Thursday, April 17, 2014

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Rockation March 2014 in Munich

Arcane Roots
I started buying tickets for the shows this spring already back in 2013 and did not really look at the dates. So it was just some weeks ago that I realized that I had myself booked into 4 shows in 8 days in the last week of March with Gibonni, Soak & CHVRCHES, Paws & We Are Scientists, Boy Jumps Ship & the mighty Arcane Roots! Lucky me that I had still 5 vacation days left out of 2013 that I had to use up before the end of March to make it a stay-at-home "rockation"!


Zlatan Stipišić Gibonni is one of the most famous Croatian singers and songwriters and one of the very few of international format. He worked already with legendary musicians like Pino Paladino, Manu Katché or Tony Levin. Recently he released his first album in English language called "20th Century Man", which he was now promoting with a club tour. 
I am a Gibo fan for over a decade now and have seen him live already many times at many different venues between Wuppertal and Primošten. He is a great live musician with an excellent band and you just cannot go wrong with going to another show. I was curious how it would feel to see him in a regular club and not in a typical Croatian diaspora location and I was wondering how much English speaking songs he would really play. The answer is: Not many. 
This is Munich and the Croatian community is big and of course the club was packed with Croatian speaking people who wanted to hear the songs they love so much (including me) and they got what they had waited for. The Ampere club was not sold out but nicely filled and as always it was a big sing along. Although the music for the rest of the week was very different from this, there is barely a better way  to start a music filled time than with singing "Cesarica" from the bottom of your heart. 


The next show was in the biggest venue of the week - Muffathalle -, which is in the same building like the Ampere in Downtwon Munich directly at the river Isar.
As expected the place was packed already when support act Soak entered the stage, but not so packed that I could not just go for the barrier even if it was relatively far out on the left wing.
Soak is a singer songwriter and the audience ready for some fancy mixture of electro, rock and pop reacted a bit irritated at first but then very positively on the simple yet pretty intense little songs just performed with voice and acoustic guitar. It wasn't bad just not my cup of tea, but I have some serious respect, because Soak is a 17-year-old girl. And holy shit ... I would have DIED if I would have had to go out on stage in front of so many people when I was her age. I still might - I cannot tell. My max audience was about 500 people (and I spoke not sang!) until today while she looked into about 1,500 faces that night.

Then came CHVRCHES ... also not exactly my music because it's a bit too much electro, but the songs are real earworms and I also of course could not let the chance pass by to see a Scottish music legend perform with the one and only Iain Cook of Aereogramme and Unwinding Hours. The music scene in and around Glasgow would not be the same without that guy. And this is why it is almost amusing to stand around at a German show of CHVRCHES and hear people talking about how "fast" the career of this band took off and speculating if they may become even a one hit (one album) wonder. Well ... yes .... CHVRCHES was only founded in 2011 and they are enjoying already an incredible world wide success but neither for Iain nor for Martin, who used to tour with the amazing The Twilight Sad, nor for the lovely singer Lauren this commercial success came quick and easy. For me it is fantastic to see how it now works out for them. 

The show itself was pretty impressive, but very different from the rock shows I am used to .. more dancing than sing along. It was also relatively short which is what you have to expect when a band is touring their very first album, but very energetic and musically first class. There is more to come from those folks - that's for sure.
And one for the boys: Lauren from close by is even cuter than on TV and her voice sounds live as good as on record. 



The show on Thursday I owe to my musical US twin sister (minus Elbow ;) ) Villate, who strongly recommended me to see some of her favorite guys - Paws from Glasgow and We Are Scientists from New York - two bands who enjoy traveling as a double pack as well in Europe as in the US. Funny enough right when we talked about it a few months ago we checked if there would be tour dates by any chance - and there were! The new album "TV en Francais" of We Are Scientists would come out in spring and there was a perfectly timed tour to support it including a stop in Munich at the Ampere

I was early at the club this time and got easily a slot directly at the stage (no barrier) to welcome the next bunch of Glasgow people to Munich. Usually my fellow citizens show up late but for Paws the club was already nicely filled and kept getting more and more packed. The audience really appreciated the energetic punk / indie rock tunes of the trio and started off the party. I have seriously seen already a couple of headlining acts with bigger names who had way more trouble to get the Ampere crowd hopping. I loved it but felt pretty sorry for Phil, Josh & Ryan because the stage is really small and the drum kit and equipment of We Are Scientists in the back left almost no room for jumping around on stage and I felt like we had it easier than the band to dance. I guess Phil thought the same because he jumped off the stage for a bit and played amongst the audience.
After the show I went to say hello and get my CD signed and had some lovely short talk with the guys. Good music, lovely people - definitely will go and see them again as soon as I have the chance. 




When We Are Scientists were finally ready to rock the club was packed up to the roof and you can take this literally because it has a gallery that is only opened when a serious amount of tickets is out there and the word of "sold out" is making the round.
After hanging out a bit with Paws at the merch booth (which is at the Ampere practically "on  stage") I sneaked back into my front row slot - amazing enough that this worked without a problem and ended up right in front of bass player Chris Cain. I was well prepared for the party to come - "TV en Francais" is great fun and the back catalogue has some pearls as well.
The show was as awesome as expected - great sound, band in top form - musically and humorously (We Are Scientists are with full right known to be one of the funniest bands you can see) and the audience was dancing, singing and cheering like it is supposed to be. My personal highlights were two of the new tunes - the lovely "Dumb Luck" and the catchy "Make It Easy" which is exactly the big sing along hit I expected it to be from hearing the album the very first time on. What a fun night! 



As so often the best was left for the last and that was seeing the lovely Arcane Roots again who impressed with their album "Blood & Chemistry" before and even more importantly grew close to my heart when they were supporting Biffy Clyro on the winter tour playing great sets night after night. I could not wait to see and hear them playing a full headliner show right here in my town.

But before the main act a rock concert has the support band and in this case it were "Boy Jumps Ship" from Newcastle. I had honestly never heard of them before but I liked their show very much - crackin' rock music like I love it. They are also really nice guys who spent a lot of time at the merch after the show ready to talk to everybody interested in their music and very much appreciating the attention and positive feedback. They just signed a record deal and have soon their new EP "Lovers & Fighters" coming out. Look out for them - I bet you will hear more about them soon! 


Then it was time for Arcane Roots and I was very happy and excited. I just had wished for a bit more people in the club. Munich on a Sunday night is sadly not the ideal place for an awesome rock band on the way up. BUT on Team Biffy you can count: We were a nice little group of Biffy regulars welcoming our "other boys" some even traveling with Arcane Roots through Germany.
The show was nothing short of incredible. The new single "Over & Over" opened the set and it is amazing. I had then my tearful happy minutes right after when they played my very favorite song "Slow" that is part of their usual setlist for headliner shows, but was not part of the support shows I had only seen before. It was as beautiful as expected. If there is anything negative to say about the show then that the final and beautiful "You keep me here" came way, way too fast. I cannot wait for the new album. New music is always good and all the new material that was already introduced live is brilliant. And a new album will also mean more songs and longer shows. So ... BRING IT ON!


After the show Andrew, Adam & Daryl came also out to the merch booth to say hello. I have to admit that it is pretty cool to meet one of your favorite bands so easily and it gets even better when they link you right away correctly to common friends and you can share some stories and laughs. We had in particular some fun moments when we asked one of the very few people still around at the end if he could take a picture of us and picked - of course - the drunkest guy around who made an incredible fuss around the super simple task to take a cellphone picture. He was complaining it would not work, but when we checked afterwards he had taken easily a dozen photos of us in all kind of poses - half of them us gesturing over to him to return the phone - hilarious


It was a bit heart breaking to say good bye so soon again after only seeing one show and I was terribly jealous when I saw the pictures from packed venues and partying and singing people from the UK shows, but I know I will see our Roots again as soon as the new album is out. Can't wait already ... 




The full rockation photo set can be seen here



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hell & Heaven

I do not read music magazines - at least not on regular basis. I kind of feel that they either do not take things seriously enough or too serious.
In the first category they just print big and colorful pictures together with half correct band quotes and 3 line record reviews sponsored by the responsible record companies.
In the second category .. they usually take the record company money as well, but put much more effort into publishing content like interviews, stories about bands, concert reviews and tons of record reviews, where highly motivated writers try to transfer music into words with often outrageous comparisons and metaphors.
The first category is useless and does not matter anyway. Magazines from the second category I buy from time to time usually when they have interviews or features about one of my favorite bands, but I cannot bring myself to read and buy one every month because my reaction is the same like it is when I try to book a package holiday from a catalogue: my brain goes on "white noise".

A couple of times in my life I tried to book a package holiday. You know .... when you just want to go somewhere to do nothing but relax? I tried to do what - it seems - all people do and got some catalogues from the travel agencies to pick a destination and a hotel, but I just could not make it happen. After 5 pages latest all these white buildings at white beaches with blue water look totally the same and the descriptions and lists with amenities start to swim in front of my eyes. I in the end never booked one of those holidays and stopped even trying years ago. I book flights and rental cars and air bnb rooms and go see my friends around the world. I travel to rock shows and ice hockey games and Croatia has the very best places to relax and swim anyway.
It is the same with all the record reviews. After a few of them they all start to get blurry and sound the same - just a flood of weird adjectives and cross references
So what I do when I want new music is that I check the bands my favorite artists work with, recommend or reference, I go early enough to shows to catch the support bands and I have an eye and ear on what's the buzz between my friends who share mostly the same taste in music. 
Lately two records were released which are now in the center of the attention all around and I had a listen - with totally different out come.

Hell


Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything

My Twitter feed was full of praise for this record, but I was sceptical. I have the "Any Day Now EP" and the debut album "Asleep In The Back". In the goold ol' days I was working a lot with V2 and got free samples of most of their releases and Elbow was the next big thing. I did not like it very much ... too Radiohead (if you know me a bit you know this means "dead to me").
But hey ... that was in 2001. Times changed, probably the band changed as well? I checked a couple of songs and they were not exactly earworms but a lot of good people with a decent taste in music assured me the album is a "grower" and so I gave it a try. 

But ... good grief ... how SLOW can you play music??? The answer is very, very, very slow. One song is okay, two songs is starting to get awkward, three songs in I start to get fever fantasies about just pulling the speed up and half way through I am in such a state of denial that I start to develop a scientific interest in the philosophical question if you can play so slow that it basically stops but doesn't? The answer is: YES. 
The next question is: Do I even want to find this out? The answer is: NO
I tried, dear friends, but this record is not growing on me. It's not my cup of tea. It's even worse ... it drives me crazy and not in a good way. So thanks, but no thanks. Who ever likes it may become happy with it but it's not me.
PS: Dear review writers who love to compare this with the great Peter Gabriel - just DON'T! 


Heaven



Manchester Orchestra - COPE

COPE - the new album of Atlanta rockers Manchester Orchestra was at least in my part of the music world one of the most anticipated releases of the last few months and not only because Biffy's Simon Neil wrote his own rave review about it. To be honest: as much as I love Si from the bottom of my heart - his music recommendations can be a bit weird .. eh ... special. I meant to say special ;)

So Simon alone would have not created the excitement nor would the "That reminds of Pinkerton" references (equals gold star rating) that could be read a couple of times, but what the band put on their soundcloud ahead of the release was already pretty amazing and that's always the best advertisement.
I preordered the album and when it finally came out I was immediatly VERY happy with what hit my eardrums. As much as the Elbow album is not mine the Manchester Orchestra one is exactly what I love. The guitars are loud and it's thankfully not slow at all. The songs stick in my head - music and lyrics - and it is so much fun to listen to. It is the type of fearless records I really like because it lets the big songs be big, it gives them room to shine and it ROCKS.
For me this is the best new record in 2014 to date and I think it has a good chance to stay in this top spot of my personal charts until "Similarities" - Biffy's b-side record - will be released. 


Check out the awesomeness here: 


Electric: 



Acoustic and heartbreakingly wonderful:




And my personal favorite. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

John Niven in Munich

Niven & Nagel
Last week on Wednesday, March 19, Scottish writer John Niven came together with his German sidekick Nagel (writer and musician Thorsten Nagelschmidt) to Munich to read from his new book "Straight White Male" and I went to listen & laugh.

The connection between music and Niven is strong and that not only for his delightfully cynic bestselling novel "Kill Your Friends" about murderous A&R Manager Steven Stelfox (the movie adaption is being filmed as we speak) and other music related texts as well as his own short career in music biz, but also because Niven and Nagel behave so much more like a touring band than the average writers on a reading tour. It gave the event a special touch and even the audience looked slightly different from the regular literature crowd.

I got a taste of it right when I arrived about 40 minutes before the reading started. I settled down on the stairs up to the location (a small stage at the Volkstheater) because the room was not yet open. There were a few more people and after some short friendly chat they claimed that they have been waiting since 7 pm. OH HA - I realized I just entered my first literature qeue ever when John Niven and Nagel passed by for the soundcheck. Short before doors the now significantly bigger group of waiting people moved upstairs and started to get in position around the door. Rock 'n' Roll!  But I am too routined to be pushed back and when the doors finally opened I rushed inside and threw myself into a nice center stage first row seat. Little did I know this seat would bring me in slight trouble twice that night.

Next to me was a free seat and it turned out it belonged to a guy from the publishing company, who was standing now in front of the audience to make the introduction (good for me Niven and Nagel did not enter yet).  So publishing dude told us a bit about John Niven and his writing career before he said:  "John Niven is from Scotland - from Ayrshire (insert weird pronounciation) which is ... I think ... North or so of Glasgow." 
And god damn ... I am so so so so terrible with keeping my mouth shut, because then not exactly super loud but pretty good to hear in the tiny theater I said without thinking (obviously) "South West!"
Publishing guy looked at me, my seat neighbour looked at me, that lady down the row looked at me ....  But ... I mean, I may not know much about Scotland but for some - very music related -  reasons the one thing I really know is where Ayrshire is and it is NOT North of Glasgow. John Niven btw is from Irvine which is right West of Kilmarnock and North of Ayr at the coast.
After a slightly uncomfortable silent moment and a few more words the introduction was finished and Niven and Nagel entered the stage.

Before the actual reading was kicking off John Niven first apologized for not speaking German with introducing Nagel, who would do the German parts, and not even English but Scottish. He promised to speak slowly to help the audience dealing with his accent and so he did ... at least in the beginning. For me personally that accent is clearly a feature and no bug since I am quite used to it and I enjoyed it a lot.

Niven & Nagel used the following hour (short smoking break included) to make us meet Kennedy Marr (yes, named after Johnny Marr) the main character of Niven's new novel "Straight White Male".  Marr is of Irish descent but lives in Los Angeles. He used to be a successful author but he has not written a single line for his new novel in years, instead he enjoyed his Hollywood lifestyle and the decent amount of money he would make as a script doctor for big movie productions. All would be lovely if he would not have forgotten a nasty detail:  paying taxes
So Kennedy Marr is in trouble. He is deep in debts and either needs to face prison time, slow down his lifestyle and quickly write and release his next novel (he tends to look at prison) or .. find a source of money. He succeeds on option three when he scores a highly remunterated job - teaching "Creative Writing" at a prestigious English college. While the irony is not lost on him who had not written anything labeled "creative" for years, he takes his chance although he is not exactly keen on living so much closer to ex-wife and daughter in the UK and his dying mother in Ireland. But he has no choice and so he moves over the Atlantic ...

Niven and Nagel read selected scenes alternating in English and German. The highlights were clearly "the wanking scene" (read by Niven), which proofs just one more time that men are lousy multitaskers and a heavy party & sex scene including Marr and a young female movie star read by Nagel in German. As you can see here already ... just like a typical Niven book this one is again nothing for sensible souls. Marr is not the Patrick Bateman style bad guy like "Kill Your Friends" Steven Stelfox but he is sure no angel either and Niven is never talking around it. If you can take it - it's super funny. I loved it and I had to really laugh when Niven quoted his German translator (who from what I heard did a good job), who said about the challenge of translating a Niven novel: "John, you are writing things regular German people would not even think." He might be right.

Just a like a touring band Niven and Nagel were a smooth operating team supporting each others jokes and sharing a bottle of white wine as the evening went. I had a lot of fun, but sadly towards the end I got a bit confused over the rock concert character of the whole thing as it seems. There was a bit of an unclear situation about doing a little encore and / or the Q&A session which then started with the usual awkward silence before some people actually asked something. At some point the last question was called up and answered and I - in my first row center seat - made a move to get ready to give the much deserved applause, but stopped dead when nobody else did. 
The story was that I had not seen that a guy two chairs left of me had another question and just the same second I stopped my - now slightly awkward - move John Niven pointed at the guy and me and allowed the "Two more questions." He thought my move was me raising a hand for a question, too. 
Problem: I had no question, but just saying that was not really an option. So I gave the other guy the first go who then asked slightly off topic if the description of the music biz in "Kill Your Friends" was over the top or pretty much real. Answer for the ones of you wondering: Not exaggerating for the time described in the book, but pretty different now due to the totally changed situation in the music business.
Then Niven turned to me. I still had no question and said it was fine because he wanted to end the session already earlier anyway, but no chance. "COME ON" said the Scot like just Scots say it. There was no escape and so I pulled the only half way smart question I could think of and asked what he as a Scotsman would think about the referendum for the Scottish independence in fall. 

The first answer was just: "Oh." I think I might have been the first person on his reading tour who asked that. He took a deep breath and explained in as brief words as possible that life on "the day after" would just go on - without the horror scenarios of the NO campaigners even coming close to reality. He also explained that Scots would never elect a conservative government but have to deal with it as often as the rest of the country goes for it and would not want that anymore. He said for those reasons he is supporting the YES. (Note: This is not a exactly word for word what he said and just summarized in my very own words, but I tried to stay as close to his as I could from memory)

Phew ... I think I made it out of the awkward situation quite nicely and I felt at least good enough to queue up to get my books signed. I had brought my copies of "Kill Your Friends" and "Straight White Male".  First thing John Niven noticed was that my books were in English, but that is just my general habit. If I have the language skills to read a book in its original language I do that. The 2nd thing he noticed was my Biffy shirt although it just has really small "Biffy Clyro" written on it. He looked up and said: "Hm, Biffy fan, too?" Me: "Yes, very much." He then finished signing and shook my hand like he did with everybody but then did not say "Thanks for coming." like to all the others but: "MON THE BIFF!"

My jaw dropped a little before I grinned like kid under the Christmas tree and I of course shouted back: "MON THE BIFFY!"

I mean ... how cool is that???? MON THE NIVEN! 

Thanks for a really great night!

If you have not read "Kill Your Friends" go now and DO IT and if your are done just keep going with "Straight White Male" or any other John Niven book! 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mixtape

Not much going on here ... still. Obviously the 2nd half of 2013 got all the excitement and did not leave much for the first half of 2014 - at least not on the positive side of things. Just work, sad news and an ugly cold that is sticking with me for two weeks already and is not going away. Logically there is nothing big that deserves a long blog post, but instead a few short observations from the last couple of weeks. 

Get Off My Internets


"Get Off My Internets"
is a website you find at http://getoffmyinternets.net/. My headscratching starts already with the title of the website ... either somebody tries to be sarcastic or did not get the idea of the internet. Either way its users are definitely ignoring the fact that the easiest way to get stuff "off your internets" is  by not clicking on it. BOOM! Do not look at it, do not read it, do not interact with it. Sometimes it is that simple.
Obviously some readers have no clue about this strikingly easy solution to their problmes like for example the one that used the forum to write a fairly long article about why she hates my friend's (btw absolutely fabulous) blog. Hmmm ... why is she then exactly still reading it? I do not get it. If you can explain to me - the comment section is yours!

The same forum has also this wonderful subdivision about GERMAN BLOGGERS! Yay ... that's me? Right? Right.
Apparently I can choose why people will hate me. I could write in German, but ...
"I really have no idea if here is anyone from Germany or is reading german blogs on a regular basis but every blog that's written in german annoys the hell out of me."
Hmmm ... so maybe better not. Right? Right. I could write in English - just there is then one of the follow up postings ...
"I fucking hate when Germans, Austrians or Swiss blog in english. It is always sooo fake and try hard and a bad copy of the popular american blogs."
Looks like English is no option either. So what I am supposed to do? Stop writing at all or better shoot myself right away?


The decision for the language a blogger uses is depending on two things mainly: 1) The ability and desire to use a language - native or not. 2) The target group of the blog - the people it is addressing.
I went for English neither to be cool nor to annoy random readers. I did it because the people I want to share my thoughts with - my friends - are spread all over the planet. English is simply the language they all understand. I know my English is not perfect. I make hilarious mistakes all the time and it is sure "German" ... and a little Pittsburghese and a little Scottish and a little British because I am logically influenced by the people I talk to. But it is like it is and it is the only possible way for me to keep the blog going. 


The problem itself goes deeper though. You find it EVERYWHERE all over the internet and especially down the comment sections of news and commentary websites. There seems to be an inner force in people that makes them hate on practically everything and everybody and is also forcing them to put that hate out there. It puzzles me because I do not have it - at all. I don't agree with a lot of pepole, I have my discussions, I fight if necessary but ... hate for the sake of hate? I do not get it and it makes me doubt from time to time that mankind has a future


Thank God so so so so many wonderful things in my life are also driven by the power force of the internet and the opportunity it gives us to meet, to help each other and share the love and passion we have for pepole / things close to our heart. Maybe there is still hope. 


Ink


A couple of months ago a friend of mine got her first ink. It is a fairly small piece with a nice and inspiring quote that remindes her of some important people in her life. It is easy to cover by normal clothes. You would think in the 21st century and in a global metropole (no it was not in Munich ;)) a tattoo like this would be something nobody cares about anymore. Wrong!
She did share some of the comments she got and it is all still well alive ... the prisoner story, the gang story, the sailor story, the hooker story. All prejudices have safely survived the milenium.
Why it is so hard to let people make their very own choices? We inked people let you not inked people live your lifes and you just leave us alone as well and all is good. I can just say that I love every tattoo I have. They comfort me and give me strength and self-confidence more than even I had estimated before getting them. They are good for me. But that is just me - everyone needs to make their own decision. It is that simple - again. 

Mogwai

I had the joy and fun to open - barley recovered from the tonsilitis - the 2014 concert season with the fabulous MOGWAI from Glasgow. For a lyric driven person like me it is not so super easy to adjust to band that presents a mostly instrumental performance, but soon the magic of the sound did its thing. I most enjoyed the more heavy and rocking stuff (logically) with three guitars. That was some awesome and bloody loud noise (no problem though - I had my LugPlugs as always).
Although the venue (Backstage) was quite packed I was once more benefiting from the annoying habit of Munich people to show up late and had a nice barrier slot on the left hand side I enjoyed a lot.


Viktor & The Blood

The 2nd show of the season was Viktor & The Blood from Sweden and once again my lovely hometown was sound asleep. I have no other explanation for the fact that even the fairly small Ampere was pretty empty that night. Obviously not a lot of people here are aware that the band itself is new, but not the musicians - Viktor & The Blood are 2/3 former Sugarplum Fairy and 1/3 former Mando Diao and you could hear that! I mean that in the very best day, because what the few at the Ampere got to witness were no newcomers playing their first shows but three talented and highly professional musicians performing a great - even if short (they have only one album yet) - set.
What I have to positively note is that they sounded much heavier than you would expect from three petite, Mod dressed Swedes. My favorite song of the night was clearly "Don't Drag Me Down", but I loved the complete show. It was definitely not the last time I have seen Viktor & The Blood.


T IN THE PARK 2014

James approves!
It happened again. The rational part of my brain stopped functioning and my heart took over: in an attack of craziness I fired up my Ticketmaster account and bought a day ticket for Friday at T IN THE PARK with Biffy Clyro headlining.
I do not like big festivals AT ALL, but for the boys it is a very special show (10th time they play TITP) and so so so many of my folks are going. And I know myself ... if I would be at home that Friday night, I would sit in a dark corner of my apartment, LIVE FROM GLASGOW would play and big tears drop on my phone while I am watching all the pictures, tweets and messages coming in. JUST NO! It is not worth the pain.
Flights to Scotland will be booked this weekend and OH EM GEE ... I feel so much better now. I had no idea I wanted to go so badly until I did it.
 See you there!

PS: Note to my dear friend Gabrijela - no, this is again not the show I am waiting on for May / June. This is July 11 and a different event. Sorry :(

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cabin Fever

Praise the Lord - January is over. I really don't know what is wrong with this stupid month, but it is ALWAYS the worst of the year. And it is not only because everybody has a holiday hangover and it is cold and dark. January is - at least for me - always loaded with bad news, problems and trouble and 2014 was sure no exception.

Christmas, my 40th (YIKES) birthday and NYE were all very nice. Christmas is just awesome with my super cute nieces. I celebrated my birthday twice with family and friends and with much love, great gifts and awesome cakes. Finally NYE was a great party with good music.
So far no complaints but it started to go all downhill right when I got back to Munich and heard my sister had spent the first day of the year with a really sick baby at the ER and everbody else in the family got sick as well. The next days more bad news dropped in from other sides before I finally started to feel sick myself on Friday three weeks ago.

First it felt like a little cold. On Saturday it felt like a big cold. On Sunday morning I called for the emergency physician coming to my house because I had 40°C (104°F) fever and could watch and feel the right side of my throat swelling by the minute. The diagnosis took like 10 seconds: purulent tonsilitis
This is a rare event for me .. I cannot even remember my last tonsilitis and my regular physician who has my complete records for the last 13 years has not one documented. The emergency doc put me on antibiotics immediatly and told me to see my regular doc on Monday morning since he could not put me on sick leave.

When I saw my physician the next morning he was shocked because it was THAT bad and sent me straight over to the throat specialist since the inflammation and swelling was so extreme that he thought it could be already an abscess which would have put me into hospital right away. At the specialist's office I had two doctors busy and discussing what to do with me because it was ... THAT bad. I was ordered to stay in bed, not move and come back the next morning.
The next day I was extremely miserable. I could not swallow anything, the pain was insane and I was utterly exhausted because I had not slept since Saturday. Every time I was falling asleep and swallowed (a reflex you cannot stop) the pain was so intense that I woke up again after seconds of napping. That was when the doctor decided to give me steroids IV to give me a break.
I know about all the bad side effects steroids have when you take them for a longer time, but as an emergency medication the effect is a miracle. Two hours after the (painful due to my bad veins) injection I was practically "fake healthy" for a little while. I used the time for having something to eat beyond strawberry sorbet and for getting some sleep


On Thursday I had the next check up and that was when I was really in the need of help. The effect of the steroids was gone and the swelling was back in full effect. The general inflamation of the tonsils was actually better already but the edema had sunk down in the lower tonsils - something I was not even aware that it exists. The problem is that deep in your throat you have no room. So when I arrived at the doctor's office I could not speak because the swelling was pressing against my vocal chords. I also felt a dump pressure on the larynx and had some trouble with breathing. And  I was panicking. It actually feels like somebody tries to strangle you slowly but without ever loosening up. It is frightening.
I got more steroids over the next few days to get the situation under control again and it ALMOST forced me to spend the weekend in the hospital. I was lucky that I in the end could stay home. 


The next week I slowly got better babystep by babystep but I had to stay at home for a full second week and I was really out of the game. Usually when I am sick I stay home, sleep in but then work from my couch but this time it was really impossible. I can barely remember  that I ever felt so sore and tired. By now I just ended week three since I got sick and still I can tell that I am not yet 100% again because I need much more sleep than I am used to. It's a slow process ...

When I was stuck at home I had plenty of time to think over the events in 2013 and about what a crazy year it was. The arrival of my 2nd niece was clearly a highlight. Then I traveled so much ... Lisbon, London several times, my wonderful Pittsburgh twice, Stockholm, Paris and and so on... some serious globe trotting here. I also went to SEVEN home games of the Pittsburgh Penguins (I am so spoiled) including my first two live playoff games ever. And on top of this all I also went to a LOT of shows of favorite bands like Friska Viljor, Johnossi and Queens Of The Stone Age.
And then there was January 31 2013. That was the day when I fell in love with Biffy Clyro and that changed my life. It sounds cheesy but it is just a fact. In this one year I went to six shows in six cities and two countries. Due to the band I met so many awesome people, spent some more fantastic hours with old friends and added so much more wonderful music of other (somewhat related) artists to my life. 
I also added a lot new ink to my skin in 2013. Once more I stopped worrying what other people might think about me but went with my heart and I have absolutely no regrets. I love my (very visible) lower arm tattoos a lot and they have such a positive impact on my self-perception  - way more than I would ever have expected.

It's been really a crazy, restless, nomadic and most importantly on many days very happy year with lots of amazing experiences that had a huge impact on me. Of course at many points I was close to stopping and reconsidering my decisions but I ended up pretty much always going for the more crazy option.
And - to get back to my rough start of the year - when I was lying there on my couch almost unable to swallow and trying to breath and not panic I was so grateful that I did what I did. It probably sounds a bit pathetic because it was in the end "just" a tonsilitis and I knew I would be okay soon again, but when you go from strong and healthy to weak and sick in such a short time, it gives you a strong impression of how fast something can happen that will stop you from living the Rock 'n' Roll life. I have seen this happen to both of my parents when they were not much older than me now.


Most people my age happily settle down with their famies and on focus on their homes. And it's wonderful ... if that is your path, if that is what makes you happy it is perfect. Do it, enjoy it and keep working on it to make it even better.
It is just very obviously not my path. Instead of settling down I need to hit the road more than ever to be happy. I really need to fight that cabin fever I am yet suffereing from after being in Munich for 1 month and 2 days in a row. It alreadly feels like forever. 


The next trip might not happen before March (Malta), but the first little escape waits on Wednesday when I at least FINALLY can open the concert season 2014 with the fabulous MOGWAI from Glasgow.

January might have been crap, but now it's time to ROCK that 2014! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tour De Biff - Biffy Clyro Winter Tour 2013 - Munich & Tourcoing


Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the first part of my Tour De Biff were super busy and went by in a surreal state of normality. It is really like a parallel universe and when you bounce back and forth between touring with a rock band and working in your office job it gets really confusing.

It was a relief when Thursday was finally there and I was waiting for my guests. A while ago I had won two guest list tickets for the show on top the one I had purchased and so I was able to share the fun of the day with two of my Biffy friends who were traveling along with the band.
Since the venue other than in Paris was quite a bit away from civilization in an industrial / commercial area with no shops and cafés we had some lunch at my place before we headed out to the venue in the afternoon.

Munich - Stop 3

Just like in Düsseldorf the waiting crowd was very small when we arrived. The barriers for ticket and security check were not even up yet. When some guys arrived to set them up one of them looked at us shivering in the icy winter cold and said in deepest Bavarian accent: "Good Lord - these people are here earlier than once for Michael Jackson."  If it would not have been so cold (the wind .. the WIND) it would have been funny.
For us some stress was added on top of the awful weather: we had one regular ticket but the two additional guest list tickets we had to pick up at the box office that would open short before / at doors. I do not understand this. What is this with box offices open at doors??? Isn't it logical that waiting fans would like to get their tickets BEFORE doors? This whole box office thing costs so many fans of all kind of bands years of their lives by being so stressed out that I have no clue why we have to still deal with it.
The situation that night was terrible. I had asked the local staff which window would open for the guest list and that was where we were waiting. At some point light was switched on, that lady sat down, set everything up and all that in SLOWMOTION. It was really like she was enjoying to see us die in front of that damn window. We were checking on the queue all the time with our third man at the front. He would if necessary head for the barrier wihout us and try to secure a spot. It took a few more endless minutes before we finally had our tickets in hand and headed back for the queue just to find out that for our tickets it was another entrance. That was actually cool - in theory - because there was no queue at all (VIP and press entrance) and it was closer to the stage. For real it sucked because the queue at the main entrance started moving in already while we had a guy front of us telling that it was not yet time for doors. We had a serious melt down right there. I know this sounds extreme and hysterical and I always try to force myself to keep my cool, but watching a show from the barrier is a very different experience than somewhere in the crowd. I am also pretty short and if I want to see anything I am either at the front or far out at the wings where I can keep distance to the person right in front of me and that was definitely not what I wanted. It was almost comforting to see my friend having the same nervous melt down like me although I hate to see her suffer - it made me feel less weird. When finally the guy let us in the front row was quite crowded already but said third man was a warrior and we literally jumped left and right of him against the barrier into the perfect slot right where James would stand later.

While the show in Tourcoing would beat pretty much everything in awesomeness a few days later, Munich was very fine as well. I loved, loved, loved my barrier spot. It was the best I could see for the whole tour. Surprisingly even the sound was great although the Zenith sounds like shit usually and like I heard later it was more far back its gruesome self but not in the front row. I had talked to Churd before when we were queuing and he had told us that they put a lot of effort into making the HUGE place (6,000 people) sound half way decent. I have to say it worked at least for me in the front. I never had a better sound at that usually shitty place before. My spot was also really nice for taking pictures. I do not shoot a lot because I prefer to just enjoy the shows but the happier I am when I get some decents pics in the few minutes I invest.

Another thing that made Munich pretty special were the outstanding performances of both supporting bands:


Arcane Roots came out first and from the first note it was clear that everything was so much better now. The sound was great, the light was beautiful, Andrew's voice back to normal and everybody on stage was in a great, but very emotional state of mind since this was the last stop for Arcane Roots on this tour.
We in the front row cheered loudly for our Roots, but we were not alone. Munich LOVED Arcane Roots and it was such a good feeling when I heard the cheers in my back coming from the crowd and the applause was getting louder and louder with every song.
After the show we went to the merch booth to say a sad and final good bye for the tour to Arcane Roots and it was lovely to see them so happy. Those guys are fantastic - they make some seriously awesome music and they are super nice lads. I also talked to some of the other people standing around the Roots merch asking for pictures, buying CDs and shirts if they knew Arcane Roots before that night. Some people were traveling Biffy fans and of course knew them, but the majority did not before the show. They were just blown away of what they had just heard and found themselves a new band to follow. Awesome and exactly as it should be! Arcane Roots will come back  to Munich at March 30 to play their own headlining show at my favorite club Strom. I have my ticket already and if you are living in Germany and do not have a ticket yet, get yourself one!  They are playing in Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.


That day in Munich will also go down in history as the day I fell officially in love with Walking Papers. I don't know what it was ... the better light, sound, atmosphere? The crowd being already into it? It felt for sure very different from Düsseldorf and the band was in significantly better shape that Thursday night as well. I just got caught up in Jeff's raucous special voice that was unfolding its magic and I ended up loving it.
When we were heading to meet Arcance Roots at the merch it happened that Walking Papers were out there as well talking to people and signing stuff. I got a chance to talk to all of them quickly, thank them for the night and even handshake Duff McKagan. It was one of those "Did that REALLY just happen?" moments and it was awesome.

If it is your third show on the same tour you slowly know your game. You know who out of the Biffy crew is doing what at which phase of the stage preperation. You also know the playlist between the support and Biffy and it is a lot of fun. I was happily singing along CHVRCHES and Frightened Rabbit while I was trying to get my traditional preshow Instagram picture of Churd. Those pictures are all a bit blurry because of the low light and the fact that Churd is always moving around quickly but I love them because that guy is awesome - something I guess all Biffy fans agree on.


Munich is usually not the best place for rock shows. People show up late and it takes them quite some time to get into the gig. Not so that night. The audience was already very much in party mood for both support bands but everybody went just crazy when finally the boys came on stage. I was pushed against the barrier like mad and was immediatly happy to be not further in the back. At least you can see and you can breath even if behind you madness ensues. Obviously my lazy, little city was hungry for some Biffy Clyro after four years with no show in town. While I really enjoyed the craziness I think the breaker we had there for Queens Of The Stone Age would have not hurt that night either, but in the end I had really no issues except a couple of crowdsurfers the security had to pull over my head. The only thing that always kills me at German shows and again here in Munich is the chant. People in my country - and nowhere else - chant like  this is a football (soccer) game:

BIFFY CLYRO - CLAP CLAP CLAP - BIFFY CLYRO - CLAP CLAP CLAP - BIFFY CLYRO - CLAP CLAP CLAP

That is AWFUL and I have no clue why they do it. Why not chant "MON THE BIFFY" or even "MON THE BIFF"??? That is not really complicated, isn't it? Everybody else in Europe and even in the US can do that? Why not German people? Sigh.


FULL STOP - Living Is A Problem ...
The show itself was awesome. It is mindblowing what an enormous energy those men bring on stage night after night after night. Simply mindblowing.

The highlights of the set - for me personally - were "Little Hospitals" again and "Victory Over The Sun" which sounds terrific live and I wish we would hear it more often.

The feeling to have them in my town and see them at a place that is very familiar to me was fantastic.

After having fun with Arcane Roots and Walking Papers we went outside to check on the coaches, but the bad winter storm that had hit the North of Germany before had made its way down South and the weather was terrible. So no after show meet up possible ... for  that night.

Tourcoing - Stop 4

When the alarm went off on 5 am on Saturday December 14, I was sure that if somebody would ever ask me what I feel for Biffy Clyro then my answer had to be "LOVE", because nothing less than a lot of heartfelt love would get me out of bed on 5 am on a Saturday after an exhausting Christmas work week (the worst time of the year).
But since this is indeed a love story I got up, showered, grabbed my gig bag and headed for the aiport. After a serious nap in the air dreaming over some sweet Sucioperro tunes to mute the chats of nasty morning people and airplane noise I arrived in Cologne, hopped into Anita's car and off we were going West towards France.

The closer we got the better got our mood and the weather. In a little less than 3 hours we made it to Tourcoing - a kind of weird, not really big town close to Lille directly accross the border from Belgium. I have seriously no idea why Biffy Clyro even stopped here to play a small club show but I take it and I would definitely return to Le Grand Mix any time if they will do again.
We quickly checked into the unavoidable IBIS hotel and walked over to the venue where my lovely UK folks were already queuing after arriving in the very early morning hours by bus from the UK (yes, it is called dedication). And what a long day it should become. Although the weather was quite nice it of course got really cold when it the evening came and we were devasted when we learned it would be late doors at 8 pm. My hopes to get Simon's missing signature on my Paris ticket were also toned down by the information that the coaches were parked behind a fence at the back of the venue. Although we were all happy to be together again (a big part of the travel group from Paris was there) and had our kazoos ready to rock, we were tired and cold and in a mixed mood, but that would change soon.


At first the lovely Walking Papers defrosted us with some hot Rock 'n' Roll and replaced exhaustion with excitement. After a couple of shows we all knew the songs well enough for some singalongs and the atmosphere in that tiny, tiny, tiny club was amazing from the first moment. For some of us including me Tourcoing was the last gig of the tour and that was one more reason to party with those awesome guys. I really hope they will soon come back to Germany to play their own shows. I would LOVE to hear and see a full set. Thank you Walking Papers - it was really a blast! 


After our American friends were off the stage I fully realized how small the venue was. I was standing 2nd row right behind some friends when one of us stretched his arm out and could almost touch the low down stage over the tiny pit. Wow.
I have been of course at lots of tiny club shows before. Actually the most of my shows are in clubs like that or smaller but I never before had the pleasure to see Biffy in a small place like this and I got a gut feeling that this would be different and Good Lord .... it was. You should think that after 5 shows in less than 12 months nothing really can surprise you but it hit me quite off guard.


I finally understand the folks mourning the old days where shows like this were the rule and not the exception. The boys play their hearts out every single time - anyway if it is in a basement like at the living room show at my dear friend's place in Philadelphia or in front of an arena crowd, but the level of interaction and communication is certainly a different one in a small venue like this. And one thing is for sure: that night they came out have fun with us. 



Simon for example obviously decided to use the crowd in front of him aka our travel group as source for additional equipment. The first thing that went on stage was our friend's Saltire, which you can see nicely wrapped round Si in the picture here. 

We were already in the best mood when we stopped dead in slight (but very happy) shock! Before the show we had discussed as a group what we would love to hear in Tourcoing and since we love some fair share of old Biffy tunes we all agreed that "All The Way Down" would be simply amazing. They had played it at some earlier point at the tour but it had dropped of the setlist again. When we were aligned me and some others dropped tweets to the band and Neil to let them know, that to hear this song was our big wish. On that night between the songs the ones of us close to Si kept singing "All the way down, all the way down" to make clear we were serious about it and he was joking back replicating the little chant. Then suddenly some very familiar notes were filling the room - the opening of "All The Way Down". For only 650 people the scream from the audience was very loud, of course switched right over into a major singalong and finished of with us yelling "THANK YOU" up the stage. I was seriously puzzled. We had wished for a song twice on this tour and it worked both times. How awesome is that? 


We had not much time to calm down before more awesomeness was yet to come including a fantastic version of "Glitter and Trauma" that I could mostly just listen to but not see because my dear friend James effectively blinded me for solid two minutes with the strobe light - hello small venue ;)
We also had of course our kazoos in our hands ready to use not knowing if "Little Hospital" would be on the setlist again, but we were ready just in case and that was a good thing because ... it was. Another happy celebration in the crowd and when the kazoo part came we played the shit out of those little plastic bastards. Due to the fact that the venue was smaller and band and front row so close together you could hear the kazoos way better than in Paris and it sounded AWESOME. A kazoo was then also the 2nd thing that made its way up the stage but Si was so out of breath that not much came out (I think at least ... I was on the other side). 


That alone would have made a great show already but we were not even close to the end and Simon was still shopping in the front row. The next thing he pulled up was FOXY - our friend's furry famous fox hat (plush - no real fur before you ask) he wears traditionally for all shows. We were all "NO WAY  THAT THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING" - especially Foxy's dad was in shock, but yes: it really happened and Foxy went of for a wild ride through "57" and "Living Is A Problem". I could barely look over to Si because I had to laugh so hard, but damn ... so worth it. Foxy was btw as wet as you would think when he returned to his owner: 





This may be my favorite picture from the whole tour: Foxy & Si getting cozy with the smirking James






At that point we all had Tourcoing already booked into the top list of best Biffy shows ever attended, when some dicussions were coming up on stage including pointing on the setlist taped to the floor. There were some short chats and nods and we were like "What now?" And then happened what does not really often happen: They changed the setlist for us and replaced "Woo Woo" with .... drum roll, confetti, fireworks:  JAGGY SNAKE


The result: Screaming, people hugging each other, wild dances, more screaming, HI5 in all directions and total party mode and more "THANK YOU"s yelled up the stage. 


After that I was so over the top that I even survived the final (for me tour closing) "Mountains" with only minor crying and just a short look at Kitty Cat (my lion headed "Mountains" tattoo) for reassuring myself that I'd be fine. Also basic body needs like WATER or even better COKE (sugar also needed) overruled together with the happiness about this AMAZING GIG the sadness of saying good bye - that would kick in later but in this moment it was okay. 


After the show we considered what to do. Waiting for the band or not? Yes, there was a big fence but in the worst case nothing would happpen so why not giving it a try?  When we arrived at the backside of the venue already about 30 people (I guess) were there and we decided to stay. It was pretty cold but not even close to the ugly winter storm in Munich and still buzzing from the show we were fine just waiting a little longer and .... it paid out.
Only about an hour after the show a couple of people were coming out walking for the nightliners and one of them was Si. He went over to the bus to get rid off his trolley and then headed straight for the door in the fence to come out to us.



It was the first time I had the pleasure to meet Simon and I have to say that although I was told already many times what a nice guy he is I was utterly amazed. As wild as he goes on stage as relaxed and calm he was off stage and he was incredibly sweet, patient and nice with every single person there (all behaved - no screams, no yelling!). It is pretty hard to put in words but he is sure one of the most charismatic people I ever met but not in an intimidating way - it is quite the opposite. It's never been easier to chat with somebody you never met before than here. We talked quite a bit, I of course got the missing signature on my Paris ticket and yes - the mandatory picture was done as well. He looks amazing as always. I look like you look after 5 am start, a day of queuing and a sweatfest of a show, which is not pretty, but hey ... there is nothing that can be done about it. 


Just like Si had said before the twins came over a little later as well and we had some fun chats about standing against the cold with James definitely winning the game wearing two layers of winter jackets. 

This tour has been truely one of the best times I had in my life and I am no teenager anymore and had some pretty great days in my book of memories already. It was the icing on the cake to get a chance to say thank you for that in person. 


Now it is over and it is tough. I was almost happy that I could not go to the final show of the tour in Belgium although I heard it was fantastic, but I was emotional enough back home on my couch. Thankfully practically right after the end of the tour the band released dates for two headlining shows in Ireland this summer and you will guess what comes next:  

I got tickets for Dublin on June 28 already! Life is much easier when you know the date of the next show

I am also looking forward a lot to my first trip to Scoland ever that will happen sometimes in the first months of 2014, but that is another story with more and different music and it will have its own blog post when it is the time. 


Do I have anything still left on the wish list?
Yes, I do - besides more shows ... obviously:

I know that a lot of new fans (well that includes myself, too) came aboard with the last two records and want to hear mostly the newer tunes they know (that does not include me that much), but never the less I would love to see more variation and old tunes brought into the mix.
This is a band with a back catalogue full of incredible songs from six records plus b-sides and they are totally capable of having a lot of them in the live repertoire. It would be so nice to see more of the material live on stage.
Maybe that is not the right thing to do in a new city or even a new country, but TRUST US - especially at places / dates like Paris or Tourcoing. We - the people in front of you - know our Biffy and our heads and hearts are filled with music and lyrics to sing right back at you .. even if you dig deeper and pull out "Bodies In Flight" (as a random example)!

Now its time to get this finished ... 


I want to thank everbody in and attached to Biffy Clyro - Simon, James, Ben, Mike, Gambler, Neil, Churd, Adam and all the rest of the Biffy crew as well as Arcane Roots and Walking Papers for the AMAZING RIDE! 
Enjoy the Christmas break - you absolutely deserve it.

I would also like to say thank you to my Team Biffy including Anita & Steffi (nothing of this would have happened without you) for the incredible time spent together.  I am looking forward to much more to come ...

SEE YOU SOON & MERRY CHRISTMAS


PS: Do not forget ... more and really awesome writing about traveling with the Biff you can find here at David Rossi's blog!

Munich














Tourcoing








Setlist Munich

We Are Family 
(Sister Sledge song)

Different People 
That Golden Rule 
Who's Got a Match? 
Sounds Like Balloons 
Biblical 
Victory Over the Sun 
God & Satan 
Glitter and Trauma 
Bubbles 
Spanish Radio 
Little Hospitals 
The Rain 
(Simon Solo Acoustic)
Folding Stars 
(Simon Solo Acoustic)
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies 
57 
Many of Horror 
Modern Magic Formula 
Black Chandelier 
Woo Woo 
The Captain 

Encore:
Opposite 
Stingin' Belle 
Mountains 

Setlist Tourcoing


We Are Family 
(Sister Sledge song)

Different People 
That Golden Rule 
Who's Got a Match? 
Sounds Like Balloons 
Biblical 
All the Way Down: Prologue Chapter 1 
God & Satan 
Glitter and Trauma 
Bubbles 
Spanish Radio 
Little Hospitals 
The Rain 
(Simon Solo)
Folding Stars 
(Simon Solo)
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies 
57 
Many of Horror 
Modern Magic Formula 
Black Chandelier 
There's No Such Thing as a Jaggy Snake 
(Not on setlist, it replaced "Woo Woo")
The Captain 

Encore:
Opposite 
Stingin' Belle 
Mountains