Last weekend I braved the night train to Berlin!
When you book a couchette on the night train, you get to sleep in a triple decker bunk. Well, “sleep”. I didn’t do too badly – I was really glad to be in the top bunk, and got a solid 4 or 5 hours sleep on the 10 hour journey.
The best thing about the night train is how early you get into the city – I was at Berlin Central Station by 7am! I certainly saw a different side of the city as a result. Walking through the Tiergarten at sunrise was a great experience. The holocaust memorials feel completely different when you visit them alone, rather than when they’re surrounded by tourists.
I’m the first to admit that my history knowledge isn’t the greatest, and in Berlin there are remnants of the city’s past everywhere you look; The Komponistendenkmal is still scarred by WW2 bullets (despite much reconstruction). There are pieces of the wall throughout the city, and Checkpoint Charlie is a major tourist attraction.
During the day, I managed to make it around a lot of the traditional tourist sights (The Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor, and Tiergarten, among others). I took some time to look around the Jewish Museum too, which is not only historically interesting, but is also a beautiful piece of architecture by Daniel Libeskind.
As any regular readers will know, I will take any excuse to go gallivanting off to a new city. The excuse on this particular occasion was a Father John Misty show at Heimathafen in Neuköln (an apparently trendy area of Berlin which is the title of a Bowie song) and it was 100% worth the journey.
I’ve been listening to his new album I Love You Honeybear on repeat lately, so when I found out he was coming to Berlin I had to go. The atmosphere was great – the gig took place in the Rixdorfer Ballroom, a beautiful old hall with an elaborate moulded ceiling, and a theatrical stage set quite low. Low enough, infact, that a number of young women had climbed up onto it while waiting for the show to start. A member of staff came to shoo them away, “you don’t want to be sat there when he comes out girls, he’ll be in your laps.” at which they retreated, giggling. It was a fair warning though – Father John Misty is certainly not shy…
The set was long and full of energy. Many tracks – notably True Affection – seemed to make a lot more sense live, while old favourites like I’m Writing A Novel had the whole room moving. His stage persona is part cabaret act, part Mick Jagger; he climbed on top of the drum kit three times that evening (I counted.)
Ears still ringing slightly, I thought I’d tell you about a gig I went to last night (all in the name of avoiding revision, of course!)
Playing at the O2 Academy in Birmingham last night were Blood Red Shoes with support from Slaves and DZ Deathrays – all three bands being two-pieces. Edgy.
First on were Slaves. I’d already looked these guys up so I was keen to hear their 15 second epic, “GIRL FIGHT” done live:
For anyone who first heard Blood Red Shoes as part of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack (cough), it’s hard not to compare Slaves to “Crash & the Boys”. Not all their songs are < 20 seconds long, but these guys really don’t mess around. A self-described “garage punk band from kent”, most of their songs were prefaced with some kind of explanation for the ensuing wall of noise. It was impressive to see a two piece that seemed too large and loud for the stage they were on, and as an opening act, they really got the audience going; I’ll be keeping an eye out for more chances to catch them. And “GIRL FIGHT”? It did not disappoint. (Incidentally, I saw I guy down the front with a “girl fight” t shirt on – if anyone can tell me where I might purchase one of these…)
Next up we had DZ Deathrays. They really had the grunge/garage aesthetic down, and it was a lot of fun. The guitarist had an orange stack which was making a nice sound, but for me last night it felt like that was about all they had to offer. There was the odd catchy riff in thrown in there, but all in all I felt like I was listening to the same track throughout their set. Technically their sound wasn’t as good as the other two bands – the sound team seemed to be running into trouble all night, and there was a lot of waiting around – so maybe this was what let them down. Listening now to their studio stuff, it seems like they just didn’t really deliver as a live band on the night. Maybe that’s one of the limitations of being a duo – below is a great studio track from them. Definitely worth a listen.
After more waiting (apparently “the sound desk was broken or something”), we were treated to a great set from Blood Red Shoes. They came out all smoke and lights, and set the tone for a show that didn’t dip in energy from start to finish. Most of what they played was from their new self-titled album, which is full of not only their most mature tracks yet, but also some riffs that sound really great live.
Their stage presence was understated (guitarist Laura May shyly admitted at the end of their set that they couldn’t match the in-your-face charisma of Slaves) but suited their moody sound, and played well against the lights show, which was delivered by a slightly strobe-happy technician.
As with the other two bands, Blood Red Shoes had ample energy to really fill the room. Overall it was a great night, and everyone in the audience left grinning and sweaty. (Although, at £4.40 a for a pint of Carlsberg, stone cold sober. This isn’t London, O2!)