Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Hamburg – you need loads of time for a visit to Germany’s second largest city that was built on the labour the river Elbe port had to offer and the ensuing trade opportunities it generated. Of course, Hamburg has been severely damaged in World War II and today you will find soulless high rise estates around Hamburg that are not exactly welcoming places. But then again, as a tourist, you would not go there anyway. Plus, you will have your agenda full with just visiting the old town, the merchant city with storage houses, the harbour, the beautiful old mansions and the sinful and happening Reeperbahn as well as other trendy quarters like the Karoviertel or the Schanzenviertel. Which is where you see Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017.

Indeed the multitude of banks, insurance companies, the IT sector, the media companies and of course a lot of the breathtaking architecture speaks of riches in no small part due to the success of Hamburg’s port. But visiting sailors also needed to be entertained and thus Hamburg boasts probably the world’s best-known red-light district. In recent years the Reeperbahn in St. Pauli has still been offering the sex trade and everything related to it but has cut down on crime and become a tourist attraction plus the place has seen an abundance of non-sex industry related theatres, clubs, cafes and venues popping up.

Add to that Hamburg’s native lively music scene (yes, The Beatles were born in Liverpool and grew up in Hamburg as John Lennon put it) and lovely friendly locals and you have the perfect location for a club festival: The Reeperbahnfestival. It is been around for twelve years now and boy, has it grown. I’d easily call it Europe’s SXSW. Actually it has become Europe’s biggest club festival.

Naturally there are drawbacks when a festival reaches such a size. It was very well organised and of course you give your all to see as much as you can – but there is always the pang you missed something. (Yep, I missed Timber Timbre and Nadine Shah!) You just have to accept the fact you cannot attend everything and let yourself drift and then discover wonderful things.

A huge thanks to my dear friend and colleague at Byte FM, Sandra Zettpunkt, musical detective for her show Golden Glades and musician herself and ever so handy: A Hamburg native she is and knows St. Pauli like the back of her hand. So I had not to worry about a thing. I did not get lost, not hit by a car, received a lot of information and discovered great bands. Oh boys, and how did we laugh:-)

So, do please join us next year for the next edition of Reeperbahn Festival. You won’t regret it.

Reeperbahn Festival runs for four days choc-a-bloc full of music-industry related workshops, conferences, networking affairs and of course live performances around many many venues. This year’s festival was dedicated to Canada as featured country, the “other” America:-) Canada’s huge music scene was represented very well, I thought, with the big names included as well as absolute freshmen. Then there was the surprise performance: Liam Gallagher. We gave that a miss as we both had seen Oasis before and queues were huge – and so much to do and so little time.

I only arrived Friday afternoon and while Sandra had already checked out a couple of bands (see her blog post here), poor me was only starting. Well, trying to: Strict security at the first venue, Grünspan. As laudable as that kind of security level is in today’s times: I had to get rid of my bag and try again. Yep, off we went and saw the very first live performance of Superorganism.

Superorganism have just been signed to Domino, before their first live gig…fancy that. There was no need to worry, as eight-piece Superorganism deliver technicolour pop with bravado and witticism, with accompanying art and an interesting set-up of conservative instruments, three backing singers and fronted by a seventeen-year old Japanese girl from Maine in New England. Their current location/mainstay is East London and it is there where they come up with their truly intriguing live shows and performances.

So we were off to a good start then on this Friday, 22nd of September then. What next? We walked all the way up to the bunker where Terrace Hill is located. Fazerdaze was playing. Alas, it was so packed that you could not see a thing and thanks to the bar in your backs not hear much either. So up for a breath of fresh air on the roof terrace and a view over Hamburg. Pity about Fazerdaze but then an amble down to the gorgeous Imperial Theater where on entrance (yes, we were late), the dulcet tones of King Creosote could already be heard. I was missing one of my favourites “Melin Wynt”, aargh…No bagpipes by the way. Indeed, Kenny Anderson alias King Creosote was on his own, just with an acoustic guitar but still the songs conveyed all the deepness and layers that the full band could have offered, or so I hope. Astonishingly, the King’s guitar playing was quite basic despite up to 40 albums under his belt. I suppose though, that this minimalism is intentional. After all, the songs thrive on King Creosote’s tenor voice with trademark little yelps and prominent Scottish accent as well as those bittersweet, poetic lyrics. Had I not heard him, I would not have recognised him, without hair…Or maybe it was one of his two stuntmen anyway, as he claims – Badly Drawn Boy and Baldrick from Blackadder…

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

There was onstage banter galore and a wordsmith like King Creosote of course had the audience in the palm of his hands. At times I was howling with laughter. Yes, the tears of a clown comes to mind, as used up as that saying might be. Lovely, lovely gig in the intimate and wondrous setting (with plush seating) of the Imperial Theatre.

All warmed up we went on our way and took a short break at the centre of it all, the Spielbudenplatz, amazedly staring at the queues for Liam Gallagher and wondering where to go next. We gave a young Canadian band a chance and I forgot the name and remembered they were nervous but there was no need to be, neither was there to crank up every channel on the sound system.

By then Jane Weaver beckoned. She graced Häkken, right at the Spielbudenplatz, a lounge bar that fitted her music perfectly well, I thought. For no apparent reason other than the ominous Liam playing next door, the gig was not as enthusiastically attended as I wished it would be. The fans who were there enjoyed it immensely though. And what was not to enjoy? Jane Weaver voice and lyrics shimmering ethereally over the music of a very close by – locally and musically – band. Man, were they tight, were they on point. It must be very difficult to perform someone else’s music, especially Jane Weaver’s – so hats off to that band again! A beautiful satisfying danceable swaying spirit-lifting mind-drifting krautrocky, psychy set in truly individual style by Jane Weaver mostly featuring songs from her very latest “The Architect”. “Modern Kosmology” and “The Silver Globe”.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Of course the sets at festivals are shortish compared to individual concerts and then you have reach the venue and then there are the overlaps but in most cases the artists managed to convey the complete esprit of their music. We called it an early night (well, for the Reeperbahn anyway) as we were facing a long day the next day.

Saturday saw us missing This Is The Kit due to other commitments. Trying not to be too hard hit, our opener for the evening was Marika Hackman in the Nochtspeicher – an incredibly warm venue. But never mind, rock away, Marika. And she did, seriously and ironically with a fresh almost grungy twist to her folky songs. Enjoying that very much, especially her kind in-between banter. Surprised at how young she looks (she is, she is) and yet is an old hand on that stage. Marika Hackman had the audience entranced and deservedly so. Special praise to her excellent and non-showy band. Luis from All We Are was watching too and after talking shortly, we decided, suffocating heat in the place or not, we would return for All We Are, who are such lovely lovely people.

Meanwhile though we wandered around the Reeperbahn a little more. By the time we could finally enter the venue Molotow Karatekeller (was absolutely packed), the gig by Canadian Taylor Knox had ended. Boohoo…Next year we will plan our schedule with absolute military precision and run as fast as we can.

We squeezed into the backyard of the Molotow, where, you guessed it, a gig was about to end: Philadelphia’s The Districts. From what we still gathered they sounded amazingly raw and fresh.

Rightio, back to the Nochtspeicher for All We Are. Their new album “Sunny Hills” seems a little coherent to some critics but then again, as much work as has gone into Guro, Luis and Rich’ albums, I always have regarded them as a live band. This is where All We Are truly shine and engulf you in their contagious enthusiasm. Word. I did not spot anyone in the audience who was not hopping along (did I mention this was an incredibly hot venue?) and the front was a veritable mosh pit. Also Marika Hackman and band were happily grooving along. Thank you, All We Are, that was awesome.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017 Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

The night is young and so are we…kind of. What next? Time for drifting. So we stumble down the cellar stairs of the Nochtspeicher to witness French Aquaserge drowning us in a concoction of jazz, funk and later a lot of psych. Magnetising and good fun in both measures and the right poison for head hitting the pillow and falling into a coma.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Thank you so much, Reeperbahnfestival for doing such a lot of work to entertain so many people to their heart’s content. It was ace. See you and you, dear readers, next year!

 

 

Autumn is upon us…with music

Autumn is upon us…with music. Thankfully. Yes, us poor souls in the northern hemisphere have autumn descending upon us again and for most parts it has not been an Indian summer variety of autumn. Autumn, however, does coincide with an abundance of releases of musical artists, so that makes it more bearable to stay inside, hear the storm howl and the rain bashing against the windows.

The War on Drugs versus Kurt Vile

Oh my, was I anticipating that new The War On Drugs album. Yes, it is here and I am mildly unimpressed. That notion I would share with only a few fans and only a few critics. I cannot quite put my finger on it. There is so much on that album and then maybe of something too little. I am not given up on it, maybe it will still grow on me. That one song “Over Everything” by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile has it all though in comparison. There is a freshness and lyricism about it as well as a really hooky melody that is so far missing for me in The War on Drugs latest offering. Courtney and Kurt by the way, a match made in heaven. I am really looking forward to the forthcoming album of this collaboration: “Lotta Sea Lice” (Matador).

The Wedding Present

David Gedge is on tour with The Wedding Present! Besides introducing the brilliant “Going, going…” to both the UK and continental Europe and more dates following worldwide, there will also be tour dates wedged in-between taking cult album “George Best” to the stage – for the very last time! So don’t miss neither opportunity, see here for tour dates. Also looking forward very much to meet David Gedge and bring you back an interview!

The Blog That Celebrates Itself

A special mention in this blog post of Brazilian super blog The Blog That Celebrates Itself. Not only blogging away but releasing an abundance of samplers devoted to new music and new bands covering the finest of bands’ oeuvres. Should you not be acquainted with their brilliant output yet, have a look here.

Lord Youth

Micah Blaichman alias Lord Youth from Queens, NY follows up his self-titled vinyl 10″ EP and a 2 track single with his debut album “Gray Gardens” on BB*Island. A master of his craft, Lord Youth, presents all the colours of modern music on his album and yet, the blue hour is the one that would this album best. Dark and dreamy despite some forays into the uptempo, this is a perfect companion for the coming season and beyond. Much to discover, go ahead.

By the way, Lord Youth will also perform at the Reeperbahnfestival in Hamburg, Germany, a massive musical feast with conferences, art, films and lots of music, very much Germany’s SXSW, if I may so, from the 20th of September till the 23rd of September 2017. Featured country this year: Canada. Bliss!

The Jazz Butcher

Having had the fortune to see Pat Fish (with various members as The Jazz Butcher) repeatedly live, indulging in buying his albums and singles on vinyl and  coveting two interviews in cassette tape (yep!) from that time and heeding the maestro’s recommendations on literature and music (thank you so much for recommending The Blue Aeroplanes and Flann O’Brien – could not do without them), I am very happy to announce that Fire Records will re-release the first four albums  ‘Bath Of Bacon’, ‘A Scandal In Bohemia’, ‘Sex And Travel’ and ‘Distressed Gentlefolk’ in a four CD box labelled “Wasted Years”. No, they were not and will not ever be. Hoping that The Jazz Butcher will grace us with a tour and also perform his latest music.

Martin Carr

Martin Carr is probably know to most as heading The Boo Radleys until 1999 has been doing solo work since then. Three albums he had made so far and the third one (“New Shapes Of Life”) is going to be released by the end of September 2017. Very much looking forward to Martin’s release – the first single “Future Reflections” is already a wonderful indication of what is going to come.

Autumn is upon us...with music

The last album “The Breaks”, also out on Tapete Records, was a fine album but Martin Carr sees it still as part of a life where he was battling depression and far from this world. “New Shapes Of Life” is to reflect the end of that phase and he regards it as the album that truly sounds like himself.

“Future Reflections” is both musically and lyrically upsetting and touching and consoling – all at the same time.

Darto

Gordon De Los Santos, Gregory Flores, Candace Harter and Nicholas Merz are Darto from Seattle and they have been really busy: They released a 7″ with Wand called “Follow Up / Hush” which miraculously manages to incorporate both bands’ sounds convincingly.

Autumn is upon us...with music

Darto are also proud to present their full length album “Human Giving” and the pride of this album is totally justified. Floating would be a suitable word to describe Darto’s music which is hard to label (a good thing!). There is ambient, there is psych, there are glimpse of Americana.

Let members of Darto speak about their album “Human Giving” themselves:

“We didn’t play shows or hardly go to shows for a year and a half so we could write and record the album,” says Darto’s Gordon De Los Santos. “The album comes from the places within us where hope and love exist. Where the focus is not on the self, and where everything is possible. Humans giving themselves to other humans. The power of listening on all fronts. The desired effect is and was to bring hope in some capacity.”

“We are extremely proud of this record. Writing, recording, mixing and mastering was the most intentional musical experience we have had to date. We took a lot of chances on it, and grew exponentially in the process,” says Gregory Flores. “It felt, and feels like we walked through many doors while working on it, and the place we ended up is very similar to the place where we were as young people first deciding to create. A vulnerable first step towards something larger.”

“Human Giving” is out on Aagoo Records.

Molly Pinto Madigan and more

Last but by no means least in the batch of new releases feature Molly Pinto Madigan and more: Slow Decades, Benjamin Mason and James Daniel Best. Hoping you will find some music to accompany you through summer and beyond.

Molly Pinto Madigan and more

Molly Pinto Madigan

Molly Pinto Madigan is not just one of the loveliest people you could meet – of course, featuring on this blog, she is also an artist. Singer and songwriter par excellence, Molly possesses a captivating voice that on one hand might occur typically American to you but on the other retains its naturalness fully. Eagerly awaiting more of her longing songs, here they: Molly Pinto Madigan released her new album “The Cup Overflows”, twelve songs of sheer fragile beauty. Read about her earlier release “Wildwood Bride” here.

 

 

Molly Pinto Madigan and more

Slow Decades

Gary Cameron, John Egdell, Paul Gardner, James Grey and Ben Lowes-Smith are Slow Decades and located in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and from there they send us well-crafted. well-rehearsed songs that will receive as much warmth and feeling as they exude. Here is a band that lives their music and you should give their new album “Hinterlands” a listen or many more as these songs contain much to discover both musically and lyrically.

Molly Pinto Madigan and more

James Daniel Best

There was a time when I remember that James Daniel Best was maybe a bit fed up with the music industry and who wouldn’t understand it. Luckily for us he cannot do without music and has just now released a new EP called “Alchemy”, a rounded, polished work of pensive, hooky songs that you can get here:   I highly recommend the title track!

Molly Pinto Madigan and more

Benjamin Mason

Benjamin Mason from Pembrokeshire in Wales and works and lives or lives and works as a singer/songwriter. Not only can you indulge in his songs here. Also there will be a sampler out in just three days from now (some tracks you can find already on Benjamin’s Soundcloud page) which is called rather self-explanatory:

“I Asked My Friends To Cover My Songs And This Is What They Came Up With”

Thirteen tracks where Benjamin’s friends take highly-differing approaches to his songs and each of them is highly interesting. Moreover, the main aim of this sampler is to raise money for the Thorne Mason Trust, a charity helping brain tumour sufferers in Pembrokeshire. A wonderful idea and if supporting it you will receive a lovely album full of Benjamin’s songs interpreted by the following artists:

Pulco, Ryu, Undersound, Easy Buffalo, Todd Tuttle and Douglas Seidel, Yewdrops, Quiet Noise, Derren Heath, Jonski, Ian Thistlethwaite, Matthew Frederick and Jodie Marie. Most of these musicians are based in Wales except for Ryu who is from Japan & Todd Tuttle and Douglas Seidel who are based in the US

The unique artwork for the album btw was created by Richard Blacklaw-Jones who uses found objects on Pembrokeshire beaches to make his pieces.

Note: This is just one example of the widely differing in style tracks:

Laucan and more

Summertime = no releases time? Ha, not really. Of course I will let you participate generously in the wealth of music to pick from and hope you will find something you will like or even love. First up:

Laucan

It was only in March that London musician Laucan (Laurence Alpin) released his first EP “Up Tomorrow”. Hey presto, here is his first album via Sunday Best: “Frames Per Second”. A dreamy, magical album with loads to discover (the strings sections are just beautiful). A debut album that will certainly in my collection last me a lifetime. Musically, Laucan is supported by Andrew Phillips – lyrically it is partly about the control of our own thoughts, releasing our outlooks from the prison we created for them.

Kerosene Stars

From there to something a bit more upbeat: Kerosene Stars from Chicago are Scott Schaafsma, Andy Seagram, Todd Honeyville, Jim Adair and Tom Sorich.  They are not afraid to play a catchy melody and they do it oh so well! Their latest releases are the EPs “Burn The Evidence” and “a million little trees” and out just now “The Lost EP”. Timeless, well-made gems!

Laucan and more

James Elkington

Staying in Chicago, for years now the home of James Elkington. You could not have missed James Elkington playing somewhere, surely? And you could not have missed his solo release? Just in case. Let me keep it short (a difficult feat in the case of information about Jim Elk). Steve Gunn calls him the best guitar player around and an incredibly humble person. Who would argue with Steve? Anyhow, that combination of skill and humbleness might just explain why James Elkington has only now released his first solo album after years of supporting other artists and bands (the list is endless: Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, Brokeback, Eleventh Dream Day, Joan Shelley, Tara Jane O’Neil, Michael Chapman…). Initially he was frontman of a band called The Zincs but felt no need to be at the front or on the songwriting side for a long time. Thankfully he changed his mind and here we have his technically (he also plays drums, bass, piano…) wonderful and atmospherically wondrous album “Wintres Woma” (Paradise Of Bachelors)

 

 

Laucan and more
James Elkington by Timothy Harris

Moon Goose

Cherryshoes from Hay on Wye have us enthralled with their music. Wonderful news so that Cherryshoes now have a sister project: Moon Goose. Wait for it, I cannot keep their own description from you: “Moon goose has crawled out of the primal swamp and taken a good look around. The resulting bird has flapped madly around a barn with a load of guitars strapped to one wing and a synthesizer on the other, while it flies repeatedly into some drums. Made out of bits of comet and whalebone, the music that people are already calling ‘epic’ and ‘unlistenable’ throws a jagged beam of light in the growing darkness, to reveal some people using a barn as a giant amplifier. Duchamp put a toilet in an art gallery. Moon goose put music in a bag and shook it around until it was in bits, poured the bits out, and set fire to them. It’s the sound of a dragon colliding with an asteroid. If you enjoy things like gneiss, rare cheese, and strange ideas followed through to an illogical conclusion, you’ll love Moon goose.”

Laucan and more

There you have it – and you know what? That description fits and the music is absolutely hypnotising! Their debut EP Space Probe Shut Down is on its way. Here’s the first single: The mysterious coffins of Arthur’s Seat.

Prana Crafter

I leave you today with intriguing music from the Washington woods: Prana Crafter. His latest album “MindStreamBlessing” is the musical impersonation of the title. For my favourite track from it – Agatha’s gate – there is now a video available. Indulge here: