Sunday, September 15, 2013

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls in Munich

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

Never the "Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll" name for my series of concert reviews would fit better than for this night when Frank Turner blasted right at the very beginning "I Still Believe" into the happy, immediatly dancing and singing along crowd. A song that summarizes perfectly what this is all about:

I still believe
Hear ye, hear ye, friends and Romans, countrymen. 
Hear ye, hear ye, punks and skins and journeymen 
Hear ye, hear ye, my sisters and my brethren. 
The time is coming near. 

Come ye, come ye, to soulless corporate circus tops. 
Come ye, come ye, to toilet circuit touring snobs. 
Come ye, come ye, to bedrooms, bars and bunker squats. 
The sound is ringing clear. 

Now who'd have thought that after all, 
Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all. 
And who'd have thought that after all, it was rock 'n' roll. 

Hear ye, hear ye, now anybody could take this stage. 
Hear ye, hear ye, and make miracles for minimum wage. 
Hear ye, hear ye, these folk songs for the modern age, 
Will hold us in their arms. 

Right here, right now, Elvis brings his children home. 
Right here, right now, you never have to feel alone. 
Right here, right now, teenage kicks and gramophones. 
We hold them in our hearts. 

Now who'd have thought that after all, 
Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all. 
Now who'd have thought that after all, it was rock 'n' roll. 

And I still believe (I still believe) in the saints. 
Yeah, in Jerry Lee and in Johnny and all the greats. 
And I still believe (I still believe) in the sound, 
That has the power to raise a temple and tear it down. 

And I still believe (I still believe) in the need, 
For guitars and drums and desperate poetry. 
And I still believe (I still believe) that everyone, 
Can find a song for every time they've lost and every time they've won. 

So just remember folks we not just saving lives, we're saving souls, 
And we're having fun. 

And I still believe. 

Now who'd have thought that after all, 
Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all. 
Now who'd have thought that after all, 
Something so simple, something so small. 
Who'd have thought, that after all it's rock 'n' roll



But let's wind back the tape to the beginning of the night. It started with a bit of a bummer, because I OF COURSE left home much later than planned at 6.45 pm. Doors where at 8 pm and I had roughly a 30 min trip going to the venue. Since I wanted to go front row(ish) I was really afraid that I would be too late, but it turned out just fine. The queue wasn't long and I settled without issues and even a drink in my hand in the 2nd row with some friendly people around me and most importantly fairly short people in between me and the barrier. That's always very important when you are just Hobbit sized like me. 


John Allen
The show was supposed to start at 8.45 pm with the first of 2 support acts, singer & songwriter John Allen from Hamburg. There was quite some "meh" all along ... 8 pm doors (from local organization - not the bands) and 2 supports in the middle of the week would make for a very late show - not a good situation especially for the many people around who had quite a drive to Munich for the gig.
 

So to be honest when the light went out as scheduled and John Allen entered the stage I did not even really look. I was busy doing concert probability calculations like this: If I leave now to go to the rest room, how big is my statistical chance to get my 2nd row location back and how would another stop at the bar on the way back influence this equatation? (Facing the fact that the venue was pratically sold out the result was in very small numbers and I never went.)
But the math doing stopped right the next moment when John raised his soulful voice. A hearable "Ohhhhhh!" went through the venue and the nasty chatter that usually lays over the music of a support band - especially if it is only one guy with an acoustic guitar - died down immediatly. What followed was a beautiful, emotional folk rock set accompanied by more and more applause. I have seldom experienced in 20 years of going out to shows that an unknown support was  able to draw that much attention and appreciation. Great job! 

Also pretty stunning was the story how John landed his job: As a normal fan he attended a Frank Turner show a couple of months ago in Hamburg and he brought his guitar along to make the queuing time more fun for himself and his friends. When Frank heard him singing he went out and joined for a couple of songs (which is dead cool alone) and ended up with promising John after the show that they "would do something together". John - like we all would be - was "Yeah, sure, but thanks for making my day!" .... BUT a few weeks and emails later all was set and now John is indeed on tour with Frank Turner. And now tell me that dreams cannot come true! It also made my respect for Frank Turner growing to a sky high level. Sticking so much to your word is quite a thing.
 

Lucero & Frank Turner
Next up were Lucero from Memphis, Tennessee, who exactly look and sound like you would expect from a "dirty", blues and rock band from Memphis. But no problem with me ... they were running in open doors with that good ol' Crowehead here. While their set did not have the suprised "OH!" effect of John Allen it was a lot of fun and some people in the audience were clearly there for the Southern boys and enjoyed themselves and the music even more.
After a couple of songs I spotted Frank Turner watching Lucero from the side of the stage and a little while later he would even join in for a song. 


In general I have to say that both support acts were fantastic and I WISH more artists would choose their support bands that carefully and make sure the quality is right and that the bands a) put the audience in the right mood and b) really benefit from getting more known to an appreciative crowd. Way too often the support acts are quite a pain and the only thing that happens are said trips to the restrooms or whiny ramblings how standing through the support show does nothing to you than causing back pain and making you super tired before the real show even starts. 



Frank Turner
Then it was time for the man of the night - Mr. Frank Turner!
Like mentioned in the beginning Frank and The Sleeping Souls did not exactly opt for a slow start and directly kicked off with the hymnic "I Still Believe" and the crowd immediatly went mental - jumping and dancing and singing along. 

We were off for a good start although I have to say that I am - being no teenager anymore - suffered quite a bit from the punk rock attitude of the kiddos who were pogo dancing behind me. Call me a party pooper, but I as much as I am all in for having fun and going with the music, I hate when your fun limits mine and in this case I got beaten in the back so hard and so many time that it was not funny any longer. If I would not have had the barrier in tight grip I might have lost my balance more than once. I also hate when I cannot clap or dance, because .... well I have to hold on to the barrier with both hands to keep upright. I am also grateful for the security guard right in front of me, who picked up all the crowdsurfers and carefully lifted them over my head without hitting me. He saved my night! 


Frank Turner did not play guitar himself due to the back injury he suffered a while ago. He should have cancelled the whole tour following strong medical advice but ended up only calling off a couple of festivals but touring anyway. Playing the guitar is not possible at the moment and when he did for a single song anyway you could see why: the poor guy can barely lift his arms up enough to put the strap over the shoulder without a very visible expression of intense pain on his face - an expression I could see a couple of times that night and that had me really worried. I hope Frank is not overdoing it - I am pretty sure that all this dancing and jumping around is also not what the doctor ordered.



Frank Turner
The setlist (see below) was a very fine mix of old and new, fast and slow, party and emotion. Since I am big fan of the recent record "Tape Deck Heart" my personal highlights were the belter "Plain Sailing Weather" and the wonderful and heartbreaking song "The Way I Tend To Be".
Besides the nasty pushes into my back I have to also praise the audience for singing along and making party. Munich crowds can be really lame - this one clearly was not. 


The main set ended with a stunningly beautiful performance of "Borken Piano" - a song that did not catch my attention too much on the record, but turned out to be an absolute highlight performed live.



Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls - Broken Piano (Also: BUBBLES)

The four songs of the encore included the fun tune "Four Simple Words" with me holding the barrier tightly one more time because it errupts after a slow start into a quite wild dance (the perks of knowing the songs pretty well - you can brace yourself) and finished with the sing along "Photosynthesis".  I love the lyrics of this song so much, because they quite hit the nail


Photosynthesis


Well I guess I should confess that I am starting to get old
All the latest music fads all passed me by and left me cold
All the kids are talking slang I won't pretend to understand
All my friends are getting married, mortagages and pension plans
And it's obvious my angry adolescent days are done
And I'm happy and I'm settled in the person I've become
But that doesn't mean I'm settled up and sitting out the game
Time may change a lot but some things may stay the same

And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I will not grow up
And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I yeah I won't grow up

Oh maturity's a wrapped up package deal so it seems
And ditching teenage fantasy means ditching all your dreams
All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will
Have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled
Oh when no ones yet explained to me exactly what's so great
About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate
Look I'm meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity
Well if that's your road then take it but it's not the road for me

And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I will not grow up
And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I yeah I won't grow up
And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I will not grow up

And if all you ever do with your life
Is photosynthesize
Then you deserve every hour of these sleepless nights
That you waste wondering when you're gonna die

Now I'll play and you sing
The perfect way for the evening to begin
Now I'll play and you sing
The perfect way for the evening to begin

And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all yeah I won't grow up
And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I will not grow up
And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
And most of all I will not grow up



It was so much fun and as usual I wish I could rewind the clock and do it all again. Come back soon, Frank, but ... recover that back first, please! We want to have you touring and singing and rocking for a lot longer!

Honorary note: I used my musician LugPlugs that night and I loved it so much. No show ever is mixed for the front row and usually you suffer there quite a lot from too much noise and painfully peaking high notes, but through my LugPlugs the sound was amazing. That is a clear double win: protected hearing and better sound! 


The setlist:
The only 2 songs I would have loved to see on here but he did not play were "Tattoos" and Frank Turner's version of Biffy Clyro's "Who's Got A Match".

Big thanks to The Sleeping Souls for handing a set list straight to me after the show. Much appreciated!!!



Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Rental Fan - Hockey Season 2013 / 2014


When the Pens dropped out of the playoffs in 2012 drowning against the ugly Flyers I thought I reached my lowest point. Losing in the first round is freaking awful and losing against the Flyers is THE WORST! 

Following this theory losing the conference finals against the Bruins should have been still dissapointing and upsetting (sweep!) but less devasting than the drama the year before. At least we made it significantly deeper into the race for the Cup, didn't we?
It is just ... not like that. In fact what happened at the end of the shortened 2012/2013 season hurt even more than the two years before, because we really had it in our hands. This was a team put together to do great. I have no doubt they wanted it and especially during the Sens series were finally in the right spirit to make it happen - and then it all fell apart


Usually sometimes over the long, warm days of the summer I stop fretting about what happened and start to get excited for the new season. And do not get me wrong - I am excited for the next season, I miss my boys terribly and my heart beats for the Pittsburgh Penguins like always, but there is still a bitter taste in my mouth. 


In my eyes one of the biggest failures was how we treated our three famous trade deadline acquisitions Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jarome Iginla. All three of them are very special - strong characters and experienced players and - here it comes: all three have a very clearly defined skill set. It was on the Pens management, coaching staff and team to integrate them and use them the right way on the road to the Cup.

But what did we do? We forced one of the best right wings of the NHL to play LEFT, apparently asked one of the most legendary hitters of the league to well ... hit less and expected from a gritty fighter to skate like Letang and score like Crosby. And when it did not work out (SURPRISE, SURPRISE), we dropped them like hot potatoes

Do not get me wrong. I know hockey is business. I know you can neither promise a Cup nor a follow up contract (especially not in that cap situation) and all three players knew that. I also do not say that they peformed at their best (But who did except Paul Martin and Tomas Vokoun?), but still ....  We acquired those players at critical points late in their careers. Two of them did not only leave their families behind for the time but also positions as beloved captains of their teams. 
There is a responsibility coming with that and for once - and I am really not used to it - the Pens did not live up to that responsibility and so these great guys ended up as rentals and free agents in bad market situation. 

As a result Jarome Iginla is now with the Bruins in a very odd (lots of bonus, low fix salary) one year contract and god damn .... they will know how to use him. I would not be surprised if he will be a pain for us to play against for the whole season.
Douglas Murray is now with the Habs on a 1.5 Million $ / 1 year contract, which is NOT what he wanted - neither in $ nor contract duration, but in that cap strangled market and after being dropped by the Pens it is what it is.

Brenden Morrow finally - and that makes me really sad - is still a free agent. That is something he clearly does not deserve. He should have 1 or 2 more years with a club that appreciates his skills and allows him to retire then in all deserved glory. But also for him it is everything but easy after being let down by the Pens to find a new home.

I might take these things too serious and too personal especially in the case of Douglas Murray, who became - as special as he is (or better ... because) - in no time my favorite player, but I cannot change it. That is how I am and after all what happened, I decided to not let down the three of them. 


Iggy is a Bruin and I cannot like the Bruins. I just cannot, but I will continue to adore the person and player who is Jarome Iginla and when he plays big against the Pens it will be what we deserve. I just hope our defense will stay tight ... without Murray


Douglas Murray is at least for the next year with the Habs and there is a good chance they will sign his friend Brenden Morrow as well. Morrow is for a long time already in negotiations with the Montreal Canadiens. It would be the destination of his choice due to his family bonds - his wife Anne-Marie is the daughter of former Habs captain Guy Carbonneau. The latest rumor is that he got an invitation to the Canadiens training camp and is with that one important step closer to a new contract. 


Based on that this is the decision I made: if the Pens can treat players like rentals then they need to live with the fact that the Montreal Canadiens with those moves just made me to their rental fan for the 2013/2014 season


My first team of course will be still the Penguins and the very few times Habs and the Pens will play against each other I will root for the Pens. I will likely not watch because my heart would break over Douglas Murray hitting - for example - James Neal and there is a very fair chance that this will happen.
But other than that - as long as both teams are following their different schedules in their own divisions - it will be not only LET'S GO PENS but also GO HABS GO!

Yes, that feels weird. Very weird. I know lots of Pens fans really hate the Habs, but gladly I never did. I could not do this for Flyers, Isles, Caps or Bruins, but I can clearly show some respect and love for one of the oldest clubs in the league. For this year I will have two teams and I am excited to see how it works.
Right here in the beginning I cannot complain. The first two radio interviews of the Canadiens' media with Douglas Murray were great - well prepared and informative. My first talks with some Habs fans were very nice and none of them had a problem with a Pens fan checking out their team as long as that happens with the given respect.
My premier night when I will choose the Habs broadcast over the Pens for the first time will be October 5. The Canadiens will play the Flyers and I want to watch how Douglas Murray and George Parros smash orange dressed people as "Les Gentilshommes Violents"  (Violent Gentelmen is Parros' clothing line just in case you did not know). And hey ... AGAINST the Flyers always means FOR the Pens, doesn't it?

DROP THE PUCK!  



Additional notes about the Pens roster moves: 

Malkin extension: Awesome! Yes, it is a lot of money but it is not overpaying in my opinion. Geno could have gotten more elsewhere, but he loves to be a Penguin and I love him for doing so.


Dupuis extension: Thank god. He deserves it. 


Kunitz extension: Sid gets what Sid wants and there is nothing wrong about it.

Scuderi signing: I think the salary is right for the next two years and too high for the final two, but in sum it is the right thing to do. Obviously the team never overcame losing him. I count on him for taking care of Flower and being an important part of giving Fleury the confidence back he needs so desperatly. He might be also the right guy to show Kris Letang which blue line he should focus on. Pro tip: It is the one closer to Flower / Vokoun

Letang extension: I think we severly overpay him, but I really hope he will proof me as wrong as a person can be. 


Adams extension: The right thing to do. We lost Murray, Morrow, Cooke .. we need Adams to not suffer even more on PK.


Cooke departure: My eyes are still red from cyring. I cannot believe that we employ a person like Harry Zolnierczyk, who is not only a Flyer and pretty dirty player but also distributed a video of a friend having sex with his girlfriend, who was only 17 years old at that time, but have no money for Cookie. We also still overpay Tanner Glass and still have no money for Cookie. This is wrong and the fanbase is still suffering. As much as I disliked that guy when his action on ice were all messed up, I loved him the last two years for turning it around. He is a Penguin. He will always be. 


Keeping Flower: We do not have much alternative and I have not given up on him yet. I love him and I think he will get his head right, find a way to overcome his problems and play up to his talent and skills. This is the year. 

Keeping Jokinen: I am a bit surprised but pleased with the fact we keep Jokinen (one year left on the contract). I think he is a solid player and his faceoff and penalty shot scoring skill will be welcome. 

Trading Niskanen: The surprise is that he is still on the team and the Pens still over cap. Time for a move, huh? 


Simon Despres: That his actually no roster move, but I want to make the plea: LET THE KID PLAY!!!!!

Hiring Jacques Martin: A lot of what I am complaining about here goes back to flaws in coaching and team management. I like Dan Bylsma but his playoff performance is horrible and he was unable to integrate the fantastic players he was give late in last season.  So I really appreciate this addition to the coaching staff. Martin is well known especially for working successfully with the defense and since Bylsma has obviously no idea how to use a stay at home dman right, I am happy for Scuderi that he won't have to rely exclusively on a coaching team that prefers misplaced wingers as defensemen. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Save my soul with Rock 'n' Roll - Rock im Pott in Gelsenkirchen

Rock im Pott, August 18 2013 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany
  • System Of A Down
  • Volbeat
  • Tenacious D
  • Casper
  • Deftones
  • Biffy Clyro
Yes, you see correctly ... Biffy Clyro at the bottom of the list in the early afternoon starters spot. Odd but true.

It was a few months ago my friends in NRW asked me if I'd want to come up there for a weekend to go to Rock im Pott to catch some live Biffy tunes. Since I could not make it to any other festival this summer to see my boys and because I ALWAYS love to spend a weekend with my friends I agreed.

Next thing we had to do was deciding what tickets to get and this is where the trouble really started. The festival was taking place in the football stadium of Schalke 04 and the tickets were zoned and in different price categories. There were expensive seated tickets at the sides, less expensive standing tickets in the north curve (opposite of the stage like in the sense of very far away) and now comes the really odd part:  the internal space was devided in front of stage (very expensive), 2nd front of stage (expensive) and back (still expensive).

We had wild discussions about where to go but finally decided for the cheapest category - the tickets opposing the stage. I felt miserable about it right away, but those tickets cost still almost 70 EUR, which is a lot for a one day festival anyway and even more when just one band is 100% your thing although I was also looking a lot forward to see Deftones, Volbeat and Tenacious D.

When I arrived in Cologne the day before the show I finally felt SUPER miserable about those tickets. Biffy in the size of lego figures is better than no Biffy - that was at least what I told myself, but nevertheless bothered everybody with my sad kid face and questions if there were any last minute upgrade options. It turned out that there were none. Oh well ...

Sunday around lunch time we arrived at the arena being grateful that the roof was closed because it rained cats and dogs. Cudos to our driver ... it's been a shitty trip both ways! Walking to our designated area I felt pretty much like Debby Downer because:  NO VIDEO SCREENS AT ALL
Biffy lego sized would become reality in 3,2,1 ...  but noooooooooo ....

At our entrance a few security people were waiting and asked us if we would have north curve tickets. We were like "Yeah?" It turned out that our area had been closed for some stuff that had to be done for a football game later that week and because the festival was not sold out (simply too expensive if you ask me) we were upgraded to the internal space of the arena. Woohoooo!
We grabbed out wrist bands and RAN since we were quite late already for the - unexpected - fight for the barrier. But before you get all excited ... I do not mean the barrier like the one in front of the stage, but the barrier that kept people with backside tickets out of the front of stage and 2nd front of stage areas. STILL - it was a significant upgrade:


Upgraded tickets for Rock im Pott 

About the Biffy show is not too much to say aside that I bet this was kind of the saddest spot on their festival schedule, I am afraid. It was early in the afternoon and lots of people were not even there. The majority of the already present fans was in Volbeat or even System Of A Down shirts and not exactly appreciative. We were singing and partying our butts off at our 3rd level barrier but we were of course way too far in the back to be noticed by the band and so it was more symbolic support. At least I saw some blow soap bubbles rising in front of the stage during "Bubbles" which means our boys had some fans at the real barrier - at least. The performance of the band was flawless as expected.


Set list:

Stingin' Belle
The Captain
Sounds Like Balloons
Biblical
Opposite
That Golden Rule (LOOOOVED IT!)
Many Of Horror
Bubbles
Black Chandelier
Mountains

It was obviously too short and over before we could blink twice. I would have felt awful but with the tickets for the two headlining shows in Paris and Munich in my pocket it was not much more than just a quick personal check on the boys anyway and for that it was fine.


Gambler & Si 

Ben & James 

Mike

Do not get fooled by the zoom of my camera. The reality looked like that: 


Playmobil sized Biffy Clyro

Next up were the Deftones. I was actually keen to watch and ehem ... listen to them. The problem was I did not hear much. While the sound for Biffy can be ranked as "kinda okay", the poor Deftones sounded awful at least for us in the back. I do not think it was much better anywhere because the crowd was like "Meh?" I am really sorry for the band because I "think" they did not play a bad show. 


Since the bar in front of bus actually only served people in the 2nd front of stage area and not us in the back (lovely, huh?)  we went for a walk to get drinks and food and totally skipped the show of Casper. I have no idea why he was in the line up anyway. When I think of how long the queue for the french fries was I guess the dude played in front of a pretty empty arena. 

We went back for Tenacious D, who were a lot of fun just like you would think they are. That would have been btw way our view if we would have kept our original tickets: 



Tenacious D

I know what you think what this THING on the stage looks like. But this is Tenacious D - they want you to think exactly that. In fact it was a .... bird:


Jack Black & Tenacious D

Tenacious D were the first band who got the crowd of metal t-shirt wearing super cool dudes swinging for a little bit and they obviously have a VIP fan, because when we went a little bit more to the side of the arena and turned around this gentleman was standing right next to us watching the show: 


Volbeat's Michael Schøn Poulsen 

There were 27.000 people and half of them were in Volbeat shirts but practically nobody noticed him standing there. My friends even went end asked for a picture, what he did without hesitation being super  nice. Some of those guys in Volbeat shirts who were standing next to us later during the show almost collapsed when they heard he had been out. They did not see him although they were standing less than 5 meters away the whole time. 

The Volbeat show was really cool. It's simple and awesome Rock 'n' Roll and Schøn Poulsen's voice is totally catchy. I loved it. 



It's only Rock 'n' Roll but I like it: Volbeat / Photo: Anita Ivanković

When Volbeat were finished it was already quite late in the evening and my feet and back hurt. I am definitely too old for this. But normally a festival is outside and you can go to the beergarden section and take a break or just hang out / sit somewhere or go to the campside or whatever. This was mostly standing for hours and hours. 

Thank god they later in the day opened up the seats in the very back of the stadium and we were allowed to that area with our wristbands. So we could take in the show of System Of A Down sitting on our butts and feet up over the empty row in front of us. It is not my type of music but the sound and sight were pretty majestic to say at least:



Headliners: System Of A Down

System Of A Down from our old people seats

It was a fun day, but the organisation definitely was not okay. Lots of entrances were closed and you had to walk in the rain around the arena, the queues for food were at some times ridiculously long and lots of people were less lucky than us and were "upgraded" to shitty seats with bad sight. Video screens were badly missed all through the arena. When you were Hobbit sized like me your only chance was to go to the back and sides to see anything but people's backs and you had to deal with watching playmobil to lego sized rockers from far away.
Also zoning the internal area of the stadium to make a silly amount of money with the front of stage tickets was awful and a bad rip off. It is also totally against the natural dynamics of a festival where the crowd is circulating over the day with people going to the front of stage for their favorite band and going to the back for acts they do not need to see from close by.
As sad I was for the first hour to be behind the third barierr the happy I was later. For no money in the world I would have wanted to be in the mosh pit for Volbeat or even System Of A Down. With actual front of stage tickets I would have gone home after half the day because it would have been too crazy for me in my zone. That's stupid crap


The best thing that came out of the day - besides precious time spent with my friends and some lovely Biffy Clyro live tunes - was the result of a 5 seconds photo session of me holding my ticket:




I tweeted the pic with the #summerofbiff hashtag and right after their headliner shows at Leeds & Reading the band picked it together with a couple of shots from other fans for their summer festival online scrapbook. I am on page 6. YAY!

Bring on the fall tour and let's MAKE IT MAGICAL!