Thursday, April 17, 2014

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

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


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


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

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

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



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

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




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



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

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


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


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


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




The full rockation photo set can be seen here



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hell & Heaven

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

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

Hell


Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything

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

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


Heaven



Manchester Orchestra - COPE

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

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


Check out the awesomeness here: 


Electric: 



Acoustic and heartbreakingly wonderful:




And my personal favorite.