Monday, December 15, 2014

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

Biffy Clyro

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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



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

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



Blackened Sky / Puzzle
 

Biffy Clyro


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


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



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

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


One Dragon or Halfadukeduke


Dragon - Picture by Helen Schofield

Dragon's Duke setlist

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

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


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

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

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


"Skin The Mofo"

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





Medals 


Medals - Picture by Anita Ivanković

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

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

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

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

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

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



Vertigo Of Bliss / Only Revolutions 

Ben & James - Picture by Danni Casey


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Click to enlarge

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


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

Nothing more left to say besides one thing:

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

MON THE DUKE!

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

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


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


Monday, October 6, 2014

Guest blogging - My Mixtape Monday

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

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

Go here:  My Mixtape Monday - Scotland The Brave 


Sunday, October 5, 2014

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

Medals at King Tut's - Photo by Jessica Newell

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



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

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



Then Thickens

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

Medals - Photo by Jessica Newell

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



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

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

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


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

Next shows for Medals as known to date are:

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

GO if you can! 

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


NEW RELEASE: 

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



Monday, September 29, 2014

The bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond and more Scottish awesomeness

Loch Lomond

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



Edinburgh

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

Hillhead, Glasgow

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


Botanic Garden, Glasgow

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


Beach, Ayrshire

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



Loch Lomond

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

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

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


Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow

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

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow

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



Necropolis, Glasgow

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

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

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


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

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



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



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summer Of Biff 2014 - Episode 3 - Serengti



At this place you should see a long and really detailed blog post about our last stop for the "Summer Of Biff" at Serengeti Festival in Germany. It was a good post - RIP!
I had all night problems with saving the content and finally the blogger tool f***ed it up and now all is gone. I am too tired to write it all again and tomorrow I won't have the time, because I leave for vacation .... finally! 


So here is the very short version:
We had a great day. Serengeti is one of  the smaller and more relaxed festivals and we really enjoyed it. We decided not to spend the day at the barrier but check out the Black Lips (fun but a bit weird) and Mighty Oaks (really good live band) on the second stage in the tent. 


After that I caught some bits of the Guano Apes show that lots of the festival goers enjoyed much. It was a solid performance but I still do not like the band, the music and especially lead singer Sandra Nasić. Some things just never change.
The last band before Biffy was NOFX, who kind of really pissed me off with that punk attitude of the regular beer drinking dude who begs you for a Euro in front of an underground station. They might find it funny - I don't. "Kill All The White Man" as final track reminded me of good times at the Rolling Stone but could not change my impression anymore. I was quite happy when it was over. 


Finally .... Biffy. We made it to the barrier without queuing and hanging out there the whole day. It of course was not center stage but I was close to  my favorite spot on James' side and I could see all five guys. Nothing to complain here - at all.

The highlights of the setlist were The Thaw, 57 and Whores. I personally also especially loved the totally rocking versions of Living Is A Problem, Glitter & Trauma and Stingin' Belle (love that song more and more every time).
I also enjoyed the very intense and beautiful version of "The Rain" (Simon alone and acoustic) a lot which opened the encore. For me it was my little memorial for the great Steve Broadfoot - the former tourmanager of the Biff and the guy who made the wonderful LugPlugs (hearing protection system) which I use at every show. I have the honor and pleasure to have a fantastic email exchange with him safely stored in my inbox archive. He was a great guy and very inspiring person. Steve died of a brain tumor just like my dad and leaves a son behind who is exactly the same age as I was when my dad lost his fight. This is hitting home - badly.
I needed "The Rain" - the song Si had dedicated to Steve a few nights before - for my personal good bye and I am very grateful I got it. 


And so another great "Summer of Biff" came to an end. It was fantastic and I cannot wait for - ERMAHGERD - December!!!  Stay tuned! 

Black Lips

Mighty Oaks

NOFX

BIFFY CLYRO










Sunday, August 31, 2014

Interlude

The last couple of months this blog turned more and more into a music blog, which was never really intended. It was always supposed to be about everything that comes to my mind: generals thoughts, travel posts, art in a wider context ... whatever.
I did not give up on this concept just my life has been pretty boring this summer. There is not much to tell when you get up, go to work, sit on your butt all day working, go home, go to bed and restart the whole process the next day again. I did escape the one long weekend or the other, but that usually was for gig travel ... and that's when we are back with music blogging


Of course there is enough going on in the world that has me thinking and would be worth to write about but at the moment it seems to be mostly really depressing stuff.
War in Gaza ... that's something I grew up with. War in Iraq ... didn't we have this already a while ago? And are we considered to be afraid of Russia and Russian dictators again? And of all kind of international terrorists as well - you know ... 9/11 style?
Also racism is very obviously still a thing and more well and alive than lots of us had thought and hoped so - the drama around the Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri, is just one of many examples.
You would think as well that decades of watching environmental catastrophes and their short and long term effects should have taught us that it's better to be careful with the planet but still quite a lot of people seem to think that crazy stuff like fracking is a good idea.
The list could go on and one ...

There are many things like this at the moment .... too many. It feels like mankind is looping and not learning from the past. I find that incredibly frustrating. Mistakes happen. Wrong decisions are made. That is part of being human - as single individual and as a collective - but making the same mistakes all over again and again is plain stupid but nevertheless it's happening at the moment - that is at least my personal impression - more than ever. 


Do I have an idea how to stop it? Not really, but I think it would be a good idea to simply be kind to each other. It does not require money, it does not require equipment and it does not need you to reach out around the world (although it's nice if you do and social media makes the world small anyway) - just be kind to the person next to you and we are off to a good start .... 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Of Biff 2014 - Episode 2 - T IN THE PARK

I am a liar. Obviously.

When 2014 was around the corner I said to too many people and in too public places that after a CRAZY (crazy wonderful, too) 2013 I would take it easy in 2014 (hahaha!).  Also after getting a lot of new ink in 2013 it would be a year without new tattoos and oh yes ... what ever would happen like even Biffy headlining T In The Park - I would not attend big festivals. I did not do in almost two decades and I would not change that any time soon. Open Airs - yes, small festivals - sure (I love small festivals), but not the type of event that makes a 80 k people city of wasted people grow out of an innocent field somewhere in the countryside. Not with me.

Well ... may I introduce you .... my latest ink from spring 2014:




Mac and I combined here the cover designs of the Sucioperro's Pain Agency and Fused in one lovely and productive drawing and one about three hours long tattoo session to create this wicked new addition. The elbow was by the way a weird feeling but not as bad as I thought it would be. The cute little bastard on the wrist on the other hand was ... challenging.

The other "No no no" fell apart quickly when the tickets for T In The Park went on sale with Biffy headlining the Friday. I watched all my friends posting their "I got my tix" and my resistance fell apart in Warp 10. I took a deep breath and ... booked a ticket and flights and all what was needed and once I was done I realized how badly I wanted to go because I almost cried of relief.

A few months later the day was there and I was on my way to Glasgow. This is also before we talk about the festival the right moment to thank again many many times Emma & Grant for hosting, feeding and driving me. It was such a great time spent with lovely, lovely friends. I hope I can return the hospitality one day!

I arrived a day early and it felt really like going on a much needed vacation. I left a foggy, rainy
Munich and arrived in a sunny, warm Glasgow. We even had our dinner outside in the garden.
The next morning again bright sunshine was welcoming us and we reduced the number of sweaters and jackets packed for the day significantly but put on and packed lots of sunscreen before we started the drive through the very pretty Scottish countryside towards Balado Airfield


The first impression was ... great! It was pretty out there. Sure the good weather helped a lot, but after hearing a many not so nice things about the festival I found it really well organized. Even the portaloos were doable - not just on Friday but still on Sunday. Food and drinks were okay, you could get free water and at the really nice and relaxed "Healthy T" food court even the free WiFi worked fine. 
Yes, I saw some really gross things involving people who were not able to manage their alcohol and drug intake and something REALLY gross happened to our group (no further details, but we did not cause the incident) right before the Biffy gig which made the use of almost all the disinfection wipes I had in my bag necessary, but other than that .... all good. Very good. 


Little Matador
We took things easy that first day and focused really on meeting up with the many friends who were attending as well, but of course we checked out some bands, too. We had decided early that this was NOT the day to spend all day at the barrier to be there for Biffy. Some friends did and succeeded to defend their space all day, but we did not even try. Our first band was Little Matador at the BBC Introducing Tent. After seeing them with Biffy in Dublin I really wanted to see them again. There were not many people in the tent but I loved the set. The feedback from our group was half and half. One part loved it, the other really not. For me it was a good start with some groovin' rock sounds. 

Royal Blood
Next stop was the PACKED King Tut's Tent for Royal Blood. Sure I like the type of music they do ... it's right down my alley, but I am always a bit over critical when a band just takes off with getting so much hype. So I really wanted to check out what this was all about and was more curious than excited.
But holy shit ... those TWO boys - just drums and bass - rock so much! I LOVED it. So yep ... here I am well on the Royal Blood train. At the moment they are in the US touring tiny clubs and my US friends are on the road seeing them, met them off stage and they obviously are lovely people as well. Always an extra plus. Can't wait for the full album now!




Sadly there was one big bummer attached  to the Royal Blood set and that was terrible timing and bad stage splits. While we could have done easily with some more good stuff over the afternoon this one hour was overloaded. It had Royal Blood, Haim and Maximo Park at the same time. I really would have loved to see Maximo Park but no chance. 

The rest of the afternoon we got some bits and pieces of CHVRCHES before it got just too hot and humid in the tent (I had seem them before and was not dying from not seeing the whole set), saw a bit of the dreadful Imagine Dragons playing the safe card with covering the Proclaimers (I mean ... really????), the even more dreadful You Me And Six (I bet they "LOVED" seeing the same people giving them eyerolls from the front row like in Dublin *chuckle*) as well as some notes from Ellie Goulding by walking by (of no further interest) and had nice break for food in the sunset at Healthy T

Then it was time to get in position during Ed Sheeran's show on the main stage. The kid is probably a good entertainer and a nice guy. He likely is, but I cannot stand his voice and being there for parts of his set was purely functional to get ready for the run. Our goal was the end of the golden circle, middle of stage, right before the 2nd barrier and most of us made it for Biffy! I mean not too bad right? 


Gosh .... I was so excited and I was so happy with where we ended up - full view on the stage. Yes - much more far away than usual but not Lego sized people too far to guess the faces. We had room to dance, jump and sing. It was perfect!

Before we go into the details, I need to get one thing out of the way: YES, I had hoped for Justboy, I had hoped for Joy. Discovery. Invention. I had hoped for more older songs, some little more exotic songs from the past, BUT in the end a festival is a mass event. It is not really about us - the core group of Biffy fans. 
Not even there in Scotland. You can see that at the beginning of the BBC broadcast of the show when they talk to some front row girls (not our friends standing a few meters away from those) and they could barely name a single song but had a "Simon Neil I want your sausage" sign (seriously). You could also hear it when they played Questions & Answers and the sing along immediately died because it was too fancy already. So while it was not our dream set list it was still a really good mix of old and new and of course the anthemic crowd pleasers a show like this needs. 
And if you take a step back and try to see it with a stranger's eyes, who did not see this band so often already, you see a GIANT MONSTER OF A SHOW ...a band that put all their heart into it and delivered absolutely brilliant entertainment, you hear a sound that was for a big open air stage fantastic and you feel a crowd that really, really loved every minute of it. Many Of Horror is definitely not my favorite tune, but you need to see and listen to this to get an idea of how it all felt:


I know I have done nothing to make this happen besides attending a handful of shows, but I was incredibly proud the whole night. Well done, my favorite people, very well done! 






The best part of the show came for the encore. Si had just ended a wonderful version of Machines, when the light switched and made the shape of a young man visible who is not a permanent member of Biffy Clyro but nevertheless made 60,000 people scream in delight and here he is: 



It was so so so so so cool. A warm summer night in Scotland, Biffy Clyro playing Stingin' Belle and real bagpipes. Oh ... and don't you love Ben counting in (check the video)? I love those little things! There was nothing more to wish for that moment. Nothing. 


MON THE BIFFY



The next day was nothing but exhaustion. I am obviously too old for this shit. I almost fell asleep on the couch of Lucky Cat Tattoo while my friend got some ink. We walked a bit around Glasgow and had a drink, but my brain was mostly blank because I was so tired. Funny enough though we ran into some more Biffy friends - always so nice and fun. It's such a great bunch of people.
Back home Grant cooked up some great pasta and that got me kicked out for good. In town a free show of We Are Scientists and Paws was happening -something that would have had me going at any other day, but no chance at all.
Oh ... it was also raining and we watched some T In The Park on the telly with people getting really wet. It made the couch an even better place. 

The next morning I felt thankfully much better and the sun was out again as well. Some last minute work schedule changes had resulted in me not going home that day but on early Monday morning by train to London for two days of meetings and work in our UK office and that allowed another day at T In The Park. Since most of my friends had just day tickets for Friday Balado and I had some 1:1 time that day but I really enjoyed that before I met up with some friends who were doing the festival "hardcore" version including camping for the whole weekend. 

I started the day with the Inspiral Carpets. To be honest I did not even know that they were still around but I spotted them on the opener slot at the Radio One Stage and it was a lot of fun to dance to She Comes In The Fall in the sun. I felt very 18 again but only as long as I did not go too close to the stage because the obvious age of the musicians made very clear that for all of is the teenage days were not exactly yesterday. Ahem. 

The Twilight Sad
Up Next was the first serious barrier slot of the festival because I went early to see The Twilight Sad at the King Tut's Tent. I had made several attempts to see this band before but it had all failed for some reasons and I was so happy that I finally made it.
The atmosphere was a bit weird because it is that type of music you hear very late at night (at least I do) when you have your mind and soul just drifting and not exactly on a bright morning when the smell in the air is mostly ... coffee. At least it was pretty dark in the tent that filled up after a slow start quite nicely (the band had an earlier stage time than initially planned that allowed a bit longer set but had people arriving late). The show was as intense and beautiful as I thought it would be. I hope they manage to come to Germany one day soon. 

Kodaline I partially enjoyed from the big ferris wheel and I loved both - he ride with the sights and the set of the band. I am not exactly a fan, but there were some seriously good vibes coming from the main stage and it was great fun.
In the picture you also see very well the second barrier - the end of the golden circle - where we were standing for Biffy

After that I went to see Sam Smith. I really like Stay With Me although pop ballads are usually not my cup of tea but festivals are always a good chance to find out if you like more stuff from an artist by just walking over and having a look and listen. But well ... no. Although the atmosphere was great - people standing and further in the back sitting in the sunshine singing along - I just could not get around it. Turns out I like Sam Smith best when it is actually not Sam Smith but Sam McTrusty together with the rest of Twin Atlantic and with Sucioperro's Stewart Chown on the bass covering Stay With Me. That was kind of predictable but still worth trying. 


Medals

Then it was time for the 2nd highlight of the T In The Park weekend: The set of Medals in the BBC Introducing Tent

I took a break before the show in the sun (and got sunburned although I had plenty of sunblocker on ... oh well) contemplating that although it was really cool that Medals had been added last minute to the line up, it was still a pity that it was not on Friday but on Sunday. I literally know dozens of people who would have loved to see the set but were already on the way back down to England, on the flight back to France or other countries. My phone kept buzzing the whole time with "Are they on already?" "How is it?" "Take pictures!" or "Can you film a song?" The last question was a clear no (sorry). I hate filming during a show and for a short set like that I can't really waste a song for standing still. Thankfully the BBC was there and did a much better job than I would have anyway.
But not just the BBC was around - quite some crowd was as well. It just needed the first notes of a seriously rocking, heavy version of Tastes Like Glass (Thanks much for moving it away from the end of the set!!!) and the tent was filling up fast. The atmosphere was just awesome with people dancing, singing along and partying.
The T In The Park show was after the two acoustic sets the very first full electric one and it was a lot of fun! Everybody who has tickets for the show on September 12 at King Tut's can be happy - you are in for a treat!  If you don't have tickets yet - they can be purchased here

The fantastic video of I Used To Be Dancer from T In The Park.  Watch & share:



And a few more pictures: 





It is always best to leave when it cannot get much better anyway and so that was the end point of my T In The Park 2014. I had no interest in the Arctic Monkeys who were headlining that day and I also had to get back to Glasgow to watch at least the final minutes of the the FIFA World Cup final Germany vs Argentina (REALLY weird to watch the German win in a foreign country, really weird) and get ready for a 6 am start the next day.

For somebody who by all means did NOT want to attend a big festival I had a damn good weekend. Good Bye Balado - it was amazing ...
The complete T In The Park photo set can be seen here.