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