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. 


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. 


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. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Of Biff 2014 - Episode 1 - Dublin

Simon Neil / Picture: Anita Ivanković

This will be a quick one because I am a bit in a rush. Today will be a long and intense working day and then the next night will be really short. Thursday will have a 4 am start because I need to get very early to the airport for my to Glasgow via Düsseldorf flight for episode 2 of this Summer Of Biff at T IN THE PARK (I cannot believe it's here. It feels like forever since I bought the ticket in an attack of craziness).

But this is not about TITP, this is about the first highlight of the summer - Biffy Clyro in Dublin!

The last weekend of June I traveled with my friend Anita to Ireland for the first of a small series of Biffy gigs this summer. I am doing by far not all of them but cherry picked a few to make sure I see my favorite people again a couple of times before they go into recording hiatus.
I arrived on Friday in the early afternoon and settled already in our cozy airbnb room close to the venue. Our lovely host was so nice to explain to me how to get best to the venue and recommended to go there straight away so that I would know my way the next morning. Smart advice. I went and found everything perfectly like she had described. The venue was inside a beautiful park at the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham and easy to access. All good.
Next I headed for the city center to shop for my niece and to look around a bit. I was in Dublin before but that was a couple of years ago and I barely remembered anything, but the LUAS tram line between the city center and our home was easy to find and I got around nicely. I had some delicious dinner at Temple Bar (which is like a bit more charming version of the Altstadt in Düsseldorf), went for a nice walk at the Liffey and got my shopping done.

Camp Biffy Dublin
Saturday was an early start because ... queuing. I love watching Biffy from the front row (not just but especially Biffy) but I won't do that at the big festivals. So Dublin was supposed to become THE front row show of the summer and that indeed worked fine. Anita and I were by far not the only ones coming to Dublin from pretty far away and we all had agreed on an early queue. So when we arrived around 8 am in the morning we were already No 15 and 16 (still good enough).
The group soon moved from the gates into the park to the entrance of the actual venue. At this point I have to really mention the excellent organization of the event. The security welcomed us with a friendly "You are the queue? Please make yourself comfortable over there." They advised us to wait at a lovely piece of the park with trees and green. They assured us we would be the first getting in, explained the procedure later at doors, kept us up to date and even helped when it was time to keep things in order. Later on the grounds they were handing out water to us and made sure we were well hydrated and comfortable. It was really enjoyable. Additionally we had the whole day access to the Museum Of Modern Art in the Royal Hospital (it is free!), the museum café with cold drinks, coffee, tea, warm food and snacks and excellent clean bathrooms. PLUS we had except for some minutes in the morning PERFECT sunny weather. It was for sure the nicest queuing experience ever and obviously so much better than spending a whole day on the pavement of a random city in the middle of  winter (been there, done that).
It was all around a wonderful day spent picnicking in a lovely park with good friends. It was absolutely great to see all the other folks again after a couple of months off the road and we had a lot of fun. And if you wonder what little miracles music can do: I counted 11 nationalities in the first 30 people in the queue alone - all happily enjoying the day together. Just beautiful.

In the late afternoon at 5.30 pm it was time for doors. That's the moment that proofs that it is all in our heads ;). You know ... I am a cyclist. I HATE running. I do really long walks and stuff, but running? If I try to do that as a workout I can barely run to the next street corner without swearing, coughing, blaming the world for everything (give me my road bike - very different picture). BUT if you open the doors of a football field sized venue and every second matters, I can run and even leave several people behind me. It is also absolutely hilarious that I who cannot be bothered to catch a ball really can snag such a tiny thing like a snipped pick out of the thin air with one quick smooth move. But yes - I can. Thanks to James for the pick (I have to admit his very targeted throw made things very easy though).

Nathan Conolly / Little Matador
Then it was finally time for music. The first support band Little Matador was AMAZING. It is the band of Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly, who is the frontman of this groovin' rock band (significantly heavier and dirtier in a good way than Snow Patrol). I will definitely try to catch them Friday at TITP and both of us purchased the album first thing when we got home. Check them out - you won't regret.  I am already jealous for all the folks who can make it to Belsonic (Belfast) in August to see Little Matador, Twin Atlantic and Biffy Clyro. What a killer line up.

2nd support band of the night were You Me And Six and they were god awful. Gosh ... that was one damn long hour. The songs were boring but the worst thing was the hilariously exaggerated attitude. Tip between us brothers and sisters for YMAS: Just watch again that band that played after you to see how that is done well. Posing over some boring tunes and then tell those teenagers who came to see you (yes, there were quite a few) to remove some clothing (remember ... it was a hot summer day and there were no hats and scarfs and such things) to wave is ... questionable. We folks from the Biffy queue could not hold back some pretty nasty laughs (NOT appreciated by the YMAS singer) when indeed bras were thrown on stage.
At least I collected some karma points. During Little Matador's set a girl behind me asked if she could stand in front of me. THIS is a question you do not ask a person that started queuing at 8 am. If you do .. be happy when you earn just a "NO". It could be much worse. During the first songs of YMAS I then understood the situation. THAT was the band the child was there for and the lady behind her was her mum. The girlie had tears in her eyes looking up to the stage. And while I have no idea how you do that for YMAS I know very well how she feels. So I put the kid in front of me to the barrier and negotiated with the mother that she had to remove her daughter again for Biffy. The mum almost cried and said like three times "You made her day!" and agreed to make sure they would go back right after YMAS (they did). Since the singer dude had to look in our bored faces over the longest stretch of the barrier he was obviously happy to catch the eye of the now front row teenager and flashed some bleached smiles for her. Kiddo almost died of happy. I want to be at least reborn as a cat or so for that. I think that would be fair.

Churd :)
Then it was time .... oh how I love that. YMAS were off and the Biffy crew on stage. So good to see all the familiar faces again. Churd wearing his DOUG FIR shirt (club in Portland) made me especially happy since I know that the best memories are connected with that place for my US friends.
And then one of the best Biffy shows I have seen to date started. They all had their special moments and especially Paris and Tourcoing will always be most precious memories and Tourcoing still has the top spot, but Dublin was damn special as well.

James Johnston
First of all the setting in the summer evening with a golden and then pink and then dark blueish sky was AMAZING although the daylight made the light show on stage pretty redundant. It also caused the funniest moment of the night when James was not sure his strobe in the "Glitter & Trauma" intro was working and checked by strobing himself right in the face. I guess he did not see much for the next minute or so.
What made me silly happy is that FINALLY the boys started to play more around with the set lists - something we wished for already for a long time.

Mike Vennart
So this night's special treats were "Questions & Answers" (amazing dance by Mike Vennart), "The Thaw" (that piano intro KILLS me - so beautiful), "Whorses", "Machines" and ... "Justboy".  I am aware that it is not easy to understand for not Biffy fans, but this meant so much to me.  It was my first "Justboy" live ... EVER. And it is one of my very favorite songs, my right arm tattoo song, too. So when the first notes went off into the evening sky I promptly started crying. No chance stopping it. It was amazing.  So good.
The audience at least around us really appreciated what was going on and at some point the guy behind me (who I did not know) and I gave each other a big HI5 while he kept saying "We are so lucky!"  Yes, we really were.

Team Biffy in the Irish sunset
When the show was over we were simply ... happy. This sounds like a simple sentence but it means so much. Being really happy is not so easy to achieve and those moments when you question nothing, when you can leave everything behind and just enjoy who you are, what you are doing and what you are feeling in this very second are rare. But that is the reason why I do this ... why I travel, queue, spend money. I do it because doing it and listening to this band and watching them play makes me happy. And not just me - the same applies to my friends who spend these gig days and nights with me. It is why we grin at each other and comment all the efforts just with "WORTH IT!".

After leaving the venue we finally stumbled back to the LUAS stop and went home after a very, very happy day spent with friends at a really nice place and with enjoying the best rock show you can get these days.

Next day we went for a bit of sightseeing but we were basically powered out from the days before and kind of happy to catch our flights home.  Thank you Dublin - you were a great host for a great weekend.

On to the next one ...

PS: All pictures enlarge when you click on them.


Different People 
That Golden Rule 
The Captain 
Sounds Like Balloons 
The Thaw 
Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies 
God & Satan 
(Simon solo acoustic)
Glitter and Trauma 
Who's Got a Match? 
Questions and Answers 
Many of Horror 
Woo Woo 
Black Chandelier 

(Simon solo acoustic)
Stingin' Belle