orange something was an un-electable joke. A very bad joke but a joke. Still ... as shocked and disgusted I was on the day after the election - like all the liberal snowflakes (I am wearing that title as a badge of honor) - as much I underestimated what was coming. I kind of thought it would be like a combination of the showman goes politician a la Reagan multiplied with the intellectually challenged appeal of Bush (W) scarily spiced up with some flat earthers which is actually already REALLY bad but still kind of within the boarder of a functional democracy even though in a version me and mine would not like much. Then came inauguration day and it all blew up and got so bad that it is hard to make satire that goes beyond reality.  And it gets worse and worse every day. 


In the middle of realizing how deep we are in shit the Biffy US dates were announced and I booked my flights to the States and planned - finally - my travel pal Gabi's and my return to our beloved Pittsburgh. During the wait time between booking and the actual trip lots of things happened like for example the "travel ban" and several times in those weeks I came very close to cancelling the trip. The USA were transforming into a country I do not want to visit (and yes I am aware of the irony because I live in Brexit Britain and in some aspects it is not much better) but it is still the home of so many people I love and so I wanted to still visit just as much. 

In a way coming to the Pittsburgh (same on the Biffy tour) was soothing because in most aspects daily life in the US still goes its way like it used to. It takes more time to fundamentally change that. Also our friends are still our friends and are as wonderful as they always were. 
The last thing is easily said, but we have not been in Pittsburgh for over three years. That is a long time. Life goes on and you cannot expect that people just wait for you to come back and open up like they would if you had just left the other day but luckily that is exactly what happened. 


Very Pittsburgh view from the bedroom

Life has changed a lot for me as well. A new city sneaked its way into my heart and even became home. My time as a restless wanderer came to an end when I settled down in Scotland. I still travel a lot and I still love it but it is not such an urgent need anymore. Pittsburgh used to be my vanishing point, my home-ish place. I do not need that anymore - at least not as much - and I wondered what that would do with my feelings towards Pittsburgh. 

I am happy to report:  it did nothing to my feelings. They are still the same. The moment we came out of the tunnel I burst into tears. Watching the sunset over the skyline from the parking lot behind our Lawrenceville town house was breathtaking and while it IS a pretty city I still do not know why I love it so much. It just is what it is. Driving around even after the long time away still barely requires a Sat Nav - it is that deep unconscious familiarity that you usually have with the place you grew up at. No idea where that comes from. Maybe reincarnation is a thing and in my last life that was home?  Or that is where I live in another layer of reality? I have no rational clue. 
One thing though changed: when I had to leave in the past and return to Munich I was devastated and used to grieve for weeks and weeks once I was back in Germany. This time as much as I loved being in Pittsburgh and could have well done with another week, I was looking forward to going home as well. I did not cry on the way to airport. It does not make the love for Pittsburgh smaller. It just shows there is more balance in my life and that I found my home and that is a good thing. 


Beauty at night


Rachel Carson Bridge light installation

The focus of our short week in Pittsburgh this time was not on sightseeing and not on sports (I did not even go to the Pens playoff game ... no time for that although it hurt!), but we of course still visited some of our fave places like 


The Strip District
or 


Braddock

And I even managed to stumble into Artisan Tattoo and score a walk in appointment with Kati Zmenkowski to get this lovely new ink based on the Biffy US Tour poster design! 




The best of the best things in this awesome week though was seeing our friends - you know who you are ;).  I am so grateful that everyone made time for us although we were not around during a weekend which made it harder for everyone. I cannot express how much that means to me and Gabi as well. We loved every minute we spent with you and we missed the ones we did not manage to see due to the really short stay of only 5 proper days.
When the trains come into Glasgow Central Station they pass the big "PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW" graffiti and it really fits so well to Pittsburgh, too because "PEOPLE MAKE PITTSBURGH". 


Coming back to where I started though ... the 4th of July. America. 
Times have changed and that includes Pittsburgh. Said Pittsburgh that Mr. Trump wants to represent instead of Paris. That Pittsburgh that is not having that AT ALL and rather joins forces with Paris than the White House at its recent state. 

My bubble is scarily intact. While I did nothing to actively prevent it I was not properly confronted with one single Trump supporter in all 11 days.  All I saw were some Trump / Pence signs splattered over the countryside outside the city levels (and ONE in the Strip).  It is ALMOST as if it wasn't real although it painfully enough is. I say almost because below the surface of normality the difference is tangible. 


What I always adored in the past in my US friends was this optimism, the trust in the future and their own ability to make things happen and make things work that enabled them do things I am too fearful for. I always felt that this mentality and the energy in it was what made the United States so special and in a way inspiring.  Lots of that spirit is gone now. In the many talks I had over the days I could hear and feel a lot more fear about the future, unpredictability, confusion, pessimism. While the surface so far appears still intact, the foundation is shaken.

Make America great again? All I can see in my version of the matrix, in my bubble is the total opposite. I honestly hope it is over soon. It will already take a lot more time to fix all the damage that was done and it will cost even more time and effort to resolve the deep division that is destroying the society - not only in the US but momentarily most significantly there.

Happy birthday, America,  I still adore you and I hope you make it out there alive. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lots of Biff and an Augustine - Roadside Ramblings

If you know me a little you will be not surprised to hear that sightseeing and eating were not the only things on the schedule for Rome back in February and that there was also this guy with his band mates: 



And from Rome we went to Bochum ... 


and from Bochum to Brussles ... 


and from Brussels to Hannover ...



and from Hannover with a short break to London where Biffy supported Biffy with a mind melting set of early songs played old school as a three piece ... 



before they played a full regular set. I was so exhausted at the end I could not feel my legs properly anymore. It was wonderful. 




Of course this fine gentleman and also the one at the keys were back for the 2nd set: 




Then there were a few weeks break and then I went to New York ....




and from New York to a radio station in Philadelphia ... 



and from the radio station to a proper venue in Philadelphia ... 




and finally from Philadephia to Washington DC.



Of course a lot could be said about all those gigs. I could spend days of writing down all the things that happened, post set lists, point out rarities like the sudden appearance of "A Whole Child Ago" in Bochum or the wonderful "Wave Upon Wave" in DC plus all the things that happend aside of the gigs itself, but I won't. I have done this before and you are aware how much I love this band. No need to repeat that, right? 

So only a few words about what is going on here especially for the readers who never toured with a band.

All of these gigs were amazing, all of these gigs were different. It is never boring. I strongly feel that no day off work, none of the spent money, no mile traveled, no sweat, no hours in the cold, no tears, no invested energy was ever wasted on tour and that is not only for the incredible music but also for those wonderful human beings who deserve everything and more.
Even though this does apply especially to this band they are of course not the only ones. There are many talented, hard working, kind hearted people out there on the road who deserve that you stop by for their shows - and if you like it - maybe even for a second or ... lots of times. 



Since I witnessed several discussions about photos lately I
want to point out that no musician was harmed or hunted 
down for this picture. We just paused for a second in a longer
conversation which was neither the first nor the last one we had.

Touring with a band is a completely different experience than going to a single show. You move on to a parallel universe made of travels, wait time, build up, adrenaline and endorphine rush .... and REPEAT. It does not matter if you are in Bochum or New York - you barely feel the difference because you operate in a mobile microcosm with its own rhythm, schedule and rules. It is the quite ultimate escape from the ordinary world which is a huge blessing and a curse at the same time. More about that later. 


In New York City (sadly no info about the photographer)

The US tour .... this was such a special time. One aspect was of course that the venues were so small - about 1.500 on average for my gigs. That feels "a bit" different compared to 15,000 to 20,000 people per venue on the arena tour!
Easily as important as the people on stage though are the people off stage when you are touring. I would never ever do that alone and I luckily do not have to. Music is absolutely magical when it comes to bringing people together. I really wish for everyone to experience that kind of friendship and support. 
I am blessed with wonderful friends and gig buddies in Europe and now as well in the US. I mean ... how amazing is it to fly around the globe and just as if it was nothing to become part of squad of the best people? Of course ... some of my lovely US pals I knew before from their visits on our side of the pond but by far not everyone and yet it felt like a strong bond right away.
It was very special when at the final gig in Washington our group basically made up the whole barrier and build a chain of holding hands from left to right for "Different People". I could see the faces of the band on stage as well and it was one of these moments to hold on to for all of us. 



DC pre-gig barrier selfie by Nicci Bard

So baby won't you take my hand?
So we can do what the others can
We are alive tonight, we are alive tonight
I am going home forever and ever more
No I was never born and there's no such
thing as home
We used to stand so strong
That's why the others have gone
(Different People / Biffy Clyro)


And now let's have a look at the dark side of the moon.


Touring is a very intense experience and as wonderful and gratifying it is as exhausting it is. It also takes you out off what everyone else calls "normal life" or "reality". The come down is hard. It is hard after half a dozen of gigs as a fan and that gives you small teaser of how hard it is for the musicians and crew who tour a lot more and longer and venture much deeper into that parallel universe. The price you pay is called post tour depression and it is a real thing. Sometimes it lasts just a day or two and you can adjust quickly. Sometimes it lasts longer and you stumble through the busy world of regular daily life feeling sad, disoriented and weirdly alone. Your brain literally has to withdraw from that adrenaline / endorphine peak roller coaster. It is not just mind tricking - it is proper chemistry. Ever wondered why so many performing artists have problems to balance themselves? There you go - that's one of the main reasons.

I am always dreading the end of tour like hellfire because I am one of those who struggle. Good byes - even temporary ones - were never my strength and it breaks my heart a little every time. I developed my rituals to keep myself in check though ... with varying results. 


After the US tour I could postpone the worst part with extending my holiday for few days in Pittsburgh to see my friends (more about that in another post).
Then however came the flight back - on my own because most friends stayed behind and my travel pal went on a different plane. Post tour come down alone on a transatlantic over night flight. Awesome. Not. 


One of the rules I have for myself for these situations is to not listen to the same music like on the road because that makes it usually worse at least for while. As a result I found myself sitting there with the earbuds in switching through the music files on my phone looking for some saviors but the usual suspects did not work for several reasons. My choice finally fell on my Augustines playlist because I would go and see Billy McCarthy again only a few days later in Glasgow. I thought I better get myself in the mood instead of standing at the show still mentally offroad like a deer in the headlight. So I finally rolled up in my tiny economy seat and closed my eyes. And ... it worked! 
I slept(-ish) basically the whole 6.5 hours flight in a cloud of music on repeat. I know that might sound weird for some people but I at times have a hard time sleeping (not just on planes) and music helps me to relax and it does not need to be quiet music. I slept through Biffy's "Live at Wembley" so many nights or through Sucioperro's "Pain Agency" and "Fused" which are not exactly lullabies either. BUT it by far does not work with all music ... it is rather rare and I had never tried with Augustines before but now they are part of that small and very exclusive snooze club ;).

The logical consequence was obviously to ignore jet leg and exhaustion and buy another gig ticket and see Billy as well in Edinburgh. Two gigs are better than one gig, right? Right!
And ... it definitely was although I personally found the rather quiet crowd in Edinburgh a bit irritating, but I enjoyed it nonetheless because the gig itself was great. The show on the next day in Glasgow (I love my hometown crowds) then was bloody amazing and caused another proper gig high!!!





Only downside ... I of course felt rotten after two more gig nights and tried to squeeze in more but there was just no way. Let's see if I can make Belladrum Festival work though - there might be still a chance.

The call of the road ... it just never ever dies down.

For now stay tuned for the next post about my return to Pittsburgh and later in the summer you will also hear and read more about Billy as that fits right in with one of my main topics here about music, music industry and independent artists.


In the meantime have a look here:  
William McCarthy - Official Website
William McCarthy on Patreon
Rise : The Story Of Augustines 
 
Eric Sanderson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rome

I can't believe it ... did I really not post a single update yet this year?
Shame on me, but time is honestly just flying by. That seems to get worse with age, a lot worse.

I also have to admit that I struggled the first 2-3 months of the year. While I really, really do not want to live anywhere else in the world, the Scottish winter got me. It is the darkness, I guess, because the SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), my not so dear old friend, made a powerful return. Since the light saving day  though and the return of proper evening daylight I am fine again - like nothing ever happened. That means I need to better prepare for next winter, possibly plan a vacation in January or February somewhere in the sun to fill up those vitamin D depots and get some endorphin going.  Oh well ... lesson learned. 


The SAD (what an appropriate abbreviation) did not help my productivity when it comes to writing. You do not want to spill your frustration, anxiety and pessimistic world view (Hello 45, you are NOT helping!) all over the internet. It is bad enough when it crumbles your own mind.

BUT of course not everything was shit in early 2017. One thing was particularly awesome and that was the year's first trip to Rome although I was severely handicapped. How do you even get ill when you are working from a home office and barely even leave the house? Well ... I managed to do that and got the cold from hell 1.5 day before leaving for Italy. But that journey which also included a few more countries and a lot of Biffy gigs was too important to give in to the evil virus attack and so a funky mix made out of Sudafed, Benadryl and Ibuprofen kept me rocking. I do not recommend really, but I survived and it was worth it.

Rome though ....




I really don't know why it took me so long to finally make it to Rome. I always wanted to go but then again there were always other plans and it somehow never happened. What shall I say? I absolutely LOVED it.  I mean .. look at it: 







Basically everything you hear about Rome is true ... there is so much to see, everything is incredibly old and incredibly beautiful. If you have a hotel in the center you can walk to almost all the amazing places.  I enjoyed walking around all the narrow little streets and squares with fountains and restaurants and cafés so much. If you go ... do not rush. Allow yourself the time to get lost a bit and stop for another coffee or gelato or suppli or biscotti or ..... And in related advice: do not try to be on a diet because everything you heard about the food like  "You have never tasted real pizza or pasta before you did not have it in Italy." is true as well. Try to get away from the main tourist hot spots where they shove you selfie sticks in the face and look out for the places where folks working in the city go for lunch or after work and you will find heavenly food and wine and sweets. 


Our hotel was called Regula Suite (I can recommend!). It is located near Campo de' Fiori and I loved that area so much. Especially on the last day the weather was nice enough for lunch outside and sitting there with some amazing pasta, looking over the buzzing square and the ridiculously blue sky was absolutely priceless. 



Of all the sightseeing things I liked the Pantheon the most. It is one of the few places you can visit without booking in advance.  I got shivers down the spine in that main room. You feel the weight of the centuries and the magical energy of the place. 


We only booked the tickets for the Vatican Museums ahead of time and when I go back I would definitely plan better and book more. The queues at all the main places are hilariously long - even at some random week days in February - and the selfie stick sellers are incredibly annoying; almost as annoying as the people who actually buy and use those damn sticks and then walk through a museum in slow motion filming and with no pain in the brain blocking the way for hundreds of people piling up behind them like in this place ... 



As it was to expect the few days spent in Rome barely scratched the surface of what this city has to offer but it was just right to get a feel and it was a damn good feel. It is an absolutely gorgeous place and I really, really want to go back soon. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Manchester - 3 December 2016

Biffy lightshow in full beauty

There we are already at the end of the 2016 Ellipsis tour! That sounds sad and I AM sad but then again ... not that terribly much ... just a bit melancholic. There are plans for next year already and you can expect more Biffy adventures on here. But before it is time to say good bye to the Biff for a little while we got one more gig to talk about and that is the one in Manchester. 

Our home base for the weekend were the Premiere Suites - not a regular hotel, but serviced apartments. It was good, but the place turned out to be as big as my flat (booked one bedroom got 2 bedrooms) and we could have housed half of the crew if we would have known this ahead of the trip. The apartments come with a full kitchen which we did not use at all, but if you plan to stay a bit longer in Manchester or need something to share with a few more people to lower the costs this is actually a good choice.
What I can also strongly recommend is the Café North right next door to the Premier Suites. The breakfast was excellent, there were also vegetarian options for the cooked breakfast available and they had a big selection of dairy free and super delicious smoothies.
Also if you happen to be in Manchester around Christmas take some time to visit the Christmas Market - it is huge and reminded me very much of the big city center Christmas Markets in Germany. 



LOOK - there's Gambler! 
Let's talk about the show:
This is the story of a bunch of people trying to be reasonable adults. Yes, I can hear you laughing and I am laughing with you. "Nice try!" is really the appropriate comment for this. What is so funny? Well. We got seats. Yes, actual seats. A whole bunch of us did.
When I told a friend about this - in the front row in Glasgow - he spontaneously checked if I had a fever and maybe I had? The thing is - there were lots of good reasons. Seats meant that we could take a later train / flights, meet the Biffy pals for an extended pub pre-show meet up, no queue, no rush, no front row anxiety with Manchester Arena being famous for being difficult / unpredictable with doors, no one that can limit your sight, full view of the light show and not half closed eyes because of lasers pointing at you for two hours. Doesn't it
 sound like heaven? Doesn't it sound even more like heaven for a middle aged person that was on her 5th (4 Biffy, 1 Twin Atlantic) gig in 8 days? It sure did ... until it didn't. Nope, no, never again. I am not made for this. No more envious staring on the little bobbleheads of the friends down there at the front ever again.
To be fair: It was not really bad. We sang, we danced, we actually could see very well and I would prefer a good seat over a bad standing spot in the middle of the crowd any time, but it just is not the same show as you would experience if you were right by the stage.  Oh well ... life is a learning curve, isn't it?

But the sights ... the sights were indeed spectacular!



The Wee Man


Re-arrange


Ben on the big screen
What made the show awesome but the seat situation not easier was the fact that this was a great crowd. I heard a few people calling it "tame", but I cannot confirm this. At a big venue like this you can totally stand unharmed at the one end while at the other end hell breaks loose.
From our seats we could see people rock at the front but as limited as you are being able to do so relatively squeezed into the dense crowd in the first rows. What we could also see was the circle pit that formed several times more towards the middle of the standing room. It was seriously big and looked much like a hurricane on a weather forecast map. The moshing break down of "That Golden Rule" looked awesome (and for a moment I was not too sad about being in my hypersafe seat). 

Happy James
Photo: Anita Ivanković
Let's get to the highlight of my last 2016 show and that was this time: "The Captain"

I love "The Captain". I have the final lines tattooed on my arms. I think the opening of the encore is the perfect placement and the only song I like as much (at least) in this spot is "Glitter & Trauma".
A huge arena like this (The capacity is 21,000. It was not 100% sold out but very, very busy) is the right place for the big anthemic songs like "The Captain" and what I could eye-witness here (Yay .. seats?) was absolutely beautiful. There is nothing quite like it than seeing the arms of almost 20k people point to the stage on the loudest "Whooooo" I ever heard right into a burst of white light. I LOVED IT! 

Yeah ... and then after two more songs it was over. Done and gone. The worst part really was saying good bye to all the Biffy friends for at least a couple of weeks. That bunch of people is special and has all my heart. 

The next couple of days for the shows in Cardiff and Birmingham I was fine. The pics were awesome and especially the reports from the Cardiff gig were enthusiastic. I was too tired though to have a real desire to be still on the road and my voice was completely gone as well. I could have seriously not made another gig. Then came London, the final gig at the O2, and that was .... painful. For me. For the band it was the GRAND FINALE they deserved so so so much and I could not be happier for them that it was such a triumph.

Biffy Clyro - Thank you for the music, the good times, the memories and the love! 

Source: Biffy Clyro Official Facebook Page


YesDragon - Be My Armour 



"Be My Armour" can be purchased here


When you hit the road with your favorite band and your friends you know that it will be a very intense time. It is a little escape into another world where you do nothing but hanging out with your best people doing only what you love doing the most. It is amazing (and just in case you are wondering: no, it is not boring at all) and all about emotions. Happiness though - and that is what we are talking about - is never permanent and neither is a tour. Part of the magic is that it is limited. The downside is that you know that at the end you will be sad and hurting for at least a little while. The ambivalence is inevitable. You cannot have the happiness without the sadness. 

It is the same with this song. It makes me sad. Significantly sad. I cannot even really tell why. It just cuts right through all my shells like music does - good music at  least. Yet ... I listen to it. I even listen to it often on repeat because it is also beautiful and probably my favorite song from the YesDragon EPs so far. It is the same ambivalence, I think. You cannot have the beauty without the sadness - you either take it both or you leave with nothing and that is never the best choice. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Glasgow - 29 November 2016

The Biff at the Hydro

After one short day off the road that I barely remember, because ... TIRED it was time for the Glasgow gig. Obviously I cannot post any recent hotel recommendations from my own experience because Glasgow means I can go home after the gig and sleep in my own very comfortable bed. That was such a weird feeling though. I am not exactly sure why it is not weird for any other band I have seen since I am a resident of this amazing city but for Biffy - yet it was. I still felt like I was on a trip double checking where my passport was (in my bag because - ID checks) and kind of always thought of my not existing travel schedule. Strange ...

Anyway ... although I personally do not need a hotel anymore, I will list some places for gig travelers who come to Glasgow. If you are attending a show at the Hydro there is a Hilton Garden Inn right by the venue and a Premier Inn just across the river. If you are on a budget the Euro Hostel and the Easy Hotel in the city center might work for you and if you fancy a bit of luxury I can recommend Hotel Indigo. Glasgow is not that big of a city and usually as long as your accommodation is in or close to the city center you are fine. I personally also booked Airbnb places in the West End quite frequently in the past and they were all nice, too.
If you are looking for a good place for dinner before around a Hydro show - or to interrupt the waiting time in the queue to warm up with some nice food - Glasgow's hipster mile Argyle Street in Finnieston is only a short walk away and has plenty of dining options for every taste and budget. 

If you are planning to visit Glasgow I recommend to plan in a bit of extra time if you can because it is awesome here. I might be a biased though. A bit.  


Si gazing out
Alright ... it took me a few days to get my thoughts together about this gig. 
I kind of wanted this to be the highlight of the tour so badly. The band's hometown show. My hometown show. But ... as much as I want it to be the best one - it was not. The band is not to blame. They were on fire and loved playing for their home crowd and of course also for their friends and families in the house. 


Jimbo up on the platform
It would also not be really fair to blame the crowd - they were up for it and the singalongs were really loud, but I think part of the problem is that the Barrowlands ruined me and my expectations. Bellahouston was a bit different because it had a festival feeling to it and was majestic by the size alone and the great atmosphere all around. The Hydro on the other hand was the first proper Glasgow indoor show since that exceptional weekend and somehow I had that type of crowd in my mind - well knowing that no 15,000 people arena audience would be able to live up to it, but rational thinking is one thing and the heart is another thing. And my heart wanted people to sing along the guitar lines, freaking out to "Wave Upon Wave" instead of making puzzled faces from about 5 rows into the crowd and you know ... it being special. The Hydro audience was great but it was just the average arena crowd in the end. I know this sounds almost arrogant and it's not that it was not a good show - it totally was. It was just not as outrageously awesome when it comes to the atmosphere as I had hoped for. I think. I don't know really. It is probably just me. What I definitely enjoyed though was having so many people I love in one place. THAT was really special to me although some were missing because it was week day and quite a lot of people could sadly not make the trip. 


Great Vennart action
Before we come to the highlight of the show let's have a quick word about the Hydro itself because I think the venue plays quite a big role in everything mentioned above. It was my 2nd show at this venue and ... I really do not like it. I think it is an amazing place when you want to see a pop act with many big screens and catwalks build into the crowd and dancers and all that stuff, but is a quite bad place for rock concerts. There are too many seats and not enough standing room and the seats are too far away from the stage. If I compare that with Manchester Arena or what I have seen of the O2 in London - there are seats very close to the stage where you feel part of the show almost like down on the floor, but everyone with a seat at the Hydro is seriously far away. Also the venue is oddly shaped and that leaves weird empty standing room left and right of the stage - at least with a set up like Biffy had. It was strange and it did not help the atmosphere.
On a positive note: The much feared paperless ticket thing worked surprisingly well and the team at the entrance appeared to be dealing fairly well with the card readers and the whole process. And while it was not as awesome as in Belfast all security folks I met that night were nice, friendly and helpful. 

The highlight .... is odd because I have to say that it was "Many Of Horror".  It IS a great song but I listened to it countless times live now and I personally do not need it really, but it works. It god damn works and it was in the end the moment when I got some chills from all the voices filling the room like it should be. 

I know it is impossible - at least for a regular show - but I wish next time we could just go back to the Barras and be there with "The Family" like in those memorable December nights in 2014. I know you cannot repeat things and it will never be the same, but there is really nothing like being with your closest people in that special room singing along and really feeling it. I will be back at the Barrowlands twice in the next 7 days and you can bet I will let out more than one big sigh when climbing these stairs ... 



YesDragon - Dick Panto



That is more like I wanted that night to be .. heavy voodoo, you know, burning shit up and all that. There will be another day when all that will happen in Glasgow again, too. I am sure. It IS one of the best places in the world to rock out - just the Hydro is not. 

The "Dick Panto" EP can be purchased here

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Belfast - 27 November 2016


Biffy Clyro - Ben & James vocals for "Medicine"

Back to back was the theme of this weekend and on we went up North to Belfast. After some hassle with finding the right bus stop and a much, much needed nap during the trip we arrived in Northern Ireland around lunch time.
When the tour was announced I had no second thoughts about doing Belfast as well. It is such a short flight back to Glasgow that I could do that on Monday morning before work (it was very painful but it worked) and our experience with our first trip to Belfast had been such a good one that it did sound like a great idea to do it all again. There were also no second thoughts about the hotel because the Premiere Inn Titantic Quarter is directly next to the venue and the accommodation of choice.  We had stayed there in the summer as well and there is nothing to complain. It is a classic Premiere Inn - nothing fancy but clean rooms, comfortable beds, friendly staff and booked early it is really affordable. If you go to a show in Belfast at the arena or Belsonic I can also really recommend to plan in some spare time for the Titanic Museum & Experience - it is pretty awesome and well worth the time and money. 

We did not have time though ... we had a show to go to!


Best security ever!
Before we come to the music let's talk about the people who made this day really special:  The local security team! 
Usually when the topic comes to the security at gigs the typical fan reaction is an annoyed groan. Sadly so very often the local staff does not make the fan life easier but a lot harder. After watching desperate people queuing for hours in the cold they seem to feel a little power when they can have people wait that extra few minutes, take their time to figure out the scanners while the doors are wide open and people are flooding in left and right and then top it all with comments like "You got time. It is a big place."  Fuck no ... we do not have time. If a fan decides to queue it is for a reason and that reason is not "Ah well ... let's go to the bar and the cloak room, get food and drink and then check out venue."  The reason is that the person in the queue has decided to sacrifice a good portion of the day to make it to the barrier. This type of behavior from the security can seriously ruin the whole gig experience and it happens every day, all around the world at countless shows. Belfast though ... Belfast knows how it's done!

The company responsible for this event was the same who was also responsible for the superb organisation at Belsonic and this time around it was easily as good. Very early in the afternoon the first security showed up and gave clear directions where to queue in front of the ONE door. Once it got more busy barriers were keeping the queue in place and every 50 people one element was put in to avoid rushing and queue jumping upon entry. The security was sticking around chatting, answering questions and making sure everyone was alright. About half an hour before doors the first group at the head of the queue was advised that male and female guests would get separate checks and how to queue for it.  When the doors opened in time the checks on bags and tickets were quick and efficient. Behind doors the next group of security was already waiting and leading the first people slowly to the barrier. No one was allowed to pass or run. It was the easiest and fairest entry to a venue ever with a free choice of the barrier spot for us. Absolute perfection. 
And that was not all! The gentlemen in the picture above were the security in the pit. They were the funniest and nicest guys ever. They shared their sweets with us, we had more than one laugh and during the show they never stopped handing out water and continuously checked on the people as deep into the crowd as they could manage. It made SUCH a difference.  I really wish other venues / security teams would make a trip to Belfast and learn from the example. It put Norther Ireland high on my list of places to go back to for a gig. 


James Johnston
The show .... was so much more relaxed for everyone involved. After having trouble to see Mike the night before due to one of the light frames we now moved a bit more to the middle and claimed a spot with free sight of everyone (but Gambler - the master of hiding). 

We watched in awe how the stage crew after the support band Brand New in only 30 minutes finished the switch over for Biffy. That is an incredible short amount of time for such a big show. 
Just like us the band seemed to be more comfortable and confident with the set up also and moved around in a way more relaxed way on the huge stage with its many ramps and platforms. For us at the front there was still so much to see but of course we knew better what to expect and enjoyed the show a lot more. It was just so much fun to sing along and rock that barrier.  


Simon Neil - No zoom
At the end of the regular set it was time for Si's catwalk and the reaction of the crowd in Belfast was of course much the same as in Dublin. As I was standing quite a lot more in the middle Simon now stood not more than an arm length away from me. I surely enjoyed that short glimpse of feeling like being at small, intimate gig. It is also quite amazing and beautiful to watch how he comes out smiling and communicating with the folks at the front but then just closes his eyes and turns inward for the song. What is much less beautiful to witness though is that people seem to be unable to SHUT THE FUCK UP.  Why it is so incredibly hard for so many people to bloody stop talking at least through the acoustic songs??? Me and one of my pals on the other side of the catwalk both had to give out "SHUT UPS!!!" to the talkers around us. I really have no understanding and patience for this.

Mike V. - He's in the band, too!
My highlight of the night for this show was "On A Bang".  I do like the song anyway but it feels like it gets stronger and stronger the more often they play it live. It has grown into a proper monster now - a big, pretty, noisy monster and I love it. 

I also enjoyed very much that I am finally able to take full Vennart action shots. There are a lot more to share from the Glasgow show because I had an even better view on our man on the guitar, but I really like this one already. 

Thank you Belfast! You were beautiful and nice and fun and I will be back! 

YesDragon - Oil And Glue 



"Oil And Glue" is from the "7 Bells" EP which can be purchased here
It is one of those songs that gives me personally that kind of not really rationally to explain fuzzy, warm, happy feeling inside and that fits perfectly to the trip to Belfast.  It was a perfect, mostly stress free day spent with the best friends (minus Villate - we missed you!) and the best band around. It does not get much better.