Tuesday, December 13, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Manchester - 3 December 2016

Biffy lightshow in full beauty

There we are already at the end of the 2016 Ellipsis tour! That sounds sad and I AM sad but then again ... not that terribly much ... just a bit melancholic. There are plans for next year already and you can expect more Biffy adventures on here. But before it is time to say good bye to the Biff for a little while we got one more gig to talk about and that is the one in Manchester. 

Our home base for the weekend were the Premiere Suites - not a regular hotel, but serviced apartments. It was good, but the place turned out to be as big as my flat (booked one bedroom got 2 bedrooms) and we could have housed half of the crew if we would have known this ahead of the trip. The apartments come with a full kitchen which we did not use at all, but if you plan to stay a bit longer in Manchester or need something to share with a few more people to lower the costs this is actually a good choice.
What I can also strongly recommend is the Café North right next door to the Premier Suites. The breakfast was excellent, there were also vegetarian options for the cooked breakfast available and they had a big selection of dairy free and super delicious smoothies.
Also if you happen to be in Manchester around Christmas take some time to visit the Christmas Market - it is huge and reminded me very much of the big city center Christmas Markets in Germany. 

LOOK - there's Gambler! 
Let's talk about the show:
This is the story of a bunch of people trying to be reasonable adults. Yes, I can hear you laughing and I am laughing with you. "Nice try!" is really the appropriate comment for this. What is so funny? Well. We got seats. Yes, actual seats. A whole bunch of us did.
When I told a friend about this - in the front row in Glasgow - he spontaneously checked if I had a fever and maybe I had? The thing is - there were lots of good reasons. Seats meant that we could take a later train / flights, meet the Biffy pals for an extended pub pre-show meet up, no queue, no rush, no front row anxiety with Manchester Arena being famous for being difficult / unpredictable with doors, no one that can limit your sight, full view of the light show and not half closed eyes because of lasers pointing at you for two hours. Doesn't it
 sound like heaven? Doesn't it sound even more like heaven for a middle aged person that was on her 5th (4 Biffy, 1 Twin Atlantic) gig in 8 days? It sure did ... until it didn't. Nope, no, never again. I am not made for this. No more envious staring on the little bobbleheads of the friends down there at the front ever again.
To be fair: It was not really bad. We sang, we danced, we actually could see very well and I would prefer a good seat over a bad standing spot in the middle of the crowd any time, but it just is not the same show as you would experience if you were right by the stage.  Oh well ... life is a learning curve, isn't it?

But the sights ... the sights were indeed spectacular!

The Wee Man


Ben on the big screen
What made the show awesome but the seat situation not easier was the fact that this was a great crowd. I heard a few people calling it "tame", but I cannot confirm this. At a big venue like this you can totally stand unharmed at the one end while at the other end hell breaks loose.
From our seats we could see people rock at the front but as limited as you are being able to do so relatively squeezed into the dense crowd in the first rows. What we could also see was the circle pit that formed several times more towards the middle of the standing room. It was seriously big and looked much like a hurricane on a weather forecast map. The moshing break down of "That Golden Rule" looked awesome (and for a moment I was not too sad about being in my hypersafe seat). 

Happy James
Photo: Anita Ivanković
Let's get to the highlight of my last 2016 show and that was this time: "The Captain"

I love "The Captain". I have the final lines tattooed on my arms. I think the opening of the encore is the perfect placement and the only song I like as much (at least) in this spot is "Glitter & Trauma".
A huge arena like this (The capacity is 21,000. It was not 100% sold out but very, very busy) is the right place for the big anthemic songs like "The Captain" and what I could eye-witness here (Yay .. seats?) was absolutely beautiful. There is nothing quite like it than seeing the arms of almost 20k people point to the stage on the loudest "Whooooo" I ever heard right into a burst of white light. I LOVED IT! 

Yeah ... and then after two more songs it was over. Done and gone. The worst part really was saying good bye to all the Biffy friends for at least a couple of weeks. That bunch of people is special and has all my heart. 

The next couple of days for the shows in Cardiff and Birmingham I was fine. The pics were awesome and especially the reports from the Cardiff gig were enthusiastic. I was too tired though to have a real desire to be still on the road and my voice was completely gone as well. I could have seriously not made another gig. Then came London, the final gig at the O2, and that was .... painful. For me. For the band it was the GRAND FINALE they deserved so so so much and I could not be happier for them that it was such a triumph.

Biffy Clyro - Thank you for the music, the good times, the memories and the love! 

Source: Biffy Clyro Official Facebook Page

YesDragon - Be My Armour 

"Be My Armour" can be purchased here

When you hit the road with your favorite band and your friends you know that it will be a very intense time. It is a little escape into another world where you do nothing but hanging out with your best people doing only what you love doing the most. It is amazing (and just in case you are wondering: no, it is not boring at all) and all about emotions. Happiness though - and that is what we are talking about - is never permanent and neither is a tour. Part of the magic is that it is limited. The downside is that you know that at the end you will be sad and hurting for at least a little while. The ambivalence is inevitable. You cannot have the happiness without the sadness. 

It is the same with this song. It makes me sad. Significantly sad. I cannot even really tell why. It just cuts right through all my shells like music does - good music at  least. Yet ... I listen to it. I even listen to it often on repeat because it is also beautiful and probably my favorite song from the YesDragon EPs so far. It is the same ambivalence, I think. You cannot have the beauty without the sadness - you either take it both or you leave with nothing and that is never the best choice. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Glasgow - 29 November 2016

The Biff at the Hydro

After one short day off the road that I barely remember, because ... TIRED it was time for the Glasgow gig. Obviously I cannot post any recent hotel recommendations from my own experience because Glasgow means I can go home after the gig and sleep in my own very comfortable bed. That was such a weird feeling though. I am not exactly sure why it is not weird for any other band I have seen since I am a resident of this amazing city but for Biffy - yet it was. I still felt like I was on a trip double checking where my passport was (in my bag because - ID checks) and kind of always thought of my not existing travel schedule. Strange ...

Anyway ... although I personally do not need a hotel anymore, I will list some places for gig travelers who come to Glasgow. If you are attending a show at the Hydro there is a Hilton Garden Inn right by the venue and a Premier Inn just across the river. If you are on a budget the Euro Hostel and the Easy Hotel in the city center might work for you and if you fancy a bit of luxury I can recommend Hotel Indigo. Glasgow is not that big of a city and usually as long as your accommodation is in or close to the city center you are fine. I personally also booked Airbnb places in the West End quite frequently in the past and they were all nice, too.
If you are looking for a good place for dinner before around a Hydro show - or to interrupt the waiting time in the queue to warm up with some nice food - Glasgow's hipster mile Argyle Street in Finnieston is only a short walk away and has plenty of dining options for every taste and budget. 

If you are planning to visit Glasgow I recommend to plan in a bit of extra time if you can because it is awesome here. I might be a biased though. A bit.  

Si gazing out
Alright ... it took me a few days to get my thoughts together about this gig. 
I kind of wanted this to be the highlight of the tour so badly. The band's hometown show. My hometown show. But ... as much as I want it to be the best one - it was not. The band is not to blame. They were on fire and loved playing for their home crowd and of course also for their friends and families in the house. 

Jimbo up on the platform
It would also not be really fair to blame the crowd - they were up for it and the singalongs were really loud, but I think part of the problem is that the Barrowlands ruined me and my expectations. Bellahouston was a bit different because it had a festival feeling to it and was majestic by the size alone and the great atmosphere all around. The Hydro on the other hand was the first proper Glasgow indoor show since that exceptional weekend and somehow I had that type of crowd in my mind - well knowing that no 15,000 people arena audience would be able to live up to it, but rational thinking is one thing and the heart is another thing. And my heart wanted people to sing along the guitar lines, freaking out to "Wave Upon Wave" instead of making puzzled faces from about 5 rows into the crowd and you know ... it being special. The Hydro audience was great but it was just the average arena crowd in the end. I know this sounds almost arrogant and it's not that it was not a good show - it totally was. It was just not as outrageously awesome when it comes to the atmosphere as I had hoped for. I think. I don't know really. It is probably just me. What I definitely enjoyed though was having so many people I love in one place. THAT was really special to me although some were missing because it was week day and quite a lot of people could sadly not make the trip. 

Great Vennart action
Before we come to the highlight of the show let's have a quick word about the Hydro itself because I think the venue plays quite a big role in everything mentioned above. It was my 2nd show at this venue and ... I really do not like it. I think it is an amazing place when you want to see a pop act with many big screens and catwalks build into the crowd and dancers and all that stuff, but is a quite bad place for rock concerts. There are too many seats and not enough standing room and the seats are too far away from the stage. If I compare that with Manchester Arena or what I have seen of the O2 in London - there are seats very close to the stage where you feel part of the show almost like down on the floor, but everyone with a seat at the Hydro is seriously far away. Also the venue is oddly shaped and that leaves weird empty standing room left and right of the stage - at least with a set up like Biffy had. It was strange and it did not help the atmosphere.
On a positive note: The much feared paperless ticket thing worked surprisingly well and the team at the entrance appeared to be dealing fairly well with the card readers and the whole process. And while it was not as awesome as in Belfast all security folks I met that night were nice, friendly and helpful. 

The highlight .... is odd because I have to say that it was "Many Of Horror".  It IS a great song but I listened to it countless times live now and I personally do not need it really, but it works. It god damn works and it was in the end the moment when I got some chills from all the voices filling the room like it should be. 

I know it is impossible - at least for a regular show - but I wish next time we could just go back to the Barras and be there with "The Family" like in those memorable December nights in 2014. I know you cannot repeat things and it will never be the same, but there is really nothing like being with your closest people in that special room singing along and really feeling it. I will be back at the Barrowlands twice in the next 7 days and you can bet I will let out more than one big sigh when climbing these stairs ... 

YesDragon - Dick Panto

That is more like I wanted that night to be .. heavy voodoo, you know, burning shit up and all that. There will be another day when all that will happen in Glasgow again, too. I am sure. It IS one of the best places in the world to rock out - just the Hydro is not. 

The "Dick Panto" EP can be purchased here

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Belfast - 27 November 2016

Biffy Clyro - Ben & James vocals for "Medicine"

Back to back was the theme of this weekend and on we went up North to Belfast. After some hassle with finding the right bus stop and a much, much needed nap during the trip we arrived in Northern Ireland around lunch time.
When the tour was announced I had no second thoughts about doing Belfast as well. It is such a short flight back to Glasgow that I could do that on Monday morning before work (it was very painful but it worked) and our experience with our first trip to Belfast had been such a good one that it did sound like a great idea to do it all again. There were also no second thoughts about the hotel because the Premiere Inn Titantic Quarter is directly next to the venue and the accommodation of choice.  We had stayed there in the summer as well and there is nothing to complain. It is a classic Premiere Inn - nothing fancy but clean rooms, comfortable beds, friendly staff and booked early it is really affordable. If you go to a show in Belfast at the arena or Belsonic I can also really recommend to plan in some spare time for the Titanic Museum & Experience - it is pretty awesome and well worth the time and money. 

We did not have time though ... we had a show to go to!

Best security ever!
Before we come to the music let's talk about the people who made this day really special:  The local security team! 
Usually when the topic comes to the security at gigs the typical fan reaction is an annoyed groan. Sadly so very often the local staff does not make the fan life easier but a lot harder. After watching desperate people queuing for hours in the cold they seem to feel a little power when they can have people wait that extra few minutes, take their time to figure out the scanners while the doors are wide open and people are flooding in left and right and then top it all with comments like "You got time. It is a big place."  Fuck no ... we do not have time. If a fan decides to queue it is for a reason and that reason is not "Ah well ... let's go to the bar and the cloak room, get food and drink and then check out venue."  The reason is that the person in the queue has decided to sacrifice a good portion of the day to make it to the barrier. This type of behavior from the security can seriously ruin the whole gig experience and it happens every day, all around the world at countless shows. Belfast though ... Belfast knows how it's done!

The company responsible for this event was the same who was also responsible for the superb organisation at Belsonic and this time around it was easily as good. Very early in the afternoon the first security showed up and gave clear directions where to queue in front of the ONE door. Once it got more busy barriers were keeping the queue in place and every 50 people one element was put in to avoid rushing and queue jumping upon entry. The security was sticking around chatting, answering questions and making sure everyone was alright. About half an hour before doors the first group at the head of the queue was advised that male and female guests would get separate checks and how to queue for it.  When the doors opened in time the checks on bags and tickets were quick and efficient. Behind doors the next group of security was already waiting and leading the first people slowly to the barrier. No one was allowed to pass or run. It was the easiest and fairest entry to a venue ever with a free choice of the barrier spot for us. Absolute perfection. 
And that was not all! The gentlemen in the picture above were the security in the pit. They were the funniest and nicest guys ever. They shared their sweets with us, we had more than one laugh and during the show they never stopped handing out water and continuously checked on the people as deep into the crowd as they could manage. It made SUCH a difference.  I really wish other venues / security teams would make a trip to Belfast and learn from the example. It put Norther Ireland high on my list of places to go back to for a gig. 

James Johnston
The show .... was so much more relaxed for everyone involved. After having trouble to see Mike the night before due to one of the light frames we now moved a bit more to the middle and claimed a spot with free sight of everyone (but Gambler - the master of hiding). 

We watched in awe how the stage crew after the support band Brand New in only 30 minutes finished the switch over for Biffy. That is an incredible short amount of time for such a big show. 
Just like us the band seemed to be more comfortable and confident with the set up also and moved around in a way more relaxed way on the huge stage with its many ramps and platforms. For us at the front there was still so much to see but of course we knew better what to expect and enjoyed the show a lot more. It was just so much fun to sing along and rock that barrier.  

Simon Neil - No zoom
At the end of the regular set it was time for Si's catwalk and the reaction of the crowd in Belfast was of course much the same as in Dublin. As I was standing quite a lot more in the middle Simon now stood not more than an arm length away from me. I surely enjoyed that short glimpse of feeling like being at small, intimate gig. It is also quite amazing and beautiful to watch how he comes out smiling and communicating with the folks at the front but then just closes his eyes and turns inward for the song. What is much less beautiful to witness though is that people seem to be unable to SHUT THE FUCK UP.  Why it is so incredibly hard for so many people to bloody stop talking at least through the acoustic songs??? Me and one of my pals on the other side of the catwalk both had to give out "SHUT UPS!!!" to the talkers around us. I really have no understanding and patience for this.

Mike V. - He's in the band, too!
My highlight of the night for this show was "On A Bang".  I do like the song anyway but it feels like it gets stronger and stronger the more often they play it live. It has grown into a proper monster now - a big, pretty, noisy monster and I love it. 

I also enjoyed very much that I am finally able to take full Vennart action shots. There are a lot more to share from the Glasgow show because I had an even better view on our man on the guitar, but I really like this one already. 

Thank you Belfast! You were beautiful and nice and fun and I will be back! 

YesDragon - Oil And Glue 

"Oil And Glue" is from the "7 Bells" EP which can be purchased here
It is one of those songs that gives me personally that kind of not really rationally to explain fuzzy, warm, happy feeling inside and that fits perfectly to the trip to Belfast.  It was a perfect, mostly stress free day spent with the best friends (minus Villate - we missed you!) and the best band around. It does not get much better. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Dublin - 26 November 2016

Simon Neil

This is hard. Of course my heroic plans to update this blog while on the road failed. I barely got enough sleep anyway and I had only one day off work during all this madness. There was just no chance to make it happen and now I am sitting here with a serious post tour heartache trying to catch up on the events. So let's do this!

Let's go back to start  .... (nothing falling apart here though) and to Glasgow Airport on Friday night before the first show. Flying out in the evening instead of the morning feels kind of weird but it is much more fun if you are not traveling alone and meet up with even more people at the airport in Dublin already. I love when the Biff hit the road and my Facebook feed turns into an endless row of *insert friend's name* is traveling from X to *insert place where the band plays*.

Our hotel for two nights was The Gibson Hotel right by the venue. That place is quite fancy and pricey and I think for the money it costs it is just below what I would expect, but the location is not to beat ... you basically sleep in front of the queue so to say. Friday night was not really exciting - after one drink at the bar in good company of the Biff's stage crew we hit the hay.

The next day though? Super exciting!!! The first day of a tour is something really special and if it is a big arena tour where you have not seen the stage nor the production yet it is even more special. I always love watching the crew setting up the stage - as every Instagram follower knows from my traditional "Churd pic" before the show - but now it was all "What is this?" "God damn is this stage high!", "Why are they testing a microphone at the barrier and store it under the stage?", "Will they step out on these metal plates at the edge of the stage?"  "Oh look ... there are platforms at the very end of each side of the stage!" "Can you see Mike's microphone from here?"  "Where the hell sits Gambler again?" Questions over questions and no answers just yet ...

But then it was time!!!

Biffy Clyro
It was quite overwhelming ... all that light!!!  I will keep the main pictures of the stage for the Manchester blog post because I had seats there and a much better view, but what I can in general say is that I liked the balance of this production. It was huge and elaborate and super impressive but it always worked in support of the music. They kept it close to the purpose of visually carrying the music into the wide room. I think what needed the most adjustment for us in the front was the fact that the band was so high up and pretty far away - for our measures - for most of the show, but the extended visits on said metal plates at the edge of the stage and the platforms made it fairly easy to deal with. One thing I really liked was the fact that Si and James at several points of the show would switch sides. I have my usual spot with James and Mike and would not trade it for the world, but it is very nice to have Simon over visiting. 

James & Mike out there
Lots of people wonder why one would go and see so many shows and especially go back to back but that day I was so happy I would do Belfast as well, because it was so hard to keep up with everything that was going on and some things hit me completely unprepared like for example:  MIKE!
If you follow my Biffy stuff you know about my constant complaints that there is no proper light over Mike Vennart's head and that it is so hard to properly see and even harder to take pictures of him. Not this time though! While he is having his own (not so) little platform for most of the show, he is for some songs - especially That Golden Rule (he even climbs James's platform!) and Stingin' Belle - stepping out into the bright light of the center stage. It was hilarious and awesome when he did that the first time and the lot of diehards at the front including me just screamed "MIIIIIIIIIIIIKEEEEE" when he came out. That man had his own screaming fan club right there. It is one of my very favorite things of the whole show and I sure was better prepared with my camera in Belfast and Glasgow to catch the events.

Captain on his catwalk
Speaking of screaming. Do you remember that question from above about the microphone stored under the stage? Here is what it is for: The Captain's visit to the front row. 

Although the show is seriously long the end of the regular set comes closer so fast and before you realize it is time for the big "Many Of Horror" sing along and you can sense the end is near, but not just yet ... 
The light goes out for the guitar change and after some hectic movement in the pit one light goes on and then he is right there ... just one arm length and the span of a microphone stand away from the barrier - all the way down from that tower of a stage.
The effect is as you would image - especially here in Dublin where it still hit everyone as a total surprise hundreds of people released a collective "Oh my god."  heading for the small catwalk with their phones ups. As you can see I did not move an inch and I also kept it to a few pictures for this blog (*spoiler* - the next day I was closer to this anyway) because the song played here is "Machines" and deserves as much unspoiled attention as possible. I will talk about this more in tomorrow's blog post but this set up was absolutely intense and beautiful. 

The encore afterwards consists of my much loved "The Captain",  the not so much loved (but live it is okay and the final platform switch of Si and James makes it even better) "People" and the closer "Stingin' Belle" with the above mentioned Mike Vennart feature in the final sequence. More about this and most importantly PICTURES as well in the Belfast blog. 

Highlights ... it is so hard to single out highlights when you are completely blown away by the whole production and a two hours setlist, but there is always a good indicator - at least for me - and that's ... tears and the Dublin tears were surely flowing the most for the one and only "JUSTBOY" that made a glorious return to the set. 

What a happy day and nothing really feels better than leaving the show knowing that you will do it all again ... and again ... and again (until you don't *sigh*). 

YesDragon - Liberty Bell

I meant to switch EPs and not to stick to one, but after thinking it through "Liberty Bell" fits energy wise best to the feel of the Dublin show.
"Let's build ourselves a city ..." - our city is mobile and we take it from town to town, but it is our city. The group of friends that the music brought together is very, very special and the tour start on a Saturday allowed most of the crew to come together. Traveling for the gigs a group makes us feel free and "at home" at the same time which is probably one of the best combinations possible. 

Also ... god damn ... what a riff!!!!

The "Hustle" EP can be purchased here

Sunday, November 20, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Cologne - 11 November 2016

Biffy Clyro at Lanxess Arena, Cologne

When I moved to Glasgow I was sure my life would slow down and I would travel less. Theoretically that is right and I got rid off that permanent inner urge to run away, but then .. it did not because .... TOUR! I was just upgraded to the next frequent flyer level at KLM (I can recommend - one of my fave airlines to travel with.) and the last two flights I needed to achieve that were to the ones for my trip to Cologne. 
There will be no hotel recommendations this time, because I am staying with my dear friend Anita every time I visit this magic music city at the river Rhine (place of my first The Black Cowes, David Bowie, Biffy Clyro gigs ever), but there is a shout out to the café "Meister Gerhard" at Chlodwig Platz for offering hot chocolate with lactose free milk - pain free bliss!  

The Twilight Sad
To be honest with you - initially this trip wasn't even booked for Biffy. Many moons ago the lovely people in one of my favorite Scottish bands - The Twilight Sad - got the amazing opportunity to tour the world with The Cure and there was no way I would miss that. Since there was no Glasgow date I opted for the show in Cologne at 10 November 2016 which my friends would attend and booked my flights and days off for the time in Germany a long time ago already.
As much as I was looking forward to seeing the Sad playing that huge arena stage as much scared I was I would get hit by every music lover's biggest curse: THE CLASH ... no not the band ... the unfortunate event of two of your favorite bands playing the same day in different locations. The last quarter of the year is touring season and this year is especially clash-tastic. The fear was real, but then a miracle happened. The Biffy dates were announced and ... it did not clash, but fit PERFECTLY:  

Biffy Clyro - Lanxess Arena, Cologne - 11 November 2016!  

YES!!! It literally could not have worked out any better. While we were all more than happy I was also little concerned for my precious Biff though because a) that is some big ass arena and while they are big in Germany they are not The Cure type of big and b) 11 November is the opening of the carnival season 2016 / 2017 - a day when drunk hordes in silly costumes wander the streets of Cologne but not spend 50 EUR on a rock concert. We will see how this worked out ... 

The Cure
... but before that let's have a quick chat about the night before the Biffy show. It was absolutely lovely to see and hear The Twilight Sad. It has been almost a year for me and it was really overdue to sink into that beautiful music again. The venue was not too packed yet when they started but filled up quickly during the set and by the end there was a huge cheer from a sold out arena ... and that means almost 20,000 people. Like ... twenty thousand! I can tell you that is a lot and it sounded impressive. 

I am sure not the biggest The Cure fan in the world, but of course they were part of my youth and I sure had the one or other goth inspired phase in my life. I still really like to dress up accordingly and so does Robert Smith who entered the stage with his trademark hairdo and make up in place. The show was very, very good. The Cure play night after night on this giant world tour for about 3 (!) hours, change the setlist every day and they sound freaking amazing. Many bands half the age would not be able to pull that off. I have so much respect for this and it was really a great evening. 

Simon Neil
After a good night's sleep (not for poor Anita though who had to work) it was show time AGAIN and this round it was Biffy Fucking Clyro time. No more wandering around the arena lazily going for a drink while the gig is on ... this night had to be spent at the barrier and damn sure it was. 

It quickly turned out that my worries about the size of the venue and the date were unnecessary. It was of course not sold out but the standing room was 100% booked and so was the very most of the lower level seats (upper level was closed).  There must have been something between 8,000 and 10,000 people, I think. That is a very good turn out especially considering the carnival day and the fact that there are a couple of more Biffy dates pretty close by as well on this leg of the tour as the upcoming one in February 2017. What is even more important than the numbers game though is that the audience was absolutely up for it! Remember when I wrote about Munich that the performance of the band was great but that it was not in my fave shows for the venue and the crowd? Totally different picture in Cologne. Everyone who goes to concerts a lot will know what I mean when I say that there was this special electricity in the air that turns a good show into one to remember. The crowd was on fire and so was the band. 

Mike Vennart
The whole show - which was the final one for this part of the European tour - was amazing but I will try to pick out a couple of highlights:
- Herex - was on the setlist again and I absolutely LOVE it live 
- Biblical - had the people singing very loud. After the song and before the next one the crowd picked up the melody one more time singing completely on its own. It sounded HUGE. Simon had his back turned to the audience to switch guitars but I could see his face with a mixture of a smile and concentration on it breathing in deeply and taking the moment in. 
This band is different from the Opposites Tour Biffy. There is a new, different type of confidence and even more closeness if that is even possible and it peaked for the night at that moment. 
- Friends & Enemies - is quickly becoming a crowd favorite. We are still kind of struggling with those hand claps and poor James needs to look away to not get thrown off by our clumsy efforts but it is a lot of fun. The hand waving bit though worked and was amazing. I turned around and everyone in the seats was up on the feet with the arms in the air and so was the endless sea of people behind us. Just beautiful. 
- Wave Upon Wave - I have no idea how many people in the arena were realizing what they were witnessing but our jaws dropped for sure. The outro ... MAN ... THE OUTRO. You know when it fades out slowly on record? They did just that - they let it fade out. This is so damn hard to put into words, but if that full force steam train of a rock band manually fades out a song like that it feels like for a magical moment they hold on the time. I am sorry ... that is the best I can do describing it. 

Lots of people ask if it is worth to put a lot of effort into being right at the front and for a night like this the answer is a clear YES. Besides simple advantages like being able to see despite being hobbit sized and being able to breathe you get to see a different show than the mass of people behind you. Although this was the biggest indoor Biffy show I have been to in all these years it felt like a very personal, almost small and intimate one that I will cherish for a good while.

Thank you, Biffy Clyro - for the music and for the smiles. We all needed it! 

YesDragon - Hustle 

This song is from the first EP also called "Hustle", which can be purchased here. I wish I had a picture of my face when I listened to this for the very first time on a full moon lit street in Münster, Westfalia. Stunned disbelief might describe it best, I guess, although I was prepared for a lot already. But damn ... it is SO GOOD and SO MUCH FUN ... just like that show in Cologne.

Barrier squad, Cologne
Also ... folks better think we were G.O.A.T. that night because we totally were - the squad on stage as well as the one right in front of it!

PS: There is a brand new YesDragon EP which was released only a few days ago. It is called "Be My Armour" and is beautiful. Check it out here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Don’t panic – act!

When I was a kid we had endless history lectures about Nazi Germany and WW2 at school. I certainly most enjoyed the ones held by our oldest teacher who could tell us the things from her own memory. My grandparents form both sides – for very different reasons – did not talk about this time and so I needed that teacher. We all did. 
When I was growing older there then was always this question that I asked myself and that I would get asked by foreigners as well: "As a German, do I feel guilty for what Germany did to the world? Do I feel guilty for my countrymen falling for the dictator and making his sick visions real? Do I feel guilty for the millions who died, because of what started in my country? The millions who died because they were marked "wrong" and not worthy to live? The millions that died in the huge war and the even more people who lost everything (including my family)?"
The answer to that question is No. I do not feel guilty. I did not do anything – I was not even born nor were my parents. I have no reason to feel guilty. BUT and now comes what is a big BUT: I do feel responsible. I feel responsible for having that lesson learned. I feel responsible for making sure that nothing like this happens ever again. And here were are in 2016 and this responsibility which was a mainly theoretical thought for the most of my lifetime became horrifying reality.

I have a master degree in political science, modern history and communication science. That covers nicely all the madness that is going on at the moment and to be honest with you … that knowledge from my university days scares me to death at the moment when I look at the latest events. I am fearing for our lives and the future of my nieces and all the other children. What the heck are we doing? We are on a hell slide, on the way to ruin everything. What is wrong with mankind that like following a stupid algorithm every few decades we make an even more efficient attempt to reach total destruction?
This is not about Donald Trump. This is not a "local" problem. The picture gets a lot, lot scarier if you take a step back to get a wider perspective. It would be completely naive to think for example that the two most politically earth shattering events of the last few months -  the election of Trump and the Brexit vote – are not related. They absolutely are. And there is a lot more going on that is easily as scary and dangerous. Mankind is in a weird and very bad place right now and we are at the urge of really screwing it up with consequences too horrible to imagine.

We also need to understand an important thing: this did not happen over night. The only thing that happened over night (kind of) is that our bubble burst. Now we can see and it is not a pretty picture.


in this may lie our chance. We are not helpless victims. We can act and we must act. Now.

When I look around I see a lot of good. I see people – while being scared and terrified and shocked – speaking lout out that they have values which are different from what they see represented in these latest elections and votes. I see people wearing safety pins, people assuring their friends and strangers alike that they are NOT okay with this. Let’s not marginalize these actions. They are important.
We need to stick together.  We need to stick together across borders and oceans. We need to speak out loud that we do NOT agree.  We need to re-learn what sadly the Brexiters and Trump supporters realized first:  that together we are not powerless but can induce change. 

We really and urgently need to get our asses out of our (no longer existing) comfort zones and act accordingly.  We have elections coming up in Germany and France and please get yourself out there and vote. If you do not agree with any party, look out for the one you can best live with. I can promise you if you do not vote it will support in the end the party you agree with the least. That is how these things work.  But this will not be enough. We will need to defend our values.  We will need to defend the freedom and the peace that are the foundation of the lives we live.

This is not a call to arms – at least not the type that kills people -  but it is a call to speak out loud, to act after your words, to step in where you see things go wrong, to call out the racists and xenophobes and misogynists and muslim- and gay-haters and whatever ugly is out there.
But also … travel and encourage your friends to come with you and show them the world and other people and other places and the beauty in all this. Read and educate yourself and your children. Go to readings, art exhibitions, to the theater or music concerts. Protect and support the writers, comedians, painters, actors, musicians - they are our special forces in this. 

Also and maybe most importantly: Be open, be kind and love.

I know this is asking quite a lot and I am not just calling for you but even more for myself to do my best in this. It was totally also my comfy bubble that burst here … just to be clear.

I strongly believe that we can turn things around, but we need to stop panicking and get moving.  

"Let's use this dynamite, we're only making noises
we want to affect a change with voice and electrical noises

Together we stand,
we're at the bottom of the cove
it looked like rain but, it felt like snow
Because wherever we stand, we're at the bottom of the hole,
we'll dig our way out, but we'll still say no"

Whorses / Biffy Clyro

Monday, October 31, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Munich - 23 October 2016


Not long after London it was time for the start of the proper Ellipsis European Tour. One of the first stops for the band was ... my old hometown Munich and that would be where I would start my Ellipsis journey, too. So basically it was back to the roots for me to begin something new.  

Coming back to Munich was very weird. The first couple of hours were very nice - my friend Gabrijela picked me up at the airport together with her (my god-) daughter and we went to the playground enjoying the very nice fall sunshine.
In the evening Gabrijela dropped me off by my hotel. The super nice hotel I had booked for my last night before the move was a bit too pricey for a longer stay and so I opted for the Cocoon Hotel Munich Stachus instead. It is located between the main station and Karlsplatz (Stachus). The area is not the nicest - like most main station areas - but there are a lot of hotels because the city center and tourist sights are very close by. It is also only five minutes walk from the Munich office of my company where I would work on the Monday after the show. The location was ideal for me and would be great for everyone who wants to explore Munich. The hotel is not super fancy but it is new and very modern and clean and comfortable. For a city trip it is all you need really. The breakfast costs just 9,99 € and is amazing - I strongly recommend booking it if you ever decide to stay there. 
After checking into my room I quickly went for a shopping spree at some of my fave shops. When I was walking down Kaufinger Straße I started to feel really weird. I lived in this city for 16 years and I knew exactly where I was going but it felt so different. Kind of ... disconnected?  I felt like a stranger with an extremely good orientation. Everything looked familiar but felt very unfamiliar. I was aware that I at some point might feel that way when visiting Munich but I did not think it would happen so fast. I thought it would be more a "coming home" type of feeling but it was absolutely not. Looks like Glasgow became even more my home already than I thought. That's kind of bittersweet. On one hand Glasgow IS home and so everything is right like it is, but I kind of felt the farewell to my old life a lot more intense now than at the day I actually left. Probably I was too exhausted and excited on that day to get through to it. 

The next morning after enjoying the excellent hotel breakfast I was heading out to the venue.  It has been a long time since I properly queued for a show, but in Munich it had to happen. Sadly the venue - Zenith - isn't great.  It is big and if you are at the back the sound is terrible and you see absolutely nothing (you can go over the wings but still ...).  It is the type of place where you better make the barrier to be able to really enjoy it. Thankfully for the majority of the day it was sunny and I had great company of much loved friends.
Much less enjoyable was the actual entrance into the venue at doors. I had print-at-home tickets because that is safer when you order from another country, but the security took FOREVER to scan the codes and there is nothing more frustrating than a long day of queuing and then having dozens of people being in before you anyway. I made the barrier with a LOT of luck and the good will of some folks (which I did not know before) that had queued with us. In the end I even got my normal spot in front of James and Mike. Once I had settled down the only thing between me and my first show of the tour was some wait time ... and Lonely The Brave. Thankfully the latter ones did not play for more than 30 minutes. I know lots of my friends are fans and like them, but it is a big NOPE for me. The music is not bad, but kind of dull. I cannot make a single song stick in my brain even if I try and I really do not like the way they manage their stage presence. It is a bit sad .. Arcane Roots and Walking Papers last tour were so much more fun, but I have my hopes up for Brand New on the UK tour. 

Finally it was time and there are not many things that feel better than the moment the light goes down, the intro music goes up and finally the first song - for this tour "Wolves Of Winter" - kicks in. It is always the moment all the effort feels already worth it.
Biffy were amazing. The current set list is amazing - very energetic and exciting. One of my personal highlights for sure was hearing "Herex" live for the first time. I had a feeling already that it would have a completely different dynamic live and that was definitely the case. It is a lot of fun and the heavy outro is incredible - so powerful. I generally enjoy hearing the new songs a lot - it makes it all feel fresh and exciting. Thankfully the list of new and currently played songs also includes "In The Name Of The Wee Man", which - I cannot point this out often enough - might rank for me as one of the top 5 best Biffy songs of all time. It makes me shiver in the best way on record and it makes me drift on a cloud of sound and words live. It is just IT. 

Then we got "Wave Upon Wave"! I love this song to pieces and the version Biffy are playing live at the moment is fantastic. It is showcasing in such a great way what magnificent musicians all five are and that "Do you believe in magic?" line is basically what this gig traveling is all about. On the downside I do miss the "WAVE FUCKING WAVE" screams. I totally get that it is not happening. A few years and lots of voice coaching lessons later it is a reasonable decision to not do it, but ..... it is still a bit sad. I also miss the hand claps (besides Mike's honorable effort in the intro) and that leads automatically to what I most did not like about it in Munich: It is sadly wasted to most of the audience. The Zenith in Munich is not the Barras in Glasgow and a moment like this makes you painfully aware of it. The good point about "Wave Upon Wave" though is that  - other than some of the other older and more rare songs I heard them trying in front of a bigger crowd before - it is not killing the flow. I just hope that irritated faces from about row 5 to the back of the venue are not stopping them from putting songs like "Wave Upon Wave" on the set lists. 

One of the most interesting things for me was to see what "Re-arrange" is doing to people - people as in not the hardcore fans who like it really weird and complex and heavy, but the other 6,000 people standing behind us. What is happening there is quite magical. I guess ... it is watching live and in person how a song becomes a hit. When I was sitting later in the night in the train back to the city center basically my whole carriage packed with people was still singing "Re-arrange". 

Other than that it is just worth mentioning that it was a great show but will not go down as one of my favorites because of Munich being Munich and the Zenith being Zenith. It is just not a great place and Munich does not have the best crowds. I know ... it sure felt not that way for many of the people there (and good for you that you had the best time), but if you have the comparison with the crowd in other places you know the difference.  If - to stay in Germany even - I remember how incredible the crowd was in Münster in April or if you watch the Reading set from August then you know there is room for improvement. I also need to apologize to Mike for my countryman shouting "Oceansize reunite!" right behind me. While I appreciate that he at least knows that there are 5 people on the stage, that was so annoying and I could see Mike rolling his eyes in front of me (and so did I in my VENNART shirt). It was a great night nevertheless and definitely a good start for my tour.
Next stop will be Cologne with the back-to-back shows of The Twilight Sad / The Cure and Biffy. That will be very exciting (and exhausting). 

On the Monday after the show I went to work in the Munich office and that felt for a change very "normal" - like I had never moved away.  The trip back via Amsterdam was long, exhausting and like a weird déjà-vu again. Hanging out at Schiphol I had to think about how often I had traveled that route in those two years of going back and forth between Munich and Glasgow and I realized how stressful that was and I how incredibly glad I am that this is now an exception and not a routine anymore.

YesDragon - Hay Mirror 

This song is from the 2nd EP called "7 Bells".  I chose this track because that trip to Munich had a lot of self-reflection, of looking in the mirror to it. It is also catchy as hell. Just hear how vivid that bass is!

The "7 Bells" EP which includes "Hay Mirror" can be purchased here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Series: On the road with The Biff - Introduction and first stop in Kingston


I haven't written anything for the blog lately because every time I felt like writing it was about scary and depressing stuff like Brexit. This thing turns more and more into a full blown nightmare for the country, for lots of the country's citizens and for me ... that EU foreigner living and working in the UK for a company that sells UK produced goods to customers all over Europe. Basically my whole way of living .. my home, my work .. it all got a question mark behind now by this dump bullshit. Most of the days I just put this aside because it does not make much sense to put energy into things you cannot influence, but it is not easy at times to not freak out. Thankfully Scotland and the people here make me feel at home. I did not hear one stupid comment about EU foreigners going "home" anywhere here at all (and not from my English friends and colleagues either).

ANYWAY ... while this blog is definitely a place to share thoughts and fears and worries it should also be a place to share the love and light and all the good things. I felt there were not enough good things on here for a while now and that although life is - despite the general worries about the downward-spiraling state of the world - pretty good. So I decided to pick up writing again and start a series about my favorite good thing in the world ... The Biff.  Better ... touring with the Biff .. traveling, spending time with friends, seeing great places and enjoying the music. 

I will try to stick to the same pattern for every upcoming installment and tell you about 
  • the trip including accommodation recommendations and such things if I have some. I am old and have a bit more budget than most of the gig travelers so think more affordable but nice hotels than hostels. There might be something about the actual travel destinations as well but do not expect too much. We touring people usually do not see much more than the airport, the hotel and the venue. It is all less exciting than it seems and a lot is about securing some rest, food, drink and acceptable bathrooms. 
  • the show ... obviously because it is about the music mainly 
  • The going home music. I do not know how this works for you but while I can listen to the band I am going to see for hours on the way TO the show I cannot listen to them for a bit AFTER the show. That was always the case and not just for Biffy. After a good show everything from record feels like only the second best choice and I need to give it a break.
    Lucky if you have more than one band / artist you like as much and my man especially for an emotionally fragile state of mind - like the hungover post gig mood - is usually Dragon (Sucioperro, Medals, YesDragon).  At the moment I'm listening mostly to the brand new awesome stuff from the YesDragon EPs and the releases will accompany the tour for a good while. So every gig travel post will feature one YesDragon song that fits to the respective gig trip with streaming and / or video and of course the purchase link.  Give it a listen and if you like what you hear, buy the EPs. They just cost £ 4 each and downloading only takes a quick minute. 

So let's try this out already: 

Stop 1 -  Kingston upon Thames - 9 October 2016

When the acoustic show - as a very fancy version of an "in store" gig for the fabulous Kingston based Banquet Records - was announced I did not expect that I would be able to go. Tickets were rare and hard to get (queuing in person required, which I could not do being hundreds of miles away). It happened though with a lot of voodoo and help of kind souls and good luck that not only I could go but most of my Biffy pals as well. A big part of making this possible was down to the band itself who added a second show before the actual event to give more people a chance to get their hands on a ticket. 

When the Kingston weekend arrived I had actually spent most of that week already in London for work and was not exactly excited to go back to the big city (might be an unpopular opinion but I am not a fan) but what can you do?  I traveled with friends by train down South and that was good fun.
Accommodation for the weekend was the Tune Hotel near Liverpool Street Station / Shoreditch which I can recommend.  It is for London measures quite affordable and brand new. For dinner I took my friends to my favorite Wahaca at Charlotte Street. If you like delicious, reasonably priced Mexican food Wahaca is your place to go. There are several restaurants in London and other cities including a new one in Edinburgh now as well. I hope Glasgow gets one next

On the gig day we escaped London fairly early to travel to Kingston upon Thames, which is an absolutely beautiful little town. I loved it!  
The last proper Biffy tour had been quite a while ago and so the occasion was perfect to catch up with the gig pals over the day.
The band arrived in the early afternoon and were so gracious to take a lot of time to say hello, catch up with everyone, hug, cuddle, laugh, pull faces, take pictures and sign stuff. There were so many happy faces beaming with big smiles - just beautiful. 

At 6 pm the doors opened for the first show which went on for about 45 minutes and then lots of smiling people came out of the venue - many to go back to the queue and re-enter for show 2 because they were lucky enough to secure tickets for both.
I personally just went to the second show and that's more than fine with me because that show was all I had ever hoped for.  I could watch it from a prime first row spot and I enjoyed it so much. Besides the quick in store for the album release in Glasgow it was my first time to see a proper Biffy acoustic gig and the setlist was made of my dreams.
I am not ashamed to admit that music can make me very emotional and when Si put that harmonica holder around his neck my heart almost stopped ... would they ... would they maybe play "Drop It" ... that odd little extra track that they played only half dozen times spread over almost a decade? That little song that has all my heart?  It took maybe half a chord to confirm and yes ... yes ... DROP IT! Let's just say there were tears. Lots of happy tears.
I barely had my shit together again for the next song when accompanied by loud "YESSSS!" shouts from all over the venue the intro of "A Whole Child Ago" kicked in. Another song one barely gets to hear anymore. The one single time I heard it live before at the Barras we had a lyrics hick up that broke my heart a little because it is the first verse I really love. This time all was good on the lyrics front and the song sounds AMAZING played acoustic. When Simon finally announced that the next song after that would be "Breatheher" we got to a point where down in the audience we were giving out Hi5s gratulating each other that we actually made it to this very special night.
The whole set was amazing, but another highlight was definitely "Re-arrange" when the crowd directed by our friend Jamie on the balcony and also a laughing Si and Ben on the stage managed to adjust to the correct hand clapping pattern. Just see yourself - we had the best of times:

To me this day is on the same level of awesome with one of the Barras shows. It was of course a much shorter set, but it was so out of the ordinary (the two sets were btw completely different and had only 2 songs played both times) and very intimate ... something rare in the time of arena shows and festival headliner sets. It was also so close to the feeling of the Barras because the audience was just right .. so so many familiar faces of folks who really love that band and know their business when it comes to lyrics and the appreciation of rarely played tracks. Just perfect.

I think it is safe to say that the band enjoyed the day as well - here is the post show picture proof:

Source: Biffy Clyro on Instagram

YesDragon -  A Game Of Kings 

This song was actually not yet released when the show in Kingston happened but since it is a beautiful acoustic tune that perfectly fits to the feel of that day it is my choice for the first link. 

The "Dick Panto" EP which includes "A Game Of Kings" can be purchased here