Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mixtape - June 2014 Edition

The trip to Scotland was already a month ago and I would have a severe depression about that fact if not a lot had happened in between and more will happen very soon. To not let too much time pass without an update I went for another mixtape edition. I hope you enjoy ...

General state of mind

I wrote in the Medals post that with this show 2014 stopped sucking and it really did. My life feels like it is back on regular speed. The gigs keep coming, a LOT of travel is in the pipeline and even the work situation is starting to get better again.
The only thing that keeps annoying me is my body who seems to think 40 is a good age to become a jagoff. Latest adventure - an infection around a wisdom tooth that kept me on painkillers and frequent dentist visits for weeks. The wisdom tooth has to go. Obviously. I think sometimes between T In The Park and Serengeti. Wish me luck.
On the first day without painkillers for the tooth (yesterday) I made a stupid move in the morning that then resulted in terrible backpain. Long story ... it was foreseeable and tracks back to an old problem. Stupid me. Praise the lord for Voltaren, my mom's old physio therapist who taught me how to deal with it when it happens some years ago and a good rock show (standing for hours seems a bad idea, but nothing distracts better and that's essential when a sudden muscle stiffness has to losen up). I am a bit sore now but okay, I just could really do without that type of trouble. I really do. Getting old sucks. 


New Pens GM Jim Rutherford
While all the other madness was going on the Pens dropped out of the Stanley Cup playoffs early again. Yes, again. The main difference was that I did not care as much as the years before. I could not watch too much of the 2nd half of the season because I was not fit enough to deal with all the late nighters, but what I saw made it really clear to me that we were no Cup contender this season. The drive, the energy, the chemistry, the excitement were missing - and depth in the roster. So I protected my heart early and was of course still dissapointed but not as shattered as the years before.
It was very obvious to me and everybody else that things had to change. The way this team was handeled would not bring us a Cup and that is what this whole game is about. What I did NOT expect was that the first head rolling was not the one of coach Dan Bylsma but of GM Ray Shero. But I am not Mario Lemieux and I have not the insights to really judge that decision. What followed were some dreadful weeks of waiting for a new GM and shockingly the search included interviews with Pierre McGuire. I really, really cannot stand that guy and I am not sure how I would have dealt with having him in such a key position. He did not make it, but Jim Rutherford did. Yes, the Jim Rutherford who gave us Jussi Jokinen for a bag of pucks and kept paying half of his salary. I have really trouble to see how this guy after spending decades with the Hurricanes including some very questionable decisions is supposed to do the job better than Shero, but here we go.
Trying to rationalize this is the way it makes kind of sense: This is an interim solution supported by a trio of talented assistant GMs who should grow into the full role within the next 2 to 3 years with Jason Botterill being the strongest candidat. To close the gap the Pens chose to opt for an experienced person to manage a team around Crosby and Malkin in their prime instead of a rookie in that position like *gulp* Pierre. Rutherford was sure not the wishlist No 1 candidate but the one they could get on board and met somewhat the criteria. We will see if that all works out. 
Rutherford's first decision was to fire Bylsma, which was no surprise. I like Dan but I would have done the same. He is a good regular season coach, but he is very obviously nobody who leads a team to a Stanley Cup. For those who insist that he did exactly that: Well yes ... but that was a team he took out of the hands of Michael Therrien who is the opposite character - often questioned and blamed during regular season but surely setting his boys up for playoffs as you can see with the Habs, who made it further this year since quite a while. 
It will be exciting to watch who can Rutherford bring in as a new head coach and how the rebuilding process works for the team. On to a new season in the fall ...

Very sad news for us Pens fans broke a few days ago. We lost Cy Clark - better known as Malkamania and one of the most passionate Pens fans ever. He lost his fight against throat cancer and he will be missed - a lot! I met him once - at the first game ever where I had seats down at the ice and I was SO excited - and he was a lovely, friendly guy - a Pittsburgh orginal - and he just belonged with his team. Rest in peace, Cy! 

Gigs at home

Manic Street Preachers 
Once again I was benefiting from the relaxed gig approach of the people here in Munich when I headed out to see the Manic Street Preachers. I arrived at  the Backstage (one of my favorite bigger clubs) shortly after doors and found my preferred slot at the left end of the barrier still available. So on to another front row show. It was - shame on me - my first Manics show and it was good fun. The gents did sound very well and the band is sure a smoothly running machine. The audience was cool and friendly all around. People were singing and dancing but for once not pushing like maniacs - very enjoyable. It sure did help that the majority was well ... middle aged like *cough* ... me. Also both neighbors left and right identified my arm tattoos by the quotes as Biffy tats and were also at the Biffy show in Munich - nice.
A fun side note about the Manic Street Preachers:  that was the cleanest stage I have ever seen. Since drums, keys and 2nd guitar are all in the back only James Dean Bradfield and the lovely Nicky Wire use the whole front part of the stage ... one cable from the left, one from the right and pretty minimalistic pedal set up hidden behind monitors and that's it. It looked clean like a dance floor before the party starts.

The second show was The Amazing Snakeheads from Glasgow in the Café of the Muffathalle, which is a lovely, tiny club. It was warm and sunny Sunday evening which is sadly the worst that can happen to a band here in Munich, but while it was not packed it wasn't super empty either. I have seen much worse and some of the fans in the house were really enthusiastic and made up for the relatively small headcount in the audience. The Snakeheads are not exactly my cup of tea. They sound and look like they were out to make a Tarantino soundtrack. There is a certain buzz around the band and I was mostly out to see if it has some substance and yes ... definitely a solid set, but nothing that wins over my heart. Most fun part was watching the puzzled Bavarian faces around me trying very hard to figure Dale's accent out without much success. There was a lot of "What did he just say???" around me. 

Gigs on the road

Way Back When Festival - Dortmund

What a perfect weekend! On Saturday morning I threw myself in the train up to Cologne where my friend Anita lives. It was a lovely, sunny summer day and once I was there we went for a long walk followed by fantastic burgers and freshly cut fries at Fette Kuh - the best burger meal I ever had outside of the US. Highly recommended.
Then it was time to head to Dortmund for "Way Back When Festival". This festival works like for example "Live At Leeds". It is not outside but takes place in several clubs around town. It goes on for a couple of days but we only could make the Saturday because I had to work. We wanted to make this a Swedish night and that worked out perfectly fine. 

Friska Viljor
First stop were our lovely besties of Friska Viljor. Instead of the usual 5 people line up Joakim and Daniel played this show as a stripped down acoustic set and it was absolutely beautiful.
The setlist was a brilliant mix of fan favorites and rarities including a stunning version of my much loved "Useless". There was a lot of interaction with the happy audience, story telling, improvisation and many laughs. I really, really like the full electric line up (later more about that), but this was a different thing. It of course did not hurt also that we made it front row and could enjoy it the show from really close by. We still had the big big grin of the extended "Shotgun Sister" in our face and the last notes in our ears, when we had to leave and run to catch as much as possible of the Johnossi show happening in another bigger club 15 min walk away. And that would be my feedback to the organizers: It was very obvious that Friska and Johnossi would have a big share in the audience and it would be nice, if we would have been able to see both sets completely. We opted for staying with Friska until the end and missing the first half an hour of Johnossi, some others left Friska early - happy was nobody with this. 

Johnossi ... a totally different beast than Friska Viljor. Dark, loud, huge. I LOVE them. On record it is already good, but live? They are SO good, that they made me forget that The Black Crowes cancelled on me (same weekend than my first Johnossi show) and that means something!
The venue was packed but with some trickery (not pushing away people - honestly) and the usual "over the wings" approach we made it despite the late arrival to the (far end) of the barrier. Thankfully I did not miss too many of my favorite tunes and we could rock for another hour. The weird thing really is that it looks like nothing. There is only Ossi on the drums, John with his (semi) acoustic guitars - he usually switches only between 2-3 guitars through the whole show - and a keyboarder who is on the road with them to support the songs from the latest album. If you look at the pics it looks almost singer songwriter style, but hell .....NO! It is like a thunderstorm

For the musicians among you. THAT is what is happening with those acoustic guitar sounds - pedal porn ;) 

After the Johnossi set the night was still not over. Joakim and Daniel were doing another DJ set in one of the local clubs and it was a lot of fun. We danced through the rest of the night and were not in bed before 5 am. It's been a while since I went to sleep with the sun up and the birds singing. 

On Sunday we went to see the new X-Men movie, which was definitely better than the last Wolverine. It also has Michael Fassbender so nothing could go wrong anyway. Ahem ;)

Musiksommer Dachau

I had seriously thought about skipping this one since I had to go alone, but after seeing Friska in Dortmund I just could not have them play only 20 min by S-Bahn from Munich and stay away. They are one of my favorite live bands and I KNOW that I will have fun every time I see them. So a last minute ticket was purchased and I took the train out to Dachau in the lovely warm evening sun. Sadly the train was delayed and when I finally arrived I sprinted through the small town up the hill because I could hear that Friska Viljor were playing already. 

Friska Viljor
The little square was filled with people and the scenario could not have been nicer - a warm summer night in a lovely old town, lots of people in a very good mood and a fab band playing. I made my way to the front ... over the wings but it wasn't that packed / squeezed anyway.
Back to full strength Friska offered their typical fun show with Joakim being in best form flirting with the front rows and the band members joking with each other and fooling around. It's surely not the most complex music Friska is offering and there might be bands who could do crazier, more experimental stuff, but those Swedish guys play their hearts out every single time. If you need something to cheer yourself up - a Friska show will do the job. I promise! 

Shoud Out Louds
Second band of the night were the Shout Out Louds - as well from Sweden. I have to admit that I heard some of their songs before but I do not own a record (should change that soon) and I had never seen them live before. My friends were texting me if I would stay around after Friska or take the train home, but I loved it there, the weather was perfect and why not?
Gosh, I am glad I stayed. Should Out Louds were ... awesome! I am not knowledgable enough to name songs here or praise single performances (sure frontman Adam knows his business though), but they did sound damn good and had the people dancing. I had changed the "wing" and found myself a nice slot at the entrance to the backstage area where I could go some stairs up for better sight (see the side of stage picture) which turned out to be a lucky decision because when Adam towards the end came off the stage to climb the stairs up where I was standing it all turned into a little fun dance party right there with the Friska boys. PERFECT and also a nice cure for my sore back. 

My new stereo

Little Big Man
My old stereo was a gift from my mom after my dad had died. I was 17. It was that old. The CD player had few years less, but the speakers? Ancient. I had thought about buying a new one for quite a while, but it is a serious investment and it never really happened. Then three things came together:
1) I got my tiny BOSE for Christmas / birthday and that wee bastard sounds better than the whole old stereo that I barely touched ever since.
2) My colleague bought the Teufel "Little Big Man" package and loved it. Teufel is a German brand for somewhat affordable highend speaker systems. You can read as many tests and reviews as you want and you will get as many opinions, but on average the Teufel set had - in its price segment - very decent reviews all over the place and my coworker (who listens to the same music as I do) loved his. The stereo itself is not groundbreaking and only an interims solution but the speakers incl subwoofer are really good. 
3) Teufel reduced the price for "Little Big Man" - 20% off. That was the moment I was sold and ordered. It had to happen and it just had made into the "affordable" segment. 

A few days later HUGE parcels arrived and although I came home late that night (thanks to my neighbor for handling the delivery) I OF COURSE had to unpack and set up right away. And what should I say ... BRILLIANT! Since my old system was really dead I am easy to please but it is really good especially for that overseeable amount of money I spent. The sound is very clear and detailed. I heard things I never heard before .... Ben Johnston's work on the cymbals at Live From Glasgow for example. And Medals "Tastes Like Glass" with an additional subwoofer is really a lot of fun. I am totally in love with that thingy. Not sure said neighbor is though ;) 


The next three months should be fun (minus the wisdom tooth removal) and here is what is in the pipeline:

- Biffy Clyro in Dublin at the end of June
- T In The Park in Scotland with Biffy Clyro headlining mid of July 
- Serengeti Festival in Germany with Biffy Clyro headlining mid of August
- Medals full electric show in Glasgow mid of September 

All the awesomeness ... I CAN'T WAIT!

More to read

... but not written by me. You should go here and read what David Conrad, actor, Pittsburgher and fantastic writer has to say about traveling. As a nomadic existence that has trouble to stay more than 4 weeks in a row at home I can deeply relate. 

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